Sangha News

We Are Enough Just As We Are

· Sangha News

Wild Grasses Women’s Sesshin 2016

Post by Kestrel Ali Mills; photos by Annelisse Fifi

It was over a year ago that I left the Monastery after a three-month residency. It was the last day of Spring Ango and Shugen Sensei offered a Dharma Encounter. When the line opened, Shugen said, “Shoan will lead off.”

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Six MRO Students Receive Jukai

· Sangha News

On Sunday, October 16th, six Mountains and Rivers Order students received The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts from Shugen Sensei. The Jukai Ceremony was the culmination of a week of precepts training for these students who have been formally training in the Order for many years.

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Beyond Words: 2016 Fall Ango Intensive

· Sangha News

post by Robyn Ikyo Love, MRO

On Thursday night, after a period of zazen, Shugen Sensei introduced the theme of the Fall Ango Intensive weekend to the participants in the zendo. We would be studying Dogen’s Genjokoan—the Ango theme—but he asked us to examine it through the lens of faith, which he said could be cultivated through a combination of trust, confidence and honesty.  

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In Memoriam: William Kishin Gamble

· Sangha News

William Kishin Gamble, a longtime Mountains & Rivers Order student, passed away last month.

Kishin was one of Daido Roshi’s earliest students, having begun his training at the Monastery in the early 1980s. He lived in New York City for many years and practiced actively at Fire Lotus Temple as well as at the Monastery. Kishin was a lifelong photographer and jazz musician.

A funeral is scheduled at Zen Mountain Monastery for Sunday, October 2nd at 2pm. The sangha is invited to attend.

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Funeral Service for John Shido MacKenzie

· Sangha News

Post by Chris Tyler, MRO
Photos by William Carpenter

A broad circle of mourners ringed the fresh grave—a stone square set flush in the earth, and a clean upright plank that reads “John Shido MacKenzie, 7.22.1946 – 8.4.2016.” The pine trees were still, and the vague slab of clouds held in a week’s worth of dense August air. Into the circle stepped one last woman, in a white suit with a broad-brimmed white hat. She laid down her orange marigold on the dull earth, paused, and turned away to join the circle. After a moment, a lonely train whistle came low and clear across the thick summer valley.

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Fall Ango 2016

· Retreats, Sangha News, Zen Training

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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Circles on the Water: Reflections on the Women’s Wilderness Retreat

· Sangha News

The week of July 19-24, 2016, fourteen women set off for Little Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks to attend Circles on the Water: A Wilderness Retreat for Women, led by Hojin Osho. What follows are the reflections of two of the retreat participants; photos by Carey Joyu DePalma, MRO.

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Moshin and Onjin’s Novice Ordination Ceremony

Reflections on Moshin and Onjin’s Novice Ordination Ceremony

· Sangha News

post by Polly Horne, MRO
photos by David McNamara, MRO

On the last morning of this Summer Solstice Sesshin, as thoughts of the world trickled back into the container—my mind and body waning, the Sangha gathered our strength and concentration to send Moshin and Onjin on the next phase of their discernment as Novice Monastics.

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Being the Bowl 2016

Being the Bowl 2016

· Sangha News

post by Donna Nicolino, MRO
photos by Simone Couto

From June 15th to the 19th, participants in this year’s Being the Bowl retreat came together with Hojin Osho and Yosha Scott-Childress to spend several sunny, warm days shaping clay with our hands, experimenting with glazes, “juicing rocks,” painting, and expanding our ideas about what a bowl can be.

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List of Female Ancestors

List of Female Ancestors Enters the Order’s Liturgy

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Sangha News

post by Shannon Shinko Hayes, MRO
photo credit: Photo Dharma

On Sunday, May 29th, the Mountains and Rivers Order sangha was formally introduced to our women ancestors. For several years, our Sunday morning program has included a service at the Mahapajapati altar, in which we chant a short list of some of the women ancestors’ names. This was the first time we began a new tradition—of chanting a long list of the names of women ancestors. This will take place at the Monastery and Temple every other Sunday, alternating with chanting the long list of the male ancestors in our lineage that has been part of the Sunday service for the past 35 years.

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