Today was the ceremony that marked the completion of my year of training to become a senior Zen student at Heart Circle Sangha in Ridgewood, NJ. In attendance were about a dozen people who braved the aftermath of a dramatic thunderstorm–closed roads, downed power lines, and branch-strewn streets–to witness and help me perform the ceremony.
The centerpiece of the ceremony was a round of “dharma combat” where the participants tested my understanding of Zen. First I gave a talk based on a koan (a Zen teaching story, in this instance, “Mazu’s White and Black”). Then everyone in attendance had the chance to ask me a question based on the koan. Authenticity is essential in this context so I answered questions as spontaneously as possible. Most questions were serious but one involved a childhood riddle (an an obsolete one, too, now that newspapers are no longer black and white).
Thanks to Sensei Joan Hoeberichts and all the Sangha members who made this a special day. Special gratitude to Joan’s husband Jef for keeping the electrical generator working during the ceremony, to keep the zendo dry during the severe weather.