February 7, 2017
Featured Photo February 9

Suzuki Roshi during the opening ceremony of the first practice period at Tassajara in 1967, with Togen Sumi (left) and Kobun Chino (right). Photographer unknown.

A story about the first practice period and this ceremony is in the Wind Bell, vol. VI, nos. 2-4, Fall 1967. An excerpt:


In the evening before the practice period opened, the first ordination ceremony at Zenshinji took place when Dick Baker had his head shaved, was given the name Zentatsu Myoyu, and was appointed Shuso or head student for the first practice period. The next day at one o’clock, Bishop Sumi Roshi, Suzuki Roshi, Katagiri Sensei, Kato Sensei, and Maezumi Sensei opened the practice period and installed the Buddha in the zendo. This ceremony gave the students a sense of respect for the tradition which brought Buddhism and the teachers to them, and also an awareness that what is Japanese in Zen cannot be made American all at once.

[The] sense of how Buddhism should exist in America was in sharp focus during the practice period when we were faced over and over again with details like: Do we wear robes or not, and what kind of robes? … Should we chant in English or Japanese? Japanese has more resonance but English we can understand. Should there be three, five, or seven days of tangaryo? How much zazen, study time, work time should there be? … Should the organization and spirit of the practice be along the lines of original Buddhism, or present-day Buddhism in Japan, or what combination of these? How strict should the practice be made? … These questions, many of which may seem superficial, actually helped to deepen our real experimental unknown practice, suggested guidelines that pervaded our whole practice, and perhaps prepared some of the ground for Buddhism in America.