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Humans are creatures of ritual, whether we like it or not. Even if we don't perform formal rites or ceremonies as part of our religious observances, we still fall into ritual behaviour, whether it be our daily grooming sequence or the way we have our morning coffee. We can do our rituals unconsciously, but there is great value to doing certain of them deliberately and mindfully, and to assigning to them symbolic meaning. Then they can serve as guides to the rest of our lives. This is what the Zen liturgy is all about: Zen practitioners often maintain a home altar, usually with a statue of the Buddha or a bodhisattva.They light incense and candles before it, bow, and chant, both morning and night. They also perform services for special needs such as at the beginning of a special task, or as a visual sign of forgiveness or repentance. These simple, brief symbolic acts that acknowledge the sanctity of a particular moment can help us understand that every other moment is sacred, in a very powerful way. John Daido Loori demystifies the details of the Zen home liturgy - which he encourages his many students to practise - and highlights its deeper meaning and purpose.
John Daido Loori (1931-2009) was one of the West's leading Zen masters. He was the founder and spiritual leader of the Mountains and Rivers Order and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery. His work has been most noted for its unique adaptation of traditional Asian Buddhism into an American context, particularly with regard to the arts, the environment, social action, and the use of modern media as a vehicle of spiritual training and social change. Loori was an award-winning photographer and videographer. His art and wildlife photography formed the core of a unique teaching program that integrated art and wilderness training by cultivating a deep appreciation of the relationship of Zen to our natural environment. He was a dharma heir of the influential Japanese Zen master Taizan Maezumi Roshi and he authored many books.