Earth Initiative

A Milestone in the MRO’s ‘Fossil Fuel Phaseout’ Plan

· Articles & Essays, Earth Initiative

by Steve Seigan Miron

Installation of Heat Pumps in the Zendo

In speaking of our relationship with the Earth as Zen practitioners, Shugen Roshi observed, “We trace our heritage back to the early days of Chan Buddhism in China, where work, dharma practice, and intimacy with nature intertwined to enliven the religious life.”

Our teachings are steeped in reverence for the natural world. Our practice includes caring for sentient and insentient beings, those seen and unseen, in our homes, at our formal places of training, and far beyond. This ancient practice is extremely relevant today, given our responsibility to address the unfolding climate emergency that modern humans—especially those in wealthier industrialized nations— have created.

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Solar Power in Han Shan Meadow

· Articles & Essays, Earth Initiative, Sangha News

By Sandy Joshin Del Valle

Solar energy isn’t anything new anymore, yet the recent additions to the Monastery’s solar array at the Han Shan meadow still bring a spark of excitement: we are doing it!  We are continuing to lessen our attachments to non renewable energy sources. This vow is renewed every day whether it be through extensive composting, recycling, repurposing and reusing of just about everything, or growing food and flowers. We also know that whatever we do ripples outward and can have beneficial effects on others. The newest solar array is part of this. 

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Trash is Only A Perspective

· Articles & Essays, Earth Initiative, Sangha News

A Sangha-Wide Recycling Effort

Updates from Jusan Chen:

Just wanted to shine a light on our special recycling program at the Monastery through TerraCycle.  We collect used plastic toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, razors, used pens… and their packaging… (see below). New research shows that in the U.S. recycles only 7% of its recyclable waste. Not to mention that these items, like toothbrushes, are consumed by the billions and many get dumped in the oceans, rivers and elsewhere.

The recycling programs that we participating in now at the Monastery through TerraCycle are small but profound efforts we can make for change. I feel they move us toward the creation of less and less harm. So here’s a kindly reminder: please collect these items and bring them to the Monastery.

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Remembrance and Atonement on Thanksgiving Day

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Earth Initiative, Teachings

We share with you this liturgy and dedication for Thanksgiving Day. Developed by Hojin Sensei and Shugen Roshi, this liturgy is offered at Zen Mountain Monastery on Thanksgiving to honor our ancestors, the original inhabitants of this land, and all beings of the great earth that support our lives.

Call and response:

LITURGIST : The Sangha has gathered on this day to witness and transform the karma of this land. May we do so with a mind of reverence and solemnity.

SANGHA: On this day of remembrance

LITURGIST: May we know that these sacred lands belonged to indigenous people for thousands of years

On this day of remembrance

May we honor the people of the tribes Munsee, Lenape, Mohican and others who lived and flourished here

On this day of remembrance

May we know that they revered and lived in intimate contact with all the many creatures of these mountains and rivers

On this day of atonement

May we atone for the violence, deceptions and destruction that was brought upon these peoples

On this day of atonement

May we atone for the ways this was concealed, ignored and diminished in the histories we have learned

On this day of atonement

May we atone for any harms that our presence on these lands has caused and take responsibility for understanding and addressing them, and honor and mourn the lives lost

On this day of gratitude

May we express our appreciation for this land’s ancestors and all they contributed to this nation

On this day of gratitude

May we demonstrate our appreciation by living in peace and harmony with the land and all beings

On this day of gratitude

In offering flowers, candlelight and incense, may the bountiful harvest of these mountains and rivers we are about to receive nourish our wisdom and compassion on this earth.

Sutra of Great Compassion
Kanzeon! At one with the Buddha.
Related to all Buddhas in cause and effect
And to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Joyful, pure, eternal being!
Morning mind is Kanzeon
Evening mind is Kanzeon
This very moment arises from Mind
This very moment is not separate from Mind.

LITURGIST: When we carefully observe the true nature of things, all are the marvelous manifestation of the Tathagata’s truth. Atom by atom, instant by instant, all are none other than self-nature’s mysterious radiance. Because of this, our virtuous ancestors extended loving care and reverence toward even such beings as birds and beasts.

Let us then be truly grateful for the food, drink and clothing that nourishes and protects us throughout the day, these being in essence, the warm skin and flesh of the great masters, the incarnate compassion of the Buddha. Let us reflect on all that we receive which supports our lives and the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and offer gratitude with our body, speech and mind.

As we awaken this deep, pure faith, offering humble words and taking sincere refuge in the Buddha, then with every thought there will bloom a lotus flower. May we extend this mind throughout the universe so that we and all sentient beings may equally bring to fruition the seeds of wisdom and compassion.

All Buddhas, throughout space and time

All Bodhisattva Mahasattvas, Maha Prajna Paramita

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Sustainable Monastery, Locally Grown

· Earth Initiative, From The Mountain, Sangha News ·

By Eve Romm

The A-frame meadow offers a spectacular view of the gentle twin peaks of Mt. Tremper. Beneath them, deer wander through the meadow, cicadas and crickets buzz, even an occasional pack of wild turkeys passes. In the midst of all this the Monastery orchard and dye garden has flourished. Sunflowers tower over the indigo and coreopsis that eventually become our natural dye pigments; raspberries and blackberries ripen, and fruit trees promise an abundant harvest. 

Five years ago we broke ground on the orchard and dye garden as part of a widespread shift in residency and monastic life towards sustainability and self-sufficiency. The store now carries some of the fruits of this labor—naturally dyed and hand-sewn aprons, napkins, scarves, altar cloths and more; honey and beeswax candles harvested from our own hives; dried hot peppers and herbs from the garden; statues designed, cast and painted in the art room; and so on. Not only do these new initiatives produce beautiful and delicious things, they also allow the residents and monastics to spend more work time outside, doing the simple but profound work of harnessing the power of the four elements to cultivate a life-supporting bounty. 

Like practice itself, the orchard will grow more fruitful and better established over years, even decades. Gokan, the resident orchardist, focused on improving the soil, putting up fences, getting a water system in place, cultivating and waiting for the young trees to bear fruit. Although raccoons and crows still pillage many of the ripening peaches, pears and plums before they can be picked, the raspberries, blackberries and elderberries are less attractive to those pests—but ardently appreciated by the resident sangha. It’s clear how much Gokan loves this work.  When I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted people to know about the orchard, he answered in a dreamy tone I’ve rarely heard—“It’s beautiful”.  

This past spring, the kitchen shifted it’s purchasing practices to align more closely with the values of sustainability and stewardship which guide the orchard, garden, and dye garden endeavors. Instead of ordering produce sourced from all over the country, we now get our ingredients through a produce distributing company called Farms2Tables, which allows wholesale buyers to order directly from local farms. Tangy apples and cider, for example, come to us from Samascott Orchard in Kinderhook, rich and creamy whole milk in an impressive 5-gallon bag from Ronnybrook Farms in Pine Plains, and finely ground whole grain bread flour from the Wild Hive Community Grain Project in Clinton Corners. 

Much of the impetus for this shift came from concern about our carbon footprint, and the hidden transportation and cooling costs of imported produce. But for Paul, our cook, it goes deeper than that. To him, cooking with local, seasonal foods is a way of maintaining a spiritual connection to the place and time that we are actually in the midst of. As he sees it, kitchen work is a profound dharma gate, a way of directly encountering the physical realities, needs, and joys of human life. Eating what is offered by the very place in which we find ourselves, Paul says after a moment of careful reflection, is a way of coming home. It helps us to cultivate gratitude and reverence for the generosity of the land and the miracle that is life-giving food.  

In the height of the late summer harvest season, the ingredients available locally are pretty extraordinary. In addition to the avalanche of heirloom tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, eggplant, runner beans, kale, swis chard and more coming from Yukon’s acre-and-a-half vegetable garden, the local produce offerings are bountiful, varied, and incredibly delicious. When we first made the shift to only local products, though, it was early spring, before the harvest season had really gotten underway. Undeterred, the kitchen supplemented the parsnips, squashes, potatoes, radishes and beets which keep through the winter with dry and canned goods like beans and sundried tomatoes. This summer, we’re preparing for the sparser season by freezing pesto, pickling cucumbers, and otherwise doing our best to preserve some of the summer flavors for the colder season coming up.  

Turning towards a simpler, more ancient way of choosing ingredients has been complemented by an increased interest in timeless foodways like pickling, canning, and fermentation. We’ve been making our own yogurt and kombucha for some time, but these days we also have homemade sauerkraut, kimchi, fresh tomato sauce, dill pickles, mayonnaise, jam, and sourdough bread. The time and space to experiment is one of the small silver linings of the monastery closure: with fewer mouths to feed, the kitchen has more space to explore and experiment with ways to manifest our values more fully.  

These shifts towards more direct connection with the land we live on feel very connected to our dharma practice and training. What better arena in which to study and marvel at the profound truth of interdependence, and to directly see the ways in which our own lives depend on the busy work of bees and butterflies, the rain and sunlight, insects and birds, on the work of the sangha and the efforts of the larger human community. “Thus,” as the meal gatha so beautifully declares, “we eat this food with everyone,” receiving that offering with gratitude, and striving to repay it by working to be of benefit to the land and it’s many inhabitants.  

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Ecodharma and Environmental Justice

· Earth Initiative, Retreats, Sangha News

By Dojaku Niccolino

If you’ve wondered how to respond to human-created ecological devastation and climate breakdown, so has author David Loy. “What does Buddhism have to offer?” is the question he posed for a discussion at Fire Lotus Temple last November, and the major theme of his upcoming Ecodharma retreat via zoom on Thursday, October 3rd.

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New Bees In Town

· Earth Initiative, Essays, Sangha News

By Joel Sansho Benton

Last Saturday a group of new residents entered the monastery for the first time—about thirty thousand of them to be more precise. On Saturday I picked up three new packages of bees from Hudson Valley Bee Supply to replace the hives we lost over the winter. Each package holds approximately ten thousand bees, each with its own queen.

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Zen on the Trail

· Earth Initiative, Reviews

Book review by Hokyu JL Aronson

Many years ago, still in college, I hitchhiked north from Berkeley to the uppermost reaches of California, my last ride dropping me off at the foot of Mt. Shasta in the southern Cascade Range. I didn’t yet know of the Zen monastery there but I’d come on a quasi-spiritual quest all the same. A friend had recently committed suicide and, in his honor, I wanted to test the fragile membrane of my own existence, going deep into solitude amidst the quiet embrace of a mountain landscape.

Zen on the Trail: Hiking as Pilgrimage by Christopher Ives (Wisdom Publications, 2018)
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Earth Initiative Winter Update

· Earth Initiative, Sangha News

Upstate sangha traveled to Albany on Monday, January 28, to join forces in urging New York state legislators to fully fund the CLCPA (Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act) so it can fulfill its far reaching mandate to bring NYS’s carbon production and usage down to zero. Ten sangha members joined with hundreds from all over the state organized by NY Renews to visit with legislators and to rally at the legislative hearing on funding the CLCPA.

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Earth Initiative at the Global Climate Strike

· Earth Initiative, Sangha News · , ,

Sangha members joined with over six million people in a Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019, attending rallies upstate and in NYC and other locations. Led by young people and their supporters inspired by Greta Thunberg’s leadership, the strike was an urgent call to wake up and address the causes of our climate crisis and to ask that governments take the lead.

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