Personal “Ango”

By: Venerable Jim Jiang-Wen Kearse 将稳
In the early days of Buddhist monasticism, it was not uncommon to find monks
wandering all over the countryside teaching the dharma or visiting and studying at other
monasteries. But due to the climatic conditions of India (sub-tropic), there was a period
during the year referred to as the “rainy”, or monsoon season, usually June to
September. During the rainy season, monks would generally return to their home
monasteries because the weather made travel difficult and dangerous. Since travel was
restricted, monastics would often increase their meditation periods to deepen their
practice. In Japan this was known as “Ango”.
Zen Centres across North America participate in an Ango as a part of their regular
annual routine. But many people cannot, due to work or family circumstances, afford to
attend a 90 day retreat. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot recognize and
participate in our own form of personal Ango retreat.
Let’s take an example of a practitioner who meditates 30 minutes a day for about four
days/ week. We could fashion our practice after the schedule found in many Chan
monasteries wherein meditation periods would slowly increase over the course of the
year until Ango is reached, and then decline afterwards. (See Holmes Welch. The Practice of Chinese Buddhism 1900-1950. pages 53-78.)
If we broke the year into general seasons (which we do!) we could follow this Ango
schedule:
1) during the “summer”, we might meditate in the morning for most days
2) in the “autumn” months, we would add another 30 minute evening meditation
3) the “winter” months (our Ango) would see us add a third meditation period to our day
– perhaps at noon, or we could extend the evening meditation
4) in the spring months, we would return to two sittings, morning and evening
5) then repeat the cycle starting with the summer.
Of course each person has to decide their own schedule; some may opt to do less than
three meditation periods/ day, while others may opt to do more. But no matter the schedule you choose for yourself, it would give you the chance to follow a schedule, increase your discipline, and deepen your practice, while at the same time, allowing you the flexibility to alter the schedule at will.
Happy meditating!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Personal “Ango”

  1. Greetings Jim,

    This is both traditional and contemporary in its view and action, pragmatic I would say 🙂 Pragmatic in the certain sense that a layperson could experience a renewed depth of meditation practice and all the benefits that go with that practice.

    Happy Holidays,
    I bow with respect,
    Wayne Ren-Cheng

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