“Nenbutsu in Mindfulness”, The 20th Shokai Retreat

Our 20th Shokai Retreat at Three Wheels was held 20th – 22nd October 2017. The theme of the Shokai was “Nenbutsu un Mindfulness” inspired by the article written by Ven. Chimyo Takehara, the Head Priest of Shogyoji, our parent temple in Japan. During the ‘opening ceremony’ it was noted that as this was our 20th Shokai, it also marked the 10th year they had been held at Three Wheels.

In preparation for the Shokai Rev. Sato and Rev. Ishii asked each of us to reflect carefully on the topic of ‘An unforgettable occasion that changed my point of view.’ This important event in our lives could be either, special advice, or an event that that made a significant impression on us. It could be drawn from any area of our lives, home, work or activities in Three Wheels Sangha. The important thing was that the ‘occasion’ was still working within our lives and it was one that we would especially like to share with the Sangha over the course of the retreat weekend. This preparatory ‘work’ helped create an atmosphere of thankfulness and joy as we shared our unforgettable occasions together. We carried this feeling into the 135th London Eza that followed shortly after the close of the retreat on Sunday afternoon.

The Shokai retreat started on Friday evening with the Opening Service and ‘Vow of Sincere Practice’ given by Chris, on behalf of David A, the vow contained wisdom and insight and helped us to focus on the theme of the Shokai. We also greeted Christopher, a first time participant at Shokai.
Rev. Sato then welcomed everyone to this Shokai with a really marvellous Dharma- talk in which he described the depth of Amida Buddha’s great compassion for us and how the key to dealing with our karmic existence is to always return to the Nenbutsu and awareness of Amida Buddha’s unconditional love.
Following our evening meal, as some participants had experienced long and tiring journeys and may need a rest after supper, we had an optional Zadankai group meeting. Following some initial discussion, Hiroko-san treated us to a wonderful description of Plum Village Vietnamese Meditation Centre. Everyone was very pleased to share her detailed recollections.

Saturday is the only full day of the retreat; it was a very busy day that allowed the Sangha to experience a wonderful variety of spiritual encounters. Our day started with an early morning work session (sagyo) at 6.30am. This was followed by one of Dave’s excellent Zazen (seated meditation) sessions that really helped to get our day off to a positive and productive start. After breakfast we shared our reflections of “An unforgettable occasion that changed my point of view.” This allowed Dharma friends to share in one another’s life and practice experiences. I’m sure we all benefited from being allowed a ‘snapshot’ from each others varied experiences. The preparation work for the Shokai certainly bore much spiritual fruit.

After lunch, we took part in Sagyo (work practice) in the gardens, also some painting activities. This brought us together working in an atmosphere of harmony, much was achieved for Three Wheels. The next activity was a ‘chanting lesson’ given by Rev. Ishii, this included Shoshinge and Wasan. In particular Rev. Ishii patiently and sympathetically helped those who experienced difficulties with the service order.
The final activity of the day was writing our impressions of the retreat, reflecting on all that we had experienced during our time together since Friday evening.

Sunday morning was spent sharing reflections of all we had experienced together during the retreat. This filled us with gratitude as each of us was aware of how much we had gained during our shared journey of the 20th Shokai with its theme of “Nenbutsu in Mindfulness.” Each Shokai has a different ‘flavour’ and this one was another great opportunity for the Three Wheels Sangha to come together and spend much valued time having wonderful encounters. It is also time to reflect on the support we receive from Goinge-sama, Ven. Chimyo Takehara, the Head Priest of Shogyoji and Japanese members, without whom we would not be able to practice this wonderful Shin Buddhism at Three Wheels.

Sam K.