On Mt. Tremper we are alive in cold February. The wind stings, the ice cracks underfoot, and at night we are dazzled by bright, bright stars. What a privilege it is to live on this mountain and feel the earth turn from season to season and to share our practice with the sun and snow. Now the sun swings around and begins to consider Spring 2018, and we begin to consider Ango. Again, like softening earth, we’ll deepen our practice and find what grows within us.
When Shugen Roshi asked me to serve as Chief Disciple for this Ango, I could not speak for a few minutes. I felt both lifted to a high place and terrified of the prospect. Where will I find the strength and stability and clarity to make an acceptable offering? I don’t know. But as the mountain greets the spring rains and begins to sing its green and thrilling songs, I will offer all I am.
We will study Master Dogen’s fascicle, Body-and-Mind Study of the Way. Dogen says, “Just wholeheartedly accept with trust that to study the way with mind is this mountains-and-rivers mind itself thoroughly engaged in studying the way.” And playfully he also says, “The mind studies the way turning somersaults–all things tumble over with it.” As we tumble into Ango with Dogen, we can laugh like children playing in the grass and know we are alive in this, our vast and beautiful Peaceful Dwelling. This Ango let’s turn our individual and collective Body-and-Mind to the work and the joy of tumbling with the dharma.
In the fascicle, Dogen offers this powerful encouragement to each and every one of us: “Even though you do not know it, if you arouse the aspiration for enlightenment, you will move forward on the way of enlightenment. The moment is already here. Do not doubt it in the least.”
With you all,
Robert Rakusan Moshin Ricci began practicing Zen in the late 1960s at Rinzai-ji, Mount Baldy Zen Center in Southern California, and then in New Mexico. He came to Zen Mountain Monastery in the 1990s, and received Jukai from Daido Roshi and the precept name Moshin (“Strong Heart-Mind” in 2008. He entered into residential training in 2013 and received Tokudo (full monastic ordination) this past summer from Shugen Roshi, who gave him the ordination name Rakusan, “Joyfully Relaxed Mountain.” Rakusan serves as the maintenance supervisor at the Monastery.
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 2018 ango, the sangha will be taking on the teachings of “Body-and-Mind Study of the Way,” a fascicle from Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo. We will engage this teaching together during the ango’s Buddhist study sessions and the ango intensive retreat.
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 Fall Ango and the various activities both at the Monastery and the Temple, please check out our website at zmm.mro.org.