The keystone event of Ajari Tanaka's September 2009 visit was our retreat. Conducted at Vermont's South Starksboro Meeting House, Ajari Tanaka spent five and a half days training, practicing with and enjoying a group of participants that included both his most senior students from the US, Europe and Canada as well as a small number of students very new to Shingon. The retreat site is a very spartan and historic building, used by generations of Vermont Quakers who have lived and worshipped in these deep hills for centuries. During the retreat we began each day with the recitation of the RIshu-kyo, a very deep and profound sutra that contains many core Shingon teachings. Its title roughly translated is "The Sutra of the Way of Great Enjoyment;" In addition, its recitation is a very powerful meditation. Our day continued with many other classic recitations, meditations and also the use of various symbolic hand gestures (mudra) as part of our core retreat practices. After a fun and always talkative lunch together, our afternoons recommenced with Shodo ("the way of the brush" or commonly know as traditional Japanese calligraphy) lessons. Since his arrival in Vermont this year, Ajari had been working on a classic Japanese cultural text as his most recent shodo study. Called the "Chichi Haha no On", it is ten classic reasons why we should appreciate and respect our parents. Ranging from changing our diapers to worrying about us when we are grown, it catalogs those things only our parents can do for us. Over the course of three days of lessons, Ajari taught us the ten core lines. We struggled to absorb his genius, but practiced none the same. We also enjoyed late afternoon Shomyo lessons, or what Ajari has called "voiced enlightenment". Shingon includes a very musical and elaborate form of chanting, not unlike Gregorian or certain Tibetan practices that are normally done by monks or priests. Patiently, Ajari Tanaka has worked to train us in this exacting discipline using Shingon's six basic Shomyo "songs". This year was particularly rewarding.
We sincerely hope that anyone interested in the buddha dharma and especially Shingon will take note of our teacher's boundless generosity and our sangha's immense good fortune. We invite all interested students to contact us and we sincerely hope we are able to help support and foster your path.