Special Services at AZC

Well-Being Ceremony

On each Wednesday evening after zazen at 6:15pm the Austin Zen Center holds a Well-Being ceremony dedicated to friends, family members and loved ones who may be in distress, or could otherwise benefit from receiving kindness and compassion. We chant the En Mei Juku Kannon Gyo (10-Verse Compassion Sutra), alternating weekly between English and Japanese.

One may wonder what good it does to chant for others’ well-being. The founder of our temple, Zenkei Blanche Hartman, offered the following:

“Putting our heart into our intention, our compassionate intention, and putting it out in the world has an effect on the world. It isn’t that we get what we want. We create compassion in the world when we call on our own compassion in this way. So for me, chanting for friends who are ill or for the safety of our monastery mobilizes my compassion and puts it out there. I think we can all do that. And it’s very satisfying to me. What can I do when I can’t do anything? This is something I can do. I can’t go down to Tassajara and fight the fire. I can’t go operate on my friends who are ill and remove the cancer. But I can put my heart in my deep concern for their well-being and this is not doing nothing. This is doing something.”

Following a 21-verse chant of the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, Blanche asked: “What is this? What are we doing when we do a chant like this? What are we calling on when we call on the great compassionate mind of Avalokiteshvara? I think this is an expression of our faith and devotion and it’s a calling forth of the great compassionate mind of each one of us and turning our intention and attention toward whoever we’re dedicating it to. It’s calling up our compassionate mind. Avalokiteshvara is just the combination of all of the compassionate minds of all of us together [and that’s what] make[s] Avalokiteshvara appear in the world.”

“When we really focus our intention and attention in all sincerity, it has an effect on the world.”

— Zenkei Blanche Hartman, July 2, 2008 at the San Francisco Zen Center

To submit names, use the Well-Being box on the foyer table outside the zendo. Please make sure to write legibly, offering phonetic pronunciation for foreign or unusual names. Please do not submit names of those who are deceased. While there is no cost for this service, leaving a small donation for the temple is always appreciated.

Bodhisattva Full Moon Ceremony

Full moon ceremonyEvery month on the Wednesday evening closest to the full moon the Austin Zen Center community takes part in the ancient Bodhisattva Full Moon Precept Ceremony, which consists of offering light, incense, flowers, as well as our bowing and chanting. No experience is necessary and it is very straightforward to simply follow along with the rest of the congregation!

This ceremony marks a public renewal of our commitment to the ethical practices known as the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts. These guiding principles for our daily conduct in the world are:

  • the Three Refuges (refuge in Buddha, the fully awakened and compassionate nature of mind; refuge in Dharma, the flawless truth of interdependence and selflessness; refuge in Sangha, the community of those who practice the Buddhadharma together),
  • the Three Collective Pure Precepts (embracing and sustaining standards of conduct, embracing and sustaining good qualities, embracing and sustaining living beings),
  • the Ten Major Precepts (not killing life, taking what is not given, misusing sexuality, speaking falsely, clouding the mind, speaking of others’ faults, praising self at the expense of others, being possessive, indulging anger, disparaging the Three Treasures – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha).

This ceremony is a ritual begun by the Buddha himself, where we renew our commitment to practicing this way of life, in harmony with all beings.

Everyone is welcome to attend!

Memorial Ceremony

The Austin Zen Center holds traditional Soto Zen memorial services for deceased members and supporters of the temple, as well as for loved ones of our members when requested. Traditionally in a memorial service, the primary mourner is believed to gain merit through virtuous deeds like offering food, drink, and flowers to the Buddha, or by chanting sutras. S/he then transfers this merit to his/her deceased family members and ancestors, making the wish that all beings, including him/herself, attain the Buddhist Path.

As a primary mourner, it is important that one understand the meaning and appropriate manners for the service so that it can be carried out earnestly. Please speak to the officiating priest for details.

The standard chant for a memorial service is the Dai Hi Shin Dharani of Great Compassion. Additional chants can include: Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, Heart Sutra, or the Loving Kindness Sutra.

Each aspect of the service has a special significance: The chanting expounds the teachings of the Buddha, the scent of the incense purifies the participants, and the smoke rising from the incense is said to deliver our thoughts and prayers to the deceased. In addition to purifying oneself and praying for the welfare of the deceased, it is important that one view the memorial service as an opportunity to come into contact with the heart of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

At the start of the service the officiating priest will make an announcement about the memorial. After offering incense and bows, the priest incenses a memorial plaque with the name of the deceased on it. During the chanting of the DaiHi Shin Dharani the priest will step off the bowing mat, indicating the appropriate time for the primary mourner to offer incense. At the end of the service members of the congregation will also have an opportunity to make an incense offering. After the offerings have been made the primary mourner is given an opportunity to say a few words of thanks to the participants for their contribution to the service and to the deceased.

While there is no official charge for this service, it is customary to offer a money donation to the temple. When the memorial service takes place off-site or has extra ceremonial preparations, it is customary to make a separate donation to the officiating priest.

Standard Memorial Dedication for a Layperson

In Buddha’s Diamond Realm the light of Wisdom shines without ceasing. There is no coming, no going; no beginning, no end; no birth and no death. May the Buddhas with infinite compassion illuminate this endless field.

­

For our great abiding friend(s): NAME(s) HERE

And for all those who have passed beyond this life into the tender radiance of the heart of the Buddhas.

May (he/she/they), together with all beings realize the end of suffering, and the complete unfolding of Buddha’s Way

Contact mako@austinzencenter.org to arrange the details of a memorial ceremony.

Baby Naming and/or Blessing Ceremony

This ceremony is to welcome babies and children to their community of Dharma friends and family. The format for such a ceremony ranges from very simple to very elaborate, depending on the wishes of the parents and the involvement of the community. Particular details are arranged by the officiating priest in collaboration with the parents and/or family. For this service it is customary to offer a donation both to the temple as well as to the officiating priest, with the amount depending upon the complexity of the ceremony. For more information, contact the Austin Zen Center administrator at administrator@austinzencenter.org.

Weddings

Buddhist marriages are considered secular matters in Buddhist countries, as marriage is not regarded as either a religious duty nor as a heavenly sacrament. While this is so, in American Zen weddings are held in order to bless the couple and to celebrate their commitment and vows with their family, friends, and the general sangha. At the Austin Zen Center an officiating priest may be invited to perform a wedding ceremony either at the temple or off-site once civil registration formalities have been completed. As with other services, a wedding may range from basic to elaborate, depending on the wishes of the marrying couple. As with other large ceremonies, it is customary to offer a money donation to the temple if the wedding is performed on-site. Regardless of where the wedding is held, it is customary to offer a donation to the officiating priest, with the amount depending upon the complexity of the ceremony. For more information, contact the Austin Zen Center administrator@austinzencenter.org.

Funerals

While Zen Buddhist funerals are traditionally very elaborate and expensive affairs, the format and cost of a funeral performed at Austin Zen Center is decided upon by the officiating priest in collaboration with the family of the deceased. For more information, contact the Austin Zen Center administrator at administrator@austinzencenter.org.