Our Practice Term developed out of the Zen monastic tradition of biannual practice periods called “ango”. In ancient India, ango marked the three-month monsoon season, when ordained members of the Buddhist sangha would cease to travel about as wandering mendicants, gathering together at monasteries for intensive dharma practice. This tradition was carried on in China and then Japan, where ango is observed during two separate 90-day periods in which monks and nuns don’t leave the monastery except for alms rounds or to chant at members’ homes. They use that span of time, the container of the community and the teachings of the abbot to investigate Dharma wholeheartedly.
Many community temples have adapted the form of ango as a way to provide an opportunity for non- monastic students to direct their study of Dharma. Although our Practice Term is not as contained as a traditional ango, it serves the same purpose of bringing together the resources of the community over a specific period of time to help focus practice and investigation. We may not be living a monastic life, but our lives are rigorous and very busy. We may never make the time, even though we intend to, to find out about the questions at the very bottom of our heart. Practice Terms help us take the time and give us the resources to pay attention. Practice Term is, essentially, an invitation to be involved in the life of Buddha Eye Temple and to find one’s own life reflected therein. Stepping through the dharma gates which appear to us as a temple, a practice, and a teaching, as buddha, dharma, and sangha, we discover the boundless dharma gate which knows no inside or outside.
The Fall 2015 practice term will feature Tuesday evening dharma classes and activities open to everyone, including Introduction to Practice workshops on September 22 and 29 and a series of Foundational Buddhist Teachings classes beginning October 6. Introductory workshops are ideal for people who would like more in-depth instruction in both zazen and temple forms and an opportunity to ask questions and discuss various aspects of practice, while foundational teachings classes are a chance for new and experienced practitioners alike to connect their practice to fundamental teachings like the four noble truths, karma, the eightfold path, and so forth. We will also offer two sesshin, or silent multi- day practice intensives with zazen as their core, the first from October 8-11 and the second—Rohatsu sesshin, commemorating the enlightenment of the Buddha Shakyamuni—from December 6-13. One day zazenkai, or silent practice intensives, continue at Bird Haven zendo near Cheshire every second Saturday of the month. Please see birdhavenzendo.org for more details and to register.
There is also the option to engage the practice term formally as a Term Student, working closely with the teacher and sangha to fulfill particular practice requirements and to engage dharma. The goal of the Term Student program is to help construct a platform of practice from which students can investigate Buddha-Dharma in their lives. The basic building blocks of that platform are: daily zazen, engagement with the teacher and sangha, dharma study, and temple stewardship. Term students meet weekly on Thursday evenings for various activities, including study of the dharma text for the term (this time, Dogen-Zenji’s Gakudo Yojinshu). For more details, please see the attached term student application. Those who are unable to participate in the Term student program but would like to engage Term in a structured way are encouraged to formulate their own practice commitments in consultation with Ejo. As part of the practice commitment program, participants will meet as a group three times throughout the term (dates yet to be decided) to discuss practice informally with a practice advisor.
On September 20, we will conduct a ceremony as part of our regular Sunday morning program to mark the opening of term. During this time, participants will formally place their term student applications or individual practice commitments on the main altar. The practice term will close Sunday, December 13.
Fall Term Documents
Please note this talk is also downloadable on the Teachings/Dharma Talks page.