Dear Sangha Family,
I am sincerely honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as Chief Disciple for the Spring Ango. When Shugen Sensei requested that I step into this service position, I felt both the gulp! of nervousness, anticipating the exposure and responsibility of this role, as well as a surprising readiness to step forward into the unknown, offer myself to the sangha, and learn as much as I can from this experience.
Together, we will study teachings on “skillful means” from the Vimalakirti Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. These powerful texts help remind me that compassion can take many unexpected forms. I have never experienced the dharma to be more relevant and medicinal than I do now. Within the current context of social, political, and spiritual suffering, I hear these teachings as a balm and an urgent call to compassion.
I am carrying into Ango the question of how to skillfully meet hopelessness, ignorance, arrogance, fear, and bias when I encounter it in myself and others. And is it possible to see that Vimalakirti’s buddha-field of generous, tolerant, wise, living beings is already my life?
As Spring enlivens the earth and gardens get dressed, let’s find our readiness, dig deep, and grow our capacities by leaning into this intensive training period. I commit to sharing my true voice and heart with you during this Ango. And I look forward to hearing, seeing, and meeting you in the dharma.
With gratitude for your good company, patience, and guidance,
Valerie Meiju Linet first came to the Monastery as a college student in 1994. She became an MRO student of Myotai Sensei in 1999 and continued on with Daido Roshi and Shugen Sensei as her teachers, taking jukai with Daido Roshi in 2003. She has done periods of residency at the Temple and Monastery, is currently on the DC Board, and is involved in the Beyond Fear of Differences initiative at ZMM. Meiju is a lay student who works as a trauma therapist in Woodstock and as a clinical social worker at the local hospital’s Oncology Support Program. She lives near the Monastery with her husband, Gyokudo, and their cat, Mangostein.
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”), ninety-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 Spring 2017 Ango, the sangha will be taking on the teachings of Skillful Means, one of the great wisdom teachings of Mahayana Buddhism and Zen. Skillful Means is the merging of compassion with deep wisdom which allows us to receive the teachings and practice skillfully so that we can free ourselves of binding attachments and false views. It is also how we manifest compassion towards others. 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 Spring Ango and the various activities both at the Monastery and the Temple, please check out the Monastery’s website.