The assembly of practitioners in the hall should blend like milk and water to support the activity of the Way. Although now for some period you are guest and host, later you will be Buddha Ancestors equally throughout time. Therefore, you should not forget the feeling of gratitude. It is rare to meet one another and to practice what is rare to practice. This is called the body and mind of Buddha-Dharma.
– Eihei Dogen Zenji
Since the birth of Zen training in China over a thousand years ago, it has been common practice for each monastery to compose “pure standards” that enable the residents to live with each other in mutual respect, peace, and harmony. This way of life is the body and mind of Zen training and practice. We ask residents to follow these guidelines completely and wholeheartedly.
THE SIXTEEN BODHISATTVA PRECEPTS
The basis of Zen practice and community life at Sōshinji, Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery is our understanding of the Sixteen Great Bodhisattva Precepts—the Three Refuges, the Three Pure Precepts, and the Ten Essential Precepts. These Precepts are the expression of our vows and meditation practice in our work and relationships. All residents are asked to engage in study of the Precepts and our community endeavors to hold the following intentions in our hearts:
- To take refuge in Buddha – the vast stillness, clarity and kindness that is the true nature of all life
- To take refuge in Dharma – the teaching of the way of life, day by day, that accords with Buddha
- To take refuge in Sangha – the community of all beings that is our refuge and support
Three Pure Precepts
- To refrain from action that increases suffering
- To perform all action that increases awareness
- To live for the benefit of all beings
Ten Essential Precepts
- To nourish life and not kill
- To honor life’s abundance and not take what is not freely given
- To respect every person’s whole being and not misuse sexuality
- To speak with care and not lie
- To polish clarity and not misuse intoxicants, including alcohol, drugs, food, technology or doctrines
- To create wisdom from ignorance and not slander
- To value the expression of all life and not praise self at the expense of others
- To share freely and not be possessive, especially with the dharma
- To dwell in equanimity and not harbor anger or ill will
- To respect Buddha, unfold the Dharma and nourish the Sangha
We abide by the Community Agreements to help us water a collective intention to create and hold cherishable spaces rooted in safety and bravery. In such spaces, we are witnessed and encouraged to express ourselves without fear of attack, ridicule, or denial of experience. A cherishable space invites us to risk intimacy, trust, and transformative love, and to be mirrored by our practice and our sangha.
Further AHZM Guidelines
- Working with Preferences. Ancestral Heart is a Soto Zen training monastery, in part designed to mirror, frustrate, and liberate the mind of preference. Residents are asked to follow the monastic forms completely, to move as one body. Please put aside expectations that the monastery will accommodate your preferences, or that you will continue the same activities you would in lay society.
- Harm and Ethics. Attention to speech and action is critical to community life. Please avoid engaging in harmful speech or gossip. At the same time, do not remain silent when faced with harm. We encourage you to bring ethical violations, harmful interactions, or other critical matters to the Head Teachers.
- Dress. In the zendo, we ask lay practitioners to wear loose-fitting clothes in subdued colors that cover the shoulders and knees. Black is preferred. Priests are to wear black priest robes and keep their heads shaved. Lay people are requested not to shave their heads.
- Work Periods. Work and soji (temple cleaning) are integral to Zen practice. All residents are expected to participate in work practice in accordance with their individual physical ability. In addition, residents will participate in a practice role, such as fukudo, doan, kokyo, chiden, or server. Practice roles are assigned by the Director and rotate regularly.
- Dokusan (Practice Discussion). All residents are expected to meet regularly with the Head Teachers for dokusan. We aspire to create an environment where students may explore the Dharma and study the self in an atmosphere of trust. If a student requests confidentiality, the teachers will not disclose that information unless serious harm to the sangha might result otherwise. Even without a specific request for confidentiality, teachers will not share information casually. In the collaborative teaching process, however, consultation among the teachers regarding matters that are not strictly confidential may be appropriate; this will be done in a sensitive, compassionate, fair, and respectful manner.
- Relationships and Sexual Activity. In order to support the monastic container, we ask you not to begin a new relationship at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery. This includes refraining from expressing your romantic or sexual interest to another person. If you are struggling with romantic feelings for another student, please bring this to practice discussion. Should you need to start a new relationship, practitioners will be asked to leave the monastery in order to give full attention to the relationship before returning. Do not engage in non-committed or casual sexual relations at the monastery. Doing so is grounds for being asked to leave. If you come to the monastery as a couple, please maintain behavior that supports a calm, mindful environment. Do not isolate yourself from the community, respect silent times, and be sensitive about public displays of affection. Romantic or sexual advances by a teacher, practice leader, or more senior practitioner are never acceptable and will be grounds for beginning an ethical inquiry and/or asking the more senior practitioner to leave.
- Drugs and Alcohol. Possession or use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs is not permitted.
If you have questions or difficulties with any of these practice guidelines while staying at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery, please explore these with one of the Head Teachers.