[Event Report 2] (Part 1) Zen2.0 Pre-Event “Diversity and Inclusion learning from the Zen Mind” July 26th (sun), 2020
The event started with some beautiful scenery of the grounds of Arigato Temple. Arigato Temple is located in Gotemba, Shizuoka, and it is at the foot of Mt. Fuji. It is atop a hill and to get to the main hall, there is a pathway with many jizo statues, many in prayer position. There are many signs by the path about Arigato such as “Poverty disappears with ‘Arigato(Thank you)”, “Say ‘Arigato 100 times when you are nervous”, “Arigato even for a painful sickness”. At the hall on top of the hill, on a sunny day, Mt.Fuji could be seen, but today, unfortunately Mt.Fuji was mostly covered with clouds.
In the hall, we are welcomed by co-founders Mikio Shishido and Koji Miki, and today’s host Yuki Julia Itoh and the event comes to a start. There was a brief introduction of Zen2.0 and its activities, and a message that Zen2.0 aims to realise a world in which we become aware of our true selves, learn from nature and deepen connections from the soul. This year’s theme is “Mindful Planet”, how do we realise a world full of compassion.
Then Mikio Shishido made an introduction of Abbot Soho Machida. Born as a son of a Haiku poet, Abbot Soho Machida practiced as a Zen monk in the Rinzai sect since he was 14 years old. After 20 years, he went to the US to get his Masters in Theology at Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He has also taught Comparative Religion at Princeton University, National University of Singapore, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and many other prestigious Universities in Japan. He has studied and taught about many western and eastern philosophies and religions, as well as trained in Tendai esoteric buddhism, and created Arigato Zen through his study. He has also taught his Arigato Zen in France, Taiwan & the US.
2. Talk with Abbot Soho Machida about the Fire Offering Meditation (Goma Kuyo) and Arigato Zen
Mikio Shishido: First off, you have created Arigato Zen based not only on Zen but with your knowledge of Esoteric Buddhism, and would like our participants to get a brief experience on that later on. Can you explain a little bit about it? In the Arigato Zen, there is something called “Goma Kuyo” or Fire Offering Meditation, that you practice as well. What is this?
Abbot Soho Machida: Fire rituals have continued since the primitive days of humanity, and we see it in ancient Indian in the Brahmanism, and Zoroastrianism even before then. And in Buddhism, Kukai brought it in from China to Japan, to Mt.Koya, and it has been a somewhat of a secret ritual in Shingon Sect and Tendai Sect.
In my Goma Kuyo, I wanted all people to see into the fire and make it an opportunity to find their true selves. I also believe that fire has a special mystical power to connect the heavens and earth, human and nature, and god and humans. So I do the fire ritual every day.
Mikio Shishido: It almost feels like you are building up your passion while you build the fire every day!
Abbot Soho Machida: Yes. Fire gives us power. Take camp fire, cooking, we have direct access to fire. Activates our inner “combustion engine”.
I also had the privilege to train in esoteric buddhism in Mt.Hiei, and through my training have come to think of merging esoteric buddhism from the Heian Era, and the exoteric buddhism that came after the Kamakura Era, and I feel that the fire ritual is something that can connect this.
Mikio Shishido: The mix of Zazen in silence and ritual of fire sounds very much like mixing exoteric and esoteric buddhism, so is very interesting.
Today, we would have loved to have done the rituals live, but we could not do so online, so we have prepared a video to have you experience both the Fire Meditation and Arigato Zen.
Abbot Soho Machida: We had a wonderful surprise yesterday, where Mine Haha, a wonderful singer with a beautiful voice heard about this Zen2.0 event today, and offered us to use her music. The lyrics from her song is of the Heart Sutra, and this is the perfect music for the meditation, so I have asked to put this in for the fire ritual.
Mikio Shishido: Then for the Arigato Zen, you have integrated different factors and created this wonderful meditation that usually takes about an hour. We will take a bit of time to share a short video about it as participants can watch as they meditate, but would you tell us a little bit about how this came about before we begin?
Abbot Soho Machida: Yes. So this is a meditation of the voice. I developed this as therapy. I practiced meditation in silence for 20 years before I went to the US. As I was studying at University of Pennsylvania, I came accross Honen, and I learned that he had a deep experience through chanting “Namuami dabutsu”, and I wondered what would happen if we merged the silent meditation with the chanting. And from there, being careful not to include any religious bias, I created a meditation that any one can participate in and called it “Arigato Zen”. This was 20 years ago.
There are more than a few ways to do “Arigato Zen”. First is to join our hands together, and chant “Arigato” in a loud voice, with appreciation towards those who we owe to in our lives to, from when we were born to the present moment. The Second is to close our mouths and hum each sound of “Arigato”. This produces a harmonic, and it will be easier to concentrate than the silent meditation. The third one is to use a wooden bell stick to create a beat and chant “Arigato, arigato” speedily and rhythmically. And when we chant these short words many times, the brainwaves start to change, from Alpha to Beta to Theta. This makes it easy to concentrate. The fourth one is called Nehan Zen, and it is done in the Corpse Pose in yoga, and chant “Arigato”. And the last one is one in silence, and for this one, we chant “Arigato” or whatever word that you like silently in our hearts as we listen to the sound of the crystal balls.
So now, we will show you a video briefly how the “Arigato Zen” is done, and then consequently, the crystal ball performance by Chisato Sakai for about 10min. While you listen to the performance, please close your eyes, straighten your posture, and chant silently in your heart “Arigato” or the word that you would like, from a deep place in your heart, then even if it is only 10min, if you do it with deep intention, you will go into a state of deep clarity, meditation and concentration.
3. Arigato Zen and Crystal Ball meditation
The first video showed the Arigato Zen chanting aloud. The participants in the video were chanting “Arigato” in their respective style.
The second one was the crystal ball performance. There were three crystal hollow cylinders and Chisato Sakai softly hit and circled them, sometimes each one alone, sometimes together, to make a harmonious mix of sounds. She seemed to manipulate the air with her soft hand movements. Even online, it was quite a soothing experience.
Before the break, there was a brief dialog time in the breakout session, for introductions and brief exchange of what they thought about the first half of the session. It is typical in Zen2.0 sessions to have break out sessions in line with one of their core values “deepening the connection from the soul”.
(continued to next article)