This summer, July 5 – 8, some of the country’s most celebrated contemplative poetic voices will be headlining the first ever Buddhist Poetry Festival at Zen Mountain Monastery. The festival spans an overflowing weekend of workshops and readings, writing and reflection, designed for anyone who resonates with Dharma and poetry, regardless of their own previous level of engagement. In addition to featured events, participants will have opportunities to join monastics and residents in periods of meditation, as well as liturgy, and communal meals. Yet the festival will also open up the usual Monastery schedule to be more, well, festive. In short, there will be something for everyone.
It is perhaps a widely held assumption about the Zen arts that they occur in a bubble of tranquility and equanimity unsullied by the chaos of the world.
One might picture a solitary painter or poet, or a silent line of archers practicing kyudo (Zen archery), each focused singularly on the completion of a perfect act. That assumption might be correct to a point, but Painting Peace, Art in a Time of Global Crisis by Kazuaki Tanahashi opens up a different view.
Today, the Monastery Store takes a big step in increasing its offerings of sangha-made items. For several years we’ve featured bird house gourds, incense holders, beeswax candles and of course honey from our own hives. All of these products and more have celebrated age-old traditions of handcraft using resources cultivated and harvested from our own grounds. As you’ll see and read below, a number of these endeavors have been fermenting and evolving behind the scenes and we’re very excited to now share them with the wider world. (For now, most of these items will only be available at our in-person store, but we’ll expand to offering them online as quantities become available.)
Thanks for the tree between me & a sniper’s bullet. I don’t know what made the grass sway seconds before the Viet Cong raised his soundless rifle. Some voice always followed, telling me which foot to put down first.
Master Dogen taught in his fascicle Henzan—Encountering Everywhere, that whole-hearted practice of the Way is to take up the study of one thing and to understand it deeply. He encouraged us to “study each dharma exhaustively and then to study it still further.”
In Spring of 2000 during one of our three-month training intensives, called ango, we were presented with an art practice assignment: to choose one thing, one object, and be in its presence for next 90 days with full attention. Daido Roshi charged us to enter into the continuously changing nature of our experience, and bring our understanding into a form of creative expression.
As our work with the creative process evolves and we see how creativity extends beyond art into our lives, we may notice barriers that keep us from seeing in a way that’s unhindered by ideas or attitudes. These barriers pop up as we struggle to find equanimity in our art and day-to-day activities.
It is critical that we acknowledge these barriers, and work through them. To be willing to find our own freedom, blocked though it may be, is the first breath of that freedom. We have to be willing to turn toward the barrier and be intimate with it. As long as we think we can run away from it or deny it, the barrier stays with us.