Pratice period closing words from the teachers

Dear Sangha Friends,

When we decided on the theme for our 2016 practice period earlier this year with our shuso-to-be Jikai Vicki Turay, perhaps we didn't realize just how relevant it would be to world events to come--you don't need us to list them--or maybe we did suspect we'd be needing our bodhisattva super-powers more than ever. Patience, wisdom, kindness, forgiveness, open-heartedness, the ability to take a long, spacious view--these are not what our culture values as super-powers, but they are ultimately more powerful than the kinds of power we see being misused in so many ways in our world.  

We hope you have found the practice period encouraging as we renew our vows practice together with and for the benefit of all beings. We're so grateful to our shuso Jikai Vicki Turay for her warm and wise teaching, and to our new priest Nin-en Susan Elbe, entering a new phase, after years of faithful practice. No doubt we'll be seeing more of them both. Also warm thanks to all those who contributed varied and inspiring ZED talks about their practice in the world. And finally, much gratitude to everyone near and far, who participated in the practice period, to whatever extent you were able. As Hakuin Zenji said in his Song of Zazen, "Those who practice zazen, even once, wipe away beginningless obstructions." Every moment we are fully awake makes a difference!

Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

Practice period words from Myoshin Kate

Dear sangha friends,

As we enter our sixth week of practice period, I find myself full of inspiration, insights, concerns and information from sitting, reading, listening and taking my practice into the world. I wonder if you feel, as I do, the need to stop and sit in silence, maybe by Loon Lake at sesshin, or near another lake, forest, or river closer to your home, to empty out, and open deeply to the truth of our being: impermanence, non-self, suffering and the cessation of suffering. Cessation of suffering, not as some once-and-for-all, big-bang enlightenment experience, but in moments of vivid, full presence, right here and now in this world. There, having written this, I think I won't wait for Loon Lake sesshin. I'll go outside and look at the big clump of mushrooms that appears to have sprung up overnight in our backyard. I hope you will join me in stepping away from the computer screen and clicking the refresh button of breath and body awareness. 

You'll be happy to know that we'll have record attendance at Loon Lake sesshin this year (76 to date) with the new generation of Zen practitioners sprouting up like mushrooms.
Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate

2017 Celebrations Ahead

Next year will mark several anniversaries in the history of our Soto Zen practice community: 30 years since Zoketsu Norman Fischer first came to lead a retreat in Vancouver, 15 years since Mountain Rain Zen Community was founded, having grown out of Karuna Meditation Society, and 5 years since we opened the Wall Street zendo. In addition, our guiding teacher Norman, has recently sent a letter to the Mountain Rain sangha, via the Council, proposing that he step down as guiding teacher, and our resident teachers be named guiding teachers of Mountain Rain. Council has accepted on behalf of the membership. This occasion will be marked by two ceremonies in the new year. If you would like to read Norman's letter please click Download PDF. Stay tuned for news of celebrations in 2017!

Words from the Teachers

Dear Sangha friends,

It’s chilly and rainy outdoors here at Blue Mountain Zendo and the gas fireplace is lighting up its false logs, with flames that are comforting nonetheless, except for the thought that the gas may have been fracked from the earth of northern BC, leaving poisoned water and air where inhabitants are few to heat the homes of the many. This past Saturday (Labour Day weekend) an intrepid sangha crew worked through rain, drizzle and sun breaking through to reveal vivid blue sky and warm our backs as we spread manure, cut back invasive blackberries, and prepared the garden for its dormant season. (Big bows of gratitude!) Working, walking, opening our senses outdoors, preparing and eating food grown from this local soil remind us of how close we are to the earth systems on which our lives depend.
Our bodhisattva vows ask us live a life of awakening to our non-separateness from each other and from our environment, a life of non-harming, of benefit to all beings. But in the face of such complex systemic threats to the well-being of all beings, how can we respond? And how does the Buddhadharma support us to do so with wisdom, compassion, determination, patience and skillful means? This will be the theme of our 2017 practice period, and also of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association’s Biannual meeting titled Responding to the Cries of the World—Soto Zen Priests and Sanghas in an Age of Climate Change and Social Suffering
Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

Reflections on the 2016 Japan Pilgrimage

 The 2016 Japan Trip Pilgrims at Rinso-in Temple with Suzuki Shunryu Roshi's son Abbot Hoitsu Roshi, his wife, grand-daughter-in-law and grandson. 

The 2016 Japan Trip Pilgrims at Rinso-in Temple with Suzuki Shunryu Roshi's son Abbot Hoitsu Roshi, his wife, grand-daughter-in-law and grandson. 

Dear dharma friends,

We’ve been back from Japan almost a month now. Barely a week after we got back, we had a wonderful ZenYU day-retreat here at Blue Mountain Zendo, followed by Mountain Rain’s annual potluck and general meeting. And last week we attended Samish Island sesshin, Red Cedar Zen’s yearly week-long sesshin with Norman Fischer.  So we’re still reflecting on our time in Japan and the mysterious connection we have with that country, its people, landscape and culture. We shared some reflections in our talks on the day of the AGM, which are posted on the website if you’d like to listen. And we’ll probably have more to say in the weeks to come.
A few highlights:

  • sitting in the zendo at Suzuki Roshi’s temple, Rinso-in, the ancestors so close
  • all those stairs at Eiheiji temple, imagining the monks in winter
  • the meal at Enryakuji Temple, the meals at the hot springs inn—oh, and the meals at Jimyo-in Temple…
  • green moss, blue hydrangeas, dark wood of temples
  • Japanese sweets passed around on the bus, more sweets, yet more sweets
  • listening to flying squirrels chitter in the cemetery in ancient cedar forest of Mount Koya
  • matcha ice cream, cherry blossom ice cream, black sesame ice cream, soba ice cream…
  • Hojo-sama (Suzuki Roshi’s son, the present abbot) saying “We are the same kafū (family wind).”

 We want to thank our wonderful fellow pilgrims who shared so openly their wonderings as we wandered, and those who kept the practice going so faithfully at the zendo in our absence. It’s good be home again.

Warm bows,
Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael