Sixth day, Rohatsu sesshin. You have been sitting almost constantly for sixteen hours a day for five days. It is still fulldark when you leave the zendo after the first hour of meditation. The big bell is ringing every fifty seconds, the countdown to service. Today is Rohatsu itself, December 8, and service today is the Enlightenment Ceremony. At your place in the Buddha Hall is a basket of flower petals.
Sixth day, Rohatsu sesshin. You have been sitting almost constantly for sixteen hours a day for five days: your legs have never hurt so much. You have walked fifteen miles a day on these legs and they did not hurt so much. Or maybe not. Maybe these are new legs. In the shower yesterday you did not recognize your own body.
Sixth day, Rohatstu sesshin. At your place in the Buddha Hall is a basket of flower petals. The taiko has been brought from downstairs and as the procession comes through the darkness the sweet small bells are offset by the drum, so loud it interrupts your heart. The bows. The Heart Sutra in English, which is your favorite second only to the Japanese. The dedication. Then the kokyo announces the Maka Hannya Haraminto Shingyo - the Heart Sutra in Japanese. The circumambulation begins with the chant, lines of monks in dark robes snaking 'round the hall. The drum starts, interrupting your heart. It becomes your heart. The Buddha Hall fills with voices and the petals are thrown into the air.
Sixth day, Rohatsu sesshin. The rising voices are filled with joy. The dawn sky is fire and roses. The drum and the singing, flowers falling and you have been sitting for sixteen hours a day for five days. Your cynicism has grown heavy and it falls and is lost amongst the petals, ground into the tatami. Your voice is filled with joy. Three times you sing the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom, your body finding the foriegn sounds, disappearing into the merge of voices, each time louder and stronger and freer. Three times you circle the hall, your heart exploding into fire and roses. When the drum stops you weep and as you bow you weep and when the story is told - one winter morning centuries ago, a human being looked up saw the morning star for the first time, and he cast aside his burden and became completely free - the fire and roses become your body and the tears become your body and all the voices and the rising sun.
Sixth day, Rohastu sesshin. So that when the egret comes to stalk goldfish in the overgrown fountain, your heart only says, "of course." So that when the rain comes your heart only says, "of course." So that when the pain comes, the brown rice and salt, the lily bursting with pollen, the wood floor beneath your feet, the robe on your shoulders, the refuges at the end of the night and the bright dawn of the final day, your heart can only say, "this too, this too, of course."