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News April 2022

 Moving to Santa Paula

We made the move! Everything we wanted to keep was loaded up into cars and moving vans and hauled from the Ozena Valley to Santa Paula on January 29th. Two trucks and five guys from Meathead Movers did the heavy lifting. Several people donated their time and energy to haul some of the more fragile things over the mountains. The house had been tented for termites earlier in the week, and moving day, Saturday, was chaotic but successful. Many of our neighbors stopped by to welcome us; they were happy to see the unoccupied house get new residents and that by all appearances we had the drive and energy to fix the place up. One of the great things about moving to this neighborhood has been how friendly people are, and in the town of Santa Paula generally. Both monks soon fell ill, Rev. Phoebe with pneumonia and Rev. Seikai with stomach flu. Rev. Phoebe spent a day in the hospital, which fortunately is nearby, but then had to fight off the stomach flu as well.

fixing the house

It was a trying first couple of weeks. Meanwhile, we hired Tim Grant of Superior Masonry to come and replace the rotting stairway on the west side of the house. Tim and his two men hired another crew to pour the concrete once they had the forms ready, and those guys did a truly excellent job.

As Rev. Seikai wrote in the last newsletter, our new temple building has flaws, lots of them. One by one we have been addressing them and if possible, fixing what needs fixing. One of the more dramatic flaws was a hole in the side of the house which had rotted out where there was wood against wood—steps up against siding. Copper pipes and wiring to the air conditioning unit had to be rerouted and the side of the house repaired with concrete blocks. The whole process of step reconstruction took over three weeks but had an immediate impact on the appearance of the temple. Five garden terraces were created alongside the steps which have since been planted with flowers and vegetables.

Next up was the meditation room carpet. The old carpet was pulled out and the new one installed by one guy in less than one day. Again, the result was an immediate improvement, with the new bluish carpet giving the room a much softer, soothing feel. Everyone who has visited has said they love it.

Our kitchen and common room needed painting, the old paint being a depressing shade of pea soup green. We hired men to do that job, and again it was done it a day, and again the results were very uplifting. It took three coats to cover the old gloom. Rev. Phoebe then took on the job of painting all the other rooms as a cost-saving measure, and one by one has done the entire job. All the rooms and the hallway in the lower level of the house have been painted and brightened.

Rev. Master Haryo, who is the head of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, came for a ten-day visit in the first half of March. With all of the travel restriction attendant to the Covid Era, he has been unable to visit temples of the order as often as he used to, and he said that this was the first temple visit he had made in two years. Rev. Master Haryo gave a Dharma talk on March 13, which marked the first event of any kind we held at the new temple.

Rev. Haryo is a wizard with all things electronic, and while he was here he wired in a number of things, including a 240V outlet in the garage for the table saw, and overhead lights in Rev. Seikai’s room, which will illumine the future sewing area. We were grateful for his contributions to helping the temple get started.

Getting the old carpet pulled out of the lower level and new flooring put in place was a job that had to wait for all conditions to ripen. Our initial contract with a big box store fell apart; they could not get our phone number right. Then we contacted a local flooring crew that ultimately did the job, but it took over a month to get the vinyl flooring from the manufacturer. When they set to work they had to level off our uneven floors, and then discovered water damage to the plywood in two rooms. With that fixed, the job was finally finished in the fourth week of March, to our great relief. Revs. Phoebe & Seikai at that point felt, for the first time, that the house and the temple were truly ours.

We’ve made a lot of progress on our list of maintenance jobs and upgrades, but there are several that remain. That list includes:

  • Rain gutters, most of which have either fallen apart or need replacement. This job should happen this spring as soon as it can be arranged with a local company that has made us a reasonable estimate.
  • Pond maintenance. The pond in the back yard holds water but the pipes from the pond to the top of the waterfall are plugged. We will have to find a way to get them flushed out and the pond pump plumbed in so that the water feature can again be operable.
  • A broken sewer line. Cameras have been sent down our sewer line three times, and it has become evident that there is a crack in a clay sewer line in our back yard. We had tree roots blasted out of it with a “hydro jet” by a roto-rooter company. A city employee came and his map showed that the city’s sewer line starts literally a few yards past the crack, meaning that we will have to bear the responsibility for getting it fixed. Of course, it won’t be cheap as the line is from six to eight feet below the surface, and you cannot get equipment back there. We asked for and received donations which should pay for this project.
  • Window upgrades. The windows, probably the original ones installed in 1985, are weathered and not in very good condition. Several of the screens are missing or damaged. At some point when we can afford it and there is nothing more urgent, we’ll need to tackle the window job.
  • Rebuild the automatic garden watering system. Rev. Seikai has done this for many years, so although it will be a complete rebuild, it should not be too difficult an undertaking.

On the bright side, everything works. We have water, gas, electricity, internet and phone service, roofs that do not leak, new floors in much of the house and a beautiful meditation room. The front garden has sprung back to life after years of neglect, and we have an abundance of spring flowers. The solar system works, and produces more power than we use, meaning that, potentially, we will be eligible for a rebate at the end of the year. Rev. Seikai is slowly fitting out the garage as a workshop; Rev. Phoebe has a work bench and more will be built; the washing machine was replaced so now both laundry machines work.

We’re grateful for the on-going support of everyone who cares about Pine Mountain Temple and helps in some way to keep it alive. All the help and encouragement we received during the moving process was very much appreciated. Although it was sad to leave the old temple and its beautiful surroundings after so many years of care, love and attention, we are happy in our new place and will do the same thing here that we did in the Ozena Valley.

Moving News February 2022

Moving News From Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple

December, 2021

For the third time in its history, Pine Mountain Temple is moving. Originally the Santa Barbara Buddhist Priory, which was started by Rev. Jisho Perry in 1979, the temple moved once in Santa Barbara, and then over the mountains to Ventura County and the Ozena Valley in early 2000. Now, exactly 22 years later, we are moving again. Revs. Phoebe and Seikai have been the only two monks and residents of the temple since our last monk resident, Rev. Leon, moved on in 2009.

              Since then, we have gotten that much older and no longer have the strength to maintain our many buildings and 45 acres of land. The Covid Era, with its ever-changing norms of appropriate human interaction, has radically changed society. Our original purpose for being here—to function as a retreat center for people wishing to immerse themselves in an environment devoted to Zen practice—can no longer be fulfilled, and it is time to move on.

              The person buying the temple is awed and delighted by the facilities, the grounds, and all the care, love and attention to detail that have been poured into the temple over its 22 years of existence. She intends to hold retreats and maintain what she is inheriting from us. She treasures the stupa, the statues and the meditation hall. Exactly what the nature of her activities will be we cannot say, but we have been making this transition with the intent of helping her be a success in this location.

              After the monks had made the decision to move and gotten the go-ahead from the head of our monastic order and our lay supporters last August, we set the wheels of moving in motion, putting the temple on the real estate market, and holding a large moving/yard sale at the end of September. The sale was a big success; with the help of many of our regulars we were able to move along a huge quantity of stuff which we will no longer have need of when we move. In downsizing the temple from three houses to one, and two large utility buildings to one 2-car garage, we’ve had to shed a lot of weight. Many people left the temple happily carrying some small treasure they had found—or a piece of furniture.

              Around that time a couple who were looking for a facility like our meditation retreat found us listed for sale, and in October made an offer on the temple which we accepted. They asked for a 90-day escrow to give them time to raise funds for the purchase, which ultimately failed. In early December, the purchase agreement was dropped. We were sorry to have lost two months, but in the meantime we got a lot done in the way of tying off loose ends, organizing and packing. All during the fall we were actively looking for a house to buy and turn into a small temple, and made offers on four such houses, but the real estate market as it currently exists is very competitive and unless you have the money and/or a loan in hand with which to buy a place, you’re out of luck. But it was nevertheless an education in real estate dealings, and the agent we have been working with, Kelly Morgan, has been great in giving of her time and energy in helping us both sell and buy something new.

              Seemingly without any time gap at all, our potential new buyer arrived at the gate inquiring about the temple just as the first sale had fallen apart. Being herself in the real estate business, she moved quickly to make an offer, which we accepted, and to open an escrow account. The offer was well under the asking price, but we accepted it rather than taking the risk of months or possibly even years going by before we would get another one. And since her intention is to continue using the property as a meditation retreat, it was the best thing to do. The conditional use permit is good for another 18 years.

January, 2022

              Now it is January, and our search continues. Ownership of the temple has passed to its new owner on January 11 and we are actively attempting to purchase a house in the city of Santa Paula, California. Although the house would be well suited to being a small temple, and would accommodate the two monks very nicely, all sorts of problems have arisen with regard to actually buying the place. For a start, the house is owned by a realty company (not an individual) which is notoriously hard to work with. Ms. Morgan has told us many times that most real estate agents won’t deal with this company, and so far in our dealings, we can see why. Further, the house may have deferred maintenance problems; it is an “as is” sale, meaning that the seller does not take responsibility for problems the building may have in exchange for a reduced price. In theory.

              All the expert advice we have received about the purchase of this house has been in the realm of “let the buyer beware.” So, on that level, taking in all the normal considerations, we would be wise to keep looking. The problem for Rev. Phoebe and myself is that, after 40 or more years of monastic life for both of us, we don’t think the way the world thinks. And here is a situation in which applied Zen practice comes into the picture, and few people understand why we think the way we do.

              We cannot push away that we love the house and want to make it into a small temple. Our hearts are telling us to forge ahead despite the obstacles, in spite of it being a “flawed” house. If it weren’t flawed, it would have sold months ago. And this is how monks practice: we take something that is flawed, in bad shape or needing repair, and with love and care, improve it. I’ve done that my whole life with houses, and I’ve done it with my own life. The world tells you that everything needs to be really spiffy and modern and essentially without flaws. Subconsciously, it is probably the same message we tell ourselves. But reality is different: we are who we are, we’re not special or particularly spiffy human beings; but we have everything we need to engage in practice and awaken to the truth.

              With each passing day in January, our perceptions of what is really happening with this move change—sometimes subtly and sometimes significantly. With each step that we take it becomes ever clearer that, more than anything, this house has been chosen for us and a sort of veil has been drawn over it so that the rest of the house hunting crowd doesn’t see it or doesn’t pursue buying it. Although the company owning the house hasn’t been easy to work with, nevertheless we owe them a debt of gratitude for making a mess of the real estate listing, which put people off. Their agent was unreachable. When we made an offer on the house, their counteroffer was not unreasonable, and so we accepted it. The house went into escrow on January 10, and escrow is set to close on January 25.

              To her credit, our agent said to Rev. Phoebe and I that if we really love the house, we might as well so ahead and make an offer, even if it is overpriced or has flaws. She was sensitive enough to what was going on to see this, and it was after we had all sat around at the house and had a conversation about it that she was able to arrive at this place of sympathy.

              Meanwhile, packing up the temple, cleaning it, and reducing the sheer quantity of stuff is an ongoing project. Lots of people have offered their time and energy to come and help us with this, and Rev. Phoebe and I are deeply grateful. Starting with the moving sale in September, and now with the actual move happening, all the help we have received is very heartening. People want to help the temple continue to be a success and a place of refuge. Our small Sangha is pulling together to make it happen.

              On a day in January three different inspectors came to the house to do their various jobs. It turns out that, yes, there are a number of maintenance problems and minor code violations, but on the whole it wasn’t enough to discourage us from going through with the purchase. So now we have passed the point of backing out of this real estate deal on account of there being too many substantial flaws in the building. It was built in 1985 and is basically in good repair; it does have termites in spots and will need to be tented and fumigated. We will need to hire people to do that; to do electrical work, painting inside and out, rebuilding outdoor steps.

              Houses always need work somewhere. The home inspector who came to look at the temple compiled a report which was 108 pages long—seemingly in spite of my many years of wholehearted maintenance of our buildings. On one level it was humbling, even if the vast majority of these defects were very minor in nature. An offer was made to increase what we receive for the temple if we went through the list and fixed them all, but I could see that I never would be successful at that even if I tried. Before I could come close to the end of the list, new problems would manifest. It would be, and is, endless.

              Which brings us back to being human and needing to work on ourselves. However long we may have lived up to now, whatever shape we may appear to be in, physically, psychologically or spiritually, we can look honestly at ourselves. It means putting down pride, thinking that we’re really good people, better than most. It means putting down the self-defeating thoughts that we can’t do it. Training your mind, like maintaining a house, requires that you keep at it from one day to the next without worrying so much about whether you’re ever going to be finished. Chances are, you won’t.

              As I’m writing, we are still at least two weeks away from moving. As I said, escrow closes on January 25th, and then there will be some work to be done prior to moving in; that might not happen until the last few days of January. Rev. Phoebe and I are excited about our new place, about setting up a new, small temple with a beautiful meditation hall, and having events open to the public. We hope to see you at some point in our new location, Santa Paula, California. We will be keeping our name, Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple, and status as a non-profit religious corporation.

February, 2022

              Escrow on the new temple closed on January 20, and the actual move took place on the 28th and 29th. The movers we hired to haul all the heavy stuff did a good job, and their work was paid for by members of our congregation. We also had the help of several of our friends who hauled stuff in their cars and pickups down to Santa Paula. Moving itself is always a chaotic business, and in this situation, given that we were downsizing from a large place to a small one, the challenge to reduce and organize all the temple furnishings and our own belongings was great.

              Moving is also exhausting, and Rev. Phoebe and I both fell sick within a week after the move. Rev. Phoebe spent a day in the hospital, which fortunately happens to be about six blocks from the new temple. As of mid-month we are both regaining strength day by day. Meanwhile, work on the temple itself is an on-going process that will continue for several months—or longer. We have hired a man who had worked for us at the Ozena Valley temple—building the stupa and its surround, for instance—to rebuild a stairway which runs alongside the house and down into the back garden. The old steps were made of wood and had largely rotted out, and, as we discovered, rotted a hole in the house. The new concrete steps are beautiful; the concrete workers who came for a day did a fantastic job. The masonry crew is working on the last phase now, a flagstone walkway. When completed, there will be a series of five terraces along the steps leading down to a water feature in the garden, which awaits resuscitation. Garden designing and rebuilding also await for the future.

              Our beautiful meditation room just got a new carpet, and much of the rest of the house will have old carpets removed and new flooring installed. In the Covid Era, with its supply chain problems, all of this seems to take considerably longer than it used to. It’s an opportunity to practice patience.

              Rev. Phoebe and I helped to build Shasta Abbey during its early years, and then in our middle years we built Pine Mountain Temple; now it appears we will spend our later years in a small temple that will be more along the lines of a small temple or priory of the OBC. In that light, temple building seems metaphorical for ones life as a Buddhist trainee, and in our case, as monks. Temple building is only possible because we first work on ourselves. Since that process will be ongoing until we die, it should come as no surprise that work on the physical temple will continue as long as we are alive. We are happy that we have found suitable circumstances to do this, and grateful to everyone who has supported us in any way over the years to make it possible.

January 2022

As we have done for years, the temple is closed during January. Also, on January 11 the temple and its grounds are sold, and the monks are in the process of relocating in the greater Ventura Area. Please check this site for news. Blessings for the coming year, and gratitude for your support.

News July 2021

News

            As of mid-June, most Covid-19 restrictions in California have been lifted, and life is returning to what we judiciously call “normal.” Revs. Phoebe and Seikai were both vaccinated during the spring, as California slowly moved to vaccinate people over, then under 65. We have resumed accommodating overnight guests at the temple on condition that they have been vaccinated. At this point, given the widespread availability of the vaccines and the inexcusability of not getting the shots, those who have not been vaccinated must wear a mask and stay outdoors when visiting the temple, and may not stay overnight. We intend to resume holding weekend retreats in September.

            We celebrated the festival of Wesak (or Vesakha) on May 2, and had a substantial turnout of people that day. Last year, of course, we were unable to hold this most important of Buddhist festivals during the Covid-19 pandemic. This year the weather was fair and some of the participants brought flowers to make up for the total lack of wildflowers on the temple grounds following a winter of very little precipitation. We started with ringing the temple bell 108 times, followed by meditation and a Dharma talk by Rev. Phoebe. Then we processed to the Stupa, placing flowers around it and pouring water over the baby Buddha. We recited a Wesak hymn (or poem) written by Rev. Seikai in the recent past, and finally gathered for a bring-you-own-food lunch in the Sangha House patio. There was palpable joy that day in coming together to celebrate the life of the Buddha after so many months of having to remain apart.

            After years of putting it off, we were able to hire workers to rebuild the super structure of our carport/firewood storage area, which is attached to the work shop. The roof has solar panels on it and we had not ever beefed up the posts and beams to handle the weight of them plus a snow load. Our friends from Top Quality Roofing in Taft came and did the job. Rev. Seikai milled the posts for the project out of a huge beam of wood we were donated years ago, and which had sat under the carport ever since. Rev. Phoebe painted the posts barn red, and then the beams once installed. Now that it’s finally done, the whole project looks great and we are grateful for the financial support that made it possible to have the work done.

            As usual we have put a lot of effort into clearing brush and cutting away dead wood in anticipation of another bad looking wildfire season. But this year there is more than usual, and two large pine trees have died, which inspired us to contact a tree maintenance company and negotiate their spending a day here clearing out dead trees. That day is scheduled for June 29; the plan is for a crew of six guys to come from Ventura to do the work. Once again, we’re grateful to be able to pay people to do what would otherwise be a whole summer’s worth of work, and make the temple a little safer in the process.

News January 2021

In Memoriam of 2+ million people in the world

Who died of Covid in 2020.

When we are one with enlightenment we know that there is complete immaculacy and universal light; utter quietness embraces the sky.  When we return to the world we know that everything is as a dream; let us pray that the three treasures of the Dharma may be always watching clearly.  We have offered incense, water, flowers and candles and have recited the Scripture of Great Wisdom and the Adoration of the Buddha’s Relics and pray that the merit we accrue in making these offerings will be given to all those who have died of Covid and related illnesses, of hunger, violence and despair.

We pray that when we are in delusion the jewels of enlightenment shall shine of themselves and that when we are in enlightenment the circle of japonica shall be high in the blue sky.

Let us walk on the way to enlightenment together with all living things.

Homage to all the Buddhas in all worlds,

Homage to all the Bodhisattvas in all worlds,

Homage to the Scripture of Great Wisdom.

News

            The Covid-19 pandemic crisis eased up somewhat during the summer months but, as everyone knows, returned with a vengeance during the fall. We have had a small trickle of guests to the temple over the past several months prior to the second lockdown situation which came into effect in December. Some guests came for overnight/weekend stays, using the two houses—the Buddha House and the Dharma House—which are equipped with a kitchen that guests may use to prepare their own food. This situation has worked out well. Most visits have been day visits by members of our extended congregation, usually on Sundays when we have a double meditation period with walking meditation, followed by a Dharma Talk.

            We have made every effect to comply with the guidelines set by the State of California and Ventura County regarding gatherings of people in public settings. There have been occasions when we had a half-dozen guests on Sunday, which was within the one-quarter of capacity recommendation that was in effect at the time. Now, with the second lockdown, things will be somewhat sparse until the wave of Covid-19 infections slows down to an acceptable rate.

            On October 25 we were able to hold a ceremony of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts (Segaki) on the front deck of the Buddha House, attended by some of our long-time members. It was a beautiful day and everyone in attendance was uplifted by the opportunity to hold the ceremony and be together for a few hours.

            On December 6 we held another outdoor ceremony, this time for the Buddha’s Enlightenment. After meditation, walking meditation and a Dharma Talk given by Rev. Phoebe, we processed to the Stupa and offered pyracantha branches laden with orange berries around the rim of the Stupa. Following a recitation of The Scripture of Great Wisdom, Rev. Seikai sang the offertory for the Buddha’s Enlightenment, written many years ago by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett. It was another beautiful day which made being outdoors quite enjoyable.

            On October 10 we held a funeral ceremony for Carol Barker, a temple member for many years, who died in September. He ashes were sent to the temple and were scattered on top of the Jizo Hill, as per her wishes. We also held a memorial on October 30 for Donald DeLoach, the father of Robert DeLoach. Robert lives up in this neck of the woods and has taken the Buddhist Precepts at the temple. He and his partner Billy Koar were able to come for the ceremony.

            The annual November retreat, which has been going for about 16 years now and attended by the same group of people, was of course canceled by the pandemic—sadly. However, one of the regular participants, Rafael Siqueiros, was able to come for the three days which would have been the retreat. We were very happy to see Rafael, and have at least one token member of the group, which originally was associated with Rev. Master Teigan, who would come every year to lead the retreat. Rev. Master Teigan died this past year at the age of 85 after 44 years of monastic life.

            No one knows what 2021 will bring, but many are hopeful it will be better than the very taxing year of 2020. Covid-19 vaccines are just now being distributed and given to health workers and people at high risk of infection. Nevertheless it might be several months before the pandemic is brought under control and things return to some semblance of what we considered “normal” before its onset last March. Revs. Phoebe and Seikai enjoy good health and, with all the recommended precautions in place, are at low risk. We are not currently scheduling events for 2021 as we normally would towards the end of the year. As and when we are able to return to a more normal routine we will of course let everyone know how that is going to work.

News October 2020

KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera

            In Memoriam

             Carol Barker

On September 12, 2020, Carol Barker died in a Denver, CO,  Hospice Center, of bowel cancer. Carol had been a member of the Santa Barbara Priory, and then of Pine Mtn. Temple, while she lived in California and some of our older members may well remember her bright and courageous presence. Even when she moved out of state she remained in regular correspondence with Rev. Phoebe and supported the temple. Last year her youngest son Marvin fell ill with cancer, and he died in April, 2020. Carol became ill soon after that, and recently Rev. Phoebe spoke with her on the phone once a week. She is survived by her other two adopted children, Cyrus and Jane, and we offer our condolences to both of them.  We held a funeral service for Carol on October, her ashes were scattered in the hills on her request.

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic era, life certainly has changed for the two monks of Pine Mountain Temple, as it has for everyone else. For a while we had almost no visitors; with the easing of restrictions, we’ve started to have overnight guests again, only now with some guidelines in place to minimize the potential to spread illness. Our Sunday routine (see p. 3) has worked quite well, and we’ve had a number of day visitors on Sundays for two periods of meditation and a Dharma Talk. During the week life goes on pretty much as it always has, given that the temple is a big place and needs constant care and maintenance. Needless to say, we are aging, and so the day-to-day challenge of maintaining the temple slowly increases over the course of time. The day will come when we will have to decide whether we can continue for much longer, but until that day arrives, we both love the land, the animals, the wildlife, the quiet and our countless blessings so much that we hope to stay as long as possible.

The County of Ventura, meanwhile, hasn’t moved on our renewal application for an extension of our conditional use permit. The pandemic threw their internal workings for a loop; we were assigned a new case worker who essentially started over from scratch. We’ve been told the application will go through, but at this point we continue to wait to see when and how that might happen.

Our tiny garden has produced a steady flow of zucchini, tomatoes, chard and arugula since about the middle of summer. Rev. Phoebe also harvested a large bowl of ripe grapes, which hasn’t happened in years because birds or coyotes normally get them before we do. There will be some leeks this winter.

Rev. Phoebe painted all the decks this summer, a large undertaking, which was facilitated by Jack Collings, who loaned us his pressure washer. This amazing tool makes removing the old paint and prepping the wood comparatively easy. Rev. Phoebe used a roller instead of a brush this time, so all-in-all the job was not as hard as it used to be.

Thanks to Dorothy Scovil and Karen Hillman, who stayed at the temple and looked after things for over two weeks during August, Revs. Phoebe and Seikai were able to take a break and go camping. We spent some time in Mammoth Lakes, CA—luckily before the fire season hit that area—and then continued into Nevada. We both love the huge, open spaces and mountain ranges, one after the other, of the Great Basin. The day we re-entered California, arriving in Bishop, we were greeted by thunderstorms, which where happening all over the state, starting fires as they went. Most of those fires are still burning a month later, but none of them are near the temple, which is a great blessing in itself.

I am kneeling

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Kneeling with respect for George Floyd and all those who died at the hands of other people.

Kneeling with sorrow for the suffering we humans inflict on ourselves.

Kneeling with the recognition that I too have the potential to hurt or kill out of fear and anger.

Kneeling with knowing that only I can change myself.

Kneeling with gladness, seeing there are many people right now stopping and wanting to change.

Kneeling with sympathy for the painful consequences of our past collective acts we will all still have to bear.

Kneeling with devotion, asking That Which Is Greater than any of us to help and protect us all.

I am not one to join public demonstrations – yet – and am not telling anyone what to do.  I just want you to know that I am kneeling.

***

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.