The tradition of the intensive practice period goes back to the time of the Buddha when, during the rainy season, the Buddha and his disciples gathered in one place to meditate and study together. As our own rainy season approaches here in the Pacific Northwest, we will hold our 19th annual Mountain Rain practice period.
In Zen monasteries intensive practice periods traditionally last for three months, but ours is shorter, designed to support participants to intensify and strengthen their practice while living in the midst of family and work responsibilities.
Our nineteenth annual practice period will be led by Guiding Teachers Myoshin Kate McCandless. and Shinmon Michael Newton. Our theme will be Zen’s Chinese Ancestors: from Huike, who received transmission from Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who brought Zen to China in the sixth century, to Rujing, who passed Soto Zen practice to the Japanese monk, Dogen in the thirteenth century, to the great women ancestors, named and un-named, who were not included in the lineages. The history of Chinese Chan (Zen) is rich with legends, stories and koans of Chinese Zen masters and their students. During practice period we will deepen our acquaintance with these vivid characters. We may discover that their struggles to awaken and follow the bodhisattva path in this world of suffering were not so different from our own. A recommended reading list PDF can be downloaded here: reading list.
Kate and Michael will lead the opening weekend retreat September 27-29. Kate will lead a day retreat on Preparing for Death on October 19. Practice period culminates in our annual Loon Lake six-day residential sesshin November 9-15, led by Founding Teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer and Mountain Rain’s Guiding Teachers. Sesshin follows the ancient rhythms of the monastic daily schedule, including meals with oryoki, the traditional three bowls used by Zen monks.
This year we will not have a shuso or "head monk" for practice period. Instead we will invite our former shusos to give dharma talks on the theme. Wednesday evenings will be dharma seminars, with two zazen periods, followed by an informal talk and small/large group discussion, and some written reflection. A detailed schedule of talks will be posted closer to the beginning of practice period.
How to Participate
There are no specific requirements for participation, though we encourage you to register (see below). It helps to structure your practice period and affirm your commitment. Various possible components are listed below as suggestions. Please take into consideration your family and work commitments and decide what commitments will best nourish your practice.
· Home sitting practice
· Practice at the Mountain Rain zendo, or with your local sangha
· Dokusan (individual meetings) with Mountain Rain’s teachers and practice discussion with sangha leaders. (See below.)
· Participation in a practice period dyad/triad. (See below.)
· Participation in practice period retreats
· Participation in weekly dharma seminars
· "Zen Arts" practice (This can be broadly defined as any art/craft practiced with mindful awareness.)
· Family and/or work as practice
· Engaged Buddhist practice (service/activism)
· Commitment to simplify or restrict personal lifestyle
· Specific personal mindfulness practices
Practice Period Dyads/Triads
We'd like to encourage local and long-distance participants to join a Practice Period Dyad/Triad. This is a small group of two or three people who ideally will meet at the beginning, mid-point and end of the practice period for discussion and support, in person or by phone/Skype. If you would like to join a dyad/triad please sign up on the registration form below. You can form a group with someone you know, or we'd be happy to match you up.
For those who live at a distance, dharma talks and seminar talks will be made available on the website soon after they have been given. Sangha leaders who have been shuso for past practice periods, will serve as practice mentors by phone or e-mail for long-distance participants. Specific guidelines will be given, but we recommend three contacts through the practice period. Please indicate on the registration form below if you would like a practice mentor. Availability may be limited, depending on how many requests we receive. Dokusan by phone (discussion about your practice) with guiding teachers Shinmon Michael and Myoshin Kate is available by request. If you would like to schedule a phone dokusan please contact the teacher directly if you have their personal email, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and the teacher will contact you to arrange a time.
Dana: Dana is an ancient Pali word that means generosity. It is an important part of our practice and has many aspects, one of which is supporting teachers so that they can give their time and energy to sharing the dharma with the sangha. Dana is completely voluntary and the amount is up to your discernment, considering your circumstances. Dana cheques to the teachers or practice leaders can be made out to the individual, and sent to Mountain Rain Zen Community 2016 Wall St. Vancouver, BC V5L 1B1. Also e-transfers can be made by email once you have the teacher’s or mentor’s personal email.
This registration form below will help you plan your practice period and clarify your intentions in advance. Anyone is welcome to participate in the events during practice period, but if you register as a participant, it will affirm your commitment, and you will receive weekly email updates, resources and suggestions for discussion. Participants are invited to send in reflections, questions, photos, or poems to share with other participants, and we’ll post them in the weekly newsletter.
Practice period is a wonderful way to strengthen and nourish your practice, supported by the sangha. We hope you’ll be able to participate in whatever way is best for you.
Please click the link below to open the registration form:
Dharma talk/seminar schedule
Opening weekend: Kate and Michael overview
Wednesday, Oct. 2 Michael—Chan before Chan
Sunday, Oct. 6 Michael—Bodhidharma
Wednesday, Oct. 9 Michael—Huineng
Sunday, Oct. 13 (half-day retreat) Claire—Shitou
Wednesday, Oct. 16 Vicki—Yunyan/ Daowu Blue Cliff Record Case
Sunday, October 20 Kate—Mazu-Baizhang
Wednesday, October 23 TBA
Sunday October 27 Kate—Dongshan
Wednesday October 30 Todd—Chao Chou
Sunday, November 3 Susan—Rujing / Dogen
Wednesday November 6 Kate—Dahui and Hongzhi
Suggested Reading List
*The Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader. Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker, eds. Ecco Press, 1996. Excellent anthology of writings/records of Chinese and Japanese Zen masters, with helpful introductory comments by the editors.
Timeless Spring: A Soto Zen Anthology. Cleary, Thomas, trans. Weatherhill, 1980. Anthology of writings/records of Chinese and Japanese Soto Zen masters.
Seeing through Zen: Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism. John R. McRae. U. of California Press, 2003.
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings. Andrew Ferguson. Wisdom, 2000.
Making Zen Your Own: Giving Life to Twelve Key Golden Age Ancestors. Janet Jiryu Abels. Wisdom, 2012.
Specific Chan masters:
The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma. Red Pine, trans. North Point, 1987.
Master Yunmen. Urs App, trans. and ed. Kodansha, 1994.
Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui. Christopher Cleary, trans. Grove Press, 1977.
The Record of Tung-shan. William F. Powell, trans. U. of Hawaii Press, 1986.
The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Translations by Philip Yampolsky or Red Pine.
Master Ma’s Ordinary Mind: The Sayings of Zen Master Mazu Daoyi. Fumio Yamada, commentary. Nick Bellando, trans. Wisdom, 2017.
The classic koan collections: The Gateless Gate/Barrier, The Blue Cliff Record, The Book of Serenity.
The Record of Transmitting the Light: Zen Master Keizan’s Denkoroku. Francis Dojun Cook, trans. Enlightenment stories of the ancestors.
The Chinese women ancestors:
*The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. Florence Caplow and Susan Moon, eds. Wisdom, 2013. Many great stories with commentaries by contemporary women teachers.
Eminent Nuns: Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-Century China. Beata. Grant. University of Hawai'i Press, 2009. PDF available at https://terebess.hu/zen/Eminent-Nuns.pdf
Zen Echoes: Classic Koans with Verse Commentaries by Three Female Zen Masters. Beata Grant, tr. Wisdom, 2017.
*The Clouds Should Know Me by Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China. Red Pine and Mike O’Connor, eds. Wisdom, 1998.
A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry, J. Pl Seaton and Dennis Maloney, eds. White Pine Press, 1994.
Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. David Hinton, tr. New Directions Press, 2002.
Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns. Beata Grant. Wisdom, 2003.
Translations of Han Shan/Cold Mountain (Red Pine, Gary Snyder, Burton Watson), Stonehouse (Red Pine), ChiaTao (Mike O’Connor), Su Tung-p’o (Burton Watson) and more.