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Most of you have seen this picture of me before, but here it is again! This picture was taken a couple years ago in one of the dharma rooms at the Kwan Um School of Zeninternational head temple near Providence, RI.

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A 49 – day ceremony in my Buddhist tradition is a memorial ceremony for the family & friends of someone who has recently died. During the 49 days after a person has died, Buddhist teachings say the person’s soul examines the nature of the karma accumulated during their lives (ways they may have contributed to suffering VS. ways they contributed to the relief of suffering, for example) in preparation for the next life (or Nirvana). On the 49th day, their journey is complete.

The effect of Theodore Olberman's passing has been so powerful for so many of us here on not just the human level of another person leaving this earth & the people who love them mourning that person, but because his son, Keith Olbermann, is an important part of our lives. I did this ceremony for Marie Olbermann last year, so after Keith's Dad's passing - and especially because Keith was so generous to share his father's life with us in connection with the debate over health care reform, a ceremony for Theodore Olbermann is more - than appropriate & something I wanted to do. So, I invite you to participate in a slightly – abbreviated version of the Kwan Um School of Zen’s 49 – Day Ceremony. As a dharma teacher, I will provide some "play by play" for some of what’s going on. The complete version of this ceremony form & background can be found at the above link & the site for the Zen Center where I practice& am a dharma teacher.

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What I said above will be used as the "opening talk." At this point, participants chant Ji Jang Bosal (pronounced "gee" "gong" "bow [like "row"] "sall"). Ji Jang Bosal, the bodhisattva of transitions, is seen as the protector of the deceased. He is determined to travel through all realms, even hell, to help save all sentient beings from suffering.

Na – Mu Nam – Bang Hwa – Ju Ji – Jang Bo – Sal
Na – Mu Yu – Myong  Gyo – Ju Ji – Jang Bo – Sal
Na – Mu Dae – Won Bon – Jon Ji – Jang Bo – Sal
Na – Mu Nam – Bang Hwa – Ju Yu – Myong Gyo – Ju Dae – Won Bon – Jon

{Ji Jang Bosal is then repeated}

In this world of impermanence, we offer this ceremony to Theodore Olbermann. Further, we make dharma offerings to all spirits, those above and below, those who have found rest and those who are still wandering. Also, for all tormented spirits and all beings in the hell realms.

All of you gathered here today: do you know the one pure and clear thing? Looking above and below, it is always still. Seeing and hearing, it is clear and plain. One who attains this can put an end to futile craving. If you are not able to attain this, please come to this ceremony through the power of the Buddha. Accept these dharma offerings and gain the insight that there is no life or death. Where the light of compassion shines, the lotus flower blooms. Seeing with the eye of wisdom, hell disappears. Practicing the Great Mystic Compassion Mantra, all beings become Buddha in an instant. If you wish to thoroughly understand all the Buddhas of the past, present and future, then you should view the nature of the universe as being created by mind alone.

I now receive the Buddha, who is present in all the ten directions.
I now receive the dharma, which is present in all the ten directions.
I now receive the sangha, which is present in all the ten directions.
Homage to Kwan Seum Bosal of great compassion and sympathy, who saves all from distress.

Homage to the Great Wide Buddha of the Avatamsaka Sutra. We now sincerely invite Theodore Olbermann to come before this altar, guided by the great Buddha’s noble light to receive these dharma offerings.

"The Human Route" {This poem was written by Zen Master Seung Sahn, the founding teacher for this Korean Zen Buddhist tradition & is read in all memorial services.}

Coming empty – handed, going empty – handed – that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which disappears.
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going are also like that.
But there is one thing which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
Then, what is the one pure and clear thing?

With a pure heart, I offer an invitation and prayer for Theodore Olbermann. I also offer an invitation and prayer for all our ancestors from numberless past lives, our teachers, all spirits above and below, and all deceased beings. May they be guided by the Buddha’s great noble light. May all the merit accumulated through this ceremony be conveyed to all beings. May we in this life, find nirvana, realize infinite life and together all become Buddha.

{At this stage in the ceremony, family & friends are welcome to give short talks. In lieu of this, I’d like to offer some music from Enya. Keith's father died when winter was ending, but losing both parents in less than a year will feel like "winter" for a long while no matter what time of year it is. This song is from her most recent album.}

Today at this outer gate, we send off Theodore Olbermann. As is traditional, we have read sutras and chanted with sincere hearts. By virtue of this, we have become free of undesirable influences.

Four Great Vows {These are recited at either the beginning or conclusion of most practice sessions.}

Sentient beings are numberless; we vow to save them all.
Delusions are endless; we vow to cut through them all.
The teachings are infinite; we vow to learn them all.
The Buddha way is inconceivable; we vow to attain it.

Thank you for coming and chanting for Theodore Olbermann.

Originally posted to CityLightsLover on Sat May 01, 2010 at 09:09 AM PDT.

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