My dear friend lost her zen teacher last week, suddenly of a heart attack. Not only is this a great loss for her (which in and of itself makes my heart break for her) this is a great loss to my sangha. He was the co-abbot of Dharma Rain Zen Center, which is the “mother ship” so to speak. Our little sangha falls under the Dharma Rain umbrella. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for this, and in turn, we owe Kyogen a huge debt of gratitude. His leadership has set the stage for us, and has allowed us to be what we are. I have never met him but I feel like he is a part of me because of his teachings.
Last night at our sitting group we had a beautiful memorial for him. This was the first time I participated in a Zen Buddhist memorial service. It started with zazen and about 10 minutes before we were done with zazen one of our teachers quietly made an announcement about the ceremony.
When I am sitting in the zendo I pick a seat that faces a window and has a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. Generally, when sitting in zazen you are supposed to face a blank wall so you don’t have any distractions. But I do allow myself this one luxury sometimes. I guess because I am still so new at this. I will marvel at the view for a few minutes but then my gaze goes down to the carpet a few feet in front of me (like it’s supposed to).
When our teacher was introducing the ceremony she talked a little bit about Kyogen and how he has been so important for our sangha. As she was talking my gaze went from the floor to the view because something caught my eye. It was light that had caught my eye. Until that moment it had been a gray and dark, rainy day. I couldn’t even see the mountain from where I sat. But at that moment when I looked up there was the most glorious beam of light shining down on the foothills in front of the mountain. I kind of couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It gave me chills and I wanted to grab my friend who was sitting next to me and point out the window but felt that it would be inappropriate to do so. So I sat silently in awe as I watched the clouds light up with the sun.
It was a beautiful moment that filled my heart with hope and love.