Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

8Aug/090

Hungry Ghosts

Today CK and I checked out the Letterpress Printer's Fair this morning. It was a lot of fun and great to see a huge crowd of printing enthusiasts of ages there. I picked up a pack of awesome recipe cards which might be fun for giving away recipes to friends (some read, "Yum!" and others, "Eat me"). We both got to use an old press. CK carefully kept her piece untouched and I forgot so the ink got a bit smeary on mine.

Some lunch was had at Por Que No on Mississippi before we packed up the cookies CK had made and headed off to Great Vow Zen Monastery for the Jizo-Bon festival. Neither of us had been before and were looking forward to it a lot.

We made prayer flags and hung them in the Jizo garden. CK added a little drawing of Atari on the flag she made. I did a large tree in the center of Jizo's stamped all around the edges with the words, "May all beings be at ease."

I also painted a lantern by drizzling blue and orange paint onto it.

It took a while to dry...

We enjoyed a great dinner (a tofu, veggie miso stew), formal tea ceremony (with some of the most delicious matcha I've ever had), listened to traditional flute music (shakuhachi), watched a very silly & charming puppet show, and then we sung as we walked through the Jizo garden with our lanterns.

Calling all you hungry hearts
Every where, in every time.
You who hunger, you who thirst
I offer you this Bodhi mind.

Out in the garden several of the monastery residents were playing the part of the "Hungry Ghosts". The wore dark costumes, capes, masks, had painted faces and some wigs of Crazy Hair on. They howled and sobbed from the woods. As we entered the garden we laughed in response to the silliness as well as the eerie quality of their wailing.

I felt tears spring to my eyes at more than one point as we made our way along the path. I recalled the weight of grief people leave in the garden during the Jizo ceremonies for those who have died, especially children. My own tokens for my step-dad and father, which by now have become part of the garden, and my cats, which still sparkle in the trees, are in this garden. When we came to the big tree, near to the Jizo that represents the childhood I was denied, we gathered around and enticed the "ghosts" to join us

We feed them popcorn as a representation of the spiritual food that can truly sustain us. Again, a mix of grief and hilarity. Shivers of memories coming up while watching Hogen dump popcorn out of an enormous bowl onto the head of a "ghost" howling in the leaves at his feet.

We coaxed the "ghosts" to join us in the zendo for the Ksitigarbha (the Indian name for Jizo) ceremony. Some of us taking a "ghost" by the hand to encourage them in, comfort them. The ghosts continued to shake, occasionally cry out and some tried hiding beneath the cushions. Eventually they settled. When the ceremony was over we went outside and set of some fireworks.

I commented to others afterward that watching the "ghosts" in the zendo was like seeing what my mind goes through in sesshin. The howling, crying, and desire to flee, or hide beneath the cushions, before eventually settling is what my mind processes through in one day, one sitting period sometimes, during retreat practice.

Jizo Theater
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