On September 3, 2006, at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, at about 11 a.m., my initiation as a Zen Buddhist of the Soto sect took place as scheduled. In the absence of the abbot, my Zaike Tokudo ceremony was performed by three senior students. I had been a little apprehensive about that, but afterwards I came to appreciate that it was a real gesture of acceptance by the sangha. Cherry, Terry and Phil, I can't thank you enough.
Thanks also to my friend Nat who made it down from Nashville to attend the entire sesshin and witness the initation (actually he was already in Atlanta for business but was demoted from the Weston to sleeping in the Zendo for the occassion, where he battled imaginary fleas). That's me third from left, and Nat fifth from left. Terry, the ASZC tenzo (cook/innkeeper) is on the extreme left; Cherry is between Nat and me. The others are all students or disciples at ASZC or elsewhere in Georgia.
As part of the ceremony, I received a wakesa (that's a symbolic robe for lay initiates, the ribbon-like thing around my neck in the picture), some beads, and my Buddhist name, Kozan (diacritical mark missing in this font), which translates as the title of this blog entry. I'm not yet sure about all of the implications of the name, but it sounds heavy. I spoke briefly to the ASZC abbot yesterday; I'd thought he was in on the selection of the name, but he sounded surprised when I told him what it was, and said it was a lot to live up to. I guess I need to grow into it. I thought maybe they picked it because my head is shiny and I need to lose weight. Oh, well. Typically, the Buddhist name is used as part of one's name in relation to sangha activites (i.e., this month's sesshin was led by Honen Phil Hutto). Unfortunately, the pairing of any Japanese name with "Bob" sounds weird. "Kozan Bob" sounds like a Japanese movie cowboy.
There is a lot more to tell about the initiation, but I think I'll let it leak out over time. I have a feeling the implications of the vows will taking some working out, and working on. In a certain sense because the vows aren't commandments, but ongoing commitments to action, the ceremony itself is ongoing. I'm quite aware people go through ceremonies like this all the time and don't take them seriously. I guess it's all a matter of what you want to make of it.
Oh, Phil is missing from the pic above because he took it. He appears below. No, I don't know why I'm clutching my camera case in the bottom pic; tokudo shock, I guess. Oh, again, the woman on the far right in the top photo is Kate Morrissey, a guest from the Athens Zen Center, who took the pic below (me and the senior students after the ceremony). I've added a link to Kate's web page in the Links section to the right; Kate is a singer/songwriter/pianist who'll be peforming in Nashville next month, among other places. Check out her music and tour dates on the page.
More to come.