So it comes to this – the four weeks of retreat, the preparation and admin leading up to that, the 95 hours of zazen in August (sad that I counted this – during zazen of course!), the grappling with Joshu’s “Supreme Way”, living in Butterwick away from my day-to-day life and family, the preparation done by so many sangha members, the efforts of my fellow monks and of course my teacher, the travelling by friends and family from Northampton and London everywhere else… Right, Alasdair… don’t cock it up.
“Attention!” I read out the main case, and give my dharma talk – I won’t bore you with the details here! I believe at some point it will be posted on the StoneWater Youtube channel if you’re intent on hearing my lies…
“This is a three-foot long black snake. A long time ago, it was a konpura flower at Vulture Peak. At Shaolin it became a plum blossom… Now, in accord with the order of my teacher, it lies in my hands. I feel like a mosquito trying to bite an iron bull…”
I’m told I did OK – the odd thing is that I hardly remember anything I said to anyone. At any rate, I get through all the questions (and one vigorous challenge from Woo!), and say to all as I thump down the shippei hard and loud onto a wooden block, “May your life go well!”
The ceremony at this point calls for my “humble apology” – much joking during rehearsal about this, but I find I make this apology in absolute dead earnest.
I pass the shippei to Keith, and bow down low. “Being immature and insufficient in training, I was not expecting to be appointed Head Monk. I feel as if a crime has been committed which fills the heavens, and there is not a place on earth for me to hide. I hope there is enough water in the Atlantic for you to rinse out my words from your ears!”
Now the embarrassing bit – sangha members have composed poems about me… erk! I’ve got some of these in cards (and if you haven’t sent me your poems, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org as I’ve only got a few of them!). Thanks to all those who composed your poems – as I sat there, sweat pouring down my face, I loved every one of them… and every one of you!
Finally, it’s all over. A few more bows, and we process out for a short private ceremony with Sensei, jishas, family, then back for the obligatory group photo!