The Ino asked if I could cover this morning’s fukudo position, and my response was “of course.” I had recently trained on the position when I stopped being head chiden for awhile so the role was still fresh in my mind. The reason for the Ino’s request was a sucky one: our friend Dave committed suicide last week and he was the last person on this doan ryo job; now that Dave’s not here, the Ino needed a replacement. I toyed with the idea of getting morbid about that but instead decided that it was another way to honor Dave, by stepping into the position and continuing the practice. It may be tempting to try to honor those in pain by following them in their defeat – “as you suffer, so I will suffer.” I can’t help but believe that those who take their lives would instead have embraced life if they could, and the best way to honor them is to turn toward life even when they could not.
Fukudo is a physical position, with lots of bell ringing and beating on different drums. The fukudo is up before everyone else, waking up the zendo and the whole assembly in preparation for the morning’s zazen. By 5am I had finished running up and down three flights of stairs to ring the wakeup bell in the hallways, chest heaving in and out with the exertion. My face continued sweating for another 30 minutes as I beat the han calling people down for zazen and then went to sit in the gaitan. That early morning jog felt like a cleansing ritual, and I wondered whether Dave had enjoyed it when this was his job.
During service we did a memorial for Dave, chanting the Dai Hi Shin Dharani and each of us offering incense. I’ve been noticing all week how much I suddenly enjoy service. I’ll admit it hasn’t been my favorite part of practice usually, but something about seeing everyone all together in the morning, even though most of our faces are still droopy with sleepiness, has been comforting to me in the aftermath of Dave’s death. There is something magical about starting the day all in the same room and doing the same ritual together: bowing, sitting, moving our zafus, watching the zagus unfurl, passing out chant books, chanting, smelling the incense, seeing each other, greeting the day, giving thanks to our ancestors and dedicating our practice. If I pay attention, I feel the reality of the one body.
The words that Paul said at the beginning of service can’t be recalled now but this is what stayed with me: people and all beings die and yet the living continues, how can this be? We were there to honor Dave’s life by dedicating the ceremony to him, how could this possibly be adequate? And yet there we were, making the effort.