Sangha News

An update on Senior Monastic Yukon Grody

· Articles & Essays, Diamond Net, Sangha News

Since early September, we’ve been keeping the sangha informed through email of our dear brother Mn. Yukon’s health condition. In the interest of sharing this news more widely, we’re adding Mountain Notes to the means of communication. The following post does not add much substantive information to the email sent out to formal students and Practicing Members in early December. All we can add at this point is that Yukon continues to teach us how to live in the present and practice the paramita of patience. We simply don’t know the timing or exactly how things will unfold from here, though we’re assured by his oncology team that it won’t be long. Instead of more concrete answers, what we have now is Yukon’s graced presence at the Jizo House, a remarkable turn of events considering that the new building was completed less than three years ago with the intention of providing dignified and comfortable accommodations for convalescence, especially with monastic end-of-life care in mind. Of course, the other great lesson from this experience is the undeniable fact of our mortality. Impermanence makes all things possible. No one loved repeating that line more than Yukon himself, and as both a gardener and a keen observer of life’s processes, he knew it to be true.

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Rudy Redford (2015 – 2023)

· Articles & Essays, Photos, Sangha News

Rudy, the Monastery’s beloved, orange tabby, left his body on Thursday, May 31st, following a brief illness. He had undergone a number of tests over the past several months to determine what might have caused an increasing drop in energy, focus and acuity. Following an MRI exam at the Brewster Veterinary Hospital, it was determined that a sizable brain tumor had been causing various neurological impairments that were increasingly diminishing Rudy’s quality of life. As surgery was deemed too risky, Rudy’s transition was aided by the caring staff at Brewster Veterinary, with Mn. Yukon and resident Robert Pile, a registered nurse, in attendance. He was 8. (48 in cat years.)

Waking up from a nap in 2017.

As a young kitten, Rudy was discovered by sangha members Seien and Sanjo Wilder on their nearby property in Mt. Tremper in 2015. The Monastery had recently lost its previous cat, Moss, to old age, and the timing seemed right to adopt another one. Hojin Sensei and Dharma holder Shoan gave Rudy his name on the 5 minute drive back from the Wilders to avoid a prolonged decision making process amongst monastics and residents. Rudy was an inspired choice and both the name and the cat were embraced immediately.

Cats have long played a useful role at monasteries in keeping mice and other creatures away from buildings and crops, and in providing comfort—if not an occasional distraction—to those in rigorous training. Rudy performed these functions handily and spent a majority of his days in the Monastery’s garden, especially when Yukon, his primary caregiver, was there at work. (You can catch Rudy towards the beginning of our Garden Tour video made in 2020.)

Rudy was a skilled hunter, though he was often discouraged from pursuing this pastime as all of his nutritional needs should have been taken care of by the abundant, high quality cat food that was provided for him twice a day, not to mention the treats that a number of residents indulged him with when they thought no one was looking.

On Friday, June 1st, residents gathered just before supper to lay Rudy to rest in a vacant corner of the garden he’d so long enjoyed. We chanted the Emmei Juku Kannon Gyo with Yukon offering incense to prepare the grave. Yukon then laid the first shovel full of dirt, calling after his beloved friend one more time through tear-soaked eyes with words we’d often hear when they were together, “Good boy, Rudy! Good boy.”

All in attendance then placed their own shovel full of dirt over the grave until it was complete, as we all chanted the Jizo Shingon Dharani and the late spring afternoon light filled the space with its radiance. Each person then stepped forward to place a flower on the grave, making their own offering in gratitude for the cat that gave so much over the course of his fortunate, yet all too brief, journey on this earth.

At the conclusion to this impromptu service, we shared some joyful recollections of Rudy and lingered a while longer amidst the garden’s blooming rows.

If you would like to make a donation in his honor, we suggest making an offering to your local ASPCA.

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Fall Ango 2022 into Winter 2023

· Articles & Essays, Sangha News

The rhythm of the Monastery’s training year brought the fullness of ango to a close with the Precepts Ceremony of Jukai for five students, followed by the Shuso Hossen for Joel Sansho Benton, and then opened up the quiet space of winter practice. Rohatsu sesshin was full of participants again this year, and with January came the Tokudo ordination for Jogo Kien Martin, and February the Novice ordination for Simon Sekku Harrison with Hojin Sensei at Fire Lotus Temple. This transition time also witnessed a renewed sangha discussion, within gender-affinity spaces, on the gender identities and histories we carry, and the deep healing that can come when our experiences can be met within community.

Below are some images from the fall and winter training periods, from the transitions of fall into the quiet of winter.

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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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Spring Ango 2022

· Articles & Essays, Sangha News

At the conclusion of Ango. traditionally the sangha members who are in attendance that day gather on the back stairs for a group photo. This one was no exception.

And while there was no Chief Disciple chosen for this training period, Shugen Roshi invited each of the fully transmitted Dharma teachers to lead one of the three sesshins. Ron Hogen Green led us in March, Jody Hojin Kimmel led in April, and Shugen Roshi led the closing sesshin in May. Each week of practice had a unique resonance brought about by each of these teachers, while keeping with the rigorous training which sesshin evokes. Each week of training also included a Fusatsu: Renewal of Vows ceremony during the sesshin, another first for the MRO. You can find these Dharma talks and more on our Teachings via Audio & Video webpage.

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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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Jizo in the Monastery Garden

· Essays, Reflections, Sangha News, Zen Training ·

by Linda Shinji Hoffman

Orchardist and Sculptor, Shinji shared on her blog, Apples, Art, and Spirit, about creating a Jizo Bodhisattva for the Monastery garden.

Ancient people made stone piles to mark a site as sacred, while today we use stone cairns to indicate the direction on a wilderness trail. For over a year I had a small pile of stones on one of my work tables. It just sat there and didn’t draw attention from visitors to the studio. It didn’t point me in any direction.

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Taking the Bodhisattva Vows

· Sangha News · ,

As vaccinations for Covid-19 became more readily available last spring, the Monastery was able to resume offering on-site Jukai, the moral and ethical teachings represented in the Sixteen Precepts of the Buddha Way, welcoming six new Jukai students, six new MRO students, one new postulant monastic, and two fully ordained monastics. Just before Covid hit in 2020, Jukai was also given to three students at the Brooklyn Temple by Hojin Sensei.

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Shuso Hossen Fall 2021

· Family Dharma, Sangha News · ,

On 11/21/21, the Monastery held a Shuso Hossen ceremony that capped our fall ango training period. During the ango, Degna Chikei Levister held the position of chief disciple acting as a model of practice for the sangha.

What does ‘a model of practice’ look like? It looks like a true person bringing their whole self and dedicated commitment to every task set before them. The ceremony and Chikei’s exchanges with the sangha are a testament to that. 

Click here to watch the proceedings unfold all over again or here for an audio-only version.

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Zen Tweens In-person Programs

· Family Dharma, Sangha News · ,

The Zen Tweens program has been offering in-person programs monthly on the 2nd Sunday of the month since restarting in June, and will continue with outdoor programs October 10 and November 14, 9am-noon. 

We focus on Zazen, concentration practices, and exploring perception through caretaking activities and creative games. We maintain Covid precautions, and hold space for the tweens to share their feelings and opinions on what we study and how it relates to what is going on in their lives.

In September we made autumnal offerings to the chipmunks, birds, and other woodland creatures by creating cornmeal suet feeders and hanging them in thoughtful places around the forest. After just a few days, woodland creatures have clearly been enjoying our offerings! As a part of our ongoing explorations of perception, we read a passage from phenomenologist David Abram that described his insights on making offerings to the morethan-human realms when researching in Bali. 

Evelyn Nystrom is aerating cans of liquid fermented from leaves with a power drill.

We also participated in helping with the dye garden’s indigo harvest. The process of extracting indigo from the leaves of the plants grown on Mount Tremper is ancient and involves many opportunities for learning. Developed over centuries, the oldest known indigo dyed textiles were created over 6,000 years ago. For the tweens the lessons included a connection to this deep human past, and also new practical knowledge about the pH scale, agitation, and precipitate in chemical transformations. 

Tweens helped in every step of the process, as the harvest is so large that it is taking days and weeks to process the raw indigo matter through all the necessary stages. We removed plants from a pool that had been fermenting, processed pigment, and neutralized various fluids for environmentally friendly disposal.

In other summer sessions we have assisted in supporting the trees of the orchard and weeding the garden beds. We have engaged in various games exploring visual perception and the perceptually influenced interplay of images and written language. In addition to in-person offerings, Zen Tweens maintains a monthly zoom session at the end of the month for community participants living further from the monastery.

Upcoming Zoom dates and times are Thursday, September 30 and Thursday, October 28, 6:15-7:15pm.

Because our guidelines include outdoor programs only, we will return to Zoom programs every 2 weeks over the winter months. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve maintained these Zoom sessions (with lively participation) in order to support this unique age group in their practice and contemplation.

It is a true joy to work with aspiring bodhisattvas at this special age and to see this world through their fresh, inquisitive eyes. If you know any 10 to 13 year olds who might be interested in participating, please share with them and their parents this web page where they will also find contact information for coordinators Kyuko and Jo.

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