Guest post by Artur.
Celebration of day when Buddha have gotten enlightment. It happened on 8th December, and we celebrate with 7 day seshhin. From 1st December till 8th December 00:00 totally 108 hours. In the last day (7th December) we sat in zazen for 18 hours in the row.
Few days before
There was nice weather and everything was clear from snow.
As usually we have had everything from sun to snow, from storm to very quiet times. Beggining of session started with no snow and +14 °C degree outside. In a few days it fell down to 2-3 °C and sesshin become more about trying to sit through zazen in such coldness. In the first days of cold it was quite hard to concentrate on zazen, but after few days these low temperatures became OK and quality of zazen improved.
Seventh day of rohatsu have tradition when first fire in stove is started (at night) and party happens around the stove. Monastery party is just eating and sitting around the stove enjoying end of seshin. Sitting in warmth after 7 days of sitting in cold makes you sleepy and fills you with strange feelings.
Before rohatsu there was no snow and everyone had hope that after rohatsu will be little snow. That's why some vegetables were left on the field and benches with tables were left outside, but mother nature was thinking differently. At fourth day of rohatsu when snow started falling and forecast promised more snow, some people stopped seshin and went to put all tables and benches under the roof and get all remaining vegetables under the snow. When I went to zazen only few people where in hondo.
Next thing that happened at 6th day of seshin when I started to have nice zazen and started to go deep in to breathing and non-thinking, abbot came to me at zazen time and asked to help with bulldozer that stuck in the middle of mountain. And I went to help. Bulldozer had run out gas and we needed to bring some gas and tools. All this in snow. Abbot with bulldozer started cleaning road so he and his family could get out from monastery that day. Next day abbot had flight to Tokyo to "talk" about zen. From 15:00 to 21:00 we were trying to start bulldozer engine and clean little bit of road for the next day. We cleaned only 2km out of 4km and monastery car stuck in the snow at 21:00. We stopped trying and just whent back. Seventh day's morning of seshin I don't remember, because I was tired after working with bulldozer and I even didn't notice that 3 hours of zazen I was asleep. After that I remember that I did zazen.
After rohatsu we had 7 days to do last things in monastery to prepare for takuhatsu - formal begging. All this time I have been tenzo while everyone was preparing I was spending time in the kitchen. One day before we made big cleaning before leaving, one mistake was made... When I was preparing last things for last dinner that all monastery would eat together, I noticed something black falling in my pots and pans and I looked up in hole where chimney goes up and... fire on the roof started while I was looking... I called people. All of them where around the stove because a lot of snow outside and no other place where they can go. That's why just after some moments all people were helping to stop the fire. Fire started only around the chimney because, while doing big cleaning, chimney also was cleaned, but person who made cleaning was doing that first time and haven't properly connected chimney joints. We stopped fire, prepared for last dinner and next day we all went to takuhatsu.
Takuhatsu is formal begging and it means that you need to wear monk robe, chant sutra and have monastery permission to do so. Also every buddhist sect have their own way how to do formal begging. This year all people where planning to do begging in Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto.
Interesting part of takuhatsu is to see how all people react on you when you do takuhatsu, also interesting to see how people monument and life is happening on streets. When you stand for few hours you start notice waves of people depending on time. Also there are waves of people who donates. Also age category in different places is different. You just stand without movement for hours and start to be part of the place and see how street life happens. Times when people go to work or they have some lunch.
Hard part of takuhatsu is that you "strong young man" can work but you need to take as part of practice formal begging. Mostly I have been now in many Osaka's famous places and standing there for 1 day.