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.
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.
AHZM Shingi (Monastic Guidelines)
Working with Preferences. Ancestral Heart is a Soto Zen training monastery that is 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, moving as one body does not mean silencing ourselves. Please do not remain silent when faced with harm. We encourage you to bring ethical violations, harmful interactions, or other critical matters to the Guiding Teachers.
Work Periods. Soji (temple cleaning) and samu (longer work projects) are integral to Zen practice. All residents are expected to participate in work practice in accordance with their individual ability. In addition, residents will participate in a practice role. Practice roles are assigned by the Teachers or Ino 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.
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. Be sensitive about how affection is expressed in the presence of others.
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.
- Please make a commitment to completely follow the zendo (meditation hall) schedule. Be on time for all scheduled events, arriving early enough to be settled at your place before an event begins. Usually this means no later than 5 minutes prior to the start of the event. When the han is being sounded, please be settled in the zendo by the first rolldown if possible and no later than the second. If you cannot attend an event because of work or illness please let the Ino know.
- 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 or samue and keep their heads shaved. Lay people are requested not to shave their heads.
- Do not wear scarves, gloves, hats, socks, or use blankets in the zendo. Please layer underneath robes or wear sufficient layers when not in robes so that you are warm enough for sitting zazen. Please also note when resistance to any temperature is an unnecessary activity of the mind.
- Do not leave the zendo during zazen, except for practice discussion or in case of an emergency.
- Muffle sounds such as coughing, sneezing, blowing the nose, yawning, or clearing the throat by placing your face inside the elbow of your right sleeve.
- Refrain from wearing scented lotions, perfume, jewelry, watches, or mala beads in the zendo. While watches and lotions may be required at times, it is requested these same guidelines be followed at all other times while living in residence. Jewelry associated with former vow-taking ceremonies, e.g. wedding rings, can be worn at all times.
- The Tenzo is advised not to respond to the preferences of individual practitioners. Practitioners are advised to work with their preferences and accept the meal prepared and offered by the kitchen.
- Eat only when food is offered by the Tenzo, which includes breakfast, lunch, break snack, and dinner. Other than open kitchen during day off, food will not be offered at other times.
- Eat only in the dining room area, except when you have express permission otherwise and on personal days.
- Refrain from reading during meals or snack time.
- Please sit while eating. Please do not walk while drinking.
- Refrain from taking food without permission of the Tenzo. On day off, take only what the Tenzo has explicitly offered for Hosan.
- Except for special occasions, the kitchen will not offer prepared desserts.
- Refrain from eating personal snacks except for day off.
- Please wash, dry, and put away any dishes, cups, and strainers used between meals.
- If wearing shoes in the kitchen, please wear closed-toed shoes that are designated for indoor use only. Always wear a headscarf and apron when preparing food.
- Observe wholesome silence from evening service through study the following day. If it is necessary to speak during this time, do so in a way that supports the communal silence and does not disturb others. During both periods of work, please do your best to restrict talking to functional speech. Daily break and days off are opportunities for social speech between residents.
- Our intention is to remain in contact with our experience and fellow residents. To this end, please move mindfully throughout the temple, attending to the impact of our body’s movements. Please do not run inside the house, especially when using the stairs.
- Stop and bow in gassho (with palms joined) when passing other practitioners outside.
- The monastic environment offers an opportunity to leave behind our everyday mental distractions. Before supper, please retire phones, computers, and other electronic devices to the electronics shelves in the library. While computers will often be required for work, we strongly encourage you to forego using the computer during daily breaks when not working. Whenever possible, please limit phone conversations with friends and family to days off.
- Possession or use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs is not permitted ever.
- Turn off all lights when you are the last to leave a room.
- Do not take communal items to your room without permission.
- Leave no trace. Whenever possible, return items used to their appropriate space and place items back to original order. Return shoes to a shoe rack after taking them off.
- Do not adjust heat in common areas except if given permission by the director or Ino. During colder months, set personal room heaters to 62 degrees when not in room for an extended period of time (typically first thing in morning until after work period). If using a space heater, NEVER leave heater on when out of the room, even for short periods of time.
- Prepare for a long hike on an unfamiliar trail by consulting with someone who knows the trail. Tell someone at AHZM your expected route and return time.
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.