The Chicago Zen Center offers a full range of Buddhist ceremonies and devotions. They skillfully help turn us in the direction of practice by providing occasions to awaken aspiration, to express gratitude, and to acknowledge change, transformation and loss. The yearly cycle of ceremonies and celebrations is thus an integral part of temple life at the Center.
At the start of the evening the lights are dimmed and the candles lit. Persons may do zazen, offer incense, or do prostrations. A chanting service is held halfway through the evening, and those who have sewn rakusus receive them in a short private ceremony.
The evening concludes with everyone present gathering in the Buddha Hall for Jukai. Together we recite the Repentance Gatha acknowledging our lapses in body, speech and mind, then we take together the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts, thereby entering into, or reaffirming our belonging in, the family of the Buddha.
After a round of zazen we proceed to the Buddha Hall and start the commemoration by taking turns pouring sweet tea over the Baby Buddha. Our attention is then brought to the import of the birth narrative as part of our own story as men and women on the path to awakening.
We then wrap up the celebration with a pot-luck buffet of sangha members' delicious cooking.
After a short chanting service and a talk, particular points of gratitude written on slips of paper by the participants are read aloud. Then those present may, if they wish, voice further expressions of gratitude.
After the ceremony, the group heads to a local eatery to enjoy brunch together.
Home purifications may also be requested when moving into a new home.
We begin with zazen and chanting, followed by a repentance ceremony that ends with the burning of the klesa papers. We then follow the abbot as he makes his way from altar to altar throughout the Center, purifying them to the accompaniment of the priests' shakujos and the sangha's chanting. Then, ourselves and the temple renewed, we gather to share a meal and renew our ties with one another.
The Chicago Zen Center is happy to be part of that adaptation. In recent years weddings have been held at the Center for members and non-members alike. Priests may also be called upon to officiate at ceremonies in the wider community.
Priests at the Center have also been called on to conduct Memorial Services in the community.