Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Ineffable Sound of Raindrops Sesshin

 As we journey more deeply into the pandemic, our virtual sesshin grow ever more deep and illuminating.  Thanks to our tanto and registrar Jenny Smith, assistant tanto Rev. Paul Galvin, and the officer team of Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima, Michael Herzog and Pierce Butler, and the team of teachers:  Bob Waldinger, Sensei, David Rynick, Roshi and myself, we opened our hearts to the sound of the raindrops.  Deep gratitude to everyone who participated!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Wondrous Light and Dark Sesshin

The Boundless Way Temple Summer Distant Temple Bell Sesshin, four days of intensive practice on Zoom integrated with daily life at home, ended this past Monday.  We focused on the teachings of our Zen ancestor Shitou, and his work "Harmony of Relative and Absolute." Our tanto (head of practice) Michael Herzog gave our time together the name "The Wondrous Light and Dark Sesshin."  Here is the photo of our participants.  Our next sesshin will also be on Zoom, until the pandemic allows us to meet in person at Boundless Way Temple once again: Oct. 1 - 4.  For information about our retreats and any of our programs, visit our website:   Boundless Way Temple.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Shimmering Silence Sesshin

Happy Faces from the Shimmering Silence Sesshin on Zoom

Our Beginner's Mind Distant Temple Bell Sesshin ended yesterday at 12:30 pm, and the faces in the screen shot tell the tale best.  The sesshin is our shortest, one full day plus two evenings and a morning, but it went deep.  As we investigated the Buddha's silence when asked a question by a visitor, we enjoyed our own capacity for silence and stillness.  David Dae An Rynick, Roshi and I were the lead teachers, assisted by Senior Assistant Teachers Michael Herzog and Alan Richardson.  Our sesshin registrar Jenny Smith made her debut as tanto (head seat), assisted by Senior Assistant Teacher Rev. Paul Galvin, and a crack team of officers:  Adam Monty, Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima, and Assistant Teacher Pierce Butler.   People came from all over, across the US, Cypress, Denmark, Austria and Wales.  I am filled with gratitude at the opportunity the pandemic has given us all to connect and support each other's practice.  Many bows, much joy!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Ordination of Rev. Corwyn Ryūdõ Kinzan Miyagishima


Yesterday at 3 pm, through the magic of zoom, close to 90 people witnessed the ordination of Rev. Corwyn Ryūdõ Kinzan Miyagishima, my beloved student and a dharma light to the sangha of Boundless Way Temple, Boundless Way Zen and many other dharma friends.  Pictured here are Rev. Paul Galvin, who traveled to the Temple hermitage in Worcester from his home in Vermont,  Rev. Corwyn, me, and David Rynick, Rõshi.  Also supporting the ordination on the zoom screen were Bob Waldinger, Rõshi and Mike Fieleke, Rõshi, and technical support came from sangha members Jenny Smith and Chad Cook.  If you'd like to watch the ceremony, you can find it here on Youtube.  

Now that he is ordained, Corwyn can perform marriages and lead funerals and memorial services, like any clergy person.  As an "unsui" or "clouds and waters" priest, he has taken a vow to devote his life to being of service to the sangha, and to all beings.  He is not yet a Zen teacher, but functions in countless ways to support our community.  You can read more about what it means to be a Boundless Way priest, and the distinction between teacher and priest here.

Corwyn's ordination name, Ryūdõ, means "dragon hall", and is the family name I give to all those I have the privilege to ordain.  Kinzan, his first Zen name, means "joyful mountain."

As we say in our ordination ceremony:  "The way is perfect like vast space, where there’s no lack and no excess; the person who does not realize this wanders lost in a world of confusion and hurt, while the person who realizes the way is immediately at home."

Welcome home, Ryūdõ Kinzan! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Full of Gold Sesshin


Our April Distant Temple Bell online sesshin (Zen retreat) finished up yesterday and here is the screen shot of most of our participants taken by our tanto (head seat) Corwyn Miyagishima.  He was joined in running the sesshin by Senior Assistant Teacher Alan Richardson as assistant tanto, along with Jenny Smith and Adam Monty as officers.  David Dae An Rynick Roshi and I were the teachers, assisted by Senior Assistant Teacher Rev. Paul Galvin and Senior Assistant Teacher Michael Herzog.  Corwyn named the retreat after a story told in one of the talks about a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who, while scattering away a big pile of gold dust, said "All the world is gold to me!"  From the evidence of the bright faces in the photo, each shining with their own light, that's easy to see.  

Our next sesshin will be held online June 11 -- 13.  Stay tuned for information about this and other events by joining our mailing list at Boundless Way Temple.  Happy Spring everyone!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Oh Western Wind!

Westron wynde, when wyll thow blow

The smalle rayne downe can rayne?

Cryst yf my love were in my armys,

And I yn my bed agayne!

--Anonymous (16th centruy)

Last night the wind howled everywhere around the Temple, moving trees and downing branches.  The wind chill temperature reached down to -20 F (-30 C).  When the power went out briefly around midnight and then returned, the energy surge rang the doorbell and made all the appliances that beep make their small insistent sounds.  

My thoughts, as I tried to get back to sleep, drifted back to seeing my first Zen teacher, during a similar late winter windstorm at a sesshin, out on the porch that surrounded the zendo.  He was standing still, looking out over the forest that surrounded the little temple that we had rented for the retreat.  I went out to stand next to him, and we stayed that way for a while.  As he left, he whispered the poem that begins this writing, but in modern English:  "Oh Western Wind, when will you blow, the small rain down can rain?  Christ if my live were in my arms and I in my bed again."  

It's a poem of longing, for the western wind to blow winter away, to bring the spring rains, to return to the intimacy of the comfort of a companion and a warm bed.  I don't really know what my teacher, now long dead, was thinking, but I remember that moment vividly in my own heart, as an expression of the power of a strong wind to blow away whatever must go -- not just in the natural world, where we can feel the power of a winter wind, but also in our minds and hearts, burdened by distress and sorrow.  

Ultimately, everything must go, even this season of uncertainty that envelopes the planet.  What will come next?  For now, we trust that it will be spring soon, but beyond that, who knows?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Mirror

 A friend shared a teaching with me this morning from Shams Al-Tabriz, the teacher of the 13th century Persian poet Rumi.  Shams said that people keep asking him for a mirror, to learn who they truly are.  But when he offers it and they look into it, they don't like what they see and they blame him for what appears in the mirror.  

When we practice meditation in the Zen tradition, we are instructed to look at ourselves as directly as possible.  Shams, like anyone who teaches and practices in this manner, knows how hard that can be.  My own experience tells me that when I look into my mirror, into my biography, the set of stories that I tell myself to explain who I am to myself, I can find all kinds of terrible things:  some of them done to me, some done by me. I can use these elements to judge myself and others  harshly.  On the other side, I tend to ignore all the evidence from my memories of my past when I behaved or was treated in a loving and helpful way.  

But whether we call the remembered events that constitute our personal biography horrible or wonderful, the incessant judgment of the self is a habit that leads nowhere.  Instead, the instruction, again and again, is to see through the self as some kind of permanent object, something to be judged or loved, and to see how the elements of the self are actually constructions.  True freedom, alignment with reality, comes from seeing through the self-construction, not abandoning it, but not treating it like something inscribed in stone either.   

Instead of spending our lives explaining ourselves to ourselves, perhaps we could do as Shams himself advises, "When everyone is trying to be something, be nothing."