On the Seijiki Ceremony

by AZC Resident Max Scheinin

Check out Seijiki Photos HERE!

On the evening of November 1, in the year of our lord 2017, a coterie of skeptics and spiritualists — rationalistic Buddhists, mystic initiates and seekers uncommitted to any stance — gathered in the meditation hall at the Austin Zen Center to participate in the ritual appeal to supernatural forces known as Seijiki. (One infant was also present). The space in which the ceremony occurred had been notably reconfigured from its familiar appearance: the floor was cleared of mats and cushions; a second altar, bearing food offerings, stood opposite the Buddha altar, which was obscured from view by traditional Japanese shoji screens; and slips of paper with names of departed friends and family members hung from twine that zig-zagged between sides of the ceiling. Musicians in masks and face paint played pitched and unpitched percussion instruments; a priest formally invited hungry ghosts from all ten directions to converge upon the zendo and be fed, before emitting a blood-curdling shout; and congregants chanted Sanskrit incantations to summon those beings from far and near. Whether this experiment in communing with non-material planes was successful has been subject to some dispute. Some who were present say that walls shook, candles sputtered and the air turned cold — others insist that such claims are exaggerated, if not outright fabrications. Evidence remains inconclusive.

Following the ceremony, a reception was held in the dining room west of the zendo. Finally, names of the departed were burned in an outdoor bonfire.