The Language of Ritual

This is the time of year that Buddha’s Parinirvana is traditionally celebrated. Usually there is a reading in the zendo at City Center during morning zazen, the only time of the year when this will happen, telling the story handed down around the death of the historical Buddha. This section always moves me:

‘And the gods in all the heavens uttered verses, and the deer from the hillsides came to watch in rapt attention, and the stars and the planets shone brightly, and the small plants turned their leaves a little to the north, the trees arched more closely toward the sky, foxes slowed down in their loping, frogs ceased their croaking for a moment, birds perched, and children in their beds turned over and awoke in wonder.

Those monks who had not yet let go of their desires wept, and tore their hair, raised their arms, threw themselves down, twisting and turning and crying out, “The light of the world has gone out!” But those monks who were free of clinging endured mindfully and clearly aware, weeping softly and saying:

“All things in this world break up
Even the Buddha without peer,
This day has passed on.”

And they remembered the Buddha’s last words:

“If you have doubts about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha or about the path or the practice, ask other monks. Do not afterwards feel remorse. Let one friend ask another. Encourage each other in the way.
It may be that you will think the teacher’s instructions have ceased, but it should not be seen like this. For what I have taught shall be your teacher, all living beings shall be your teacher, this bright world, and your very mind itself, shall be your teacher.
Be as lamps unto yourselves. Light your dharma candle and pass on the light throughout the generations and to everyone in this world .”‘

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