Hein (fub) wrote,

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Opening ceremony

Things I (think I) learned by attending the opening ceremony for the Zen.nl zendo in Hilversum last Saturday:

- You can hear the difference between someone who learned a sutra in a Japanese monastery, and someone who learned it from the syllables written down;
- The sutra Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo is, essentially, the (Zen-)budhist version of the Hail Mary;
- When singing a sutra for several repetitions, it's hard to keep count;
- Sisal carpet is a good (and cheap!) substitute for tatami. It even leaves similar impressions in your knees. Luckily, pillows were available to sit on;
- I somehow managed to sit (relatively) still for an hour without any back support. Sometimes I amaze even myself;
- People like dark green, but ocher is less distracting;
- There are special molds to create a 'flan-shaped' pile of incense ash in the incense burner. (The form is similar to the pile of sand in the garden of the Silver Pavillion, which itself is also a Zen temple). The new insence is burned on top of this pile;
- But there are also special tools to create an ash pile like that -- if you want a meditative moment (and to do everything with attention and care, the aim of Zen), then you don't use the mold but you use the tool to 'carve' the pile manually;
- If you don't have that specialised tool at hand (and good luck getting it anywhere outside of Japan), you can also use a cheese slicer, because it has a similar shape;
- It takes an expert an hour to form the perfect pile of incense ash;
- Decorations can make use of flamboyant flowers and yet be tastefully understated at the same time;
- Advanced zen practitioners (at least the Dutch ones) are all very pleasant people.

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