Life Rooted in Zazen

Altar     Although we could say that the heart of Gyobutsuji is the zendo (meditation hall), our practice is by no means limited to sitting zazen.  By rooting our lives deeply in the simple practice of shikantaza (just sitting), we aspire to allow zazen to blossom as the foundation for every activity we encounter in every aspect of our lives.  As Dogen Zenji wrote in Tenzokyokun (Instructions for the Cook), we aspire in our daily activities to practice with the three minds (Jap.: sanshin): magnanimous mind (daishin), joyful mind (kishin) and nurturing mind (roshin).  Magnanimous mind is the mind of zazen that openly receives, without clinging, all things it encounters.  When we
practice with magnanimous mind, we open to the reality that everything we encounter, regardless of our limited personal views, is our own life.  From here nurturing mind, the mind that takes care of all it encounters with love and flexibility, naturally blooms.  This is the mind of “I care for my life, and my life includes everything I encounter.”  Joyful mind is our delight in practice.  It is the simple peace and joy that arises through letting go of our self-centered focus when we fully take care of our  shared life in the present moment.  So whether we are cooking, gardening, chopping wood, speaking, listening, cleaning, bathing, using the toilet, or resting, we aspire to allow zazen to inform our daily activities as we practice with the three minds. 

"The melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, not only during sitting practice, but before and after striking sunyata [emptiness], which continues endlessly before and after a hammer hits it.  Not only that, but all things are endowed with original practice within the original face, which is impossible to measure." [1] — Dogen Zenji in Bendowa

When we give ourselves completely in practice, we meet our true selves in the present moment.  In this way we can settle down into the simple, natural joy of forgetting our ego-centered selves in offering, in caring for all we encounter as our shared life.

"To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.  To study the self is to forget the self.  To forget the self is to be verified by all things.  To be verified by all things is to let the body and mind of the self and the body and mind of others drop off." [2] — Dogen Zenji in Shobogenzo Genjokoan. (Actualization of Reality)

     Gyobutsuji allows practitioners to focus some period of their lives, wether it be a portion of one day or a number or years, to the practice of zazen.  Considering the complexity of life in modern society with it’s seemingly infinite potential to distract one from a contemplative focus, we believe providing the opportunity to live a quiet, simple way of life devoted to the practice of zazen to be a rare and worthwhile offering.  However, this does not mean that life here is easy.  Since devotion to the practice of zazen must also include a devotion to facing oneself, sooner or later this way of life will include facing difficulty.  In practice we may see aspects of ourselves we have spent a lifetime avoiding, and accepting and taking responsibility for these aspects can be extremely challenging, especially when our usual “toys” of distraction are not available to temporarily ease our discomfort.  Gyobutsuji does not promise spiritual awakening experiences or quick fixes to life’s difficulties: perhaps the greatest opportunity you will find here merely is the ability to begin facing and accepting yourself, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Yet facing and accepting oneself in this way is foundational to genuine spiritual practice, to liberation from unwholesome habits and thought patterns that create suffering for ourselves and for others.  Such focused study in a monastic setting can help us more fully nurture sincere practice when we return to a more conventional lifestyle.

     Gyobutsuji also aims to embody a way of life that includes residents living in harmony with each other and with nature.  It is an “off the grid” monastery that endeavors to continually monitor and keep to a minimum its impact on our delicate natural environment.


                                 Gyobutsuji Daily Monastic Schedule

3:40        wake-up                                              1:15        afternoon work

4:10        zazen                                                  4:15        end work/exercise/bathing

5:00        kinhin                                                  5:30        supper prep/supper/cleanup

5:10        zazen                                                  7:10        zazen/begin silent time

6:00        kinhin                                                  8:00        kinhin

6:10        zazen                                                   8:10        zazen

7:00        chanting service                                   9:00        end zazen/end of day

7:30        soji (cleaning)                                    

8:00        breakfast/cleanup                                

9:10        study period                                

10:30      end study                                            

11:00      work                                                        

12 PM     lunch/cleanup/end silent time          


[1] from The Wholehearted Way, a Translation of Eihei Dogen’s Bendowa, with Commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi; Translated by Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Daniel Leighton

[2] translated by Shohaku Okumura in Realizing Genjokoan, the Key to Dogen’s Shobogenzo