This morning found DW and I attending Japan Fest at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I signed up to man the info/sales table of the N.O. Zen Temple, and I felt well enough to go, so off we went. DW--who has absolutely no interest in Zen--came along to humor me, and because we had talked about heading to the Quarter after our stint at the table. Unfortunately, both of us are nursing queasy, raw gastro-intestinal tracts, but we were doing okay this morning.
We got to the museum and found a couple of the NOZT folks setting up the table. Our group had a table on the first floor of the museum and a miniature dojo upstairs. Our table was next to the N.O. Haiku society, which was a fun table to visit. They had a renku going on, which is a progressive poem written by whomever drops by. They also had a magnetic board on which they had hundreds of words to arrange.
Four members of our group went upstairs to arrange the dojo in one of the contemporary art galleries, then came downstairs in their black Zen robes to walk in a processional. They walked around the marble lobby on the first floor, ringing a bell and clapping blocks as they went along. Evidently, they had several people follow them back upstairs, only to leave once it was time to sit cross-legged on the floor and face the wall. One of the people who came by the table asked what we do at the NOZT, and he seemed a bit disappointed when I said, "seated meditation, and that's it." I suspect that our verstion of Soto Zen practice is just too dang simple for some people to wrap their heads around. I knew we were in for a hard sell when I noticed that we were seated directly in front of a gigantic painting titled "The Baptism of Christ." None of the people around here think of Zen as a religion per se, but it was ironic to have our little table in front of that painting.
Fortunately, not that many people stopped by to ask questions, so DW and I had a chance to chat a bit. We also availed ourselves of the opportunity to tour the rest of the fest once we were relieved at the table.