One Continuous Mistake


It was a Saturday morning. My body still not yet adjusted to the time change and jet-lag. Did laundry Friday night and went to bed late. I woke up in the morning and found that it was past time to do the wake- up bell. I jumped out of bed and got into my robes and rushed to the main building. The Sangha was all up and about. I wondered how it was without a wake-up bell. I let the Tanto know that I slipped up on the wake up bell. “Wonder if the Benji got it” he replied. The folks in the community were all getting ready to go into the zendo for zazen. Nothing seemed to be wrong. All seemed ordinary as usual. My Big mistake kept lingering in my head, shouting out loud – ‘How could you do this? Waking up the community is a responsible job and how could you slip out on that”? Then came the Ino. I went up to her and apologized. She said – “Oh! You didn’t ring the wake up bell?” I was rather surprised, “Was there a wake up bell” I asked . I didn’t have much time to figure this out, in the silent hours of early dawn when the Han struck out loud inviting people to the zendo. I had to stop the noise in my head and move on. I had to be by the Doshi door by the second roll down to step right in and do the Jundo (opening the zendo ceremony) before the Abbot came along.

In a Zen Monastery, the schedule for each day, is so structured around the sangha and well programmed in a perfectly choreographed way. The kitchen and zendo are harmonized in this structure as well. All the events that take place in the Temple, be it a food offering in the kaisando or a Dharma Talk in the Buddha Hall, all fall in place and move along with the day setting in motion the wheel of Dharma. It clearly defines the interconnectedness and nature of change. Without much talking about it, the very act of ‘just doing’ is so palpable in the body. The mind has no option but to move out of the way and receive what comes as it comes and face it ‘as it is’.

Later in the day on Saturday morning was the residents meeting. Each one had to say what felt real to them about ‘Giving and Receiving’. Each person had something deep to say. When it was the Tanto David Zimmerman’s turn, he started off saying that it felt like a ‘Dharma Talk’, when we were half way around the circle. I shared the story of my ‘Great Mistake’ of the day. Giving and Receiving happens without even the feeling of the giver or the receiver. This very ‘Gift’ of the BuddhaDharma and Sangha goes with us wherever we go. We carry it along.

Later I learnt that Killian Clark who was the Fukudo for the morning, had picked up the strings and moved on. He rang the wake-up bell when I did not show up. My Big Mistake went unnoticed. All happened as always. It sure was clear that nobody is indispensable. The Abbot Ed Sattizahn had the last word when I ran into him and he said – ‘One Continuous Mistake’. We burst into laughter!