Seijiki Ceremony - Relating to Death and Dying

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Heading into winter; what is the most important thing at the end of your life? taking refuge; how are we also hungry ghosts; six realms.

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can i go

this is the end of october
scanning a little colder out now the texture the air is changeable
and much of the world even in california the growing season is ending
my garden is dying back
was probably also
we're really going into winter
so in many cultures this is a time when
the seeming veil of separation between life and death seems a little thinner
homes are more accessible
so of course the ceremony is that deal with the situation there's halloween and all souls day and in our tradition we do a ceremony called said gigi which were going to do this afternoon
to begin by
reading with you from from that ceremony

can you hear now maybe it said okay
how's that
so raise your hand if the if it was still can't hear

giving rise to the awakened mind we unconditionally offer a bowl of pure food to all the hungry ghosts in every land to the farthest reaches of vast emptiness in the ten directions including every atom throughout the entire time around
we invite all our departed ancestors going back to ancient times the spirits dwelling and mountains rivers and earth as well as didn't demonic spirits from the untamed wilderness to come and gather here
now with deep sympathy we offer food to all of you sincerely hoping that you will each accept this food and turn it over making offerings to buddhists sages and all sentient beings throughout the vast emptiness of the universe
so that you and all the many cendien beings will be satisfied moreover we sincerely wish that your body's be conveyed by these mountains and food so that you may depart from suffering be liberated fine birth in heaven and received joy
in accord with your intentions may you travel three freely through the pure lands in the ten directions and arouse awakened mind practicing the awakened way and in the future become a buddha without regressing
retreat those who have previously attained the way since ancient times to vow to realize liberation together with our beings day and night constantly protect us so that our vows will be fulfilled
we offer food to beings throughout the time around so that every being will equally receive this fortunate offering
whatever virtue and married this produces really completely transfer and dedicate to the unsurpassed awakening with total clarity and wisdom of the whole damn realm of to reality that all may speedily attain buddhahood without incurring any other destinies
may all sentient beings that the dharma realm take advantage of this teaching too quickly attain buddhahood

at a recent workshop that we had here and dying the question was posed to everyone to while the participants
what is the most important thing for you at the time of your dying
maybe some of you here were in that workshop or have done the workshop at some other time
and have asked others this question i have been asked yourself what is the most important thing for you
at the time of your dying
in the you because i said this was a workshop so this was an exercise or none of us at that time were actively dying as far as i know and
so the asking innocence was a kind of ceremonial asking it was a ritual and that the form of the question was set we were paired off somewhat arbitrarily and we didn't have i didn't go
to make up the question or some variation on it it wasn't it wasn't your usual dialogue or discussion
the questioner was designated taking turns right value the questioner and your the answer and you simply ask the same question over and over again no matter what the responses the same question
keeps coming back
so there's no judgment there no evaluation
no on that's a good answer or could you tell me a little more that's not quite
couldn't go them deeper or could you come up with something better or more interesting or more profound or was nothing just the question what is most important to you over and over again just really really listening
so are having all agreed to do this in advance
we knew that the for each of us we knew that the question wasn't going to change that there wasn't going to be any approval i bet that's really great i am so happy that you said that that urania really a wise person or
just and
just faced with our own response when kind of safe space to find out what is there
so it at the beginning and the exercise some examples were given so that we had some sense of of the range i think probably most of us hadn't really thought about this before or not not seriously
so it was helpful to have some sense of a range of possibilities of things that we might think about i did we have a preferred a
cause of death threats
something you might you might have a preference for are preferred place of death
i'm a kind of what kind of experience
not too much pain medication available comfort
rank who would you like to be present at your death
we're kind of sounds would you like to be hearing maybe some nice music playing
we're kind of state of mind would you wish for service or was just some possibilities of things that might naturally come up when you think about this event that will come to all of us
so it at the beginning i was actually pretty nervous because i had no idea what my response was was going to be but having this kind of ritual framework around it really provided a space to
to explore for myself so the first thing i i thought about was
really be nice to kind of visualize myself in my room with my garden there and a particular flowers and not just any flowers but a very particular
particular flowers and
arranged in a very particular way and you know that this would be a really nice way to go
and then i realized that actually this was not this was not going to work because
i prob that was probably not going to be the way it happens and you know i probably will not be in that room but will not have my choice or what kind of what flowers are blooming at that time me here and you know like i could die at any time on highway one
for example know and
when the poison oak or
or are you know in an ambulance so i thought you know if this is really what's like most a it's okay for it to be important but effects really what's most important and kind of in trouble because it's out of control it's it's not not gonna work
even who's present well like i could think of some people who i would really like to be present but they might not even be alive at that time themselves are know unavailable so that that really was not going to work either so i started thinking more about fan
ah what
when i might be able to have some effect over and actually the main thing i thought it first was that i really would like to be forgiven by those who i have caused pain but i don't have control over that either that's another one
those and
no it's it's kind of like setting the scene you can try to do it but it's not not under control
clearing the question over and over again
what came up as that point was to a bad i really would want at that time to be able to take refuge in buddha dharma and sangha
that was very helpful very kind of peaceful to realize that that was really the most important thing because
that's what i'm focused on then i can start with that right now i don't have to wait until this imaginary scenario which will never happen the way i imagined but i'm sure with i'll have some kind of scenario and our mind
we don't need to wait until that unfolds we can start
we can start now so i think
doing this is a very very good exercise and it seems particularly something that comes up now at this at this time of year this question of and memory of asking it would be at what nourishes your life with this is what you would
think is going to nourish and sustain you and your last moments perhaps this is what will also a nurse you now
with each living moment
so the this sir jackie ceremony is a ceremony that
cause up what we call hungry ghosts
and we as the first line says we offer a bowl of pure food to all the hungry ghosts in every land so who are these hungry ghosts and whether they hungry for what is the pure food that's offered
and i think that this this question that this is the question what what is what i was hungry for
what matters most important to us than are dying and what is most important to us in our living and how do we have that nourishment for ourselves how do we offer it to others
and perhaps the hungry ghosts are those who haven't been able to figure this out
didn't find the answer before they died and so they wander endlessly trying to get nourished and not knowing what the nourishment might be or not being able to take it in so it's
not it is not as if there are those who don't know and those who do know
this my experiences one of perhaps finding the answer and then forgetting finding it and then being distracted by something else finding it and then i deluding myself confusing myself thinking that other things
will satisfy that need kind of like endlessly searching for this a perfect flower that will be the ultimate satisfaction that kind of searches that kind of hungry ghosts search

the center of i practice here is the vow beings are numberless i vow to save them of course we know that this is kinda logically impossible or inconceivable inconceivable task
of helping others endlessly we don't know exactly even what this means
something about waking up ourselves helping others to wake up to the truth of our existence
has to do have with how are related to others that are life is not the circumscribed private independent
infinite existence that we imagine it to be
but how do we wake up how how does this transformation happen
the in order for this to take effect we need to hear the teachings and have for those of you who have been here over the past few days as the abbess said sometimes hearing the words is not sufficient
we need to hear the teachings but how is it that we can be able to take them in to actually understand them how do we prepare ourselves to understand them what kind of state of mind is necessary and how do we ca
so as she was talking about we need to have an open mind flexible receptive mind and this can be cultivated through mindfulness practices are detailed minute investigation and awareness about physical body
paying close attention and being willing and able to accept whatever our experience may be
again i think that hungry ghosts was the kind of state where we can't we can't accept we weren't our body to be one way and so it's very hard to notice how it actually is really wanting some other kind of experience
so do this we need a kind of safe space we need support from each other encouragement we need a kind of structure
and this is what i think this kind of need for the support is the basis of our zeiss and practice where we just sit still not doing anything not quite trying to create something different not trying to change
just being open to what's happening
so as tensioner she has said this is a kind of celebration or ceremony or ritual
dislike the exercise about dying no matter what the response the question is always the same the question keeps coming back but no judgment no evaluation
no right or wrong answer so also in zazen no right or wrong answer will just keep coming back to the question over and over again
so this space but i can help create the possibility for this kind of practice in which we can receive the teaching
it can be described as a kind of liminal space at the liminal is a threshold space from the latin word linen and is sometimes described as the central the central part or the central stage over ritual
experience there was a kind of ambiguity and openness
kind of indeterminacy in a liminal space where one sense of identity can loosen and de zile was the kind of transitional period that opens up to something different
in this kind of space were supported to let go of their sense of self that we usually hold onto so tightly the structure of it allows more receptivity both enable to give and to receive from others
clear example this would be an ordination ceremony like we had her last week when the first part the ordinary or lives home and takes off their usual clothing and actually when they appear in
the ordination space and the ordination platform or in this how they're literally half clothed they're not not only are they not wearing their usual close but they're not completely clothed the i
the head is a partially shaved so they're really in a very very very transitional space
then during the ceremony itself but wouldn't he receives their new clothes and a new name and the shaving is completed so this is the the liminal the transitional phase
they take vows and then this process are transformed so the beginning an ordinary person walks in
becomes an an ordinary and walks out a monk how does this happen how does this transformation take place on
so the ceremony this afternoon
is also
but that kind of transformative ceremony

it's a ceremony of awakening and nourishing not just glad the usual sentient beings but the those in the in between realm those who we usually don't pay so much attention to
and in this case the space where the ceremony will be was kind of are doubly liminal or in between because rather than our usual alter will set up a special altar at this end of the room and
and ah
as we talked about the other night
the altar is added
the ceremony faces away from the usual alter so we face away from the buddha are usually in a ceremony we make offerings and direct our attention to the buddha to the image that the figure on the altar in this case because
cause we're calling forth spirits who may be intimidated want to hang out with recruiters are in a sense we're creating a safe space for them

so by is it
and so actually the altar that set up doesn't have typically doesn't have any images on it which i find very interesting that
i love the idea that by having
it's sort of an empty space where
different things can happen ah then that would usually happen at the altar and
i said the offerings are not being made to buddha so it really wouldn't work to have it at the usual alter the offerings and i've been made to these hungry ghosts i guess it's kind of like if if they were made a bad alter the buddha might have graphics instead
prepare the girls could get there is canada
be something like that and
prison in this hall we have a geezer here the i'm really sorry for who is the protector of our children and travelers on earth store bodhisattva so we could coverages
over that might be good to read literally not have any images that this altered but in a sense maybe it's okay because
i've all the bodhisattvas jizo is the one who is most kind of in between the worlds are conducting us from one world to the next
in traditional buddhist cosmology there are six realms of existence which i am i think a number of people have talked about here recently so i won't go into them so much and three lower realms are the hell realm anime
the realm and this realm of hungry ghosts in which suffering as too intense we can't practice than these realms
the three upper rooms are the realms of humans and then the realm of the jealous or hiding spirits are ushers and the heavenly realm and those realms only in the human realm is it possible to practice and the heavenly realm or guy
odd room
it said it
it's it's to blissful to pleasant in our strike few have everything you need why bother to do anything else the primacy you don't stay there forever you could fall out so it doesn't ultimately work
and so only in in the human realm do we have the ability to actually practice the height so this the six rooms are often described in i
and drawings and paintings and the hungry ghosts are depicted as having long narrow next and huge berries so being tortured by desire but unable to take in nourishment and this can be as as had all kinds of nourishment so
whenever we are at wanting that which we can't have wanting our body to be different wanting our mind to be different all those kinds of longings we are in a sense was kind of creature with huge
insatiable desires rich actually i think
in a way and our society
we have the capacity of the technological capacity to infinitely expand those desires but that's kind of the big advance of our society nowadays is to come up with more and more ways ah
no more and more imagination about how he could be satisfied and on
i guess every historical period has their own suffering but i think that's our particular suffering are these huge visions that
i really enjoy looking at magazines sometimes at the advertising and the i think the am
there's a very clear understanding their of this hungry ghost around and a very and seemingly deliberate effort to entice us into it
and it's done so well didn't think
well and and so here it's like basically being said you can spend your life wandering the earth seeking for satisfaction in this big car or this big forever
refrigerator or wearing this dress and and then off we go with our little skinny next year not really able to take it in you know even when we get there there's kind of something missing you know some does
doesn't really answer that question of what is your business really what most is most important to you but the very end but you have this thing but it really seems that way so
and so this is the ceremony that we this ceremony
the really is and geared toward dealing with this problem and it can be done at any time of year that can be done every day even and and some tampons do actually recite these verses daily
in japan it's usually done in july or august and i it's often equated or even confused with another ceremony called or a bone or bone the bone ceremony and but is there are actually two different ceremonies which are to have different aura
jim they originate in different suitors
the herbal ceremony comes from the sanskrit word hunan banner which means to hang upside down and this is symbolizes the suffering of being a hungry ghost or spirit not being able to take in nourishment the more we eat the hungry
yeah we get
and add the sutra that discusses this describes the story of a mod god yeah no one of a buddha's ten great disciples and one renowned as the greatest and supernatural powers and he
he had some stories say he saw with his with this supernatural vision or perhaps he saw in a dream that his mother had been reborn as a hungry ghosts to his mother who had died within this hungry ghost realm and out of his great love and compare
passion for his mother he wanted to save her and and
so he tried to send her food and drink to relieve her suffering but when she tried to eat the food caught fire him an excuse me that food caught fire and burned her body
in the water turned to blood or pus
so you can imagine this picture my sons
kind of the ultimate torture
and so he wasn't able to save her through his own powers so he asked the buddha what could he possibly do to help his mother and shakyamuni buddha said that he would have to he actually couldn't do anything right at the moment he would have to wait until the rainy season retreat was over because
the monks were all i and retreat they couldn't really deal with their problem at the moment but when their retreat ended in the middle of july they could have a ceremony so they had a ceremony at that time
it made offerings not only to his mother but to all who are suffering
and so this was the first i see me the first ah ceremony of that kind and i got his sermon is very similar to that but it has its origins actually in another suitor and a story about ananda
and another of the great disciples of the buddha who was also his cousin and who served for many years as his attendant and was renowned for his great memory and his ability to write down all of the buddhist teachings after the buddha's death
in the story is that ananda once was sitting in samadhi when hungry spirits appeared before him and told him that he was to die in three days and that he would be reborn as a hungry spirit unless he provided limitless amount
lots of food and drink to all the numberless are hungry ghosts or craters and to one hundred thousand brahmins
they said that if offerings were made to the three treasures to buddha dharma and sangha when he's hungry spirits would be reborn in the heavenly realms so i nanda also went to the buddha and asked him how could he fulfilled this request what
what could he do on this case and the buddha told him also to hold a service with the other monks and to make offerings and recite sutures so this is the origin of the say gg ceremony that we do
and actually at it seems like the to ceremonies are kind of merged hear that on the ceremony of dealing with with your own suffering or the this idea that that we could die in three days or any time
time i think maybe three days could be understood as at any moment
not only could we die but we will die and also others will die and have died so the ceremony is about the suffering of all beings that in order to relieve our own suffering
we also have to address the suffering of others

so every culture has its own particular ways of doing this it's own rituals and ways of looking at death and relationships with their parents and with others who have died and i think the ceremony has been
at transformed as it has gone from culture to culture beginning in india and then china japan and now in the united states
so here we have halloween at this time of year and we haven't incorporated halloween into the ceremony but we've moved with than the ceremony at various times of year and i think we've moved it to this particular time because of the influence of halloween
because it seems that am
this is a time when as a culture of we tend to look toward death and dying and how to provide nourishment how to provide food maybe also because it's near the it's a the harvest time the question providing
food for the hungry and those who need really comes up
and but i think one of the rare times of year when we actually study of the question of dying i heard a
little bit of a very interesting program on the radio yesterday maybe some of you heard it a story by david sedaris about spending a week and a coroner's office
i'm watching bodies on the table being cut up
and and one after another and thinking about how well maybe it's not a good idea to stand in water and bite a wire an electrical wire for example because you might end up like this particular body
on the table so he decided i was he decided he wouldn't start of eliminate that from things that he might do and then the next day and seeing someone else on the table and thinking well maybe it's not a good idea to
stand an unstable by chairs and change a lightbulb with nobody else around
he would always make sure to have someone around whenever he did that or he might end up like this other body on the table and gradually he went through many many types of scenarios that he thought would be best to avoid i have finally coming to the conclusion that
that they would it's not safe to grow old
in fact no matter what he did he would end up on that table sooner or later that this was the fate that will meet that that all of us will meet and but what was missing was how
how to am

how to interact with those who have died so it seemed to me that he was really taking an amazingly brave a step in facing death when really studying death and being willing to be with it
but he didn't have the teaching for how do you
how do you actually have a relationship with it how do you
nourish and sustain people who are going through through all of us who are going through this process so in the ceremony we call up he's hungry ghosts all of our loved ones who have died and with
enchanting will create a safe space to have a relationship with them so in a sense it's a very kind of a close and personal ceremony we have the names of people who have died on the altar
and read their names aloud but it's also it also includes all the unknown
people who have died all over the world people who we want to hold in our hearts rather we know them or not people who have been victims of war and fighting and violence as a
all these are all the negative forces that me we would prefer to put out of our mind but that were actually a part of that we share responsibility for so in that way all of these people are also apart
of our own life
their deaths are our own death so in the ceremony we call them forth and here they're suffering so dislike my guy and i could hear his mother suffering we listen without judgment and try to
pay attention to the suffering of others we ask what is needed
we study how our own lives are not separate
for others lives and we vowed to feed and nourish
in whatever way is necessary those who are suffering
even though we know this it's very hard to realize it
we really need to have this kind of safe or her liminal space in which to call it up
i come together
with all the spirits and then fit feed them and then close
everyone goes home
everyone goes back to their own space at the end
thank you very much