Dojo Ritual

Shared ritual form is an important aspect our group’s practice. The form we use is a simplified/modified version of dojo ritual used in traditional Japanese Zen, and includes the following elements:

Etiquette to minimise distraction in the dojo

  • When we sit together, we wear plain dark colours
  • We maintain silence in the dojo – if we need to talk while others are sitting, we keep our voices low
  • Our sitting periods are timed by a timekeeper using bells and wooden clappers. We all sit at the same time, and we all do kinhin (walking meditation) together. Our sitting cycle is 25 minutes sitting, 5 minutes kinhin, 25 minutes sitting, 5 minutes kinhin, etc.
  • If we need to enter/exit the dojo, we do so during kinhin
  • Sitting through kinhin is OK – however if we do sit through kinhin, we always wait until the next kinhin round before standing or leaving the dojo
  • When we walk in kinhin together, we follow each other in a clockwise direction, and all walk at the same speed, maintaining a constant distance from the person in front of us

Ritual that confirms the nature of our practice

  • We all meditate with our hands in the zazen mudra
    • place the back of your right hand on your lap
    • place the back of your left hand on your right palm
    • bring both thumbs lightly together to form a circle.
  • Our ritual includes some bowing practice as a mark of respect and gratitude.
    • when bowing we hold our hands in gassho – plams together, fingertips around level with nose
    • we bow to the altar (Buddha – self nature) when we enter and leave the dojo
    • before sitting, we bow to the group (Sangha) and to our cushion (Dharma – the teaching, the practice)
  • The first round of zazen at our weekly sits begins with a short period of chanting. Our chanting includes key Buddhist texts that remind us of aspects of our practice, and of the tradition from which our practice has emerged. Chanting is also a practice all in itself.
  • When chanting, we hold our stra books at eye level in ‘book gassho’ – with the thumbs and little fingers on the inside of the book and the other three fingers on the outside.
  • When walking in kinhin, we hold our hands in kinhin mudra
    • right fist against chest
    • left hand resting lightly over right fist

Dojo Leader Roles

In our weekly group meditation meetings, group members take turns in the following dojo leader roles:

  • Ino – leads chanting and bowing, and tends the altar
  • Jiki – keeps time for the group using bells and clappers, and leads kinhin (walking meditation)

During our silent meditation retreats, these roles are expanded to include:

  • Tanto – maintains order in the dojo
  • Jisha – attends the teacher and monitors the dokusan (teacher interview) line
  • Tenzo – lunch cook, co-ordinates other kitchen workers including breakfast and lunch cooks

Things that aren’t prescribed by the form

  • You don’t have to sit on a meditation cushion – stools and chairs are also available
  • The form supports our practice as a group – within that container, your practice is always entirely your own.