Tonight Rohatsu retreat begins and for the next 7 days we will sit, eat, work, and sleep in this container of practice. At the literal level, Rohatsu is the period of days leading up to the day we commemorate the Buddha’s enlightenment – the moment he saw the star at dawn. It is also quite literally 7 days of practice (although ro-hatsu means literally 8th day of 12th month in Japanese). Just seven days, no different from any other 7 days in our lives. Being that, even Rohatsu, for all its rituals and ceremony, can become just another seven days unless we set our compass to that morning star.
As an act of boundless compassion, Rohatsu is a period during which we willingly cleave off from our regular schedule, our routine of sliding in and out of autopilot. It’s like Hui’ke slicing off his arm to prove his devotion to the dharma – and I suppose to Bodhidharma too. As apocryphal as that story may be, it does point us to the level of devotion necessary to nourish a deep and steady practice. Rohatsu reminds us of other forms of slicing away as well. We, can without ever leaving the comfort of our shelter and relationships, slice away our smallness, our meanness, our dark projections onto the world that persists in disappointing us. We can choose to slice away metaphoric hearts and lungs so that those we love can love and breathe too. (And sometimes, those slicings away are quite real too.)
So wherever you are over the next 7 days, set your compass, fire up that GPS, drag out the old, neglected maps of your life and join me. Let’s set our course together so that whatever storms arise, whatever heart-opening sunrises and sunsets we encounter, we met them together as an interconnected net of beings whose only purpose is to practice relentlessly.