For those of us who live at the Monastery, it’s been moving to watch remotely as home dwellers have taken refuge in their practice during the pandemic and continued to further explore commitment and self-study. As our lives are streamed every day (at least in the zendo), we residents also benefit from watching lay practitioners further explore their commitment to this path.
No more inspiring an example of this has been the dozen or so individuals who have passed through tangaryo this past year to become formal students of the Mountains and Rivers Order. Although all of these people had expressed their interest in doing so back in the “before times,” something crystallized during this time of cloister when our practice centers were closed to visitors, and no one knew when that might change.
The most recent cohort of new students sat together on March 13th at their homes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, San Diego, Western Massachusetts, and just a couple miles from ZMM in Phoenicia. All had met with a Guardian Council virtually or before the quarantine to help clarify their interest in becoming a formal student. Robyn Ikyo Love, acting as monitor, joined the group for their all day sit from her home in Newfoundland. Having started before dawn, they completed their sit in late afternoon and met with their new teachers around dusk. Although new students would normally share a cup of tea with their teacher and be handed their robes and oryoki bowls at this time, we sent out these items in advance, along with a certificate of having become a member of the Order. Naturally, the tea was home brewed.
Congratulations to Beverly Corbett, Joan Gutierrez, Anne Mushin Kaufhold, Ariel Abrahams, Jocelyn McGrath, and Jon Robinson on this momentous occasion!
In a group email exchange that led up to March 13th and spilled over into the week after, messages of gratitude were shared among the group. Jon commented, “Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and for sharing your dedicated practice on Saturday. I am grateful to each of you for offering your strength as well as your challenges in practice… I’m also grateful to have returned to such a dedicated Sangha, and look forward to a time of sharing physical space at the Monastery with you all.”
Congratulations need to stretch back even further during this pandemic year. Back in December we held our first fully virtual tangaryo with Owen Choshin Burdick in nearby High Falls, NY sitting alongside Dan Burke in Maryland. And last October was the very first quarantine tangaryo, a hybrid of virtual and actual with Alec Burroughs, Rebecca Kisch, Eduardo Zayas and Maren Freisen in residence, joined virtually by Ajay Chandra from London, Oliver Hartman from Brooklyn, and Alec Miekeljon from nearby Woodstock.
Doing a “virtual” tangaryo, and having it feel successful was a surprise to all of us. And as things start to open back up again this summer and beyond, with many more people vaccinated, it’s unclear whether we’ll do a virtual one beyond this summer, but for now we’re delighted that it has clearly been a powerful experience for all involved.
In further rites of passage, Julia Jiryu Krupa became a postulant monastic in a brief ceremony on March 5th. Postulancy is the first stage of monasticism, a way for someone discerning their spiritual calling to lean a little further into the home-leaving life without yet taking any formal vows. For Jiryu, as with anyone who enters postulancy, the question of monasticism is something that she’s already been exploring for several years. She became a student of Shugen Roshi’s in 2010 while living in NYC and has also done extensive residential training with the San Francisco Zen Center and their Tassajara Mountain Center before stepping into residency at Zen Mountain Monastery in early 2018. Previously, Jiryu worked as an architect and later in restaurants, having graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute in 2013.
Jiryu currently manages the Monastery Store, a position she has held for several years with dedication and grace. She has served as liturgist among other roles, and regularly lends both her drafting skills and her food preparation training for the benefit of all the sangha.
Finally (for now), a novice monastic ceremony was held on Sunday, April 18th for Jeffrey Kien Martin. Kien is currently the Monastery cook (among other responsibilities), but his involvement with the Monastery goes back two and a half decades. After starting a career in engineering, Kien completed two years of residency at the Monastery in the late nineties. He went on to teach english in Italy and also lived in New Mexico, New York City, and Germany, but he always maintained his connection with ZMM and Fire Lotus Temple, often spending a month in residency in the summertime.
In 2016, Kien returned to full time residential training and became a postulant one year later. Now, as he takes on the robes of a novice, Kien will further explore the monastic vows and train in the role of a monastic, though it’s worth noting that one does not formally commit to those vows until full ordination, leaving the discernment process open to further clarification. Those lifetime vows are: simplicity, service, selflessness, stability, and following the path of the Buddha.
Congratulations to Kien, Jiryu, and all those who are stepping into something new this season. Stepping forward requires courage and great openness. May we all follow their examples!
NOTE: To read more about what it means to become a formal training student or monastic in the Mountains and Rivers Order, click here.