Shinshu Roberts

‘When I first began to practice, I really wanted to be the doan, a person who hits the bells, keeps time during meditation, and does other functions associated with the ritual in a temple. But what came with that job, for me, was anxiety about making mistakes. And of course there were many opportunities to make mistakes. This was difficult, because I wanted to be perfect. I was smart enough to know that how I hit the bells said something about who I was, but I was not mature enough in practice to let of of the ego involvement of needing to be perfect. This is a stage of practice. Our involvement with looking good gets in the way of our ability just to meet the moment without adding anything extra. That something extra, in this case, was my desire to look good, to be perfect. Of course, this “mistake” was actually what I was learning about. It was my practice.’ (Being-Time)

I had a little chuckle reading this passage, as I imagine many current and former temple residents may. My first wish at City Center was actually to be the fukudo (literally, the ‘number two to the doan’, if my Japanese-by-temple-osmosis is to be trusted), since this was the person who got to hit the big drum before breakfast – as well as the wake-up bell and the mokugyo, which keeps time for some of the chants during the service. I liked the idea of making a big noise in the temple: if you hit the drum, which lives in the basement, hard enough, apparently the windows in the kitchen, where everyone was congregated at the time, would rattle.
Being perfect was also a big deal for me, but mostly I didn’t have that much anxiety about it, as I managed to learn the forms quickly, and was conceited enough to think I was doing them pretty damn well most of the time. Until I came to be the koyko, where the instrument was my own voice. That was a whole other story (and one I don’t seem to have recounted here yet – but did on the Ino’s Blog); like Shinshu, though, I later came to appreciate how that experience was deeply helpful to my practice.

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