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April 7, 2014

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The Head Monk Becomes a Teacher: Shuso Ceremony April 2014

A Story in Photographs by Shundo David Haye

For the fifty or so monks who have been living at Tassajara for this ango, or practice period, the Shuso Ceremony marks the culmination of three months of intense training together. For the dozen or so former shusos who make the drive down from San Francisco or Green Gulch, it is a chance to revisit the beloved monastery, and to see how the practice has been manifesting there.

This recent practice period has been a little unusual in that it has been co-led by Senior Dharma Teachers Sojun Mel Weitsman and Rysuhin Paul Haller, who have shared the teaching. The shuso, or head monk, has been Lucy Xiao, long-time City Center resident, and for many years Paul’s jisha, or ceremonial attendant. In becoming shuso, she was accepting the responsibility of sharing the teachers’ seat, and their responsibility for taking care of the practice at the monastery.

Being head monk is the first chance for a mature student to give dharma talks and subsequently, to teach classes and workshops, and to give one-on-one practice discussions. At Tassajara, being head monk also means ringing the wake-up bell every day for three months (at 3:45 am on regular days), cleaning the bathrooms, managing the trash and recycling, and taking care of the kitchen compost, as well as meeting each student in the practice period for tea.

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