We start every new year by holding a ceremony to honor the Buddha of the future, Maitreya. This past January 1 there was a good group of people who came for it, and we followed the ceremony with a lively Dharma Talk about who and what Maitreya represents. We hope to hold one ceremony each month which will mark one of the traditional events in the Buddhist yearly calendar, or focus on one of the Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, and then discuss the meaning in that day’s Dharma Talk. We celebrated our first year in Santa Paula on February 19 with an Avalokitesvara ceremony (the Bodhisattva representing compassion). Our meditation hall was full that day and the weather reasonable. In March we did the Shurangama Ceremony on the 26th.
The month of January brought a deluge of rain which has continued, off and on, since then, adding up to one of the wettest winters on record in Southern California. Now they are even talking about all this rain as putting an end to California’s chronic state of drought. Our temple is located in a place which is situated well above the flood plain of the Santa Clara River, and although it is on a hillside, these hills don’t appear to be particularly vulnerable to landslides. Thus far we have not had any damage from too much rain. Spring has been slow in arriving, but now that we are at the Spring Equinox, there are flowers everywhere in profusion. Our gardens, which a year ago were mostly a weedy mess, are now becoming established and putting out their bounty of fruits, vegetables and flowers. We have picked bushels of fruit off our orange tree. It is a great place to be.
Since the first of the year we have also had many more guests in the temple for Sunday meetings, which have gained momentum. A year after moving from the Ventura County back country, it is encouraging to have new people turn up from Santa Paula and other nearby towns, expanding our Sangha from its old core group and adding several new faces. Rev. Seikai has been giving a series of talks on “Foundational Teachings of Buddhism,” and put together a study guide by that title. The study guide started out as a collection of papers left over from years of visiting meditation groups, handouts which we gave to whoever attended. Now they comprise a booklet which we are also giving to whoever would find it useful.