By Catherine Spaeth
On the morning of the New Year, for the first time since the beginning of the Covid-19 protocols, City Center residents sat zazen, bowed, and chanted together in the temple building. There was a sense of renewal as people, arranged six feet apart, bowed to their seats in the courtyard.
The daily effort and care of the temple throughout the year are symbolized as offerings that are made on New Year’s morning, reminding us that our human activity, our directed intentions, are the manifestations of Buddha, and of the tradition that sustains us. During the ceremonial opening of the altars that followed meditation, offerings were made at the shop with an expression of gratitude for the Plant Manager’s function; the front office for the Director’s function; the hallway altar for the Guest Manager’s function; the kitchen for the Tenzo’s function; the dining room for the Work Leader’s function; the kaisando to honor SF Zen Center’s founder Suzuki Roshi and his legacy; and at one of the residents’ bathrooms. Each of these offerings includes the person who holds the role as well as all of the residents and the wider sangha who support and are supported by these functions – the interdependence of giver, receiver, and gift.
After a year of the zendo and Buddha Hall being closed to daily use, it felt particularly refreshing to stand in formation in the Buddha Hall to greet the procession, to turn together at the sound of the bell, and to bow together into the sweet grassy smell of the tatami. And from there to proceed to the zendo and enter it accompanied by the sound of the inkin, to stand barefoot on the cool wooden floor as the offering was made. At the end of the procession, the sangha chanted the Heart Sutra together and welcomed the New Year from the 300 Page City Center rooftop.