Sunday, September 20, 2009

Clouds and Water

Commencing on 7 October of this year (2009), I plan on embarking on a 1000 day personal retreat or practice. During the 1000 days, my primary focus will be on deepening my personal practice, but also in rounding it out and bringing it into my day to day life.

I will incorporate Seated and walking meditation, as well as other types of moving meditation (meditation while working, eating, etc.) with other types of practice.

I will attempt to ensure that each day includes at least to some degree, the following modes of training;

  1. Training with a teacher and/or Koan practice

  2. Academic study of some type

  3. Zazen/Meditation

  4. Liturgy (Liturgical practice; meaning ritual/ceremony)

  5. Body practice (Martial arts, Yoga, or other physical exercise)

  6. Art practice (Drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, calligraphy, what have you..)

  7. Work practice (Three types: Outside work (regular job (yes! its part of my practice!), Niten Shoji (Daily Caretaking work) - work around the home, hermitage, temple grounds, living space., Samu (Work/Service) which is a work project designed to allow one to become one with the work... though all forms of work practice offer an opportunity to unify mind, body & spirit. In Samu, the aim is this unification, whereas in the other forms of work, the essence would be to accomplish the task while remaining unified.

  8. 'Right' Acts. ("Doing the right thing" - finding some action, each day, that is simply the right thing to do... and which in some way positively affects others.. this could be a clean up project in a public place... volunteer work, making an offering or donating to a worthy cause, acts of loving kindness... something.. each day."

    In addition to these eight modes of training, it is my aim to live mindfully, to take time, as much as it is possible for me, to simply 'be'.. to enjoy the world... to contemplate... to look inward.

    I would like to embrace silence and solitude as much as it is practicable during this time period... refraining from mindless or pointless small-talk, avoiding places where a radio or television is constantly on simply for 'background noise', etc.

    During my 1000 day retreat, my aim will be to live as fully and as authentically as possible, in keeping with my monastic vocation and my precepts, of course.

    I would like to pay particular attention to my diet/eating habits and do my best to cultivate and/or refine healthy eating habits, and to develop a regimen of diet, sleep, exercise, and spiritual practice that is balanced, sensible, and invigorating.

    It is not my plan to make an overly large 'deal' over this retreat, but to keep it more or less transparent to others, at least during the times that I am in the company of others.

    The practice will end on the full moon of July in 2012, which falls on the 3rd of the month in 2012, which happens to be 'Dharma Day' (Asala Puja -- ((We do not celebrate this day, actually, in my tradition, however, I am aware of it and generally observe it on a personal level, and, since this is a personal practice....)) ) - this is the day we celebrate the teachings of Buddha. This celebration is called Dharma Day. The day marks the first teachings of Siddhartha.

    Immediately after Siddhartha gained Enlightenment, he sought out his first five (5) followers to share his experiences with them. When he found them, this marked the first of his discourses in the path to enlightenment, thus this is usually referred to as the beginning of the Buddhist religion. These first teachings have been called The First Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma or Dharmachakra. Buddha believed that every man and woman could find the same Path to Enlightenment. He wanted to see the end of suffering to all beings. This time also was the beginning of the rainy season in Nepal. Normally Buddha, his monks and nuns were nomadic. During the three (3) months of the rainy season, they would stay in sheltered areas. They filled their time with meditations and teachings. After monsoon season passed, they would begin their journeys again to spread the teachings of the Buddha.

    In present day, we celebrate this day by spending extra time reading the teachings of the Buddha, give thanks to Buddha and our teachers both past and present. Dharma Day is a perfect time to come together at the sangha for celebration through readings and teachings from our elder students, Dharma Teachers, Monks, Oshos (priests), Roshis (Zen Masters (lit 'Old/venerated teacher'), etc. Cleaning of the temple areas and monastery also take place on this day. The activities done on this day are similar to those done on Vesak. This is when we, in the Zen tradition begin what we call 'Seichu' or 'Ango' ('Tight' Dharma - the monastic year is broken into four three month periods. You might think of them as 'semesters'. The summer and winter periods are severe, and consist of meditation, work, and liturgy. The days are long, and the focus is inward. The autumn and spring semesters are more relaxed, and are for travelling to visit other temples, study with other teachers, visit friends or family, etc.) (It is during this 'loose Dharma' period, called 'Seikan' in my order.. that monks in training get the name that is applied to them; "Unsui". Unsui literally means "Clouds/Water" (Un is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese ideograph for 'Cloud' (The Korean pronunciation is identical), and "Sui" is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese ideograph meaning 'Water' (In Korean it is pronounced 'Soo').

    This will mean, essentially, that I will end my personal 1000 day retreat and enter directly into a period of monastic retreat, during which, I hope, I will be able to apply the experiences of the previous 1000 days to deepen my practice even further.

    I will keep a log of my experiences here, using this space that is conveniently here for that purpose. I don't expect that many will notice that I am doing this, but, any who wish to practice along with me either for part of the time, or for the entire duration are warmly welcomed. Comments, questions, and suggestions are likely welcomed.

    I am striving for balance and equilibrium during this period of deep practice, and to take all that I have learned during my one year 'Dying Practice' and apply it to this longer period of practice. I have no idea how this will turn out... or whether 'turn out' or 'results' is even applicable.... I am not actually hoping for some type of payoff.... the journey itself is the payoff.

    Today is the 20th of September, 2009. There are ten days left of this month, and one week in October prior to the first day of my retreat. I plan on taking this time to contemplate a rudimentary plan insofar as schedule, diet, and focus are concerned... but, I will have to see how it goes and make adjustments along the way.

    Wish me luck!

    In Peace & Brotherhood,

    Bunan Unsui

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