Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eighth Day of the Twelfth Month

Something I once read
Rohatsu brings satori
Eighth day, the twelfth month

In the Japanese Zen tradition, Rohatsu is the day celebrated in recognition of the Buddha’s enlightenment.  The word Rohatsu means the eighth day of the twelfth month and was originally tied to the Chinese lunar calendar. Due to the misalignment of lunar months with the solar year, this typically places Rohatsu in early to mid January. However, due to the adoption of the western calendar by the Japanese, the day of Rohatsu is most typically celebrated on December 8th as the eighth day of the twelfth solar month.

Nevertheless, many traditional temples, monasteries and modern Zen Centers still observe (or have returned to observing) Rohatsu in January, according to the original lunar tradition. Sometimes this is done because of tradition, while at other times it is a return to the original time frame based more on modern calendar conflicts.  For those of us living in the West (or heavily influenced by the Western culture), December is a very busy month with the eighth day of the twelfth month landing smack in the middle of the Holiday Season.

For the last few years, this clashing of cultural traditions has led to the reconfiguration of Rohatsu recognition at Open Gate Zendo.  In order to allow those of us who have friends and family who are fundamentally “not Buddhists” to participate fully in the Holiday Season, we have moved our Rohatsu Sesshin to mid January.  Typically, this Winter Sesshin coincides with the Martin Luther King three day weekend and the Sunday afternoon silent peace walk around Olympia’s Capitol Lake (as it will again this year). 

However, in observance of the December tradition, we continue to recognize “the eighth day of the twelfth month” with our evening practice session nearest to December eighth. This year, this special Rohatsu practice session will be on the evening of Wednesday December 7th and will begin at 6:45 PM. 

Below is the practice schedule for this year’s December Rohatsu Eve: 

6:45    Call to Zazen (Han Roll)
7:00 - 7:30  First period of Zazen
7:30 - 7:35  Incense Ceremony
7:35 - 8:05  Second period of Zazen
8:05 – 8:30 Tea Ceremony and Teisho
8:30    Closing Gatha

The Open Gate Rohatsu/Winter Sesshin will be held January 14th - 16th

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