Orchardist and Sculptor, Shinji shared on her blog, Apples, Art, and Spirit, about creating a Jizo Bodhisattva for the Monastery garden.
Ancient people made stone piles to mark a site as sacred, while today we use stone cairns to indicate the direction on a wilderness trail. For over a year I had a small pile of stones on one of my work tables. It just sat there and didn’t draw attention from visitors to the studio. It didn’t point me in any direction.
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 email@example.com
“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 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.