Not being a native speaker of English, living my 75th year of life, hard of hearing—surely I was way back in the line of candidates for Chief Disciple. Thus, it was a big surprise when Shugen Roshi asked me to be Chief Disciple for Spring Ango. Immediately a line from the Shuso Hossen
Ceremony became real and very present for me: “I feel like a mosquito trying to bite an iron bull.” Fears of incompetence arose in my consciousness.
Roshi told me that it was a training position and that he was going to give me his support. And that really relaxed me and made me look forward for the challenge. Also, relying on my years of training, I saw the fear as not mine, not me, and let it go. Very soon I recognized this as an opportunity to move forward in my training to achieve peace, freedom and tranquility in my life. I have also been reflecting on my vows, my felt identity with the Three Treasures, and my conviction that the Sangha, as it has always done, will join me in my efforts and practice. I am very much aware that to fulfill this endeavor, I need and depend on the sangha’s ever-present support.
The theme for the coming Spring 2019 Ango is “Manifesting Buddha.” Ango starts and ends with the changing of the seasons, and each one is always manifesting buddha. Let all of us take advantage of this three months of practice to intensify our efforts and determination to embody the Buddha Way in our present life. It can’t be any better!
Ely Seiryu Rayek began practicing in 1986, in Mexico City. In 1989 he joined a sangha that Maezumi Roshi used to visit twice a year, once during the spring and once during the fall. After Maezumi Roshi’s passing, he studied under William Nyogen Yeo, Sensei, training both in Mexico City and in Los Angeles. In 2007 he visited Zen Mountain Monastery for the first time. He became a student of Shugen Roshi’s in 2012 and took Jukai in 2017. Seiryu lives in Mexico City where he works as a psychologist.
The Mountains and Rivers Order training schedule cycles through periods of intensification and relaxation, mirroring seasonal changes and giving us varied opportunities to study and practice. The spring and fall quarters are ango—“peaceful dwelling”—nintety-day intensives that continue an ancient tradition dating back to the time of the Buddha, when the sangha gathered in forest groves during monsoon season to support each other in their practice and receive teachings from the Buddha and his senior disciples.
Each ango has a theme drawn from the Buddhist teachings. This spring we’ll be taking up the theme “Manifesting Buddha” and Eihei Dogen’s fascicle Shoaku Makusa, or “Refrain from Unwholesome Action,” as a way to focus our training and challenge our study. Together, we’ll develop our appreciation of the theme and Dogen’s fascicle through an art practice assignment, teishos, dharma encounter, liturgy, and the Ango Intensive
The training and practice of the chief disciple is another important facet of ango training. When a junior student is ready to make the transition to being a senior student, the teacher will ask him or her to serve as chief disciple for the training period, leading the ango and offering their sincere and wholehearted practice as a model for the sangha. The ango culminates with a special right of passage for the whole community: Shuso Hossen.
For more information about this Spring Ango and the various activities both at the Monastery and the Temple, please check out our website at zmm.org.