The Soto Zen ceremony of transmitting the robe and bowl of Buddha to the next in line is called Shiho. One may receive a wedding gown or pocket watch from an ancestor. What is transmitted?
The Shiho ceremony is a week of experiencing the meaning of what one agrees to accept. The Hoshi and his student explore this meaning. It is asking do you vow to accept the conditions and variables that will result from you using what you received?
I transmitted my great grandfather's pocket watch to my first cousin in 2018. Twenty-eight years earlier I'd received it from my father. One point is this is a tradition I accepted and then carried forward. This transference contained thoughts about the people who used the watch seldom about the watch as an object.
Receiving the robe and bowl of Shakyamuni Buddha is symbolic of continuity vows and teachings within impermanence. I affirmed the vows before receiving the robe, similar in this case to taking vows before receiving the ring in marriage.
The overarching experience I felt during the week was gratitude to my teacher and the other 136 names of ancestors I had not known. Chanting their names each day calls them to share the Dharma. They share the Dharma by reminding me to share the Dharma.
My vow is to share this unsurpassed, profound, and wondrous teaching. Pass along what Taiun-roshi said to me eighteen years ago...together we teach each other the Dharma- this is my vow.
Gassho to all teachers,