Challenge and bless the Sangha's Chief Poetry Collector Shokai on Sun. Nov. 17, 2019 at our first Shuso Hossen Ceremony!
"How is it different for Shokai? She’s got Rinsen and I with our glaring eyes right here."
-- Rev. Karen Do'on Weik comparing her experience as a Shuso candidate with remote teachers to Shokai's experience this ango
Shuso Candidate Winifred Shokai Martin working on ceremony choreography under the watchful eyes of Rinsen Roshi and Do'on Osho.
This post is based on interview on Sunday, October 20 where novice Zuisei and Revs. Jay Rinsen Weik and Karen Do’on Weik Osho chatted about their experiences with Shuso students, and becoming Shuso students, as well as their work guiding Shokai through the Shuso preparation process this Ango, and what it will be like for BTT to have an acknowledged Shuso student after the ceremony.
Read the third part of the interview, about Shokai's experience as Shuso Candidate in this post. The rest of the interview will be published throughout the week leading up to the ceremony.
So fast forward to now, Shokai has done all of her Zen training right here in our community. How has her experience been different? How will be different for our Sangha?
She’s got Rinsen and I with our glaring eyes [right here].
And that [teacher and student being in the same space] is going back to the more traditional model that we’re going back to, with the Teachers watching closely?
Yes, and she never knows when she’s going to be put on the spot -- like she was today -- and she did beautifully. Today Rinsen asked her to elucidate the poem she had brought in, with her awesome awakened Dharma Eye.
I understand that there is a special role for the person who is supervising a Shuso candidate, and that serving in this role is a special part of your training as well. Can you tell us more about this special role and what it means for you and Shokai?
It doesn’t feel like a role. That’s very important for our community - things are not so clearly defined and siloed. This is more about just living together as students and Teachers. What unfolds is a very organic, natural process, and we check in with each other.
I asked Shokai to be the “poetry collector” for the Sangha. She finds cool poems and brings them so we can read them during service and after awhile we’ll have a nice collection we can call “Poetry from the Heartland”. This came very naturally and organically out of our relationship and that is really what true leadership or supervision of the Shuso is. This is so much a part of our teaching and training here -- things move very organically here and we’re leaving a lot of space for possibility. If I am going to be leading or guiding, that is what I am doing - guiding by example, and guiding by my heart, the Dharma mind, and the Dharma eye. And the Heart always goes first.
And it seems that In giving Shokai this assignment, you are meeting and guiding Shokai’s organic call to connect deeply with poetry, which was already present. You didn’t say “Shokai, start liking poetry!” And you are guiding Shokai to put that to use for the benefit of the Sangha, where we engage with reading material at every Sunday service. This is really beautiful! Thank you for sharing more about it.
How do you anticipate that Shokai’s experience of the end of this Ango will be different from yours?
[laughing] I don’t know, you know! I think we'll know that when the Dharma combat happens.
After the ceremony next weekend, my hope is that Shokai will have more guidance and more grounding than I did. When I was doing sesshin once a season with Myotai Sensei, there was a lot less structure and opportunity for me to be able to process what was happening. And back then, it was difficult to have any interaction between sesshin and then sesshin stopped, so it much more of a blessing and “go forth!” and then the Teacher receding.
And we’re fine. It all worked out! We ended up getting connected to James [Myoun Roshi] and getting further guidance, but I would hope for Shokai that she's got a stronger community and a better context. But I think, realistically, it's still going to probably take her at least half a year after the fact to have integrated what it is to be a Shuso student in the Sangha. I think the initial parts will come quickly, and then it will take some time, and I’m happy that she has the time and support to do that.
[Even before the ceremony,] I feel that the topic Shokai chose for this Ango -- the paramitas -- has been getting us to some real foundational teachings, and she has already been inspiring and leading with her poetry selections every week. Everybody can really sink their hearts into the paramitas. She’s reported the Sangha circles are doing well because people are digesting the material and getting a lot out of it. This is Shokai. Her imprint is very much on it, and she's very practical -- and then she’s got the poetry cherry on top going on too!
Shuso can be a harsh time [for the Shuso student]. For some people, when one is being held up publicly [as a Chief Disciple], one of the great concerns or fears is that the ego can co-opt anything, including this. As a corrective in some communities, including at ZMM under Daido Roshi’s watch, there were harsh practices behind the scenes to counter and erode that self-clinging and self-cherishing. I don’t feel a great need for that here. We do most of that in a humorous way, and I think this is more skillful and more useful, at least in [Shokai’s] case.
Definitely. As you know, I don’t agree with that way of teaching. Also, because we have such a holistic kind of living with each other over time, I just don't think it is necessary here.
Yes! I reserve the right though [in case it’s ever needed].