Sesshin Guidelines

Guidelines and reminders are not necessarily given in order of importance.

* All group activities are required : Zazen, Teisho, meal, samu (work), and the exercise period (if not announced as optional) .  If you need to be excused from some group activity, please communicate with one of the jisharyo. Generally, serious medical reasons are  the only acceptable excuses . If you need to miss sitting periods for medical reasons, you may be asked to sit on the gaitan.

There is flexibility in samu assignments- from kitchen help to manual labor to light cleaning.  Samu is an integral part of the daily schedule. Everyone participates. “A day without work is a day without food” -Zen saying.

* Please refrain from socializing during the sesshin and maintain Noble Silence. Short conversations pertaining to work facts and short questions are permitted. Leave social talk about outside events for before and after sesshin.

*We ask married couples to step out of their normal relationship and direct their entire energies toward “RESOLUTION OF THE GREAT MATTER.”

*It is customary to refrain from reading and writing during Osesshin. Exception: notes may be taken in daily Teisho (dharma talk).

*TELEPHONES: Telephone use will be limited to EMERGENCY USE ONLY. Tahoma’s only number is (360)331-4142.  Messages will be relayed to sesshin participants only if they concern emergency situations. PHONES WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR BUSINESS OR CASUAL USE DURING OSESSHIN. Please observe this restriction with your own cell phones, as well. You can use your smart phone as a clock but on airplane mode. Please maintain the spirit of retreat and get your business into enough order to permit an uninterrupted week of intensified practice. Please ask for your loved ones’ and/or business associates’ cooperation in this. Please plan to be un-plugged!

* ZENDO: PLEASE, NO SOCKS, HATS, GLOVES, WATCHES, JEWELRY, STRONG FRAGRANCE, FOOD, OR WATER in the zendo.  NO COLORED NAIL POLISH, HANDS OR FEET. (Clear is OK.)  If you need to carry a timepiece with you, please keep it in a pocket, not worn on your wrist.


Clothing should be appropriate: dark, plain colored clothing loose enough to permit comfortable sitting. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not appropriate. If you are ordained, robes should be worn in the zendo and for such activities as teisho and tea with the Roshi. Exceptions to the rules about wearing socks in the zendo can be made for medical reasons. Please speak with one of the jisharyo.

If you need to change position in the zendo during a round of sitting, please do so as unobtrusively as possible. Please make every effort to keep position and breathe quietly. IT IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE TO STAND FOR AN ENTIRE ROUND OF ZAZEN. This means finding a comfortable standing position and holding it for the duration of the time period. This does not mean standing up and sitting down again during one period. The position you take should be for the entire round.

During teisho, it is OK to stand, especially if you are trying to keep awake. You may sit down again, discretely. This is different from a round of zazen.

During a round of zazen, you may stand, but you should keep the same still position for the entire time period.

During the stretch breaks between rounds, please do not stretch your legs straight out into the zendo. Please stretch them to the side or stand up to stretch.

If you need to change positions frequently during sitting periods, you will be asked to sit on the gaitan (visitors’ mat).

*ZENDO ABSENCES: If you need to be absent from the zendo for any part of the day during an osesshin, you should

1) Inform one of the jisharyo when you will be gone and when you will return. (Otherwise, they will go to look for you.)

2) Fold over tambuton cushions to the back and place the zafu on top.

For a chair, a rectangular support cushion can be folded back to signify temporary absence

If you will be absent for A DAY OR MORE,

1) Inform jisharyo of departure and expected return

2) Be aware that your cushions, jihatsu, and tea cup will be removed from the zendo for the duration of your absence

UPON RETURN TO THE ZENDO FROM ANY ABSENCE, YOU SHOULD BOW TO THE JISHARYO SEATED AT THE END OF YOUR TAN (row) before returning to your place and settling your cushions.

If a medical condition causes you to be absent from the zendo, please inform one of the jisharyo where you will be.

* JISHARYO: There will be several jisharyo (assistants to the head monk). They will be introduced at the orientation meeting. Their job is to keep things running smoothly so that everyone can concentrate completely on zazen. They take care of such things as opening and closing doors, turning lights off and on, etc., etc. If you need to miss a round for any reason, please let one of the jisharyo know. If you are unaccounted for during any round of zazen, one of them will go to look for you. If you have a question, need, or problem, please contact one of the jisharyo. If possible and appropriate, the situation will be taken care of. The jisharyo may ask you to comply with any zendo rule. For example, you may be asked to remove a watch you are wearing or change inappropriate clothing.

*KEISAKU: The orientation will include a demonstration if you need to know how to ask for the keisaku (the so-called “encouragement stick”). The keisaku will be administered only to those who request it.

DO NOT ENTER THE ZENDO WHEN THE KEISAKU IS MOVING. If you are unable to see whether or not the keisaku is moving, the head monk will direct you.

*SANZEN: The route from the zendo and the waiting areas will be pointed out during the orientation meeting. There will also be a demonstration of the bows to be made upon entering and leaving the sanzen audience, if you need to be refreshed on this point.

If you are one of the 4 people next in order to leave for sanzen, stay at your cushion during kinhin. Please RETURN DIRECTLY FROM SANZEN TO THE ZENDO. A short toilet break is OK, but it is not an opportunity for a nature walk or any other activities.

* KINHIN: The kinhin (walking meditation) routes will be decided by the head monk. Please make every effort to maintain concentration while moving. If you need to use the toilet, please go at the beginning of kinhin, if possible, so that the kinhin time does not need to be extended for stragglers.

*WAKEUP: There will be a wakeup bell each morning. If you are setting an alarm for a nap or to begin zazen early, please take others into full consideration and take precautions not to wake them. If you are leaving or entering a sleeping area at an unusual time, please go quietly in a manner that will not disturb others.

*ILLNESS: Please take good care of yourself. If you regularly take prescription medications, please continue to do so throughout the osesshin. Osesshin schedule can be strenuous. Please maintain your health. Stay rigorously hydrated.  DRINK ENOUGH WATER. There are bathroom breaks every hour during sitting.

Take precautions not to spread colds and flu through the sangha.  WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY. IF YOU ARE SNEEZING OR COUGHING, PLEASE COVER YOUR MOUTH. COUGH INTO YOUR SLEEVE TO PREVENT SPRAYING GERMS INTO THE ROOM. If you become too sick to sit, please speak with one of the jisharyo before absenting yourself. High fever, projectile vomiting, and violent diarrhea are considered acceptable reasons to leave the zendo.

Sanitizing efforts are made during samu in routine cleanup and during food preparation & serving.

First Aid kits are located in several strategic spots.

If you are coughing or contagious, you will not be permitted to work in the kitchen.

There will be an acupuncturist available for treating acute physical problems which interfere with zazen. If an acute situation arises, speak with one of the jisharyo and an acupuncturist will be asked to help you during a samu period.

If you are dangerously allergic to insect stings, please let one of the jisharyo know at the orientation meeting.

*IF THERE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, get the designated staff member (for example, jisharyo, head monk) to help. Keep calm. Dr. Ann Cutcher is usually at Enso House and can help with most medical problems. Enso phone number will be posted.  911 response to Tahoma is usually under 10 minutes. Often there are medical professionals in the zendo. Staff will ask them for help if it is appropriate.

*CLEANUP: Cleaning up after the sesshin is important, and is really the final stage of the retreat. It offers a good opportunity for transition “back into the world”, performing necessary chores while maintaining sesshin energy. Please plan to stay until the monastery has been restored to its normal order.

*SHOES: Please get in and out of your shoes as quickly as possible. When removing, putting on, or storing shoes, be considerate of the people following you. Traffic jams at doorways occur very easily. If shoes are muddy or very wet,  mats for people to wipe their feet. You will be asked to select and label a spot for your shoes on the shoe rack outside the zendo. If this spot does not work for traffic flow, select a different one.

* LAUNDRY: No laundry is done during osesshin. The exception is that the kitchen may do washing as necessary. During month long training periods laundry will be available during the afternoon of transition days.

* BATHING: Traditionally, there is a bath only on day 4. At Tahoma Sogenji, we are not so strict, but showers are very few and their use should be limited. Showers are designated for men or women. Please be sure to keep the bathrooms clean and neat. PLEASE BE CONSCIENTIOUS ABOUT MAKING NOISE. Tahoma’s plumbing is not notable for its quiet. For instance, the women’s bathroom shares a wall with the laundry, where someone will be sleeping.

*TOILETS: There will be designated men’s and women’s toilets, “unisex” and portable toilets. The monastery is on a septic system, so please be very careful not to dispose of anything other than toilet paper in the toilets.  Please keep the toilet areas clean.

* KITCHEN: The cooks make every effort to provide healthy, nutritious meals. Please inform the kitchen if you have a serious food allergy. This does not include dietary ‘preferences.’ At each meal, we will try to provide the option of plain rice and vegetables, for those who want a non-dairy, vegan, or non-wheat diet.

The kitchen will be, as much as possible, an extension of the zendo, run with necessary talking only and as quietly as possible.

Daily kitchen wash up helpers will be announced, by sitting section on the “Tan” (sitting platform of tatami mats) in the zendo. Jikijitsu tan is the side of the zendo where the head monk/ timekeeper sits. It includes those sitting along the wall and middle section of that side of the room. Tanto tan is the side of the zendo where Harada Roshi and Daichi Roshi sit, including the wall tan (platform) and middle tan.

Please stay out of the kitchen unless you are working there or have business there. Those working in the kitchen are doing their best to sustain their own deep concentrated practice.

* JIHATSU: Traditional nested bowls are used for all meals during sesshin. If you need to be shown how to use them, a demonstration will be given. When handling the jihatsu for meals, please do so as quietly as possible. Jihatsu will be supplied by Tahoma, though you may use your own, if you prefer.  Jihatsu video:

* SAMU (work period): Daily jobs will be assigned. The work period is opened and closed with the striking of the taku (wooden clappers). Samu is an opportunity to carry your concentration from stillness on the cushion to the activity of a job.

* BREAKS: Tea will be available in a designated area during breaks. Please clean up after yourself. Please maintain silence and concentration during any breaks. During Kosesshin quiet small talk is permissible.

*VISITORS: There will be visitors for teisho, meals, and/or tea with Roshi. The jisharyo or one of the sesshin organizers will greet visitors and help them get settled. Please integrate visitors as smoothly as possible, without disrupting your focus, concentration, or the energy of the sesshin.

* NETTLES: Stinging nettles are abundant and thriving on the monastery grounds, during spring, summer, and fall. If you are not familiar with the nettle plant, please ask someone to point it out. The welts raised by nettles are irritating, uncomfortable. If stung, immediately rub the underside of a nearby fern (brown spots on underside of leaf) on affected area for immediate relief.

Zendo Rules

The service begins after the Roshi arrives and offered incense at the main altar. During the service the Inosu will start the Sutras by chanting out their names, they will also chant the Eko for the dedication of the Sutras.SutrasChant the Sutras with your ears, not your mouth, this way you can unite with the rhythm of the Mokugyo to give your life energy as an offering to all people in society.When we read the sutras whole-heartedly with a loud Tanden voice our true nature will be bright and no unnecessary thoughts will arise as we cut off dualistic thinking and concentrate our pure, quiet mind in the Sutra Samadhi. We recite in thankfulness and give our practice as an offering to all the teachers who came before us.

Entering and leaving the Zendo

The Zendo is the hall where Zazen is being practiced; it is a place of utmost concentration and as such is only being used for three activities: Zazen, Kinhin and Sarei.

The Jikijitsu leads the sitting and it is their responsibility to keep the spirit of harmony and concentration within the Zendo. Orders of the Jikijitsu are to be followed at all times. Inside the Zendo, only the Roshi, the Jikijitsu and the Jisharyoare are permitted to speak.

Please don’t bring any personal items to the Zendo eg: books, pens, purses, jewellery or watches. Only the Sutra Book is to be used in the zendo. Do not wear clothes that are bright or tight. Sleeves should at least cover the elbows.

When entering the Zendo; step inside and do a deep bow with the hands in Gassho before moving to your assigned place. At your cushion again bow deeply, this time facing the inside of the zendo, before sitting on your tanbuton.

When leaving the zendo individually; stand, again bow facing the zendo and then, keeping your hands in Shasshu, walk to the door of the zendo. Here once again turns around to facing the Zendo doing a deep bow before stepping out.

When entering and leaving the Zendo as part of a group activity such as Kinhin, Sanzen or Teisho there is no need to bow at the door neither when leaving nor when entering. Your hands should always be in Gassho when entering the Zendo until arriving at your place and in Shasshu when leaving the Zendo.

Please do not enter or leave the Zendo during Zazen unless it is for Sanzen. Do not move during a Zazen period and avoid making noise. During the break between Zazen and during Kinhin, the Zendo may be entered or left but do not talk or do exercises at this time. If your legs hurt you may stand at this time to stretch your legs.


Before and after receiving the Keisaku both the giver and recipient bow to each other in Gassho. If someone is wearing a Rakusu it is to be taken off whilst being hit and replaced before again bowing to the person with the Keisaku.

To request the Keisaku as it passes by make Gassho and wait until the Keisaku stands before you. One is hit twice on each shoulder in summer and four times in winter. The Keisaku is always received with respect and gratitude. The Keisaku is always given responsibly and with humility


About every full hour, the Jikijitsu ends the Zazen period and announces Kinhin. It is important for all practitioners to bow in Gassho and get up right away. Once everyone in the Zendo is standing, following the Jikijitsu’s lead, everyone bows together. During Kinhin please keep your hands in Shasshu. Do not leave a gap between you and the person in front of you. If you need to use the toilet, right away leave the Kinhin line and go to the toilet. After finishing quickly, join the Kinhin line again.

At the end of Kinhin walk to your cushion with the hands in Gassho, then wait at your cushion with the hands in Shasshu. Once everyone is back in the Zendo, everyone bows together and sits down.


Means “holding the palms together”; it is an expression of respectfully receiving.



Hold the left hand over the right hand in front of the chest. It is an expression of inner concentration.


When the Jikijitsu announces Sarei, get your cup and sit in seiza. Watching the Jikijitsu, place your cup in front of you. When being served tea, the first person of a Tan is served separately otherwise it is always two people placing their cups together and receiving tea at the same time.

When the people next to you are being served, take your cup onto your palm and wait to be served. When you have received enough tea, lift one hand to signal this to the Jisharyo.

The first and last person on the Tan will bow ingratitude for the whole Tan.


Three prostrations are usually practiced at the end of both morning sutras and evening meditation. It symbolises the lifting of the Buddha’s feet above one’s own head, yet is actually a prostration before one’s own Buddha Nature.

  1. Stand in Gassho
  2. Make one deep bow
  3. Straighten the body before kneeling down
  4. Bow your head to the floor, hands stretched out above the head
  5. Raise the hands above the ears as though lifting the Buddha’s feet above your head
  6. Place your hands flat on the ground again
  7. Stand up straight with hands in Gassho.
  8. This is performed three times and is finished off with a deep bow in Gassho.

Entering and Leaving the Sanzen Room

Sampai is also practiced in the sanzen room but it is split up into three sections.

  1. When level with the person leaving the sanzen room perform a standing bow in Gassho to each other.
  2. Enter the sanzen room and perform a single bow as through you were performing Sampai
  3. Walk toward the Roshi and make another single Sampai bow on the cushion, instead of standing up again remain kneeling and place your hands in your lap.
  4. At the conclusion of sanzen, after the Roshi rings the bell, bow your head to the floor, but place the hands, palm down, under your forehead before standing up.Make another deep bow in Gassho. Walk backwards to the rooms exit and perform the 3rd of the single Sampais. Turn and leave the room.
  5. As the next person comes to do Sanzen you will stand and bow to each other when you pass


Take your eating bowls when the Sangha goes to theeating room. We always move and act as a group.

Sit at the table in the same order as in the zendo and at the Jikijitsu’s command start reading the Heart Sutra. During the Heart Sutra we unpack our bowls; the big bowl is to the left, the middle one in the middle and the small one on the right side, all in one straight line. The chopsticks are placed on the right side of the smallest bowl, with the tips sticking out over the table.

The food is passed down from the top of the table to the bottom. When you would like to take some, make Gassho. If you do not want any, bow to the bowl and help pass it down the table. If there are two serving spoons in one bowl, place the bowl between two people so the food can be moved quickly and efficiently.

A plate Saba will be passed down. Please place 3-7 grains of your food onto it as an offering to the hungry ghosts and will be given to the birds or fish later.

When eating bring the bowl to your mouth so that you can sit up straight and stay concentrated. Sitting with an erect spine allows you to maintain meditative awareness even when eating.

The food is passed down the table three times alltogether. When the food is being passed, please stop eating, put your bowls down and help move the bowl. Do not take food at other times but only when the food is being passed. Remember to take one pickle slice and keep it until later for washing the bowls.

At the end of the meal, hot water will be passed down the table; pour some into your large bowl so you can use it to wash all your bowls after the taku sound. The other bowls can be washed, dried and stacked, but leave some cleaning water in the large bowl. Put the chopsticks away. When a container is passed down pour some of the water from your bowl into it as an offering that will be poured upon the trees and flowers and drink the rest. Dry the large bowl, stack it with the rest and put them all away.

At the end of the sutras a cloth will be pushed down the table so that we can all take responsibility for cleaning upafter ourselves.

Take your bowls with you when you return to the zendo.

What is the meaning of our practice?

My practice is to offer the pure, clear and original mind to society. In order to clarify that clear mind, we do practice. We cut our dualistic thoughts and all egoistic feelings in order to release their energy for realising our true nature. We don’t cut our thoughts and feelings because they are bad, or in order to become better people, or to solve all our problems. We just swallow them down completely without judgement, so that little by little we may realise that clear, pure mind’s source which is the only thing we can really offer to others.

This practice is very mysterious: in shifting the focus from trying to solve one’s own problems, to just swallowing them down in order to offer a clear mind to everyone we meet, then little by little those very problems fade away. This swallowing down is not a denial; it is a recognition and absorption of them on a totally different level.

In gratitudeto all teachers and patriarchs who have gone before us to show us the way, we offer today’s life energy for this practice.

Everything Is My Responsibility

Moment by moment compassion is being aware in each mind-moment of what’s going on right in front of you, and taking joyfully responsibility for everything.

  • Turning off unnecessary lights.
  • Returning clean tools to the place from which you took them.
  • Finding a tool which someone else forgot-to clean and returning it.
  • Washing a cup and putting it away after you use or if you find one that someone has neglected then wash it too.
  • Placing your shoes in the shoe-box.
  • Keeping the bathroom clean for the next person.
  • Closing or opening doors completely.
  • Filling up the hot pot.

Everything is my responsibility. Each moment’s awareness connects me with everyone and all things.

From the Rules read before Sesshin: “Tools of the administration area, kitchen and samu,all tools of training, including the buildings and tatamis, should be treated with great care and after each use returned to their original place. People of old taught us, that tools and other things of the group should be protected as our own eyes.”

SoGen IttekiSui: SoGen’s One Drop

Many of you have come to Sogenji Temple through a connection with a One Drop Zendo in your own country. There is afamous story behind this name of “One Drop”. Tekisui Giboku, later,abbot of Tenryuji, is known to the West through the story of “Sogen’s OneDrop of Water”. As the story goes, one day Gisan Zenrai Zenji (Tekisui’steacher) was about to take a bath, Gisan Zenji called his attendant and ordered him to go and get some cold water from the well by the back gate of Sogenji. From that well his disciple brought the water, to put in the bath, and after many trips back and forth with the water, Gisan Zenji, his teacher, finally said that it was enough, that the temperature was just right and stopped him from bringing more. Having been told this, the monk took the little bit of water left in the bottom of the bucket, threw it away nearby and placed the bucket upside down. Seeing him do this Gisan Zenji yelled, “You idiot!” You just threw away that little bit of water on the floor and turned over the bucket!” Gisan Zenji continued, “At the moment you did that you were only thinking of that as just a little bit of water and were therefore carelessly throwing it away, weren’t you? Why didn’t you go just one step further, especially knowing that this is the time of the year when there’s never enough rain? Why didn’t you put it on the garden’s trees or flowers? If you had put it on the tree it would have become the very- life of that tree! If you had put it on the flowers it would have become the very life of the flowers and lived on. Why do you begrudge such a small effort as that?”

With these scathing words he severely reprimanded his disciple. Continuing, he said, “In even one drop of water, no matter how tiny a drop, the water’s great value doesn’t change at all! If you can’t understand this value of one single drop of water, no matter how hard you train you’ll never become someone who can give life to that training.” The monk received his teacher’s admonition. For him, this was a most moving lesson which struck him deeply and echoed within. He changed his name to Tekisui, which means “one drop of water” and went on to complete his training. At Sogenji, Tekisui was taught the value of one drop of water and although he used its teaching throughout his life of 74 four years, it was never exhausted. This teaching, as insignificant as it might seem, has great meaning when expressed with one’s whole total energy to liberate all people in society and all those who feel Buddhism is so necessary. For these people he had used this and worked il fully expressing this meaning in his last poem:

Sogen’s onedrop of water

For seventy four years

Used fully never depleted

Traversing heavens

Earth and all ten directions.