Even though the Catskills are frozen and quiet right now, if I close my eyes, I can already hear the returning song of the Hermit Thrush and smell the tulips blooming. Slowly the Esopus Creek, covered in ice, will loosen its grip on Winter and Spring will come.
The first two meetings of the ZMM sangha’s new “What is Whiteness?” (WIW) group began the same way: enlarging the circle of chairs in the Sangha House to accommodate far larger numbers than expected. The overwhelmingly high attendance on Sunday afternoons didn’t come as a surprise. Since the BFOD forum last March which invited the larger sangha into the anti-racism work—which smaller planning groups have been engaged in for a decade—many white sangha members have expressed different versions of the same sentiment: “When can we start?”
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.
As fall ango came to an end, Monastery residents gathered to share their three-months of art practice. Led by Hojin Sensei, herself an artist, I felt that her deep interest in the work was contagious. Creative expression in art practice, one of the “eight gates” of Zen training, enriches our practice with something vital and uniquely alive.
The mountain offered itself in full autumn splendor on Daido Roshi’s tenth memorial day: flaming colors, sharp lines, the most pristine of skies. Such effortless radiance of nature and the light, creating extra rich contrasts—ironically (given the person we were commemorating) a photographer’s field day.
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.
Thanks to the generous support of the Sangha, the Jizo Project is close to being fully funded, though we do still have a little ways to go. If we do pass our target of $1.2 million, any further donations will go towards Phase II plans in our ongoing effort to make Zen Mountain Monastery more accommodating and welcoming for all who wish to practice here.
The Buddha instructed his followers in the sangha to care for each other’s needs and not just focus on their own individual realization. In this spirit the Jizo House project, for which we are fundraising, is an on-going effort to rebuild accommodations for both able-bodied and differently abled visitors, residents and monastics, and the Diamond Net has taken shape as a sangha-at-large network to give voice, visibility and actions needed for accessibility-related changes. While the Jizo House Project makes our buildings and grounds more responsive, the Diamond Net is the human hands, eyes and voices of volunteers who can respond to and anticipate these needs.