News April 2020

Our conditional use permit process has moved forward to the point of Ventura County acknowledging that our application is complete. We have one hurdle still to clear, which is the holding of a public hearing to go over any remaining issues, if there are any, and give the permit its final seal of approval. We don’t know yet when this will take place, but the county has indicated it will probably be in May. Our thanks to Jack Collings for dealing with the vast majority of the paperwork and back-and-forth throughout this process.

KODAK Digital Still CameraIn late December we had a few visitors for the end of year retreat, and our lay resident, Adrian Cuevas, asked to stay on in the temple during the month of January, when we are normally closed. He helped Rev. Seikai build a shelving unit for the utility room of the Dharma House, which was finished in late January, and did a maintenance job on all of the hill trails, which is close to a mile of trail. Then in February, Adrian decided to return to his family in Texas and we bid him farewell.

After a wet early winter, January and February were the driest on record in California history. It simply didn’t rain more than a few drops during the time of year when the state typically gets most of its rainfall. This seemed an ominous sign with respect to the upcoming wildfire season. But, as sometimes happens, the month of March has brought with it some substantial rains—and some snow at our altitude. Our three snowfalls are more than we’ve had in quite a few years. And the stars of our ever-changing resident bird population this winter have been the meadowlarks. We’ve had a large flock of them cruising over the fields, and their joyful singing has been up-cheering.

Mar 8We had a nice gathering of people at the temple on March 8 for the usual Sunday events and then a potluck to celebrate Rev. Phoebe’s birthday. The food was great, we wish Rev. Phoebe many more years of good health, and bow in gratitude for her continued sharing of the Dharma with all who come to the temple.ivyOur upcoming Spring Retreat has been canceled and Jennifer, who misses coming to the temple for that, had made a drawing of our kitten Ivy, “spending time at the temple” while doing that.  Anyone who has temple related artwork, please feel free to send it in and we will put it out here, with joy and gratitude.

 

News January 2020

The autumn has been relatively busy, with a steady stream of guests for retreats and weekends, in addition to our two lay residents: Adrian, who arrived in September, and AnneMarie, who arrived in early December.  There was a good group of people on the last weekend of October for the retreat including the Segaki Ceremony—Feeding the Hungry Ghosts.  The musical kwatz, performed by three people playing a bell, small drum, and cymbals in a complicated sequence, calling the ghosts to come and to ward off the insincere, was particularly good.  (Doing this and other ceremonial is a very effective—and challenging—way to learn meditation in action.  It requires paying attention not only to what you are doing yourself, but also to stay in sync with others and be flexible to accommodate subtle changes in speed and volume. You have to let go of all self-consciousness, fear of failure and worry what others will think.  When ceremonial is done correctly, all those inner and outer entanglements are addressed over time and transformed into “just practice”. )

Bijou the dog had a fairly major surgical procedure done to remove about a dozen teeth, his upper and lower incisors. These teeth were worn down to basically nothing but exposed roots, in all likelihood the result of being put in a metal cage as a pup and then gnawing on it. The vet said that the teeth were slowly going to rot and were probably painful, so they were all pulled. They also removed a small growth on Bijou’s back. It was a tough week for our little pal, but he got through it and returned to his usual happy self—if possible even sweeter and a bit more relaxed.

In October three women of the Central Coast Meditation group helped with driving and hosting Rev. Phoebe for a group meeting in Morro Bay.  About a dozen people were there and meditation was followed by a Dharma talk with discussion.  The group meets once every month and Rev. Phoebe has been visiting twice a year.  The next time will probably be in the spring.

So far this fall the weather has been kind and we have been able to visit with the Ventura Group every month.  In January there will be no group visit, but we will pick it up again in February ”if the creek don’t rise.”

Our annual autumn retreat was completely full this year, including some very old friends who have been practicing for many years.  We looked at a small book by Pema Chodron entitled Awakening Loving Kindness. On the first evening, Rev. Phoebe invited people to share an experience of tenderness that they either had witnessed, or felt in their hearts, or been the recipient of. Tenderness is one of the four aspirations of the Bodhisattva according to Dogen, the one which usually gets the least attention.  Interestingly, the atmosphere in the room began to subtly change, and became very tender just by us all contemplating how and when we experience this feeling.  This tenderness remained very present during the retreat, and it changed the way people interacted. Our discussions of the four aspirations: charity, benevolence, tenderness and sympathy, were particularly poignant.  At the end people were asked to express their impression of the retreat in a single word: heartfelt, beauty, family, grateful, homecoming, caring, nurturing, heartened, unexpected, mellow, joy, honesty and inspirational all came up.  This retreat has been going on for 16 years, and we plan to continue doing it.  The Spring Retreat in April is its counterpart; please check the calendar if you are interested.

Rev. Phoebe had eye surgery in November to remove a cataract and implant a lens. This was her second eye for this procedure, the first one having been in 2006, which restored a better level of vision in that eye.  As of three weeks after the surgery, the eye is healing and Rev. Phoebe is experiencing better vision, despite the fact that this eye is the weaker of the two.

In early December we held a well-attended festival of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. It was a joyful occasion. On Saturday was the lay ordination of Adrian in the morning, and the reading of the Life Story of the Buddha in the evening. On Sunday, after two periods of meditation, Rev. Phoebe gave a moving Dharma Talk, followed by the festival ceremony and then a potluck lunch. It was a rainy weekend but many people were able to make the trip to the temple in between showers—and the roads remained open.  At the beginning of the Festival ceremony the sun broke through the clouds and suddenly flooded the hall with bright light—very inspiring! Several more people came for the day in addition to those already here for the retreat.

Now that the temple has been here for 20 years some things are starting to show their age. We had the ceilings in the Buddha and Dharma House painted and the many of the walls as well; we needed to replace the shower stall in the Sangha house; and we are replacing one washing machine which has worn out.  We are grateful to have the support to do these things and keep the temple in a good state of repair and comfort for everyone.

We’ve had early rains this year—and snow in a substantial amount of about seven inches, for the first time in several years. The early onset of winter has meant the early abatement of fire season, which always comes as a relief.

News October 2019

The first 20 years of Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple are nearing completion! 20 years ago Revs. Jisho and Phoebe were looking for a new location for the Santa Barbara Priory, and were told about this piece of property, which had been on the market for four years. In January of 2000, the move started, and went in stages as the three houses here were vacated by the previous residents, the Roberts family. Looking at photos of the temple grounds then, and comparing them with the way things look now, the appearance of things is vastly different. The old photos suggest a fairly windswept desert, while today this property is clearly an oasis with a well-cared-for look.  The three residential buildings have all been upgraded with internal improvements and external stucco. We’ve planted hundreds of trees, and the already existing trees have become mature, shade-giving canopies. And the land itself has slowly rebounded from having been grazed by farm animals.

We don’t know if we’ll be here another 20 years—but the process of maintaining and upgrading never ceases. This year our big-as-life Jizo statue (front cover) arrived seemingly out of nowhere; we replaced one refrigerator and added a window air conditioner to the Sangha House; and now it’s time to repaint the interiors of the Buddha House and the Dharma House. In September, as this newsletter is being printed, a father-son team of painters will arrive to start work on that project. They will focus on our old “popcorn” ceilings, and repaint most but not all of the rooms. Although Rev. Phoebe loves painting and previously had painted the whole temple, the time has come to contract out the work. The monks are grateful that we have the financial support to make it possible to do this. And we extend our grateful thanks to everyone who has been a part of this temple for the past 20 years and made it possible for us to continue to be here and provide a refuge for meditation practice.

Summer was slow in arriving weather-wise; June was relatively cool. We held a meditation retreat focusing on world peace (see article, p. 12). The prolonged spring made for a lengthy wildflower season: the goldfields were very striking this year. In July things warmed up to almost “normal”, but we had fewer really hot days this summer than usual, as the temperature reached 100 only a handful of days. In August the two monks went on a fairly long road trip, camping and hiking in several locations, including Mammoth Lakes, California; driving up through Nevada into Oregon, stopping at Crater Lake and then getting deluged by a summer storm at Diamond Lake, Oregon. That meant leaving early and driving to Eugene, where Rev. Seikai’s family lives, earlier than planned. But it worked out. On their way home the monks stopped at Shasta Abbey for one overnight, and were warmly received by the monks there.

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We learned of the death of a long-time friend and supporter of the temple, Richard Markley, who lived in Fresno. He is survived by his wife, Yasuko. Richard and Yasuko met and married while Richard was living in Japan in the early 1970’s. In the 1980’s they moved to Berkeley and first met Rev. Seikai when he was the prior of the Berkeley Buddhist Priory in Albany, CA. A memorial for Richard was held at Shasta Abbey on August 31, and his ashes were interred there. We held a memorial ceremony here at the temple on September 15.

KODAK Digital Still Camera  Our two cats have adjusted to life at the temple, roaming around their new domain—the workshop, the Sangha House patio and yard, and the Dharma House garden. They have both been neutered. So far they have not shown much proficiency at rodent-getting, but time will tell.

The Empty Moon retreat at the end of September was canceled for lack of participation, so we rescheduled the weekend with our own Compassion Retreat. Rev. Phoebe will be in Morro Bay on October 23 to meet with the Central Coast Meditation Group. There are also still spaces for the Autumn Retreat, November 7—10.  The Ventura Meditation Group has been rescheduled to Thursday, November 14.

 

News July 2019

As in much of California, we had a wet winter and spring, with close to 20 inches of rainfall. The wet season lasted into June, with several thunderstorms, one of which caused a small flash flood, which fortunately was nowhere near the scale of the deluge in July, 2015. The previous flood control engineering we have done works, and Rev. Seikai added to that this spring after studying the water flow past the temple.  At times during the wet season, the local roads have been closed or restricted to residents of the area. The net result of this has been fewer visitors to the temple, but the extra rain has meant for a luxurious growth of wildflowers and weeds! The wildflowers have been beautiful and the weeds have required repeated mowing to be kept in check; like bad habits, they keep coming back!

Our Spring Retreat in April was well attended by old friends and new,

Rev. Phoebe was driven to Morro Bay and back by Sarah Foland and Ruth Handy respectively to host the Morro Bay Meditation Group Evening on April 24th.  A dozen people attended the meditation, Dharma talk and discussion.  Rev. Phoebe has been visiting the group twice a year for the past couple years and hopes to go again in October. We’re grateful to the group members for the driving which makes it possible for her to go.

Wesak, the Buddha’s birthday celebration on May 5, was attended by a substantial group of people this year. As usual, we sang the Wesak songs, rang the temple bell 108 times, and processed out to the Stupa to offer flowers around its base. It did not rain, but the spring wind kicked up at that point, and everyone retreated to the Sangha House for a lavish potluck of wonderful food.  Two weeks later on the 19th, Revs. Phoebe and Seikai attended the “Buddha Day” festival at the Thai Buddhist temple in Goleta, next door to Santa Barbara.

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There were about 15 monks present, seven or so monks of both the Thai and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, several of whom live in or near Santa Barbara. There was a good-sized group of people who attended a dialogue/forum at the end of the gathering. Members of the audience posed questions to the monks, who took turns answering. Several people thanked our two monks for their contributions to the Q&A, saying it was helpful to have Buddhist teaching expressed clearly in English. The Thai temple is hoping to hold follow-up events like this one in the future.

We’ve had a number of visitors this spring, including Rev. Master Haryo, head of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, and Emmy van Woerden, Rev. Phoebe’s sister. Emmy has come twice before, and her visit occasioned a trip to Ganna Walska’s Lotusland in Montecito. Lotusland was the estate of the former opera singer, who converted the property into magnificent gardens. We were too early for the lotuses, but many of the exotic plants found there were in bloom—and the weather cooperated.

On June 2 our annual board meeting was held, with several members present. We discussed past and future changes to the temple, noting that there was a period of time about a decade ago when we made numerous changes to the temple facilities, expanding the boundary of the conditional use permit area, building the stupa and the meditation huts, etc. Since then, as the monks have aged, we are less inclined to tackle such large-scale projects. However, our original conditional use permit (CUP) was for 20 years, and is expiring next year! So the question was posed whether or not to renew the CUP—which everyone agreed would be good to do. To renew it for another 20 years—or however much longer we remain on this site—will involve submitting a pile of paperwork to Ventura County, showing that we are in compliance with the terms of the Meditation Retreat Ordinance, under which the CUP is issued. We met with the Ventura County Planning Dept. to get an outline of what needed to be done, and our member Jack Collings came to that meeting, offering to help out with the nitty gritty of submitting all the necessary paperwork, an area of expertise that he works in as a fire safety engineer. Our grateful thanks to Jack for his help and to everyone who in any way has played a role in making it possible to the temple to exist here for 20 years and to prosper.

Statue Donation

Completely unexpectedly at the end of December we were donated a large granite statue of Jizo, Kshtigarbha, the Bodhisattva of Optimism and Courage, who has been the special protector of our temple from the very beginning.  Mr John Chen of Los Angeles made the donation to promote world peace.  (More statues have been given to other temples).  Now we are waiting for our stone mason to pour a footing before we can have an installation ceremony.  It will require a crane to put him in place, and we will let people know when all this is going to happen, hopefully before too long.

News January 2019

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.

October 27: Please Vote

 Buddhists Help get out the Vote
“As long as followers of the Way gather together and meet in harmony can they be expected to prosper and not decline.
“As long as followers of the Way care for the vulnerable among them can they be expected to prosper and not decline.
“As long as followers of the Way tend the sacred places in their environment can they be expected to prosper and not decline.”
(MahaParinirvana Sutra)

 Dear Friends in the Dharma,
 This is a critical time in American society. As Buddhist teachers and leaders, we recognize the importance of all who are eligible to participate in decisions that affect the well being of the whole. A mutual caring community is one of the central teachings of the Buddha.
 Many have wondered what you can do at this divisive time. Across the country, tens of millions of eligible voters do not cast their vote — often because they don’t believe their voice matters!
 We are joining together with Faith In Action, a NON PARTISAN group of churches, mosques, synagogues and faith communities to help make sure all who are eligible are supported to vote.

 We joyfully encourage all in our communities who can help in these weeks ahead to connect with