October 22nd-25th marked the second annual Wild Grasses Sesshin at the Monastery—a meditation intensive for women led by Hojin Osho. By Friday evening, eighty women sat together in the zendo, in long, curving rows. Amid preparations on Thursday morning, Hojin Osho envisioned a zendo set-up that dispensed with the usual straight rows in favor of a more spacious layout.
The schedule was pure ango sesshin, with the mid-morning period punctuated by women’s voices chanting the teachings of Rengetsu’s poem “Field of Wild Grasses” and Bodhidharma’s Bloodstream Sermon. Both Hojin Osho and Zuisei offered face-to-face teaching and talks, and open sozan continued at length on Sunday morning—and beyond, as the women who attended continue to share their experiences and reflections with each other.
During the women’s sesshin, the Monastery’s male residents cleared the main house and set up in the Sangha House, with a zendo set up in the Performance Hall. On Friday morning, Shugen Sensei met with the men to screen two short films and discuss their own experiences of gender and patriarchy. The sangha reintegrated at breakfast on Sunday, after the women had closed the sesshin.
Between the women attending sesshin and the male residents, over 100 people participated in caretaking (silent work practice), which included preparations for the Sunday Morning Program. After Hojin Osho officiated Sunday service, and the sangha sat a period of zazen, Shugen Sensei officiated shukke tokudo, or full monastic ordination, for Danica Shoan Ankele amid a very full zendo of family and sangha. During the ceremony, Shoan received the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts and the five monastic life vows of simplicity, service, stability, selflessness and to accomplish the Buddha’s Way. Shugen Sensei also gave Shoan a monk’s bowl and kesa, and the ordination name Sensui, or “Mystic Waters.”
Shoan first came to the Monastery in 1994 and has completed several periods of residency since then. She became a formal student of the Order in 1996, and in 1999 she received the Bodhisattva Precepts from Daido Roshi. Shoan became a postulant in a brief ceremony at the Monastery in 2011 and received novitiate ordination from Shugen Sensei at the Zen Center of New York City in November of 2013. Shoan lives at the Monastery with her partner Gokan, and she is currently the creative director for Dharma Communications and the editor of Mountain Record.
Photos by Chelsea Green, MRO, and Will Carpenter.