Liturgy can be one of the most intriguing and challenging aspects of Buddhist practice. For many, religious liturgy is inseparable from the worship of God. But because Zen liturgy is not based on the belief in a supreme being, it requires that we approach it with a genuine desire to understand what is being expressed and revealed through this form of ritual.
Nearly every aspect of monastic life is punctuated with some form of liturgy: eating a meal, concluding a period of zazen, beginning a period of work. Here at the Monastery we also do a daily morning service in which we chant the Heart Sutra and the Sho Sai Myo Kichijo Dharani, dedicating their merits to the lineage of Buddhist teachers and to the health and well-being of friends of the Monastery who are sick.
Each service is accompanied and enlivened by an assortment of traditional temple instruments. These are the mokugyo, a wooden drum carved to resemble a fish holding a pearl in its mouth; the kesu (also keisu or kin), a large bronze gong cast in the shape of a begging bowl; and the inkin, a small hand-held brass bell.
Neither worship nor prayer, liturgy is the articulation of the most intimate aspects of human life. In the words of our first teacher and founder, John Daido Loori Roshi, liturgy “makes visible the invisible” by pointing to our fundamental nature and our interconnectedness with all things.
Below you can find links to some of the liturgy we use on a regular basis in the Mountains and Rivers Order.