From The Mountain

Earth Day

· From The Mountain, Sangha News

ZMM Hosts the 2017 Woodstock Interfaith Earth Day

Happy Earth Day.

This week, Zen Mountain Monastery welcomed the Woodstock Interfaith Council and community members to celebrate a common vision of respect and identification with the Earth. The Council is a volunteer body of clergy and leaders of spiritual communities in the greater Woodstock region who meet regularly to discuss a range of issues, from administrative challenges to theological points of interest.

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How to Take a Stand Without Taking Sides

· Earth Initiative, From The Mountain, Reviews · ,

An Annotated List of Digital Resources for Informed Community Action, Resistance, and Renewal

I have never been one to get involved in politics. As a journalist I definitively steer clear of anything that could be construed as activism or partisanship. In Buddhism, taking action in the face of injustice can pose a similar question: how to do this in keeping with one’s bodhisattva vows of non-harming, yet without being partisan?

“When we engage with worldly politics, we try not to take sides,” Phap Dung, a Thich Nhat Hanh disciple, said in a recent interview. “It’s easy to choose a side, but as Buddhist practitioners we try to have more inclusiveness.”

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Right Action Updates

· Earth Initiative, From The Mountain · ,

Beyond Fear of Differences (BFoD)

Social justice has long been a focal point for the Moutains & Rivers Order. While Shugen Sensei was based at the Brooklyn Temple, the Beyond Fear of Differences Initiative was formed, initially holding retreats and study groups for the sangha. Since May 2016, a planning committee of nine MRO practitioners have been meeting to help build the newest iteration of the Initiative: a monastery-based program to study oppression and privilege as it manifests both in the sangha and the world at large.

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Spring Ango 2017

· From The Mountain · ,

Shuso Letter

Dear Sangha Family,

I am sincerely honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as Chief Disciple for the Spring Ango. When Shugen Sensei requested that I step into this service position, I felt both the gulp! of nervousness, anticipating the exposure and responsibility of this role, as well as a surprising readiness to step forward into the unknown, offer myself to the sangha, and learn as much as I can from this experience.

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Welcoming the New Year

· From The Mountain, Sangha News

The sangha chants the Four Vows during fusatsu, or renewal of vows ceremony.

Shugen Sensei officiated a fusatsu, or renewal of vows ceremony, shortly before midnight on Saturday, December 31st as the Monastery’s Rohatsu Sesshin drew to a close. The ceremony included a talk (video below) on the precepts, or moral and ethical teachings, and Sensei finished by encouraging the sangha to use the final minutes before midnight to reflect on their vow for the New Year.

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In Memoriam: John Shido MacKenzie

· From The Mountain, Open Access · ,

July 22, 1946 – August 4, 2016

A large circle of mourners stood around the fresh grave and a neat, wooden marker. Shido, whose dharma name means “Way of the Poet,” was laid to rest at ZMM’s cemetery, not far from his mother’s grave and surrounded by pine trees.

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Fall Ango 2016

· From The Mountain

Shuso Letter

Dear Friends,

The blaze and burn of summer begins to cool, and we turn our attention to the Fall Ango. Shugen Sensei has asked me to be Chief Disciple for the training period, and I find myself feeling at once excited and scared and grateful—excited to offer myself up completely, scared that it won’t be enough, and grateful for a practice that can hold all of that.

For this ango we will take up Dogen’s Genjokoan, sometimes translated as “The Question of Everyday Life” or “Actualizing the Fundamental Point.” Dogen reminds us that regardless of clarity or attainment “flowers fall amidst our longing, and weeds spring up despite our aversion”. For me this means that what I love will leave no matter how much I love it, and what comes my way will come no matter how much I want to avoid it. How poignant to encounter this teaching at the onset of autumn, amid the falling leaves and darkening sky, as the geese and warblers fill the air with song—briefly—and depart.

Let’s enter ango with open hands, not grasping any part of this practice or rejecting any part of our lives. Let’s make our training commitments—assessing work and time and energy and obligations—in the faith that our fundamental questions and our everyday lives are not in conflict. Let’s look for the fundamental on the front page, and discover genjokoan in the daily grind.

Thank you for your practice, patience and guidance.SUM16_2nd Gikon portrait


Prabu Gikon Vasan began Zen practice at ZCNYC in 1999, became a formal student in 2001, and received jukai in 2008. He has worked as a clinical social worker in New York City for fifteen years, and currently helps mental health clinics to implement best practices in areas like suicide prevention. He lives with his wife, Hosui, in Brooklyn and will be in residency at Fire Lotus Temple for the fall.

Ango Practice

The Mountains and Rivers Order training schedule cycles through periods of intensification and relaxation, mirroring seasonal changes and giving us varied opportunities to study and practice. The spring and fall quarters are ango (“peaseful dwelling”), nintety-day intensives that continue an ancient tradition dating back to the time of the “Buddha, when the sangha gathered in forest groves during monsoon season to support each other in their practice and receive teachings from the Buddha and his senior disciples.

Each ango has a theme drawn from the Buddhist teachings. This Fall 2016 Ango, the sangha will be taking on the teachings of “Genjokoan,” a fascicle by Dogen from his Shobogenzo: Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. Dogen’s teachings in this fascile ask us to see every aspect of life as the raw material of practice and realization. We will engage this together during the ango’s Buddhist study sessions and the Ango Intensive retreat.

The training and practice of the chief disciple is another important facet of ango training. When a junior student is ready to make the transition to being a senior student, the teacher will ask him or her to serve as chief disciple for the training period, leading the ango and offering their sincere and wholehearted practice as a model for the sangha. The ango culminates with a special right of passage for the whole community: Shuso Hossen.

For more information about this Fall Ango and the various activities both at the Monastery and the Temple, please check out the Monastery’s website.


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