Friday, June 11, 2010

Kokyo Henkel on Nagarjuna, Mahdyamika and Yogacara

Kokyo Henkel, currently teaching at Santa Cruz Zen Center recently gave the Sunday lecture here at Green Gulch. Kokyo, formerly known as Luminous Owl, spoke of Nargarjuna, a pivotal Mahayana Buddhist philospher living in the second century C.E., whose influence on Zen has been immense. I was able to catch up with Kokyo after the lecture and ask a couple of questions about his lecture topic. He manages to weave in many of the themes from his talk.

If you are interested in finding out more about Nagarjuna, ask Abbot Steve Stuckey about "The Mulamadhyamakakaraika Blues". It's a mouthful, but go ahead it's pronounced just like it looks.

You can also check out Nargrjuna's book, "The Fundamental Widsom of the Middle Way". I recommend the Jay Garfield translation.

This is my first attempt at an interview and also making a video. It was alot of fun and I hope you like it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Celebration of Buddha's Birthday

On May 16th Green Dragon Temple celebrated Buddha's Birthday. The morning lecture was given by Tenshin Reb Anderson. He spoke about the birth of Buddha and the three bodies of Buddha. The lecture was followed by a ceremony on the lawn and Taiko drumming led by Rev. Tom Kurai of Los Angeles.

Photos of the event can be seen here.

The three bodies of Buddha are the truth or reality body, the bliss body and the transformation body.

1. Truth or Reality Body (Dharmakaya)
  • The truth body is that which pervades and underlies all experience and all appearances;
  • it is the essential body.
  • Has no beginning or end.
2. Bliss body (Sambogakaya)
  • The bliss body is the joyful experience of Buddha's Enlightenment
  • it is the Wisdom body
  • Has a beginning but no end.

3. Transformation body (Nirmanakaya)
  • The transformation body is the corporeal manifestation of Buddha in a human body
  • It is the Action body
  • Has a beginning (birth) and end (death)

You can listen to the Reb's entire talk on the SFZC website.

If you have ever wondered why the Buddha touched the earth when he attained enlightenment, it had to do with these three bodies of Buddha. Check out an interesting article by Reggie Ray, which covers this and the three bodies in more depth.

Guest Speaker Mushim Ikeda-Nash

On Wednesday, May 12th Green Gulch had a special Guest Speaker, Mushim Ikeda-Nash. Mushim is a former resident of Green Gulch and our tanto has many fond memories of spending time with Mushim's son doing child-care. But not only is Mushim a former resident she is also an award-winning author, poet, activist and teacher. I am familiar with her through her many years of service with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
Mushim's delightful and engaging talk was full of stories from her long and interesting experience as a Buddhist practitioner: from driving cross country visiting many different sanghas, to working in Oakland with public schools, to playing video games with her son. All these different activities require flexibility and an letting go of the idea that there is a 'right' way to practice.

You can catch Mushim at East Bay Meditation Center where she is a core teacher. Her talk will appear shortly for download on the sfzc website.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Voice of the Bell

Green Gulch's Tea Sensei, Meiya Wender recently forwarded me this link about the Temple Bells in Japan.(BBC: Temple Bells). It describes the process of casting a bronze bell and also describes the meaning of the bells to people. I was fascinated to hear about the ceremonial aspect of the casting of the bell: while they cast the bell and pour the molten metal into the form, the temple priest is chanting sutras. Sometimes this process takes hours!

The bell in our practice has many symbolic associations, the voice of the bell represents the voice of the Buddha. We play it that it may be of some spiritual benefit to people in their daily lives. One Japanese priest said "Strike (the bell) with the intention to Awaken those who hear it, leading those who hear it to Enlightenment."

There is a gatha (short verse) to recite when ringing the bell, in the Soto School Sutra book
May all suffering beings in great difficulty,
Be released from their trouble and sorrow,
May all living beings in the Universe,
Hear the sound and realize the Way.

A few years back, when our small bell tower collapsed we did not play the Bonsho bell until we decided to suspend it from a large tree. Neighbors told us how much they missed it's comforting sound in the mornings and evenings.
I hope you enjoy listening to the audio program.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April 18th Jukai Ceremony

On Sunday, April 18th at 3pm a Bodhissatva Initiation Ceremony, often referred to as a Jukai ceremony was held at Green Dragon Temple. The seven ordainees received serene names, rakusus and linage papers from their teacher Tenshin Reb Anderson. The ordainees were: Angela Nielson, Jane McLaughlin, Gianni Grassi, Carolyn Burke, Scott Bongiorno, Yaron Galant, and Marie Murray.
The Jukai ceremony is also called Zeikei Tokudo, which means "Staying at Home, and Entering the Way". This is a lay ordination. A priest ordination is Shukke Tokudo, Leaving Home and Entering the Way. Suzuki Roshi talked about the significance of lay ordination, and Reb's lay ordination. You can read the transcript of this talk at SFZC Transcripts site: Suzuki Roshi Transcripts Saturday, August 01, 1970. The oft asked question, 'What is the difference between lay and priest ordinations?' is also addressed in a great article by Norman Fischer On Commitment in Practice

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Abbacy Structure Trial annouced

The SFZC Board met with Green Gulch Residents yesterday evening and announced a much anticipated14 month trial of a new Abbacy structure: Abbott Myogen Steve Stucky will assume a position of Central Abbot and work in the City, not far from City Center; Tenshin Reb Anderson will assume the position of Abiding Senior Dharma Teacher (acting as Abiding Abbot of Green Gulch) and Ryushin Paul Haller will act in the same capacity at City center.

The board then fielded questions from the residents about the announcement and also about the capital campaign. The residents had received a presentation from the development office the afternoon before and various ideas and questions were discussed.

Spring 2010 Practice Period Photos

I decided to get this blog somewhat up-to-date by posting some pcitures from the most recently completed practice period led by Tenshin Reb Anderson. Hoshin Catherine Gammon was Shuso for the practice period. Catherine recently returned to the East Coast for a break and to visit here recently arrived grandchild. The practice period had 21 participants from several countries. This practice period Green Gulch experimented with adding an extra sesshin.

A 5 day sesshin was held at the beginning of March as well as the usual 7 day sesshin at the beginning of April to complete the practice period.

The March sesshin was followed by an ordination of five new Priests. It was quite an exciting and busy time for me as the new Ino. And now after only three months on the job I feel like a seasoned pro at preparing for priest ordinations, lay ordinations and okesa receiving ceremonies. During this practice period we also had an okesa receiving ceremony where Meiya, our sewing teacher presented Tenshin Reb Anderson with and okesa and rakusu sewn primarily by Steph Wenderski. The rakusu calligraphy was done by Reb's grandchildren.

The Shuso ceremony was exciting and the rehearsal brought forth alot of emotion as we prepared for the big event only an hour after completing the 7 day sesshin. This ceremony was followed by an almost extemporaneous raksusu receiving ceremony on the last day. Reb presented Catherine with a rakusu that the practice period sewed for her as Shuso.

These are some of the highlights of the practice period.