Home > Gate of Sweet Nectar, Meditation, Street Retreat > Impressions On Attending The Street Zazenkai by Ron Tetsudo

Impressions On Attending The Street Zazenkai by Ron Tetsudo

I just wanted to share my impressions as a participant of the Street Zazenkai last Saturday. I am normally suspicious of that sort of thing and lean toward the position that sitting by itself is enough and nothing needs to be added to it … however, it is good to shake things up and bust out of the box every once in a while.

Many thanks to Herb and Kozan for initiating this and for Roshi for allowing us to do it and authorizing the purchase of food and supplies for the day.

* Doing sitting meditation out in public is challenging. A Street Zazenkai is one of those things which “sounds” like a great idea, but the following-through and the doing of it is difficult. A lot of fear comes up and the whole process is ego-deflating.

* There are is no way to look good, blend in, or fall back on spiritual fashion statements. You are just out there … lots of people looking to spend money or have a good time or just survive, lots of noise, traffic and people, silently sitting in the midst of rampant consumerism, incredible wealth and dire poverty all mixed in together.

* It was nice to move the venue to different locations and also to visit with and sit at the downtown temples (The Dharma Bums and The Red Lotus Society).

* Feeding and talking with the homeless population downtown was especially gratifying and moving for everyone (more below).

For me, an unexpected thing was how powerful it was to prepare meals for homeless people and to go around downtown distributing the lunches. It wasn’t until afterwards that I made the connection with that act of service and the Gate of Sweet Nectar.

In the Gate of Sweet Nectar ceremony, the community ritualistically prepares a banquet, invites all the Buddhas and all the sentient beings in the Hungry Ghost realm to eat until everyone is satisfied. I’ve always seen the Hungry Ghost realm as that place and state of being where addiction, extreme attachment, and great delusion reside.

The homeless population has a lot of people with mental illnesses, substance abuse problems, and sometimes just plain old bad luck. Bringing food to the Civic Center, making sandwiches, and preparing bagged lunches of sandwiches, snack bars, fruit and bottled water was the literal embodiment of preparing the banquet. And, walking around and handing out lunches and stopping for conversations with our guests was a very powerful experience.

Everyone we met was very appreciative of the meals as it was lunchtime and a lot of the homeless we met were scrambling around trying to get money for lunch and going to the over-priced convenience stores to get something to eat. It was gratifying to walk around and seeing people who are treated with disdain and with the social stigma of invisibility truly enjoying themselves, munching on snack bars and oranges and sipping bottled water.

If I had to choose the ritual of the Gate of Sweet Nectar or the living enactment of the Gate of Sweet Nectar, I would go for the latter.

– Ron Tetsudo –

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