Although Zen is often depicted as a silent tradition focused on seated meditation (zazen 坐禅), Sōtō clerics have performed a wide range of rituals featuring a colorful soundscape since the 13th century. Among these rituals, we find ceremonies belonging to the liturgical genre of kōshiki 講式, a genre that was developed in the context of Tendai Pure Land belief in the late 10th century and that represents a milestone in the development of a vernacular liturgy in Japan. Based on my new book Memory, Music, Manuscripts (University of Hawaii Press), I will discuss the historical development of these rituals and their performance practice. After explaining how clerics vocalize the ritual texts, I will analyze how contemporary Zen clerics interpret the performance of kōshiki and the singing of liturgical texts. I suggest that we need to understand Zen as a bodily practice accompanied by a rich aural component.
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