Ceremonies at EPZ
Ceremonies are a traditional part of Zen Buddhist practice and training. These are photos from recent ceremonies at Endless Path Zendo in Rochester, New York.
The Buddha's Parinirvana—
Mid-February is the date on the Mahayana calendar that traditionally marks the date of the Buddha’s parinirvana, or, entrance into nirvana. It marks the time of his literal passing, seen in Buddhist tradition as a passing from this life into and as realization, itself. We honor the Buddha’s great effort and commitment, his dedicated focus on realization for the sake of all living things, as well as his skill in teaching others to realize the Way of the mature human being. Our ceremony of Parinirvana includes zazen, rededication, and a chanting service in honor of the Buddha.
The Buddha's Birthday—April
The Buddha's Birthday is a joyous springtime celebration of the Buddha’s arrival in the world, 2500 years ago, a celebration of the first awakening of our own potential for deepest enlightenment. On the altar is a figure of the newborn baby Buddha. Raising one hand to the heavens, pointing the other down to the earth, he traditionally proclaims – “Above the heavens, below the heavens. There is only this Honored One” a statement of Absolute selflessness.
Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who first brought Zen to China, is honored as the founder of Zen. He stepped beyond a Buddhism confined to words, letters, and doctrines and, by pointing directly to the Mind, opened the Gate to actual practice-realization. He went through many years of hardship and misunderstanding, yet such was his fortitude that immigrant and transplant that he was, he made Zen practice possible not only for our Dharma ancestors in China and Japan, but for us, today. And so we offer him many respectful bows of gratitude.
Jukai, Receiving the Precepts—Jukai is one of the most important Zen ceremonies. It means "receiving the precepts." Jukai comes to us from Zen master Dogen of 12th century Japan who received it from his teacher, Ru-ching, in China.
New Year's Eve
“Jukai makes it clear that the vast Empty ground of Mind, our Original Nature is no different than the world of relationship, responsibilities, and ethical precepts. This non-dual realization is the foundation of not just thinking about, but living, a Zen life. Jukai is the Zen ceremony that both honors and helps us embody this.” —Rafe Martin, Roshi
At Endless Path Zendo we hold Jukai on New Year's Eve as a way of initiating a beneficial transition into the New Year.
Hungry Ghost Ceremony—
Hungry Ghosts are beings of one of the six traditional realms of unenlightened existence – a realm as real, Buddhist tradition says, to its denizens as the human realm is right now for us. Hungry Ghosts are consumed by self-centered cravings that can never be satisfied. We all have such tendencies. In the Hungry Ghost ceremony we hold every Halloween we make offerings to bring peace to this realm of difficulty.
Roshi Kapleau Memorial Service—May
Endless Path Zendo owes a great debt of gratitude to pioneering Zen teacher, Roshi Philip Kapleau, founder of the Rochester Zen Center and author of The Three Pillars of Zen. Rafe Martin, Roshi, is a disciple of Kapleau Roshi. So, while Endless Path also embodies Rafe’s training in Diamond Sangha style and the koan curriculum of Robert Aitken Roshi, we remain officially Kapleau lineage and our debt to him remains primary and heart-felt. Each year we acknowledge this intimate connection in our memorial service for Kapleau Roshi.
Thanksgiving Ceremony of Gratitude—November
Thanksgiving is a perfect time to ceremonially express our gratitude for Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, for Dharma Ancestors and teachers as well as for family, friends, the great earth with its mountains, rivers, oceans, forests and all fellow beings. Each year at Thanksgiving we renew our commitment to do our best, to gratefully work with all that is on our plate, and to share what we can with others. As part of our ceremony we gather offerings of canned and dry goods to donate to local shelters.
The Buddha's Enlightenment Ceremony— December
“Rohatsu” is the traditional name for the sesshin that commemorates and embodies the Buddha’s own great Enlightenment, said to have taken place on Dec 8th, some 2500 or 2600 years ago. It is from the reality of this great awakening that our own efforts today become possible and from which we draw the deepest encouragement and inspiration. So, to honor the Buddha’s efforts and his Awakening, and to renew our own dedication to the path of Zen Buddhist practice, we annually hold our Buddha’s Enlightenment mini-sesshin.