This past weekend I spent many hours at Zen Center, mostly wearing my full ceremonial outfit, for two of the biggest ceremonies that a zen temple can put on – the Stepping Down and the Mountain Seat. Linda Ruth was retiring as Central Abbess, and David Z was stepping up as the new City Center Abbot (the other part of the equation is Ed Sattizahn moving across from the latter post to the Central Abbacy, but that ceremony is fairly nominal in comparison).
I wrote extensively about the Mountain Seat when I was ino in 2012 for Christina, so rather than go through all that again, I refer you to the posts I wrote at the time – I had a front row seat for all the events, including a very intimate part in the zendo; and in 2014, when the last Mountain Seat took place, for Ed and Fu, I was the director, and part of the ryoban, who are integral to the whole event. So this time it was nice to be there just to take photographs.
As with all major happenings at Zen Center, the wider sangha comes together, which can be quite overwhelming for the more introverted of us. Apart from many dignitaries and a few people who are well-known in the wider world, dharma friends going back twenty years, and from many different temples and lineages converged on Sunday. I was very happy to see a handful of people I know from the Gen X Teachers’ conference, and peers who have moved to other parts of the country, as well as current residents and friends who I see fairly regularly anyway.
David’s ascendancy to the Abbot’s seat marks a real generational shift at Zen Center; he is my age, and pretty much my contemporary: we moved into City Center around the same time, moved down to Tassajara at the same time, only he stuck around and I came and went. One of our fellow tangaryo students from 2002, Linda, Galijan, referenced this time in her congratulations, given as Zen Center president. There was a poignancy for me in all this – familiar in my recent visits to Zen Center ceremonies – in feeling partly included and intimate with all of it, and partly on the outside from having chosen to leave the organisation.
With all the living abbots and abbesses in attendance, as well as Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi (more on him later), there was a shift in tone as well, with many of David’s statements invoking diversity and privilege, and his wish for our practice to be inclusive for everybody. I certainly want to support him in that endeavour.
David as shinmei (incoming abbot) faces the ryoban before the procession to the building.
Processing to the ‘gate’, following the ryoban, followed by various jishas.
Entering the kaisando as part of the procession around the main altars of the temple.
Ascending the mountain.
Mondo (question and answer) from the mountain, facing Eli.
Congratulatory statement from Hoitsu Roshi.