Birth – Death – Nirvana

On Sunday, Zen Center hosted Blanche’s funeral service. It was not surprising to see a great crowd assembled for the event, mostly people who have lived at Zen Center over the years (including Michael Wenger and Barbara Kohn who co-led the first practice period I attended in 2000, and someone I talked to who had been at Zen Center from 1966 – 1986, and then moved over to Tibetan practice) but also many of her extended family, and dignitaries from the zen world. I have been to a number of these grand memorials over the years, and was ino for several of them, so the event had a familiar feel to it. So many aspects of her life were evoked in the statements during the ceremony, and in the slideshow put together by her grand-daughter Rebecca. Perhaps, as on other such occasions, what will be most remembered is being present with everyone who was there, allowing our lives to be marked by this ritual (I have been telling people that in addition to the funeral, I was at a baby shower on Saturday, and will be officiating a wedding this coming Friday, so I have the circle of life covered right now).
During the ceremony, as Sojun Roshi performed the flame mudra, he invoked birth, death and nirvana. As usual, Dogen had something to say about that:

‘Just understand that birth-and-death is itself nirvana. There is nothing such as birth and death to be avoided; there is nothing such as nirvana to be sought. Only when you realize this are you free from birth and death.’ (Shobogenzo Shoji, Birth and Death)

Sojun Roshi performs the flame mudra during the ceremony.

Blanche’s ashes, ihai, picture, robes, bowl, whisk and favourite statue were carried to the altar at the start of the ceremony.

The eight deshi, Blanche’s fully transmitted disciples.

After the ceremony, watching the slideshow with pictures from Blanche’s long life.

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