Ceremonies Officiated by Kokusaifukyoshi and an International Gathering
On October 21st and 22nd, Memorial Ceremonies for the 650th Anniversary of Daihonzan Sojiji's second abbot, Gasan Joseki Zenji, was officiated at Daihonzan Sojiji by four Kokusaifukyoshi representating Soto Zen Buddhism Hawaii Office, North America Office, South America Office, Europe Office and the Direcotor of Soto Zen Buddhism International Center. Following the ceremonies, an international gathering was hosted by the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center and many priests and lay followers from both Japan and overseas attended the gathering to deepen their friendship.
On the 21st, a group of 33 people including the officiant arrived at Sojiji temple from South America followed by 27 people from North America, 41 people from Hawaii, and 27 people from Europe. After the orientation about the schedule and instructions, they had a tour of the monastery complex in groups according to their respective languages, namely, English, French, and Portuguese. Currently, three monks, two Brazilians and one Italian, are undergoing the training at Daihonzan Sojiji and they showed the visitors around the monastery, along with other training monks, sharing their stories about everyday monastic experience.
After the tour, we had dinner. The training monks gave the guests instructions on the monastic way of eating a meal. Then, after reciting the Five Verses of Self-reflection, they began dinner.
From 6 p.m., an International Gathering was held at Daikodo. Rev. Kenji Nakamura, the Director of the Education and Dissemination Division, welcomed all the attendees with an opening speech. In his speech, he said that Soto Zen is continuously spreading all across the world. As if to symbolize his message, the attendees of the gathering included people from various countries as well as the members of the Soto Zen International and the All-Japan Young Soto Zen Buddhist Priest Association manifesting the diversity of the international Soto Zen community.
After the opening message, a workshop titled “Zazen as the Dharma Gate of Joyful Ease (Inquiry into the upright sitting posture) ” was organized by Rev. Issho Fujita, the Derector of the Soto Zen International Center, and Mr. Yasushi Fujimoto, who is renowned as a Rolfing instructor and the author of a series of books on the relationship of the mind and the body.
The aim of this workshop was to still the breathing and align the mind by arousing awareness of sensations and the self-aligning nature of the body; and bringing the body to its original condition in a natural sitting posture.
The participants enjoyed this two-hour workshop moving their bodies and sharing their sensations of the body and awareness in pairs and in small groups with people of different nationalities.
Unlike a lecture where the lecturers simply talk to the audience, this workshop was facilitated by these two teachers. This style of approach naturally allowed the audience to participate more actively. Also, each participant had the opportunity to make new discoveries by communicating with other participants about their sensations and awareness they experienced, This workshop must have given all participants another approach to Zazen.
On the dawn of the 22nd, the group got up at 4 o’clock to attend the morning service. After that, the European Kokusaifukyoshi, Rev. Dokan Crepon, and the South American Kokusaifukyoshi, Rev. Koshu Sato, officiated the breakfast offering ceremony for the 650th Anniversary of Gasan Joseki Zenji.
After the breakfast, the Director of Soto Zen International Center, Rev. Issho Fujita, officiated the mid-morning ceremony. Then, the former Director of the Soto Zen North America Office, Rev. Daigaku Rummé, and the Director of the Soto Zen Hawaii Office, Rev. Shugen Komagata, officiated the oblation ceremony.
Each officiant offered the incense they specially prepared for the ceremonies and they offered Dharma words in Japanese as well as in either English or French to offer their sincere gratitude to Gasan Joseki Zenji for his devotion to the development of Soto school.
Also, many people visiting from various areas of the world directed by Hawaii Office, North America Office, South America Office and Europe Office attended the ceremonie that their representative officiated at, and each person was able to offer incense to honor the legacy of Gasan Zenji during the sutra chanting and Eisanka choir in the solemn air inside Daisodo.
People who were born in different countries and raised in different environments and cultures gathered at Daihonzan Sojiji bonded by the teachings of Buddhism, specifically, Soto Zen Buddhism. This proved to be an occasion where communication took place in multiple languages and for all to witness the Japanese Soto Zen tradition spreading across the world, growing into a world-wide global practice.
As Soto Zen practitioners and followers, it is essential to remain grateful for our encounters with the Dharma transmitted by the ancestral masters. We would like to conclude this report by asking for your deep understanding and continuing support for the international mission.