We are pleased to announce that Kikan Michael Howard will be installed as shuso on Sunday, January 21, 9 – 10:30 am. His shuso closing ceremony will be on Saturday, April 13, 7 – 9 pm. As Kikan’s teacher, Sosan Theresa Flynn is the lead teacher for these ceremonies.
Shuso, or “head monk,” is a traditional training role that has been practiced in Zen temples for over a thousand years. When a priest-in-training or lay teacher-in-training has progressed enough in their practice to be an example for others, their teacher may ask them to serve as shuso. The shuso is a model of practice and sets an example for all other students. As part of his shuso duties, Kikan will be the Lead Ino (temple coordinator) for Sundays, sesshins, and ceremonies. He will also take on other practical responsibilities to support the community, including cleaning the bathrooms and taking out the trash – so-called lowly jobs that are traditional duties of the shuso.
After the shuso installation ceremony, Kikan will sit in the front of the Zendo in the Ino seat. At the conclusion of the shuso period, he will undergo a public question-and-answer ceremony to test his understanding. Kikan will then return to take a regular seat with the sangha. In our center, after a person has completed shuso, they can begin meeting one-on-one with students as a teacher-trainee.
While our shuso service at Clouds is no longer tied to a practice period, Kikan’s shuso dates happen to coincide with our winter/spring practice period. As such, Kikan will teach the main practice period class, along with Sosan. That class is “Realizing Full Aliveness: Katagiri Roshi’s Teachings on Karma and Being Human,” and will meet every other Wednesday, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, beginning January 31.
Kikan will also give the Sunday dharma talk on February 4, 9 – 10:30 am, and will offer Chosan (tea and discussion) on March 17, 11 am – 12 pm. During Chosan, Kikan will lead a discussion on Case 18 of the Blue Cliff Record, which may be of special interest to those not taking the above class. He can also answer any other questions you may have about practice in general. You do not need to read the koan before attending the tea.