Photo by David McNamera, MRO

This is the Way I Express My Gratitude

· Dharma Discourses, Zen Training · , , , ,

by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi

In the Mountains and Rivers Order we have two paths by which a student can practice and realize Buddhadharma—a lay training path and a monastic path. These make up the fourfold sangha as established by the Buddha: female and male monastics, and female and male lay students. The lay and monastic students together create an interdependent and co-dependent body that is sangha. Each path has its own integrity and is mutually dependent upon the other, and the differences between the two paths helps to give each its vitality.

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A True Life

· Editorial · , , , ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

What is a true, reliably grounded, fulfilling life? The question of what is true can haunt us, fueling our underlying dis-ease and motivating us to explore and even make major life changes. But rare are the opportunities to unravel the skein as thoroughly as through spiritual inquiry. The taking up of a simple life of generous service sounds appealing, an antidote to all kinds of suffering, not to mention a place of refuge and nurturance. But how do each of us find and genuinely live that true and fulfilling life?

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Photo by Chizen Brown, MRO

You Can Change the Story, My Spirit Said to Me as I Sat Near the Sea

· Creative Expression · , , , ,

by Joy Harjo

I am in a village up north, in the lands named “Alaska” now. These places had their own names long before English, Russian, or any other politically imposed trade language.
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Photo by Steve Jurvetson

Giving Rise to Discernment

· Teachings · , , ,

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu

We meditate, developing mindfulness, developing concentration, and after a while we begin to wonder, “When is the discernment going to come? When are the insights going to come?” And it’s important to look at what the Buddha has to say about what gives rise to discernment. Mindfulness and concentration are prerequisites, but there’s also more. And in searching for that “more,” it’s especially instructive to look at two sets of qualities that the Buddha said lead to Awakening—the Five Strengths and the Seven Factors for Awakening—to learn their lessons on what gives rise to discernment, what’s needed for these insights to arise. Otherwise you can meditate for twenty, thirty, forty years—as Ajaan Lee says, you could die and your body could dry out on the spot—and still not gain any discernment, because you’re lacking some of the proper qualities.

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Photo by Chizen Brown, MRO

Sangha Reflections

· Reflections · , , , , ,


Learning how to listen to, recognize and act upon my longing has pulled the strings of my discernment. This is how I have made decisions in my life about my life and my Zen practice. But I don’t always know this. And I have had to be patient. It almost feels like I am being discerned.

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Photo by Will Carpenter

Fall 2017 Ango

· Sangha News · , , , , ,

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 (“peaceful 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 Fall 2017 Ango, the sangha will be taking on the teachings of Prajna Paramita, the Perfection of Wisdom, one of the foundational teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. We will engage this with selected texts together during the ango’s Buddhist study sessions, art practice and retreats.

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 our website.

Shuso’s Letter

Photo by Constanza Ontaneda

Photo by Constanza Ontaneda

Dear Sangha,

As the year ripens and summer wanes, we come together once again for the fall training period. Shugen Sensei has asked me to be the chief disciple this ango. I’m delighted and deeply grateful for the chance to serve in this fashion. My aspiration for the next few months is to trust unreservedly in the love of the sangha, and not to withhold my love for this life, with its highs and lows, its thorns, its precipices, its peaks, and its abysses. Although I don’t always know how to do that, still, this is my vow. Please guide me in my practice.

Throughout the ango, we’ll be studying Prajna Paramita, the Perfection of Wisdom, traditionally personified as the Mother of All Buddhas. We’ll focus in particular on the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines. As we take up this ancient teaching, let’s embody Prajna through the practices of generosity, discipline, patience, enthusiastic effort, and meditation. In this manner, together with all beings, we give birth to the wisdom that neither arises nor ceases.

When Daido Roshi used to visit Fire Lotus Temple, he would often say, It’s because the fire burns that the lotus can bloom. May the fire burn hot—and the lotus bloom—for each of us this fall.

Nine bows,

Patrick Yunen Kelly, MRO took up formal Zen training in 1994 and began practicing with the MRO in 2000, after moving to New York City from California. He became an MRO student in 2001 and received Jukai from Daido Roshi in 2004. He also completed several years of residential training at Zen Mountain Monastery as well as at the Zen Center of New York City. Yunen now lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Constanza Ontaneda, MRO and their two cats, Liza and Tropy. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology and likes to spend his free time refining his art practice. You can see his work at

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Buddhist Economics

· Reviews · , , ,

Media Review
An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science

by Clair Brown Ph.D.
Bloomsbury Press
Review by Lillian Childress

buddhist economicsWhat would a world look like where the rules of economics were governed by Buddhist principles?
Clair Brown has set out to imagine such a world, drawing on her experience as an economics professor at University of California Berkeley and a longtime Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. Her book offers us the promise of laying out a road map to “an enlightened approach to the dismal science”

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A Plea for the Animals

· Reviews · , , ,

Media Review
A Plea for the Animals

The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative
to Treat All Beings with Compassion

by Mathieu Ricard
Shambhala Publications

A Plea for the AnimalsAhimsa, the Sanskrit word for non-harming, is an elemental attribute of the Buddha’s teaching. The concept of “harm,” in and of itself, is not mysterious. It manifests when we needlessly inflict damage, pain, or suffering on any patchwork in the fabric of reality. Later Buddhism codified the notion of saving all sentient beings as an outgrowth of this non-harming. All beings with sentience or consciousness—or to put it in more biological terms, with a spinal column—are able to demonstrate their desire to live their own destinies, their own lives. And this is where Matthieu Ricard, former scientist now an ordained Tibetan monastic, begins his exploration of our relationship with the animal world: if we, not as Buddhists but as a species (a species of animal, in fact), place value on the moral sanctity of life, how do we continue to justify the imprisonment, torture, and murder of billions of fellow sentient beings each and every day?

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