This talk was given  by Roshis Bernie Glassman and  Egyoku Nakao at their workshop on the Gate of Sweet Nectar liturgy in April 2015 at ZCLA. It was transcribed by Scott Harris.

All right, you have a handout with all the mudras. As Bernie mentioned, Michael O’Keefe has been doing these mudras for several decades, doing The Gate every day. On a recent trip to L.A., he and I (Egyoku) got together, and I had a tutorial from him. And then I asked Jitsujo, who many of you from Sweetwater know, to do the finger drawings.

OK, so let’s get started. And while we’re at it, we’ll also do the mudras. Any questions you might have about how we do certain things—feel free to bring it up. Especially those of you from Sweetwater, who do this once a week, you may have a variation. I’ll try to remember to point out where there are actual changes in the text.

So, our plan at ZCLA is after this workshop is over. Probably some time in June, we will sit down with our version of The Gate, and start to reimagine it, rethink it, and relook at it. And there’ll probably be some changes that will arise from that.

At ZCLA we use the five Buddha families as our organizational mandala. And I think we may do that at Sweetwater. It’s something Bernie has always encouraged us to do. And so we have mudras for each of those families, but they’re not necessarily duplicated in The Gate. I want it to be much more integrated with our organization as well.

All right, to begin, as Dharma Joy mentioned, it takes about eleven people to do this version. And the way we do things at ZCLA is when you appear, we ask you to do something. So it’s always a joyful celebration of our whatever is arising. We’re gonna make a meal with that.

So we begin with what we call our “Usual Officiant Entry.”

Ching ching, ching ching, ching ching, ching ching.

I believe in the handout you had this morning you have the Officiant Entry, for those of you who might be interested in what that looks like.

So the Officiant enters. And I wish we had a room where we could do it in a circle. But we really don’t, we’re sort of confined to these old houses here. So the Officiant goes up to offer powdered incense. And the first mudra comes shortly after that. So really the first mudra of The Gate is when the Officiant enters and bows in—the Mother Gassho.

So at the very back of this handout you have an index of the mudras. So the Mother Gassho is the gassho that we’re all used to doing, which is . . . You can just do it with me. Place your hands together, your palms together. There’s no space in between. The tip of your nose is about in line with the tip of your fingers. Your elbows are a little out—not like this, which a lot of us love to do. Like that, but it’s really dignified, you know. It’s where we’re meeting, right? Buddhas and sentient beings are meeting—right in front of our eyes. And we bow, like that. So that’s the very first mudra of The Gate. Well, you could say the first mudra is shashu, but let’s just go with that.   

Then the Officiant walks up to the alter, and offers incense. Then we go into this mudra, which is like a protection, a purifying mudra—which is your right hand over the left, so just right over left. And we hold them over the incense, and move it in a circular position. And this is just clockwise one time. And some of us do it three times, but just one nice big circle—but discreetly. And then you move your hands to your chest. And then purifying down to your hara. And you just let the mudra go, and back into the Mother Gassho. Sidestep, and return to the Bowing Mat.

And at that point we’re going to do three bows together.

After the three bows, the Chanter will begin the introductory verse, which is Krishna Das’s Hungry Hearts. You know it’s interesting, when we first received the song, what we did is we had a little Gate session one afternoon. And we tried the song in all different places of the liturgy. We would do it this way, put it her, put it there. And finally, really it felt best for us at the very beginning. So we go through the song, and we have the Chanter chant alone the first time, to kind of set the rhythm. And every Chanter, of course, does it differently, which is really very interesting to chant along. Some voices are very low, some are higher. Everybody gives their own rhythm to it sometimes. But the rhythm that Senchen gave today is sort of what we aim for. So aim for that.

Once change which Daigo pointed out to me—the very last line, “I make them mine.”

Audience member: You know, I will say that will be harder to sing. And you have to change “joy and sorrows” to plural, because “joy and sorrow” could be an it.

Roshi Egyoku: You know, I’m gonna take Daigo’s word for it, because what he stressed to me is this is Krishna Das’s song. And I don’t want to fiddle with it myself. There was something else long ago that I didn’t have correct, and I changed that. But I did them this morning, and it was fine. In fact the it sounded a little odd.

Audience member: Egyoku, I remember doing that with Krishna Das in Auschwitz, and we actually did it without anything. So it was your “joy and your sorrow. I make mine.”

Roshi Egyoku: “I make mine.” I like that much better. OK, we’ll do that. Yeah, I like that, because that’s a real affirmation. Yeah it’s real affirmative. I make mine. I love that.

OK, so the Officant is in shashu. And you all know shashu from your Zen life.

The Officiant goes back up to offer incense after the song, returns to the Bowing Mat. And I don’t know if I indicated that here, but when you return, you can return in the Mother Gassho. The Diamond Gassho, which we’re going to do, is really intense, and I think it’s better to just walk back with the Mother Gassho .

So we’re going to move into the Invitation of the Calling Forth of All of the Buddhas. For that portion the Officiant is in the Diamond Gassho, which is your palms together, and your fingers are interlaced. So your right thumb is over your left thumb, and then your fingers are interlaced this way. There’s no space between the palms of the hand. And again, your elbows are up, and your eyes are looking through your two middle fingers. So your gaze is like right through there. You’ll get cross-eyed. It’s really hard to maintain. But you’re doing it with that kind of concentration and focus. So those of you at ZCLA, there are going to be some real changes. At ZCLA, see if we do this, I’m seeing Shakyamuni Buddha. Right through these fingers, some times my eyes go buggy. You know, and I have the candle, and my fingers are whatever. So the focus is there.

The surround environment is soft. Right? So you get a sense of the intensity of this mudra. And the scenery around you is soft. The scenery . . . that’s very interesting. And the motion, or the feeling that you’re generating is one of complete receptivity. Like we’re inviting in, right? Like we’re inviting in all of these Buddhas. And as Bernie suggested this morning, we’ll invite in some wording of, I don’t know hungry ghosts I guess, hungry energy. We’ll figure out what to do with that.

And then at ZCLA we’ll probably also—we’ll have to really think about this, but—include being one with the mother of the Buddhas, Prajnaparamita. We’ll have to figure out how all of that goes.

Audience member: I have a question. When the Officiant, I heard that when you’re facing the image, your gaze is connected with the eyes of the image . . .

Roshi Egyoku: You know, I don’t know that that’s going to be possible, depending on where your image is. So like if it’s really high it’s going to be difficult to do. But it would be great if you could do it. This is a little high. It’s going to get higher. But that would be an interesting kind of thing to remember. Do you remember, Bernie? I think your image is a little lower.

Audience member: Yeah, he’s about my height.

Roshi Egyoku: Any questions?

Audience member: For adding in, is it the hungry spirits that you add in, or is it like the fighting demons, and you know?

Roshi Egyoku: I think we just really have to think about it. My sense always of this section was really inviting in the Buddhas as a way of grounding. It grounds me.

Audience member: But you were saying something a little different, which was to invite in the dark . . .

Roshi Egyoku: The shadows, the dark, the disowned. Yeah, but I don’t know. I want to think about it, I think, because it’s implicit in the whole liturgy. What comes up for me is you need a grounding to invite in, to be developed. All my undeveloped parts need grounding too. You know, what you call forth appears.

Audience member: It’s a detail, but when one does the Diamond Gassho, if you are looking at the space between your fingers as you first instructed, then they remain in front of your face—if you look at a more distant object, as in Buddha, your dominant eye will drag it over one side or the other.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, so it’s a real practice in focusing and intensity.

Audience member: Well, the question would be which one does one do? You can focus on either one, but I don’t think both.

Roshi Egyoku: Well, you know, nothing is static. So in that kind of intense gaze . . . You know for me it’s both, because my height is just where the Buddha is.

Audience member: Well I’m talking about the left or right side, because your dominant . . . If you put something between your fingers, your dominant eye is going to . . .

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, well that’s what makes the mudra interesting, because you switch eyes. I mean I move my eyes.

Audience member: But you can’t keep the object in the same spot when you move …

Audience member: Actually I see both of them, and then . . .

Roshi Egyoku: But the object doesn’t move anyway, so . . .

Audience member: It’s either between fingers with one dominant eye, or it’s on both sides of your fingers if you get both eyes.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, you can switch around. I think. And it’s actually a really fascinating thing. You know, I find when I’m making the adjustments I have to make just to maintain that state of being, it’s very fascinating. And try not to faint, right. Mudras really engage you. I mean the whole sutra, but the mudras really engage you in that kind of way. I think you sort of get into a zone, like a real mindset where those kinds of questions just aren’t important.

Alright, so then after the Buddhas have been invited in, we return in shashu. We all know approaching the zendo we’re in shashu. There’s one exception to that we’ll come to later. And then we return in the Mother Gassho.

When we return we have the attention, or as Bernie said, calling everybody to really listen—calling to attention, calling all of us and the hungry spirits, all our hungers to attention. And we do that as an invitation, in the way that Senchen . . .

Senchen, would you please do your attention?

Senchen: [sings] Attention.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, you just want to go. It draws you in. It’s that energy that just draws you in, and welcomes you in. So that’s what you want. As opposed to attention! Maybe we should type it differently or something, but it’s that sense. It’s an invitation to come in.

Audience member: Our attention is a little sharper. We do Attention! But I was really pleased this morning hearing that difference. I like the energy of it . . .

Roshi Egyoku: Yes. I think you could. It’s something we struggled with too. When Bernie instructed me on the Gate, it always was as an invitation. And Attention! Just doesn’t quite make me feel like coming in, you know? So I do like that sense of really drawing in, or welcoming in, an inviting in. It’s very intentional. So I think it’s something to consider. And I think those who chant also feel the difference of that energetic.

Bernie: When we did it back in ZCLA when Maezumi Roshi was here, it was that strong attention. That’s very Japanese also. And this feels better to me.

Roshi Egyoku: It had a more military sense.

Bernie: Yeah, it’s very military.

Audience member: I thought The Shema (a jewish prayer) was very helpful, because when you hear that, that gives you exactly the tone.

Bernie: Yes, it’s the same thing. It’s not Shema! [Sings] Shema . . .

Audience member: It’s like the bell before the zazen period.

Roshi Egyoku: Alright, so then we’re going to go into the Mindless Gassho. And this is a really interesting one to do. So, this is when you know how stiff your fingers are. So you’re putting your index finger, and you’re having the end parts meet like that. And your thumbs are going just like that. And then your other fingers are open. Now if you can, and I can’t do this, but if you can put your palms together at the bottom, that would be good. I can’t quite do that. Daigo could do it. But he has big hands, so maybe that’s what did it. He and I would laugh a lot, because his hands and my hands did very different things, even trying to do the same thing. So you’re like this.

So again, elbows high. And your middle fingers touching. Yeah that’s what made it hard for me to keep my palms together. Front palms together, back palms open. Oh, I’m thinking of another one. And then eyes again gaze between the tips of the middle finger. OK?

It’s the last tips by the knuckle, that first knuckle, coming from the fingertips together.

Audience member: Where is the gaze?

Roshi Egyoku: Your gaze is between these two—the middle finger, at the tips.

Dharma Joy: Roshi, can you just swivel this way for the camera a second?

There we go. OK. Thank you.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, my fingers are very stiff, so I’m just feeling it when I do this one. I don’t know how you feel.

Sometimes depending on your hands, your middle fingers touch, just at the top.

Audience member: But it looks from the picture like the whole finger.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, but it’s not natural. I mean you can’t . . . If you have really big hands. I think for Daigo, he could. So we had a lot of laughs, because I said, “How do you do that?” He said, “Well, your hands are different.” So yeah, like that.

Isn’t that interesting?

Audience member: . . . if you do that. There’s more energy in your hands.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, but you also are not as open, so. Yeah, I can’t do it. I mean, there’s no way I could possibly bring those together. But if you can, and then these are open, so . . . You might have different flexibility in your fingers, or you just, you know, have more finger than I do.

Alright, and eyes between the tips of the middle finger. OK, so the Officiant remains in this mudra throughout all of the various vows that we will be reciting. So it’s a little while that you’re maintaining the mudras.

So we go through the Vow to Feed the Hungry Spirits, which is spoken, the Prayer of Food Sharing, which is sung, Prayer for Raising the Bodhi Mind, which is spoken. Now the Prayer for Fulfilling These Vows, which is sung, I’ve made a change in it. We used to say, “I further beseech you to sustain me day and night, and give me courage to fulfill my vows.” So Daigo has been doing this version all these years, said to me, “Please clarify to me, with Bernie, who’s the ‘you’?” Is it the hungry spirits? Is it the Buddhas, and so forth? So Bernie said, “It’s the Buddhas.” So thinking about different variations we could say there, I just changed it to “all Buddhas.” “I further beseech all Buddhas to sustain me day and night, and give me courage to fulfill my vows.” So there’s no mistake about who we’re beseeching.

Dharma Joy: In the next one, where it says, “In offering this meal, I pray that you get its merits,” that’s also going to be all Buddhas.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah.

Audience member: I thought that was a koan.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah.

Audience member: Egyoku, when we did the Diamond Gassho, was an encouragement for feeling of receptivity. So are we maintaining that particular feeling throughout the mudras, or each mudra has a different feeling that we’re invoking?

Roshi Egyoku: Some mudras we specify the kind of energy we should generate. But what do you think Bernie? I think we’re still in that very receptive place, obviously, because we’re inviting something so enormous. It’s so huge, right? And the whole Gate is one of receptivity, right? You could say it’s a practice of receptivity. It’s an invitation.

So even when you see a hungry ghost appear, and you think eww, you’re still in this receptive pose.

Audience member: Interesting that you just said that, to think that this is a practice of invitation. We’re not like doing anything. What we’re doing is the invitation. Is this true? Is this how you see it?

Roshi Egyoku: That has been a lot of my experience with it.

Bernie: I would say that for the first half. But by the time you’re doing the “NO MAKU SA RA . . .” you’re shifting to . . . We’re offering food, and we’re offering teachings. So then it becomes an offering.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, but you know it’s an interesting question, because I think it’s like the attitude of receptivity really sets the ground for offering. Because in a way you can’t offer what you’re not receiving.

Bernie: Right. And it’s very important after receiving, to offer. It’s not just about you receiving.

Audience member: So I was thinking how this relates to the Three Tenets, and this is like going along with the bearing witness. We’re not acting yet, we’re just receiving . . .

Bernie: Well, the receptivity part is the not knowing part. You can’t fully receive if you’re in a state of knowing. Whatever you’re knowing is blocking stuff coming in. So not knowing puts you into a state of real receptivity. And then you’re bearing witness, and then the actions become the offerings.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, I think you’re asking in a way a very profound question. I know in my own experience it was always easier for me to give. And many people it’s very hard to receive, and be really receptive to an offering. We don’t even recognize offerings sometimes. We deflect it.

But this really says, first of all, you know, ground and prepare yourself by receiving, like really moving into openness and not knowing. First of all, you can’t skip that step. That’s been important for me.

Bernie: It’s interesting; I think a lot of how we talk now comes out of our practice with the Three Tenets. I don’t think other people that are doing this would necessarily have the same kind of discussion.  I’m going to talk tomorrow about the fact that there’s a very important period in Japan called Obon, when the Priests are going around to all the donors, all the people associated with his or her temple. Usually they’re his temple, and doing the service. And in fact during that week I would say a large percentage of their income for the year is coming during that week. And I’m trying to think would they say they’re in receptive or . . . I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

We’re looking at it through the eyes of the Three Tenets. And that’s only the last twenty years that we’re looking at it that way. When I did the translation thirty-five years ago, I wasn’t looking at it that way. But that’s how I think we talk now, and that fits in well with the whole Zen Peacemaker Order.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah. And at ZCLA we’ve been doing this now for seventeen years. A lot of people want to know what it means, and all that, but I like to just engage a ritual, and see what it opens up for me. So it’s kind of interesting to have this conversation, and hear these questions, really.

Alright, so after that Mindless Gassho, we’re now going to move into the Diamond Fist. So this is a really interesting part of doing the Gate. So our left hand goes into the Diamond Fist Mudra. And then our right hand will go into the Invitation Mudra.

So for the Diamond Fist, let’s spend some time on that now. So first of all, this is your left hand, and you fold your four fingers over your thumb. And then you move your thumb a little bit out. And then you raise your fourth finger like this. So your fingernail part is just sitting on the knuckle of your thumb. Do you see that?

So then you find a place—and you want to stand up for this part. This raised part of your forefinger; you’re going to find a spot in your lower back. So your lower back muscles to the left of your spine—so just start moving around there—the left of your spine, below the kidneys, and above the pelvic girdle. Right there, do you feel that? Your feet are apart, because you can’t be grounded if they’re together, so they’re a little bit apart. It’s going to be different for everybody, right? You’re gonna ground yourself in there. You see that? You have to kind of move around and find, like right there. It kind of hurts actually. Yeah, it must be some kind of a point. Do you know which point that is? That’s the Meridian Point. You go like, ouch.

Alright, and then your right hand will be in the Invitation Mudra. Which is like this. So your thumb and middle finger meet. And all the other fingers are upright, and the ring finger and your pinkie should be together. But I cannot do that. Ok, like Mukee, look at that. Oh my gosh! Photograph him. His fingers are together. I can’t do that. Isn’t that something? It’s very interesting, you know.

So, now this is a really interesting part, and a part that really requires the Officiant’s focus and attention. So for the very first part, [chants] “NOBO BO HO RI GYA RI TA RI°TA TA GYA TA YA,” at GYA TA YA, you’re going to move this finger, and you’re gonna like call the hungry spirits in. You’re inviting the hungry spirits. It’s hard on the thumb, isn’t it? Keep all the other fingers straight out. Oh my gosh, I can’t do it. I got a muscle spasm.

Audience member: This is inside your sleeve?

Roshi   Egyoku: This is inside your sleeve. Yes, that’s right. The priests have long sleeves, so this is all covered up. So if you forget, nobody will know.

[Audience laughs]

And so it’s “YA . . . TA . . . YA.” Three times. Yeah, it’s just three times. We have to really listen too to the chanting, YA . . . TA . . . YA. OK?

And then we do it in English, “Being one with the unconditioned. TA TA TATA, TA TA TATA.” My thumb is going into spasms.

Alright, and then the next one’s a little easier. So then we go back to this, TA TA TATA. Alright, so then we’re going into the Dharani of Hell Crushing, and Hungry Spirit Throat Opening. And all we’re going to do this time is like, to do this. So again, you’re in Diamond Fist in your left hand, and your right hand is in Invitation. And at “OM BO HO TEI RI GAY TA RI°TA TA GYA TA YA,” GYA TA RI you’re gonna pull this down, and snap your fingers. I don’t know, the Japanese do it in a strange way, but we just snap. I don’t know the Japanese way. Do you know? It’s like some strange thing they do, but we just snap. And just one time.

So let’s do it on GYA TA RI. [chants] OM BO HO TEI RI GAY TA RI°TA TA GYA TA YA. So you just do the snap, right there in the middle of that mudra. Or [chants] “Being one with the Boundless Tathagata.” It goes very fast. So you’re like moving around quite a bit. Sometimes it’s passed and you’re like Oh, I didn’t snap yet.

Audience member: Do you return to the mudra?

Roshi Egyoku: Yes, you return to the mudra. Exactly. It actually helps to return to the mudra.

Audience member: But you have to do it in a quarter of a second, otherwise the whole thing falls apart.

[Audience laughs.]

Roshi Egyoku: So we have here a note. This has three implications. It’s calling the hungry spirits to attention. So now we’re saying, “Hey, you’re here, so let’s get with it.” Inviting them to open up their throats, because you know, they have these thin throats, so I don’t know how you do that. And providing delight and joy. Isn’t that nice?

Alright, so then you go back to this. And this next one I really like. Dharani of Expansion Prayer Upon the Food and Drink. So again, you’re in the Diamond Fist on your left hand. And then what you’re going to do in this mudra is on “SA BA RA,” you’re going to rub your fingernail three times. I don’t know if there’s a particular direction, but I just sort of go like that. One, two, three, at SA BA RA, and then at “UN” you’re going to snap your fingers. And then, you’re going to visualize—while you’re doing all of this—you’re also visualizing the transformation of this limited amount of cornmeal in the bowl, or whatever you’re offering, into this boundless, boundless food that fills the whole universe, and feeds every single being.

So there’s a lot going on in this mudra. So let’s do it with the chanting. So remember on “SA BA RA,” you’re gonna go, rubbing your fingernail three times. And you’re gonna snap your finger on “UN.” And UN is the last word of this line. So we’re in this mudra . . .



Being one with all Tathagatas and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva,

Please nourish and sustain us.

“Please nourish and sustain us,” is when you’re going to start. “Avolokitesvara,” we do the three, and then “Please nourish and sustain us.” So let’s do that.

[Chants] Being one with all Tathagatas and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva,

Please nourish and sustain us.

I think it’s more like “Please nourish and sustain us,” Although I highlighted “Avalokitsvara.”

[Chants] Please nourish and sustain us. [snaps] OK?

And then you go back into this Invitation Mudra for the very last one, Dharani Upon the Dharma Taste of the Sweet Nectar. So you’re remaining in the Diamond Fist and the Invitation Mudra for this fourth section. “Be one with the dharma of the sweet nectar that the mysterious light of Tathagata expounds. And after having your meal, clean your body with sweet water, and drink the sweet nectar of dharma, so that both body and mind are well satisfied.” So for that whole portion . . .



Being one with the Inconceivable Body Tathagata,

let the nectar of Dharma spring forth.

Now comes the fun part. You’re going to offer the food.

So when Daigu was actually reviewing this, this was actually very complicated, how he learned it from Bernie, and how he was doing it—because it’s very, very specific the number of times that you’re actually chanting this NO MAKU SAN MAN DA.

So just to say what he taught me, and we have modified it. We talked to Bernie a little bit. I think we tried this in the beginning, we couldn’t quite sustain this. So the dharani is repeated twenty on, or more times. It’s a minimum of twenty-one times. Fourteen times, or till the Officiant has completed the food offering. That’s the NO MAKU SAN MAN DA.” So we may do close to fourteen. I don’t know, it depends on how fast the officiant is. I’m not sure. And then seven times in English. And we maintain the seven times in English, because we have a little bit more control over that portion.

So the first seven are for all the hungry ghosts. The second seven are for all beings who have not been able to approach the alter, who may be reluctant to come, which Bernie spoke about. And the third seven, which we do in English, are for the Three Treasures.

So what we do at ZCLA is we just keep doing the NO MAKU SAN MAN DA until the Officiant returns to he hishiki. And then we go into the English version of that. Is that what you’re doing at Sweet Water Zen Center?

Bernie: And that’s how I was trained.

Roshi Egyoku: Is that how you were trained? So I don’t know where Daigo got this. But I included it as an alternative.

Bernie: Well it’s fourteen times, or until . . .

Roshi Egyoku: Or until, right. Fourteen times, or until. Right, that’s what it says right her.

Alright Bernie’s note, “An important character here is BAN, ‘NO MAKU SAN MAN DA, BO TA NAN BAN.’ BAN, which means Buddha Mind, or Buddha Body. It is the water of Dharma Nature, of Vairocana Buddha, Buddha of Formless Forms, which purifies all delusions and defilements. In this Dharani you’re giving the milk and compassion of Vairocana Buddha to the hungry spirits.”

Bernie: Now I’d like to just mention that Vairocana Buddha is the representation of not knowing—of the first tenet. We usually say Vairocana Buddha, Formless Forms. And it’s in the center of the mandala. It’s the state of not knowing. And Vairocana Buddha is the one that appears when you’re giving the precepts. So the Officiant that is giving the precept is supposed to get into that mind of not knowing.

Roshi Egyoku: So you’ll recall we were in this mudra, Invitation Mudra, and then we’re going to move into the Feeding of the Hungry Spirits. So the NO MAKU SAN MAN DA. This will change, for those of you at ZCLA

So we’re like this. And we’re starting, NO MAKU SAN MAN DA, BO TA NAN BAN. And then you’re gonna go in to the Mother Gassho. And you’re gonna bow. And then you’re going to sidestep. And then you’re going to go back into your Diamond Fist, and the Fearless Mudra. OK?

So then you’re in Fearless Mudra, and you’re going to approach the alter in the Fearless Mudra. And your fingers are all together in the Fearless Mudra. It’s hard, isn’t it? So it’s just like this.

So I think you all know the story, when Devadatta tried to kill the Buddha, got an elephant drunk, or riled up, and the Buddha went like this. And so do the elephant, so this is giving no fear—the mudra of giving no fear.

So you approach the alter in this position, in No Fear Mudra, trying to keep your fingers together if it’s possible. You go all the way up to the alter. And when you get to the alter, you back bow into the Mother Gassho. And then you’re going to sidestep and offer incense as usual. And then you’re going to sidestep by the food. So we have the food here, as you can see. So sidestep by the food. And you go back into your Diamond Fist. And then you’re doing this mudra—I forgot the name of it. Middle Finger Mudra, oh yeah. Middle Finger Mudra. We had a lot of fun with this one, Daigo and I. You’re going to the Middle Finger Mudra, and here’s what you’re going to do. So you go over your water, and you’re going to do like clockwise three times. And you’re gathering up the energy, and then into your middle finger here. And then you’re going to do this three times, and . . . You don’t make that noise, but [laughs]. Nobody will know.

Audience member: When you’re doing the circle, do you keep your wrist bent at this angle, and move your whole arm? Or do you . . .

Roshi Egyoku: No, I go like this. My arm moves.

Audience member: OK.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, we just do it like this. So the picture shows it kind of like that, I think.

Audience member: And that’s with the water?

Roshi Egyoku: Yes.  This is the gathering of all the energy. And then the water gets mixed with the food.

So then, you know however you do it, we put a little bit of cornmeal, and we put water, we place three scoops of water and just mush it all up. And then we sense the bowl like you’re used to doing I’m sure. You may have to offer more incense. And I think we cover the bowl. And at some point you lift it up, and you again have this visualization of it going to every corner of the universe. Expanding, that’s the expansion of the food. In our case we have cornmeal—the whole universe becomes cornmeal.

Audience member: You know Egyoku, I have some kind of a version where there’s rice and each repetition is choreographed. Is that like an older version, or that was the complicated version that you were speaking of?

Roshi Egyoku: No, I think that’s probably how Maezumi Roshi taught you, because the Japanese use rice, and for our, once a year we use rice. You know, when we do the big ancestor alter. And then you sort of mush it, and  . . .

Audience member: Each one is choreographed. I got that from Enkyo I guess, maybe.

Audience member: We do rice and raisins.

Roshi Egyoku: You do rice and raisins, and you wet them all?

Bernie: The food should be what’s common to your sangha. And what I like is if it’s after a meal, or before a meal (like before breakfast), that some of the food from that meal is what’s put up there. It doesn’t have to be rice. As she said, Japanese do rice, but we’re not all Japanese—some are, some aren’t.  If it’s part of the food that we’re going to eat, then I like that feeling.

Roshi Egyoku: It’s interesting, because when you think about it, rice is the main dish. It’s always the main dish for Japanese people. But I know I’ve seen Japanese Priests do it, you know, just mash it in your palm. And so we used to do that from time to time, but then you end up with this whole mess. And if you put it back in the water, then you need a towel to wipe your hands. But I don’t know the other thing you’re describing. Enkyo might have gotten that from someone possibly.

OK, so any questions about that?

Audience member: When we used to go into Fearless, we would make two or three rounds of . . .

Roshi Egyoku: No.

Audience member: So now you’re just going . . .

Roshi Egyoku: That’s right. It will probably take you around NO MAKU SAN MAN DA, BO TA NAN BAN.

Audience member: We’re not waiting for you?

Roshi Egyoku: No.

Audience member: I Just wanted to mention, at Sweet Water in the part where you lift the bowl, we actually take chopsticks and offer to the various directions.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, we do that when we do the more formal. It’s a great thing to do. Chopsticks, or a spoon, your fingers—that has a real organic feeling. Then you have to clean your hands. There’s nothing wrong with that. So you start to experiment.

Bernie: Personally, I like the fingers. But you know we’re offering a way. And there will be variations depending on the sangha and how the people there want to do it. And one of the things I would suggest is if it’s at home, if you want to learn the mudras, you should do it every day—or quite often. Because if you’re doing it once a month, or once a week, you’re not gonna really remember. But we taught this as a home practice. You could do all of this at your home. And a big advantage now is you could even tape it. So if you’re doing it at home, you could also have this tape and check. And if you do it at home for a month or two months, you’ll know it. But then if you don’t do it for a year, you’ll forget it. But if you’re home, or even at a place like this, you can put a little towel up there, so if you’re using your fingers, then you wipe it with the towel, or a towlette.

Roshi Egyoku: Or if you’re using raisins, you won’t even need it. You could just put your little raisins in, but then somebody has to go pick it up later.

Bernie: Now in my head, this part is a Buddhist communion. So you could even at a center, feed it to people—just like it’s done in Mass. This is really the same feeling as Buddhist communion.

Roshi Egyoku: You could have wafers.

Audience member: They call it the Celebration of Mass. So when you said that this morning, that resonated—that Celebration of Mass.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, it’s very interesting as you start to resonate more. It’s like you want to enact it more, and make it more relevant as we go through it.

Audience member: Will we actually have one recording of the whole walk through? The whole thing, so we can really at home just play that, and practice?

Dharma Joy: We can do it. Well we have a DVD for sale.

Roshi Egyoku: You can all have the DVD. I haven’t seen it in ages, and I don’t know if we’ve made changes since then. We might have, I have a feeling. Do you all have our Gate DVD? Senchen, can you make it available please, as a gift? And you can take as many copies as you want, because we have hundreds of them.

We recorded the Gate of Sweet Nectar with a project with Smith College, Dr. Peter Gregory. And we spent a whole day with camera crew just doing the Gate. I don’t know, we did it ten times I think. It’s so horrible, to just do the Gate over, and over, and over. And they filmed us, but that was quite a few years ago now.

There are also some very nice interviews that are part of that. But you’re all welcome to have a copy or copies.  So Senchen will just have them stacked up somewhere.

OK, where are we? So after you have fed, wash your hands, put everything away. You’ll return to the Bowing Mat. And we have here return in Diamond Gassho, and the only reason I left that is Daigo was really insistent. But I think Mother Gassho. And Bernie said Mother, and I say Mother, because again it’s hard to walk with the Diamond Gassho when you’re that focused. So just go back to Mother Gassho. Return to the hishiki.

Now we’re going to start the Offering of the Buddha Wisdom, so we can sit down again at this point.

Do you need a break, or are you OK?

All right, so now we’re going to move into the Dharani for Inviting the Five Families, the Buddhas of the Five Families. This part is really nice for the officiant. The officiant is in the Diamond Gassho for the entire Five Buddha Families. And the officiant for each family is visualizing the qualities of the Buddha family that’s being invoked. Now during this time of the Five Families the Ryoban (or if you’re in a circle, I guess it’s the designated people) will come forward and make an offering for each family.

And so when we actually rehearse the Gate we’ll do that. We’ll show you the moves. The Green Family (It starts with the Ratna Family), and you’ll notice that all the books . . .

So you all noticed, and I think you did this at Sweet Water, you have colored books for the Buddha families. So there’s red, yellow, and a white, blue, and green. So the people on the Ryoban and Jiko are representing the Buddha families in this case. So the people that pass out the books have to make sure they’re arranged in the proper order. That’s their job, you know.

You know this liturgy really asks a lot of everybody who’s participating. It’s really fascinating. So they bow to each other, come forward, and then they bow to the officiant. And the way we do it is the officiant returns the bow (Of course they’re in the Diamond Gassho.), returns the first bow. And then they turn together. And so what I remember you teaching me, Bernie, is that these two people act as one body. So they turn together. So if I’m here I’m gonna move my left leg first. And if I’m here, I’m gonna move my right leg first. We don’t get too fanatical about it, but those who know, it’s really fun.

And then you go up together. And you’re going to offer incense. So if I’m on this side I offer . . . well we just do one pinch because we don’t want to smoke ourselves out of the room. And I do it with my left, and the person on Bernie’s side would do it with the right. So it’s really like you’re one body is functioning. It’s very interesting.

And then we turn around. We face each other, turn around, come back here. And then we bow to the officiant, but the officiant does not return the second bow. The officiant is really focused on Buddhas, and visualizing the Padma Family qualities of we call it relationships, intimacy, seduction. We have to invite the ghost part of all those wonderful things.

And then they go back to the ryoban. And then we finish chanting that family. We move into the next family. Now the people second on the rioban repeats the same action. And so for every family we go through the same kind of enactment of offering for that family. And the officiant then for each family is visualizing the qualities of that family.

Now some of this language is one of the things I was talking to Bernie about that we want to re-look. So we use for the Padma Family, the first family, the unifying spheres. And I think Bernie, you now use integrating spheres, or something like that. I think you use integrating now.

So these are things for everyone to think about and reflect upon, and what the qualities of everyone that you want to bring out are maybe the most important. I don’t know.

And then the Ratna, we use livelihood. I don’t know if you’re still using livelihood, but we use the livelihood sphere. In our mandala we say resource sphere. So that’s another possibility.

And then the third is the Buddha, formless sphere, as Bernie described. And then the Vajra, so we use the study spheres. And then the Karma Family, which is the service spheres.

Audience member: It’s interesting, the order. I would think that the Buddha family would be the first one to go . . .

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, it’s an interesting thing because when you have it as a mandala, you know, we have the Buddha in the middle. I know, it’s interesting, isn’t it? But on our flag we have it at the end. But then when you close that loop, you visualize it as a circle again. So I don’t know what you’d consider the middle.

And just a tip for those of you who are going to be doing it—the chanter goes up on the third. And so oftentimes we can lose the chant at the Dharani. You know, because suddenly we don’t have the chanters loud voice leading us. So for those of you that are helping to hold the liturgy, just remember that, and keep projecting your voice out, because all the sudden nobody knows where they are. It’s just an odd thing that happens a lot of times.

Bernie: I just had an interesting thought—interesting to me at least. If you’re doing it as a home service for example, you can say what’s my dominant energy? And start with that energy. If it’s at a training group, you could say what’s the dominant energy here? And start with that. That’s a possibility.

Roshi Egyoku: For the order that you go in.

Bernie: Yeah. What I like about that is it makes you think what’s you dominant energy, which can change. I mean right now your dominant energy might be something different. So it’s bringing your attention to the dominant energy of you or the group you’re part of.

Roshi Egyoku: This is reminding of the very old days when I did tea ceremony. They had a training ceremony when they give you a chit. So you take a chit, and the chit tells you what position you’ve got. Whatever you got—maybe you arranged the flowers, maybe you served the tea, there’s like all kinds of things you could be doing. In this case we made it a different Buddha family, a different position, and you had to move into that role, like on the spot.

Audience member: We should pass out chits before Sunday mornings. It would be a lot easier.

[Audience laughs]

Audience member: I printed out the definition of the words, because it talks about what the healthy manifestation of that energetic is, but also what the shadow side is. So I have it as just like a little cheat thing in the morning, where it just kind of grounds each one.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah it’s very interesting. Maybe at Upaya you’ve gotten to this more, but we haven’t really gotten into a lot of that very much here. We had some training a long time ago, but we haven’t really carried it forward. Most of our mandala training or reference is really towards how we’ve organized ourselves as an organization, and as a sangha—not so much in these energetics. I know the Tibetans do extensive training on that, but we haven’t really gotten into it. I don’t know, that’s something maybe some of you can open up later.

Audience member: Along those lines, I was going to ask, because you have intimacy and seduction as opposites in the Padma family—I didn’t know if you had them for the other four.

Bernie: For those who want to get into those kind of details you can go on the Zen Peacemaker website, and search for Buddha energies, and there’s a chart there with all kinds of stuff—what season, what attributes . . . It’s a big chart full of stuff. And there are very different variations of it. This chart, I did. But there are different variations, depending on where the book’s written . . .

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, and different Buddhas associated with it, and all that. I just haven’t gone there. But there are also some really nice little booklets from certain Tibetan teachers, Western Tibetan teachers on the Buddha families. If you remind me, I can give you some time with it, because it is a very succinct little thing. They’re not this elaborate, you know, kind of thing.

The Spectrum of Ecstasy is a good one. And then what’s her name . . .


Audience member: Mine was like Google. I would just look up the Sanskrit word, and then it took me to . . . Yeah, it wasn’t anything.

Bernie: I want to throw in one word, because you heard me talking about nonduality. So I don’t like the word positive or negative. That’s used in a lot of these things.

Roshi Egyoku: It’s a spectrum of energy.

Bernie: I like characteristics. So there are various characteristics, and depending on who you are you will call certain characteristics positive, and certain ones negative. But that’s very subjective. That’s very dualistic.

Roshi Egyoku: And you know, you have the colored glasses, and the postures, and you can get into the whole thing. But it is interesting, even just superficially, to know the spectrum. So like the Buddha family all includes spaciousness. So that’s one end of the spectrum, and the other end is like a total spaced out person. So each one has that spectrum, which is fascinating to know that, really.

So like Bernie has a lot of dominant Ratna energy, wouldn’t you say?

Bernie: I have dominant every energy.

[Audience laughs]

Roshi Egyoku: Dominant everything, but you also on one side you have the sun shines on every single thing, right? It’s like it’s not shining on certain things. And then the other side of that is greed—the grasping. So it is really kind of fascinating actually when you know the spectrum. But think of it as the spectrum, rather than as you were saying, good or bad.

Bernie: A side note—there was a period, my wife Jishu deeply studied all of this, and had done all the rooms at Naropa that were involved with these things and whatever. So we had a lot of studying and things around that. But we also created Sesshins where we’d put two people in charge that we felt would maybe . . . Let’s say the Buddha family. So we’d say these two people seem to have characteristics of the Buddha family. One seems very spacious, and one seems very spaced out. And we’d choose two people, and we wouldn’t tell them anything, other than create your own Sesshin. And then we did that with all of the families.

Padma was very interesting. She dressed up as a seductive woman, and stayed in the corner of the room. And so she was a person needing love, and not being able to receive love from anybody. And the other person was Sally. . . And the call into the Zendo was Phillip Glass music. And when we ate Sally would go around and feed us grapes. But they created the whole thing.

I chose people that I thought had sort of opposite characteristics for a family, and asked them to create a Sesshin for that family. And they all came out very different. It was beautiful. I loved it.

Roshi Egyoku: When we did out fortieth anniversary—I don’t think any of you were here—we enacted the Gate. And so we had, you know, I think Doka, you were the Padma, so she had this amazing . . . The mother, you know, with all the babies, everything just . . .

It’s on YouTube. So if you remind me, I’ll have Senchen send you the link.

Audience member: And to this day, I can see every time we say Avalokitesvara, I see them coming down. And the match to a hungry ghost was also a red. You know, and them the M. . .  was blue. You know, and then the spectrum was in blue too.

Roshi Egyoku: It was fascinating actually.

Audience member: I think they went up together. They were the one body. So you had the Buddha and the hungry ghost, the same colors, being one.

Roshi Egyoku: Very powerful. So it’s a fin DVD. Joan calls it, I love that funky crazy . . . [laughs]. It is really, you have to laugh a lot when you see it. Mostly because we all look so young.

[Audience laughs.]

Alright, where are we now?

Oh the Buddha families, and then we do the Karma family. OK, so then at that point we’re going to get ready for . . . What do you call it Bernie? What’s the word for this part? This most important part of the Gate?

Bernie: So this next part is actually the climax of this Gate. And it turns out it’s the Giving of the Precepts in the Shingon Sect. So Kobo Daishi, the Precepts he gave is what we chant. So that’s why it’s so important. At this point you’re giving the Precepts to everyone. And that’s why you’re doing the music. And you were with me at the monastery in Japan where they had a tram going up to the . . . They did the Gate every afternoon. The old Sojiji, Soji burnt down, and there’s a ne Sojijji in Yokahama. But the old one does it every evening—this Gate service. A few places do. But the one that we went to—I forget the name. You go up . . . During this time they didn’t have these things that we have. But they had bent horns—these long horns. And they would be blowing these horns while this is happening.

It’s a very important part of this. It’s the supreme part of this. You’re fed, you’re taught, you’re doing everything, and now you’re giving everybody Precepts. And so I’m not sure if you’re remembering the words. The words that Kobo Daishi used for giving the Precepts are fantastic I think.

She’ll continue on.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, it is an exciting part. I was just told that they dance at Sweet Water. They move you around, and that’s really great. I think the French do too. We’re a little bit more repressed in L.A. for some reason, but we’ll get there. We’ll get there. You’ll loosen us up. Sometimes we have a hungry ghost come in. That’s real fun.

So the officiant is in Diamond Gassho for this part. And the conch player comes up and picks up the conch, and calls the officiant forth. So the conch is blowing to the officiant. And the officiant begins, and I think you all know that the dark letters is a little more emphasis on the words. So [chants] OM BO JI SHI TA BO DA HA DA YA MI. And then we all start going with our bells and little drums, and all of that. And dance around the room. Stomp your feet. And everybody repeats. So we do it one time in the combination of Sanskrit and Sino-Japanese or Japanese. Then the officiant does it twice. [Chants] Now I have raised the Bodhi Mind. And it’s really interesting for me to listen to different officiants do it. You know, it’s kind of hard to inhabit these words, I think. Over time I think we get more embodied with these particular chants.

So that is the Dharani for Raising the Bodhi Mind. It’s done three times—twice in English, second and third time. And then we move into the Dharani of Giving the Bodhisattva Samaya Precepts, which Bernie just spoke about. So again, the officiant remains in the Diamond Gassho. And as we say here, the implication is since I have received the Buddha Sila, being one with it forever. It is maintained by maintaining the right Dharma of Buddha and not forgetting it, maintaining Bodhi Mind, saving others, being generous and giving the right Dharma to the right person at the right time, and being beneficial to all beings. So then the officiant moves into the second [chants] OM SAN MA YA SA TO BAN. And everybody repeats with their bells and whistles. And sometimes when the conch is blowing, we sort of softly ring our bells too. At one time we didn’t, but then we just want to get into the act, you know. And then when it’s our part, we like ring it really loudly. And so that proclamation is [chants] I am the Buddhas, and they are me. So that’s a very powerful thing to say.

Bernie: I’ve had students who could not say that, because they didn’t believe it was true—even after all of this stuff. Those were the same people that wouldn’t come up to the alter.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah. It’s very interesting, the more I know about the Gate, the more it’s just like really how hard it is to do it. You know what I mean? Because it’s just expansion, and expansion. It’s very provocative.

Audience member: Can I just ask a point of clarification about the lively, the bells, and everything. That comes during which part? That comes when the officiant is saying it, or when everybody is responding?

Roshi Egyoku: Before. We do it both times. So when the conch blows, the Doan also rings a bell. And sometimes we very softly do our little jingles. And then the voice comes out. So when the voice is out, we don’t . . . I don’t know, do we do it?

Audience member: You don’t do it. The officiant’s solo. So you do it during the  . . .

Roshi Egyoku: OK, thank you. That’s right, because then you wave your hand, and then you fill the universe with your noise and your voice.

Audience member: A tricky thing is I was just learning Doan, and the Doan can’t actually ring the bell when everybody rings the bell, because you have another cue coming up really fast.

Roshi Egyoku: So you have to be really fast.

Audience member: So with the dancing, the way that that gets worked in is we chant this, and then there’s a period where it’s just dancing, like after . . .

Roshi Egyoku: Oh nice. You’ll have to show us. And when is that? When would that be?

Audience member: We all say, “I am the Buddhas, and they are me.” We do it twice, and then everyone uses the noisemakers and dances. You know it’s sort of celebratory, and then the drums sort of keep the rhythm for that.

Roshi Ekyoku: For the dancing?

Audience member: Well just for the timing, to signify how long to do it.

Roshi Egyoku: Well we’ll do it your style. You’ll show us. That’ll be fun.

  1. Then we move into the Gatha for Transference of Merit. And by this time you may be exhausted as an officiant, since your arms have been elevated most of the time, in which case you could just go into shashu. But I always feel—this is just a carry over from the old days, because it is the typification of transference of merit, I like to be in gassho. But if you’re too tired, then just go into shashu.

OK then following that we have the dedication that is sung by the chanter. And by the way, during the Dedication of Merit, the Transference of Merit, we have someone on the locutio, hitting the locutio, and we chant in unison with that rhythm. Oh and I forgot to mention the drum. So during the NO MAKU SAN MAN we have some really great drummers here. Daisin is one of them, so he’s on the drum, drumming away, getting all our energy up.

Alright, then comes the dedication, and this is something I think we all play with. We’re in the Mother Gassho as an officiant. We go through this, “All ancestors of the White Plum lineage, and the extended sangha . . .” And we’ll probably just insert the Zen Peacemakers at this point as a permanent part of it. This morning we did, and then acknowledge all of you here from different sanghas. And then extend out to our neighbors in L.A. and throughout the world.

Bernie: I have a suggestion. Instead of all ancestors, I don’t want to just keep this stuff in dead people. So either—you need to get the right wording—all ancestors and members of, or something like that. Include all of us, not . . .

Dharma Joy: Well that’s the next line.

Bernie: No its not. It’s calling out the ancestors of the White Plum as a specific thing, right? And my preference—everybody’s gonna do what they want to do—my preference would be all ancestors and members of the White Plum lineage. If you’re going to call out the White Plum lineage, call out everybody in it, not only those who have died.

Roshi Egyoku: You know interestingly enough, Bernie reminded me of this, would actually no longer use this as an ancestor service. I’ve actually made up a whole other service for ancestors remembrance. And that was because I wanted to shift away from associating this with Oban for us. Because we really moved in a different direction with it.

Bernie: Yeah, that’s my sense. And if Roshi includes the Zen Peacemaker Order, again it should not only say the ancestors. It’s all of us that are a part of it.

Audience member: Is it past, present, and future . . .

Bernie: Yeah, I like including all.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah so we’ll discuss this.

Bernie: “All members past and future” would be one way of taking care of that, of White Plum, or Z.P.O.

Audience member: As long as we don’t stay in the now I guess that covers it.

[Audience laughs]

Roshi Egyoku: Alright. Let us forever remember the causes of suffering. Let us forever believe in the end to suffering. May we always have the courage to bear witness, to see our self as others, and others as our self. So that I wrote at the request of Jishu for our Auschwitz Retreat—early ones. So I stuck it in here.

And then at ZCLA we also once a month, one Sunday a month since we do this every Sunday, we read the names of all of our people in the book of the past. Because we like to remember all of the people associated with the center who have died. And then if there’s a specific person who has died that we’re honoring, we include them. And then we will also mention a current world event, where there is a tremendous amount of suffering happening. So today it’s the huge earthquake in Nepal. And of course we have a strong connection with that because A . . . down here is from Nepal. His family is safe. Have you heard anything more?

Audience member: I got a message that they are OK.

Roshi Egyoku: So we have to keep up with current events. Sometimes people say the most bizarre things I think. But we try to keep it with some big world disaster, that scope of things.

And then the second part, “the victims of war, starvation, oppression, peace in the world, those who died before birth . . .” so all of that. Some of that is from an old dedication that we used at ZCLA for this particular liturgy. But we can relook at all that.

And then we get to our song. So the closing verse is our song. And we do this four times, and the officiant goes up on the third round, and gets back in time to do the closing three bows.

Audience member: So are we in Mother Gassho through the Dedication of Merit?

Roshi Egyoku: Yes, except for when you’re going up and offering. Because then we move into the three bows. And then in our case, when we are having a dedication to all the people in our past, then the whole sangha’s invited to come up and offer incense. And maybe you do something similar at Sweet Water, or there’s a memorial service of some kind.

And then we have our usual exit. And we line up to go to the Zendo.

So for us, the Gate, if we start on time, which we do pretty much, it takes us a good twenty-five minutes. So we try to aim to be in the Zendo by 9:00, but sometimes it’s a little after. And because it is a food offering, and we have such hunger needs in L.A., we encourage all of our members when they come for the Gate on Sunday to bring food. And it’s put on the alter, and then that’s delivered to the closest food bank to us, which is just a few blocks away.

Questions, comments? And then we’ll take a little break.

Audience member: Why is this called the Mindless Gassho?

Roshi Egyoku: By the way, it’s Mindless or Kilshui Gassho.  I don’t really know why it’s called that. I’ll check my Mudra book, and see if it says anything about it. Do you recall, Bernie?

Bernie: No.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, you know the effect of doing that Mudra . . .

Bernie: I have a feeling if you look at the original word, Mindless might not be the best translation.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, I’m sensing that too. But it is kind of a mindless condition you’re in. [laughs] It’s a very powerful Mudra actually. It’s more like a no mind kind of mindless. It really is that when you’re doing that. But I’ll make a note to check.

Audience member: On the Diamond Fist, I had actually learned it with the thumb at the base of the ring finger.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, I think that’s where it naturally falls when you put it over. But then you have to put it out, because you need the knuckle to put this on.

You know, there are probably variations of it, but this is how you end up. So I’m not sure what you’re doing here.

Bernie: It’s really nice that you have the drawings, and you’ll have the video of the hands. So if you want to do mudras—it’s not so common for people who are doing this service to do the mudras. I never do. I can’t remember. And my hand is so arthritic; it’s hard to do. But if you want to do it, you have enough resources to really learn that.

Roshi Egyoku: I tried to have a diagram for every single thing that I thought you might have a question about, even if it seemed obvious. It’s just easier if you’re visually oriented.

Yeah, that’s it. So that this knuckle really goes into that spot where your meridian is. So you have to feel that go out, then you know that you’ve got it.

Audience member: So we’re generating a recording of all of the tunes that are in it?

Audience member: The tunes are on that DVD.

Audience member: OK, super. And you said it might be a little bit older, but the tunes . . .

Roshi Egyoku: But the tunes are the same. And then Dharma Joy has been taping us, so . . .

Dharma Joy: We’ll tape the one tomorrow morning too.

Audience member: Is the tempo throughout the same? It changes, then there’s melody. Where do the melodies come from?

Roshi Egyoku: The sung parts?

Audience member: Yeah, and I was just wondering where that comes from?

Bernie: Are you referring to the initial vows—some are spoken and some are sung? Where are you talking about?

Audience member: Well, I guess . . .

Bernie: That mantras?

Audience member: Yeah.

Bernie: So in the mantras, you see the dark part? I think the melody comes because you are emphasizing some of those words, which are in boldface.

Roshi Egyoku: The boldface is the emphasis.

Bernie: Is there another tune?

Audience member: So there’s that part, and then the . . .

Roshi Egyoku: OM BO . . .?

Audience member: Yeah.

Roshi Egyoku: . . . Does say that differently than I do, and I’m not sure where she got that. She got it at Sweet Water . . .

Audience member: Yeah and when we were doing it today, I just noticed the difference, and I wasn’t sure where it . . .

[Audience member demonstrates chant.]

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, we don’t do that.

Audience member: So, but is there a standard?

Bernie: No.

[Audience laughs]

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, we don’t do that, we go straight. So we go [Roshi demonstrates chant] just straight across.

Bernie: Just to give you a sense—in Japan they usually have maybe once a year, I can’t remember how often, a gathering where the Inos of the various places give their tunes. And then they’ll vote which one they like. But they all have different ones, and they encourage that.

So there’s no standard in Japan. And then when we come here, there’s no standard because nobody knows what it was anyway. So we’re all creating our own things.

Audience member: So no standard is tradition.

Bernie: For example, I was hoping to get Krishna Das to do this whole thing, in a period of time. That never happened, but there’s no standards.

Roshi Egyoku: Yeah, it’s very interesting. Sometimes in Japan, what I remember is when you’re in a temple, and they’re chanting, everybody’s chanting however they’re chanting. Like every single person in the room, and if you’re in a temple, and at some point everybody’s just like in a chorus. It’s pretty fascinating. But you’re not like required to all sort of start on the same note, and all of that stuff. And it happens to us here too. You know, sometimes people will be all in different places, but at some point we’re all in sync. It’s just fascinating to listen to that. Sometimes it happens sooner, and sometimes it happens later.

(Continued in Part 3)


2 Responses

  1. PS we have also experimented with cheese, baked beans, cookies cereal and pretzels as the offering! As Roshi mentions above we try experimentation with things that aren’t necessarily from an Asian orientation.

  2. I really enjoyed this; we have been sharing in the Gate of Sweet Nectar here at bmls for the past 18 years. We’ve come up with some of our own innovations/changes based upon our community culture. We include some of the mudras and some I adapted from Shingon Rituals I experienced in Japan. We use it regularly and during our fire ceremony Segaki in October; we have also worked out a Zen “Eucharistic” Oryoki with it as well with the Offering known as the the ‘One Body of the Buddha’ (when the bowl is lifted up to the Four Directions we will use small rice cakes and tea. Each participant then hands the bowl and cup to the next person saying, “You are the Buddha.” And he or she responds, “We are the Buddhas and they are us.” I really appreciated this and would love to hear how other ZPO affiliated Sanghas are doing it.

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