In October the monks attended the annual Western Buddhist Monastic gathering, this time generously hosted by the Spirit Rock Retreat Center in Marin County. Last year’s meeting had been small, and it was encouraging to see 40 participants this year, about half of them being young in both monastic and bodily age. It seems perhaps there is renewed interest in living a life that “goes against the stream”, where people are celibate and dedicate their life to the practice and teaching. The meeting was very well organized and the topics of conversation ranged from personal and community practice to even the “Me-too” movement. It was brought up that there is sexual abuse in some monasteries in the Far East and a letter was composed and sent to various religious teachers to express our mutual concern about this and ask for serious measures to bring these situations to an end. So that Revs. Phoebe and Seikai could be away together, the temple and dogs were taken care of by a lovely family, for which we are grateful.
On October 24 Rev. Phoebe met with the Central Coast Meditation Group, thanks to rides and hospitality from Judy Walters and Sarah Foland. Most months this group meets by themselves, and a couple of times a year they invite Rev. Phoebe to join them. Help with transportation is necessary and much appreciated.
Our Segaki Ceremony this year was held on the Buddha house deck, a more intimate setting than the patio, and just enough people were there to make it a meaningful event.
On November 3rd Robert DeLoach was given the Precepts by Rev. Seikai, “who was given the Precepts before in the teaching of Shakyamuni, who is the Buddha of this world: therefore the universe rejoices.” We also commemorated the death of Rev. Master Jiyu on that day, which made the ordination even more meaningful. We wish Robert many years of fruitful practice and congratulate him.
The week of Thanksgiving Rev. Phoebe traveled to New York to host a five day retreat at the Buddhist Insights retreat center. Thanks to Margaret Buckles who provided transportation to the airport and a pleasant overnight stay at her home. The retreat was attended by 14 people and Rev. Phoebe gave a detailed introduction to our practice of Serene Reflection Meditation, including teaching people to sing scriptures, which they very much enjoyed.
On December 1st we did the first of three celebrations of the Buddha’s Enlightenment here at the temple, ending with a delicious potluck lunch. The second one was less elaborate at the Ventura Meditation Group meeting, where we simply read the nine chapters of the Life and Teaching of the Buddha as compiled by Rev. Seikai. The third occasion happened at the last evening of the Empty Moon (formerly known as Blue Cliff) Sangha’s Rohatsu retreat, held at the temple from December 6—9. Every time the story is moving, and being very familiar with it only deepens the experience.
The Buddha House water heater died in the fall and had to be replaced. As the Dharma House heater was nearing the end of its life, we decided to install two new on-demand water heaters, which are more efficient than the tanks. Fortunately we now have a plumber, who works from Taft, CA, and is willing to come out and do the work for us.
Also one of our roofs lost a few shingles, and here, too, fortunately we have our faithful roofer, Ryan Self, who is always ready to come out, make repairs and make sure the roofs are ready for the winter. And so he did.
So far this winter season we have had a small amount of rain and the immediate fire danger seems to have abated. Meanwhile, our insurance company stipulated that, for the sake of fire safety, it would be good to cut back the trees by the car port and in front of the Buddha House. With help of two retreat work groups we did the necessary cutting back and wood processing. Fire safety work is on-going at the temple, as fire season is now essentially all year.
The End of Year retreat held the last week of December is a good time for people to reflect on their blessings and intentions, either individually or as a family. During the month of January the temple will be closed for visitors, to give the monks a much needed rest. We encourage you to focus on your home practice, by doing some little thing every day to express your desire to make the best use of this precious life. We wish everyone a very blessed and peaceful year and look forward to seeing you again before too long.