Shuso Ceremony at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate

The ADZG spring practice period ended with a three-day sesshin ending June 4th. A shuso (head monk) questioning ceremony for shuso Keizan Titus O'Brien was held the evening before. Here are pictures from after the ceremony with Keizan and Taigen; with shuso ceremony attendants; and with the shuso and benji Matt Vogel:

shuso_taigen
shuso_attendants
shuso_benji

The shuso ceremony questioning commences with a poem by the benji, shuso's assistant, Matt Vogel. Here is Matt's poem:

Spring Practice Period

After the storm
The broken branch
Still blossoms
In the wet grass.

A cold wind rolls in from the lake-
Hundreds of thousands of petals, let go
And flow through the concrete seams of the city,
Collecting on wet windshields,
Gathering with glittering glass shards in gutters,
Or floating in tiny sidewalk crack puddles.
The steel tower sways side to side.

On thick, winter hardened branches leaves unravel.
Subtle shade returns, long shadows stretch patiently
Across rush hour traffic.

Did you see the clouds this morning
dark and heavy, race across the sky, growling,
Passing unobstructed through solid glass and metal?
Do you hear the dragon purring,
Curled up on the cushion next to you?
Have you watched C-beams glitter in the dark
Near the Ancient Dragon Zen Gate?
Can you feel the Earth moving deep below us,
Massive sheets of rock shifting,
Releasing pressure, settling.

Somewhere a volcano erupts,
Somewhere a bomb is about to explode,
Somewhere oil flows beneath a sacred river.
Every other hour somewhere near
Gunshots crack, hot bullets tear
Through flesh, bone, organs.

How do we respond?
If this is practice
What are we practicing for?
Here, together in this space,
Unencumbered,
Giving pain permission,
Allowing joy to arise,
Broken
Open
Whole.
Nothing in the whole place restricts you.
Nothing restricts us.

The blossoms are gone.
The broken branch settles
in the new shade,
Content in its function.
Sparrows land quickly,
Taking shelter
Then disappear.
A spider plays on an invisible web stretched
In the gaps between twigs.
Tall grasses surround the branch
Swaying gently.