March 11 marks a year since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge this milestone, the loss of life and the many challenges that accompany this situation. We acknowledge the uneven and tragic toll the pandemic is having on the Black community as well as Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and refugee communities. To honor the victims of this global tragedy, and to give voice to our sangha’s personal losses and challenges, Zen Mountain Monastery held a memorial event on March 14th as part of our Sunday morning program.
Residency at our Brooklyn Temple has always been an interweaving of NYC energy with the Zen Buddhism of a lay practice center. In these early weeks of the pandemic, our current residents Oliver, Jo and Brian, have shifted gears from their personal and Temple related routines. Here they offer an inside view of their lives and Zen training, greatly changed and yet in important ways still very much the same. — MR
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.
The Jizo Project is an important sangha-supported initiative to make Zen Mountain Monastery a more accessible and accommodating refuge for practice. Here are several reflections from sangha members on what the initiative means to them. Care to contribute your voice to the conversation? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
“There is a Chinese saying that goes something like this: ‘When you drink water, reflect on the source; when you eat fruit, bow to the tree.’ For me giving to the Jizo Project is a chance to express my gratitude to the monastics and for what their lives create everyday for the sangha.” — Pat Carnahan
“I recently became a formal student at ZMM and the Jizo Project immediately appeared as a marvelous opportunity to give back to the sangha for everything it means to me. I cannot think of a better metaphor for lifelong student commitment than a project that encompasses the circle of life.” — Diego Antoni
“Many years ago the sangha recognized a future need of aging and ill sangha, monastics and lay practitioners, who desired to practice until death took them…. It is time to realize this dream. I am personally so grateful for the wisdom bearing fruit now, especially for the expanded scope of the Jizo Project which will include those that are other-abled as well.” — Michelle Seigei Spark
“As our sangha continues to age, it is so heartening that there will be a way for us to continue to practice with fewer impediments than before. I am also grateful that there will be a place for monastics, when the time comes, to die well, within the sangha.” — Jeffrey Kien Martin
“The Jizo Project bolsters the practice of the Dharma, opening up avenues to more people and providing care for our monastics, who give so much to the world. For me, supporting it is a way to generate good that I know will radiate out in ways I can’t even imagine.” —Jessica Ludwig
“ZMM has been my life raft for the last five years. It is lovely to be working together like this to keep it afloat.” – Jonathan Seiko Rosenthal “I want to practice at Zen Mountain Monastery. I always want to be able to practice there. The Jizo Project is the path that allows us to fulfill our Vows there even as life events including illness, disability and age arise on that path.” — Dorothy Taiju Hickey
“Zen Mountain Monastery is a giant Dharma hive supported by an infinite number of bees. Some bring nectar, others provide care from the inside. Each bee has its own needs and challenges, but also a unique role to play. The Jizo project provides essential structural support to our Monastery so that it can provide refuge and offer teachings to the greatest diversity of beings at every stage of their lives. I am deeply grateful to be part of the Sangha hive and a contributor to this important effort.” — Linda Shinji Hoffman
“For me, my clearest connection to the Jizo Project is Nenshin. As a quadriplegic, he still loved to come to sesshin, even though it was very difficult for him. Four strong people had to carry him into the building and up the stairs. And we had to carry his power wheelchair separately, batteries first removed, because it was so heavy. Once he got into the building, there were many more challenges such as in the guest room where he stayed, which was not set up for someone in a power chair. I was often assigned as his attendant, taking care of all of his needs: helping him get dressed, helping him eat, helping him navigate obstacles to get into the dokusan room, and so forth. Nenshin desperately wanted to come more frequently. But it was just too difficult. “We will finally have a facility that would have accommodated Nenshin. And perhaps, at the completion of the Jizo Project, there are or will be others in wheelchairs who want to come, and who now will be able to.” —Andrew Hobai Pekarik
“For me, what comes to mind about this project is, ‘May all who seek the dharma have access to it.’ The Jizo Project is beautiful on so many levels.” — Rachel Yuho Rider
“I’ve been a student in the MRO since 1996. Since then, I’ve gone from being a healthy, energetic middle-aged person to an old lady with a legion of health problems past and present. I’m unable to do a full sesshin, and have increasing trouble with stairs. The Jizo Project will make it possible for me to continue to come to the Monastery. I’m overjoyed that it’s happening, and deeply, deeply grateful to all who can contribute, and to the foresight and generosity of this vision.” — Chase Takusei Twichell
“This practice and this place have given so much to me, changing my life for the better in so many ways. I have the experience of coming to the Monastery and feeling as if I’m “taking” — taking the enormous generosity of the teachers, the monastics, the residents, the place itself. We now have a tangible opportunity through the Jizo Project to give back, and that’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us.” — Richard Shozen Hamlin
“I am thrilled to think that I can be here my entire life, in a beautiful space, with my sangha family around me, practicing together.” — Jody Hojin Kimmel, Sensei
The Beyond Fear of Differences (BFoD) Planning Group held a public forum at the Monastery on Sunday, March 3, 2019—a moment 10 years in the making. It was a chance to welcome the whole Sangha into the development of the BFoD mission and vision process, to share the details about the process that the committee had been involved in, and to let people know how they can get involved. A similar forum was held one week later at the Zen Center of NYC.
NOTE: In October 2018, 16 sangha members, including Shugen Roshi and Hojin Sensei, travelled to India and Nepal “in the footsteps of the Buddha.” Here are some of their reflections and photos. More photos from an earlier blog post here.
I walked against the stream in this river all of my life because I used to believe I did not deserve anything unless I suffered first. It was disheartening and often excruciating yet I always told myself Don’t be a wuss. Try a little harder and just a little longer. I did not acknowledge the pain and suffering for so many years because that would have meant admitting defeat.
One day, I found myself paralyzed in the stream. I could no longer move. Utterly exhausted, I had no strength or will left to step forward.
Just let go, said the voice. Trust me, the river said.
When my son was born 20 years ago, I became very afraid of flying on air planes. It was not just a case of the jitters but more like curl-up-in-a-ball-and-miss-your- flight terror. While it is certainly possible to live a happy, fulfilling life without getting on an airplane, I started to doubt that I was re ally living from a place of clarity with this fear looming in the background. There was something just so off about how it ruled my behavior and, about nine months ago, my dis comfort with its constriction was becoming unbearable.