Antaiji is a place devoted to Zen practice as a natural expression of life. Zazen and work are not simply practiced as part of life, but all 24 hours of your daily life itself are to be the manifestation of Zen. Antaiji has no other special practices, teachings, insights or spiritual guidance to offer you. Nor is it a place to get in touch with the mystery of the Eastern culture, have occult experiences or just have a taste of Japanese Zen. It is a place where you can create your own life as bodhisattva-practice. Although you are expected to live harmoniously with the other practitioners at Antaiji, you will be left very much on your own in your practice. There is nobody to check you or push you forward. Therefore, you should be clear about the basis of your practice and the motive that brought you here. If you expect anything other than what life’s activity at this precise moment has to offer you, you will invariably be disappointed. Make sure you know why you are here - do not fool yourself or others.
Most of the unsui (clouds & water: training monks) at Antaiji do not speak English. So if you do not speak Japanese, try to listen and express yourself directly from the heart. Everybody is expected to perform the same life activities during the day, including zazen, cleaning, work, meals, bath, etc., in the same way, so watch what the others do and try to fit in. You are not expected to create a schedule of your own.
The monthly schedule at Antaiji varies a little bit depending on the season. The daily schedule changes several times a month in a regular fashion. The monthly schedule will be as follows:
Note: If you want to participate in the winter schedule, make sure that you will be in Antaiji before December 15th and want to stay at least until March 26th, as no one (except experienced long-term residents) is allowed to enter or leave the mountain during this period because of the heavy winter snow. In no circumstances whatsoever should you try to enter or leave the mountain on your own risk. There have been snow slide fatalities in the past.
Except for the snow period, there are three types of daily schedules: Sesshin, working day (Nyojo) and free day (Hosan) schedules.
(The sesshin ends on the last day at 3pm. After that walk to the kitchen, bow to the cook and say: “Domo arigato gozai-mashita”. Change clothes, have dinner and attend the tea meeting. The evening is free. During sesshin, no unnecessary talk is allowed.
On the free day (hosan) the time between 8am and 5pm is also free. You can leave the temple, but tell the cook before if you are not going to be back for lunch. Be back until dinner in any case, otherwise the monks will have to search for you.)
Note:Zazen periods are interrupted by ten minute intervals of kinhin (walking) every full hour. This means that the first period lasts one hour, all others 50 minutes. During sesshin, kinhin is 15 minutes instead of 10. It is possible to the toilet during kinhin. On normal days, there is no fixed bed time. Be quiet after 9pm though. On some days, evening zazen might be replaced with a lecture by the abbot (called docho-san) or one of the monks.
At 3:45am a monk will run around with a bell to announce the first zazen period. Please be awake before this, so that you can be in the hondo by 4am. At other times be in the hondo at the exact time (between one minute before and the full hour). The jikido (the unsui in charge of the hondo on that day) will stand in front of the hondo. Bow in front of the jikido and once again when you enter the hondo. When you bow in the hondo, put your hands in gassho. At other times (except zazen and kinhin), put them in shashu. When you leave the hondo during kinhin, leave at the beginning of kinhin and bow before stepping out of the hondo. Come back when you hear the bell ring once (end of kinhin period) and bow when entering the hondo again. When walking to your mat, do not walk in front of the altar. Before sitting down on your zafu (cushion), bow first in the direction of your zabuton (mat), then in the opposite direction. Sit down in the correct posture. If you are already seated when one of your neighbours bows before his zafu, put your hands in gassho. The jikido will strike the bell three times to start zazen. At the top of the hour, he will end the period by striking the bell twice. Bow after the second strike, stand up and bow to your zafu first, then in the opposite direction. Start to do kinhin now. After the jikido strikes the bell once, bow (hands in shashu) and walk back to your zabuton, bow as before and sit down again. After the last period, there is no kinhin. Instead, leave the hondo with the others and walk to the hiroma (dining room) directly (do not go to the toilet or your room), except after the last period in the evening. For zazen, wear comfortable clothes, like training wear, but no socks. If your feet are cold during zazen, cover them with a towel for example.
There are two postures of zazen, Hankafuza (half lotus) and Kekkafuza (full lotus):
If you are not able to sit in any one of these two postures, try to find a posture which allows you to rest both feet and knees on the zabuton (mat) and that allows you to maintain it without moving for one hour. Buttocks and knees should form a triangle with equal weight resting on each corner. During zazen, stretch your back, put your chin back, put strength into the posture by pointing the buttocks slightly upward through bending the first five spinal columns.
Your hands/fingers should be held in hokkaijoin (also note how the hands rest on the feet when the legs/feet are in good form):
Dogen writes about the zazen posture:
“Your ears should be in line with your shoulders, and your nose in line with your navel. Rest your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and breathe through your nose. Lips and teeth should be closed. Eyes should be open, neither too wide nor too narrow. Having adjusted body and mind in this manner, take one breath and exhale fully. Sit solidly in concentration and think not-thinking. How do you do this? Let thoughts go (hishiryo)! This is the art of zazen. It is not learning to do meditation. It is the Dharma gate of great ease and joy. It is undefiled practice-realization.”
Relax completely and let your breath come and go deeply and naturally with your diaphragm (not the breast). Invariably, you will experience pain, anger, drowsiness, boredom and all kinds of thoughts. Let them all go. If you do not sit with the determination to die, you will not be able to find the way of zazen. When you keep anything to yourself, you will just be wasting your time. Do not leave your zafu under any circumstances during zazen. Just let body and mind drop off and sit awake. Do not expect any reward.
In Kinhin your posture should be upright as in zazen. Your hands are to be held in the isshu position as illustrated below. Move your foot forward as you begin to exhale. Exhale long and fully (the ideal is said to be one minute, but in fact 15 to 20 seconds is long enough). When you inhale, relax the whole body, and at the end of the inhalation, move the other foot forward. The order and size of your steps should be as follows:
If your breath is slower or faster than the others`, it`s necessary that you take bigger or shorter steps to keep the distance between yourself and the others the same.
At the beginning of Kinhin, choose a place that leaves space for the person behind you. Always walk straight and turn by 90 degrees in the corners of the hondo. Walk in one line with the others. When you exhale, put some tension in the arms and the leg in front, as if to exhale through the leg into the earth. Breathe naturally and relax while inhaling. In general, the inhalation should be (much) shorter than the exhalation. But do not force your breath, let it be natural.
While bowing, keep your back, neck and legs straight. Bow from the hips. At the end of a sesshin and during occasional sutra reading, there will be sanpai (three full bows). After bowing with your hands in gassho, kneel down, put your hands down beside your head and move them upwards with the open palms facing upwards. Get up again and repeat this three times, in harmony with the others.
Breakfast and dinner are eaten in the hiroma (living room) whereas lunch is eaten in the soto-shokudo (outer dining room). Lunch is the most informal meal with noodles usually being served. Walk to your place and bow, then sit down with the others. Just follow the others and try to finish your noodles at the same time as the others. After lunch, help clean the table.
For the other meals, you sit in seiza and use the bowls. On normal days, only breakfast is eaten in your clothes for zazen. Change clothes and start with cleaning immediately after breakfast (except free days and sesshin).
Before you sit down with the others, bow before your place. Sit in seiza. The unsui at the top of the table, facing the abbot, will strike clappers. Bow and start unwrapping your bowls. Place the big cloth on your knees and arrange the bowls, chopsticks and setsu (cleaning device) in this way (the third bowl sits on top of the forth bowl):
After this, rice and soup will be served. At dinner rice will be served by the abbot and the unsui at the top of the table. Go there and hand them your biggest bowl and wait in gassho until you have been served. Walk back to your place and wait for an opportunity to receive soup or serve yourself when the unsui at the top side of the soup-pot have finished serving themselves. Help yourself to the other dishes. In the morning, rice will be served from the pot placed in the middle of the table. If you sit on the top side of it, first serve to the person sitting beside you, then help yourself. If you sit on the lower side, wait until those on the top side have finished. Put sesame and plums into the rice soup if you want. Help yourself to tsukemono. After you have received food, place your chopsticks diagonally on the second bowl. Before starting to eat, everybody will bow together and lift the first bowl to his head. Now start to eat.
At some point, the abbot will put his chopsticks down and so will everybody else. If you need more rice or soup, do gassho now and hand your bowl to an unsui sitting next to the pot. After the second helping is over, everybody will do gassho again and resume eating. You can help yourself to the extra dishes any time, but put your chopsticks down on the table and do gassho before you serve yourself. Try to finish at about the same time as the others. Place your chopsticks diagonally on the second bowl when all bowls are empty, do gassho and clean the ends of the chopsticks with your lips while covering your mouth with your left hand. Place them on the table (ends pointing left now) and pick up the setsu. Clean the bowls with the setsu, starting with the first bowl. After that, place the setsu pointing straight in the first bowl and wait until everybody is finished. When you use the setsu, let the end of it always point straight ahead (not diagonally). Everybody will do gassho now, then stand up and carry everything except the bowls back to the kitchen.
Return to your place and put the kettle and the green plastic bucket under the table on top of it, unless somebody else does so. The unsui facing the abbot and one unsui sitting on the lower side of the table will take up one kettle and serve hot water to the person on the opposite side of the table, then to themselves. They then pass the kettle down to the person sitting next to them. Therefore, you will either be served or you will have to serve. If you are served, bow at the same time the person on the other side does, take up your first bowl, place it in your left hand, take the setsu in your right hand and hold both towards the person serving you. If you have enough hot water in your bowl, move the setsu in your right hand upwards. Put the bowl back, place the setsu (straight) in it and do gassho when the person who served you has served himself. If you have to serve, do gassho before you receive the kettle from the person beside you, serve first to the person facing you, paying attention to the sign with the setsu, then serve yourself, hold the kettle over your head, bow (while the person facing you does gassho) and pass the kettle down the table (if you are the last one, place it under the table). Then clean the first bowl with the setsu, pour the water into the second bowl, clean the outside of the first bowl inside the second bowl, dry it with the white cloth and place it back, on the table. Put the white cloth inside the first bowl. Then clean the chopsticks inside the second bowl, dry them and place them on the table. Clean the second bowl and (if you have used it) pour the water into the third bowl. Clean the outside of the second bowl inside the third bowl, dry it and place it inside the first bowl on the table. Clean the setsu in the third bowl, dry it and place it beside the chopsticks. Drink the water in the last bowl or pour it into the green bucket (do gassho first), dry the last bowl and place all bowls together. Then spread out the big cloth diagonally on the table and wrap up the bowls again, keeping the white cloth in your right hand. Do not forget to place chopsticks, setsu and at last the white cloth on top of the bowls before you tie them up:
After wrapping up the bowls again, do gassho and clean the table in front of you with the wet cloth on the table. Turn it upside down after you have used it (or, if the person before you has already turned it upside down, turn it inside out, so that every side is used only once). When everybody is finished, the clappers will be struck again, everybody does gassho, stands up with bowls in hands and bows again, bowls held before the head. If you stand on the side of the wall, hand your bowls over to the person facing you. Otherwise, receive the bowls of the other person. Then bow again and place the bowls back on the shelf above the door to the kitchen, or, if you have handed your bowls over, help carry the kettles, buckets and cloth back to the kitchen. Although this is only a rough sketch, at first you might find it difficult to follow all these rules and keep track with the others. Anyway, try to finish your meal at the same time as the others, so that nobody has to wait. If you have not eaten enough, there will be the opportunity to eat left-overs during breaks. Food is not necessarily (but mostly) vegetarian. If there is anything you cannot eat, leave it over. Antaiji cannot provide extra meals for you.
Please consult the monk responsible before using the telephone, internet or library, as it is necessary to write your name and the telephone charge/amount of copies/name of books in the respective note book.
If you use the telephone, the easiest way to determine the charge is to use the operator 100 (“hyaku-ban”). Do not open the cupboards with the glass doors in the library, because the humidity affects the old books in there.
Internet costs 5,000Yen per month and is paid for by the people that use it. If you use the internet please make a donation towards the monthly fee.
Soji starts right away from breakfast, don’t go to your romm before (exept monks and nuns, who change clothes). Most of soji consists of cleaning all the wooden floors by first sweeping with brooms and then wiping with wet cloth. Somebody will show you where and how to clean. The program is almost the same every day, but sometimes the hondo is included, sometimes not.
The samu schedule depends on the season and is determined on the preceding day during the tea meeting. Follow the others. Wear rain boots (you might have to buy your own) and gloves and, if it is raining, kappa (rain clothes - if possible your own).
After the end of samu, there is a one hour break before dinner. Enter the bath during this time. If you have not used a Japanese bath before, receive instruction about manners in the bath. Before undressing, you bow to the wooden board over the shelves in the dressing room (you do the same in the face washing room before entering the toilet). When you enter the bathroom with your towel, say “Shitsurei shimasu”. If someone enters while you are inside, respond with “Osaki desu”. When you leave, say “Shitsurei shimashita”. When someone else leaves, respond with “Gokurosama deshita”.
Wash yourself BEFORE you enter the tub. You are supposed to be clean when you enter the tub, because everyone uses the same water. Do not stay inside the tub too long while someone else is waiting outside. There is one tub with very hot water, which is for filling up the water in the second tub, when it cools down or gets used up. Usually, you enter only this second, less hot tub, and also pour all the water from it into the red pail. Adjust it’s temperature by using cold water from the tap or hot water from the first tub.
Women do not enter the bath at the same time as men. There is a special bath time for women, that will be announced by the cook. When women are in the bath, hang the wooden board that says so (in Japanese) in front of the door to the dressing room.
Normally, immediately after dinner the dishes are washed and then the tea meeting is held in the hiroma. The unsui will be seated in two rows to the right and left of the abbot. Bow before you sit down in seiza and bow when the person sitting opposite to you takes his seat. One unsui will serve tea to everyone. When the unsui bows before you, you and your neighbour put your hands in gassho, then take one cup from the tablet while holding the other hand under it as if to support it. Then bow while holding the cup in your hands. Put the cup down before your knees. Your knees should be in line with your neighbour’s and so should the cups. If you are the last one in the line on the left side of the abbot, take two cups and put one before the place to your left, where the unsui serving the tea will sit. Before drinking the tea, everyone will do gassho together. Then drink, holding the cup with both hands. Put your cup down when everybody else does to allow a second serving. The tea kettle will be passed around. Put your hands in gassho when you receive it and pass it on to your left (if you want more tea, pour into your cup). After the second serving, bow with everybody else (hands kept down). Then the happenings on that day and the schedule of the following day will be discussed. At the end, do gassho once again (with everybody else). The unsui will go around again and collect the cups, which by now should be empty. Put your hands in gassho before you put your cup (and your neighbour’s, if it is the unsui who is serving), on the tablet and bow in gassho. If it is not a free day, prepare for evening zazen now.