Sesshin is the essence of Zen practice. These week-long intensive Zen retreats are held at Dai Bosatsu Zendo six times a year. The tradition of sesshin began with Shakyamuni Buddha’s intense sitting under the bodhi tree in India. On the morning of December 8, he attained enlightenment upon seeing the morning star. The word “sesshin” means to collect one’s heart or mind. These kind of retreats are practiced by all Zen schools throughout the world.
Each sesshin offers a unique opportunity free from distraction so we can focus our attention on the practice of meditation. Most people find sesshin a rewarding, as well as challenging, part of their practice. Students gather for a week of silence, zazen (Zen sitting meditation), chanting, teisho (formal Zen talks given by the Abbot), Dharma talks by other teachers, and dokusan (private interviews with Shinge Roshi). The schedule includes a brief period of daily work practice, rest periods and three vegetarian meals a day.
We sit zazen approximately 10-12 hours a day. Each period is 40 to 50 minutes in length. The duration and intensity of sitting during sesshin can cause discomfort and pain for even the most experienced and physically fit participants. If you do not have an established sitting meditation practice, it is best to attend an Intro to Zen Weekend before registering for sesshin.
Wake-up is at 4:30 AM and we sit until 10:00 PM each evening. Many participants begin sitting before the wakeup bell and continue past the end of the structured schedule. There is virtually no free time except for breaks after the meals. We maintain silence during sesshin, avoiding all verbal and non-verbal interactions with other participants. We endeavor to stay quiet in all our activities. Other than emergency situations we have is no contact with the outside world.
Part of the profound sesshin atmosphere comes from each individual’s efforts to act in concert with others. As we all observe the same Zendo and eating forms, harmony is increased and distraction is reduced. Dokusan is a formal, one-to-one meeting with Abbot Shinge Roshi. Each participant has several opportunities a day for Dokusan. Part of the power of sesshin comes from the personal instruction given during these meetings. The intensity of sesshin comes from the potent combination of zazen, silence and frequent Dokusan.
Students attending sesshin at Dai Bosatsu Zendo for the first time participate in a traditional ceremony of Shoken, where they formally ask to begin a teacher-student relationship with Shinge Roshi. The Shoken ceremony occurs on the first full day of sesshin. From that point forward, first-time participants are considered Shinge Roshi’s students, and as such they are admitted into all Dokusan. To celebrate the significance of this first meeting, Shoken students make a $25 incense donation, which is used to purchase ceremonial incense.
Sleeping accommodations at the monastery are small, simple bedrooms with futons, often shared with one to three other participants. We provide linens. You can request a private room for an additional $50 fee, subject to availability. Call (845) 439-4566 or email DBZ office two to three weeks ahead of time. To find the next sesshin and to register go to the calendar.
Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji Sample Sesshin Schedule:
(please be aware the specific sesshin you attend may have a different ending time)
4:00pm Orientation for First-Time Sesshin Participants
6:00 Formal Supper
7:20 Shinrei (go to Zendo)
7:30 Formal Tea, Opening Exhortations and Sesshin Cautions, Zazen
9:00 Kaichin (Closing), Dokusan Orientation, Yaza (unstructured sitting)
Days 1 – 5 or 1 – 7 (depending on length of sesshin)
4:30am Kaijo (wake up bell, be in Zendo before 4:50)
4:50 Fast Kinhin (walking meditation)
5:00 Choka (morning service), Kinhin (walking meditation), Sarei (formal tea), Zazen,
Unstructured Dokusan (one-to-one meetings with the Roshi)
7:30 Shukuza (formal breakfast)
8:15 – 9:00 Nittensoji (monastery cleaning)
9:30 Sutra Chanting, Zazen, Kinhin, Dokusan
12:00pm Saiza (formal lunch)
1:30 Sarei, Zazen
2:30 Teisho by Shinge Roshi or Dharma Talk
4:15 Zazen, optional yoga in library
5:00 Yakuseki (formal supper)
(rest period after supper)
Optional showers: Women: Days 1, 3, 5
Men: Days 2, 4, 6
7:00 Teidai Denpo Chanting, Zazen, Kinhin, Dokusan
10:00 Kaichin (closing)
Yaza (unstructured sitting)
4:30am Kaijo (wake-up bell, be in the Zendo before 4:50)
4:50 Fast Kinhin
5:00 Choka, Sarei, Zazen, Unstructured Dokusan
7:30 Shukuza (formal breakfast)
8:00 – 8:40 Nittensoji (monastery cleaning)
9:00 Sutra Chanting, Zazen, Dokusan
12:00pm Closing Ceremony, Sozarei
1:00 Informal Lunch
(You are welcome to stay overnight)