Article April 2023


By Rev. Master Seikai

Desiderata is a prose poem written a century ago by Max Ehrmann, an American from Terre Haute, Indiana. He copyrighted his poem in 1927, and it became popular in the 1960s as the result of it being widely published, and also rendered into a popular song released in 1971. It was believed to have been written by an unknown author and discovered in Old St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, which dates to the 1690s, but that story was been disproven.

            The word desiderata comes from Latin, meaning “things desired.” Max Ehrmann lived at a time when Buddhism was virtually unknown in America, and his poem is clearly not Buddhist, but nevertheless has some profound truths which many people have found inspirational, and hence the poem’s popularity. As a contemplation on the theme that the world is a difficult place, and that we experience unsatisfactoriness—a restating of the Buddhist teaching of dukkha—but that within those challenges there is nevertheless joy and contentment to be found, it is a very useful manuscript:

                Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

            However genuine the advice was a century ago to go placidly amidst the noise and haste of the busy world, today it is all the more relevant given that the world now hums at a much faster pace than it did then. Every time people invent some new technology that will in theory make life easier, the end result is usually that it makes life faster paced and more complicated. In terms of the overall quality of life in the 20th century, we didn’t really need to invent the cell phone, making it possible to carry on a phone conversation anywhere in the world where there is a cellular tower within striking distance. But we did it anyway. Now it is just another indispensable gadget which everyone takes for granted, and the fact that most people cannot even walk down the street without talking on their phone is something no one seems to question. So now we have to make a special effort to cultivate the peace that exists in silence, and many people find it virtually impossible. To do so requires a “wholesome discipline” which society as a whole does not encourage; we have to create it and nurture it for ourselves against all the forces arrayed to make life distracting.

            Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. The age of social media in which we now find ourselves gives a whole new meaning to these two sentences. Sifting through all the “truths” and/or opinions with which we are bombarded has never been easy, but now it’s a real challenge. Dull and ignorant people have their story to be sure, but should we listen to them? Can we even tell whether a person is simply ignorant or whether they have some kind of agenda which makes it necessary for them to deliberately falsify or twist the truth to suit their purposes? Avoiding loud and aggressive people who are vexations to the spirit is a teaching found in Buddhism, going back even to the Buddha himself, but in this world there are so many such people that they can’t really be avoided; instead, we have to learn to sidestep them as best we can. Meanwhile capitalism, our economic system, is loud and aggressive. Advertising is really a loud and aggressive means of getting people to spend money on stuff that, for the most part, they do not need. One of the great challenges for those who, like myself, are attempting to teach people how to find the inner peace that this poem is pointing to is getting people to recognize we are surrounded by noisy, loud and aggressive stimuli every day, and that we have to find a way to tune it out and devote part of each day to turning it off altogether.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. This is another bit of advice to be found in the Buddhist tradition, and in our current age of individualism and outright selfishness there is all the more reason to take it to heart. Why do we create celebrities and want to know all about their lives? Why do we glamorize the rich and famous and want to be like them? Why do we try so hard to keep up with the Joneses? Comparing and judging are, in themselves, quite uncomfortable, but we find it very hard not to think that way—there is force of habit at work. What we are talking about here is what I describe as the adequacy/inadequacy dichotomy; we easily slip into thinking we are better than other people or that we are lacking in some crucial way. I’ve made it a life-long undertaking to not be too quick to judge people who are really just struggling with their own set of challenges, and to “love myself when I criticize myself.” My Zen teacher gave me this latter piece of advice, and it has served me well my entire adult life, being essential to maintaining sanity in a world ignorant of true spirituality.

. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. The changing fortunes of time are such that the average person typically goes through several career changes in the course of their life, unlike a century ago when it was still possible to choose a career and expect to stick with it for your entire working life. This pace of change is difficult to accommodate, but most people don’t have any real choice in the matter; being laid off is just one stock market dive away. And the world is indeed full of trickery: today we call it scamming. One way to look at all of this is to conclude that, as the Buddha pointed out, “the world is ill-natured.”  We all live in the proverbial jungle, meaning that there are dangers everywhere, particularly wherever there is money involved. What we can do is develop an awareness of potential dangers without slipping all the way into paranoia, which is to obsess over the possibility of being hurt. How do we develop that level of fearlessness? The only way I’ve found for myself is to patiently observe the arising of fear within myself and to sit still with it. We all have a fight-or-flight instinct hard-wired into us, which might be the result, on an evolutionary level, of literally living in the jungle for many thousands of years. But in our modern, complex society, we have the luxury at least of being able to calmy appraise the threats rather than having to immediately run from them. Being still in the face of fear is a practice; you can only really become good at it by doing it. Responding from that place of acceptance and stillness is a safe refuge from being constantly stressed out.

It’s true that many people strive for high ideals and that there is an abundance of heroism exhibited by ordinary people. Without them the world would truly be a colossal mess, and even with them it is easy to come to that conclusion anyway. But the point Max Ehrmann is making repeatedly is that we have the choice to look at things positively, and see that within all the chaos and bad behavior, this world is still, as is taught in Buddhism, the most fortunate realm of existence for ennobling ourselves spiritually. I sometimes think of this as being like someone walking a tightrope, holding in their hands a balancing pole. That we tip from side to side is part of the deal of being human and walking the tightrope, but we do have the balancing pole which makes it possible to not fall off into the void of despair. There is so much good all around us.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Why is it so hard to be a genuine human being, not putting on some kind of show to make other people like us? All of us have both a public and a private persona: in public we need to at least try to exhibit good behavior and avoid people getting mad at us, while in private there are fewer constraints in that regard. Bringing those two personae into harmony is the real challenge. It probably isn’t necessary, or even desirable, to do so 100%, but it is definitely a sign of personal integrity if we can narrow the gap.

Given that there are so many meanings of the word love, it isn’t entirely clear which one the author was pointing at in advising people not to be cynical about it. Presumably it is a reference to romantic love, how fickle it is, and how easily we can become disenchanted to the point of thinking that we cannot ever have it. I certainly grew up thinking that, and some years later it came as somewhat of a shock to realize that it was indeed as perennial as the grass. But that, of course, is only half the story; the rest is about how to make the sacrifices necessary to keep the love you have for someone alive and well—which is one of life’s big challenges. Once again, it is a matter of personal integrity: carrying the balancing pole to correct yourself when you’ve lost your balance.

  Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. This manuscript jumps from one idea to the next with each sentence. I’ve reached the age where I’m having to surrender the things of youth: an energetic and resilient body; a reservoir of endurance; a sharp mind that can remember stuff. But because I have nurtured strength of spirit throughout my life, I’m able to embrace my declining years with a measure of grace. On the bright side, the urgency and ambition of youth is gone, making it that much easier to enjoy life as it is without a long list of expectations of myself. Exactly how you go about nurturing strength of spirit is, in itself, a very large consideration. Just look at the hundreds of self-help books you find when browsing through a Barnes & Noble store. If we are going to indulge in taking a complicated subject and boiling it down to a kernel of truth that we can hope to carry with us, then I would say that strength of spirit is nourished by exercise of the body and mind. Returning again and again to a perspective which reinforces a few basic truths about life in the human realm; one such perspective in Buddhism is called the Five Remembrances. They are:

1.  I am of a nature to grow old (if I’m fortunate enough to live a long life). There is no way to escape growing old. Despite all our attempts to put off aging in American society, and to try to achieve some kind of eternal youth, aging is nevertheless unavoidable.

2.  I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health. Despite all our attempts to beat back illnesses, at which we’ve made a lot of headway, we still have epidemics, pandemics, cancer and hundreds of other illnesses.

3.  I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death. Despite all our attempts to avoid death, and on a subconscious level to think that we are going to live forever, we are all going to die anyway.

4.  All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. Everything changes—anicca—and this is a law of human existence that cannot be changed.

5.  My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand. This is the law of cause-and-effect, or karma.

These remembrances are not dark imaginings, they are simply the way things are. And if we truly embrace them as the way things are, they aren’t even dark. Darkness is a tone that we cast upon life’s inevitabilities; we can just as easily throw light on them and be happy within them.

            Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. In my experience, fatigue is primarily the result of trying too hard. Trying too hard contains within it a desire that things be a certain way, and then pouring energy into trying to make it happen. Loneliness is primarily the result of isolating yourself from people, usually because we’ve been hurt and don’t want to experience any more pain. Fear can be the result of fatigue and loneliness, but more likely it is the underlying cause, and frustration is the result. Because I’ve tended to push myself hard all my life, I experience fatigue and frustration as the twin effects of a more subtle underlying cause. That underlying cause, if nothing else, lacks gentleness: it is motivation that comes from a good place but needs a wholesome discipline and wisdom. Once again we need our balancing pole to find a path between too-idealistic motivations on the one hand, and a lack of motivation on the other. A wholesome discipline comes from knowing yourself well enough not to overdo it, but at the same time to apply a steady effort that you are able to maintain over the long run.

            You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. In the popular song from 1971, at this point in the poem, which had been spoken to that point, a chorus breaks out to sing these words. They undoubtedly struck a chord with many people since they are words of affirmation, helping to give our lives meaning in a world where meaning is hard to find. We view ourselves as separate from the universe, which is unimaginably large, and into which we are born and play no significant role whatsoever. So to think that we are a child of the universe and have a right to be here can require a big leap of the imagination. Really? I have a right to be here and I’m not just a worthless statistic? In other words, we aren’t actually separate from the universe, we are a worthwhile part of it and have a role to play, however unnoticeable that role might be. Our lives have meaning; we can relax in the knowledge that even though we make mistakes and have a lot to learn as human beings, all of this is part of the unfolding of the universe. It is a comforting and uplifting thought and, as always, requires that we make some kind of effort to contribute what good we can to this unfolding.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

It is to Max Ehrmann’s credit that when bringing the subject of God into his poem he had the grace to say whatever you conceive Him to be. People assume that when they use the word God, they know what they’re talking about, and so does everyone they’re talking to. That assumption makes a distinction between God and all created things: people, trees, stars, dogs, the mountains, the oceans, the moon, and everything in between. But even theistic religions will tell you that God is within all things, God is everywhere, God is infinite. That should be our clue to looking past an explanation of God as the guy up in heaven who governs the universe. What it truly means is that understanding God requires putting aside all such distinctions and not viewing Him—or should it be Her, or It?—as separate from your own life and experience. This means that you don’t need to look for God anywhere other than right in front of your nose, or for that matter, right within your own mind. All of our labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion we call human life are part of the unfolding of the universe, not separate from anything else. The main challenge is to live in harmony with everything else, and thus keep peace in our souls. Buddhism even goes so far as to say that you don’t even have a soul, as separate from other souls, or the soul that makes up the entire universe. That level of non-duality, of universal oneness, is hard to grasp.

When people cannot comprehend even the idea of a non-dual universe, then they set up God as basically an all-powerful human being who takes sides in human affairs. This has led to the observation that human beings create God in their own image—the reverse of what is said in the book of Genesis in the Bible. But the Bible had it right: human beings actually have the capacity to realize their undivided, real nature and thus to not get involved in power struggles, fighting, being better or worse, being damned or saved. God may well have created us in His own image, so to speak, but awakening to this realization requires a long journey, a journey mostly of giving up whatever we hold on to. It requires the humility to accept that we don’t really understand very much about the universe or our place in it, and that most of the noise and confusion is about nothing—it’s a big sham.

Keep peace in your soul; be cheerful. Some people have changed the last word to ‘careful’, which is equally valid, but wasn’t the intent of the author. He wanted people to glimpse the joy and beauty of the world just as it is, right within its drudgery and broken dreams. I once had a dream in which a beautiful woman appeared, and I proceeded to complain to her about how hard it was to stay in touch with that vision of universal purity and oneness because I lived in such a noisy monastery. When I finally finished my complaint she said simply, “Look for it within the noise.” This may be counter-intuitive, or go against habit energy with respect to how we typically think about life. But I’ve put it into practice, and it actually works. It really is, as always, a matter of deep acceptance of things as they are, of dipping down into a well of compassion and pouring water over everything that appears in your own mind.


news April 2023

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.




In Memoriam

Bijou 2013 – 2022

              Bijou’s relatively short and often difficult life came to an end in April. Rev. Seikai adopted Bijou in December of 2014 and brought him up to the temple on Lockwood Valley Road, where he made an immediate change for the better. He had been on death row in the Ventura County Shelter for being a biter—we never found out who owned him originally—and from there an animal rescue group, Paw Works, took him to their location in Camarillo. In the shelter he was called Havoc, and at Paw Works was known as Bernie. Within a few days Rev. Seikai renamed him Bijou, meaning jewel or treasure.

              Now that he had a person who loved him, trained him and was around most of the time, and with the freedom to run all over 45 acres of land, Bijou was in dog heaven. He was able to learn how to be a normal dog from Jasper, Rev. Phoebe’s wonderfully well-behaved dog. His nervous and aggressive behaviors diminished a lot but never 100%.  Most likely he’d been put in a cage as a pup. His front teeth, top and bottom, had been worn down to nubs from gnawing and eventually had to be removed.

              Bijou and Jasper spent many happy hours together on walks on the temple grounds, in the hills and all over the Ozena Valley. Temple guests would often comment on what a sweet and happy dog he seemed to be. He had about a half dozen really good years and then began to decline noticeably, much earlier than one would expect for an average-sized dog. In the past few years he would sometimes ditch out of dog walks and return to the Sangha House at the former temple.

              Moving is hard on all beings, human and animal, and Bijou was no exception. Going from the freedom of the hills to being on a leash whenever he was out of the house was not an easy adjustment, although on the whole he seemed to be doing pretty well in his first few months in Santa Paula. Then his condition deteriorated and he started licking his hind quarters a lot, probably because he was in pain. He had trouble with the stairs in the new temple, and one day fell down and screamed very loudly. That was the beginning of the end, and he only lasted a couple more weeks after that.

              Death is just one aspect of life. We know it’s coming and yet we still find it hard, particularly if the being is one we love very dearly. Bijou was clearly ready to die, and in his own way he showed immense gratitude in his last days. The sense of relief and joy were very strong as he moved from his dog life into whatever realm of existence he is in now.


              Over the spring months we continued to make substantial progress on the new temple building, and have resumed regular meetings on Sundays. In the back yard, the small pond and its waterfall are working again, which creates a peaceful atmosphere; we also installed a large Buddha statue nearby, which presides over the back garden. Rev. Phoebe’s vegetable garden has been doing pretty well. She has been harvesting lettuce, cilantro, beets, zucchini, yellow squash, beans and basil—things that we could hardly imagine growing successfully in years past. We have had an abundance of flowers as well: zinnias, roses, lantana, geraniums, Peruvian lilies, jasmine, cactus flowers, salvia, Mexican sage, coreopsis daisies and a variety of succulents. We were given a generous donation of succulents from Jack Collings’ garden in Ventura. In a climate that is perfect for gardening, it is amazing what you can do!

garden Buddha

              Workmen rebuilt most of our rain gutter system, which was actually put to the test by a summer thunderstorm on June 22. So far, so good. We have signed a contract with a contractor to replace the temple’s windows later this summer. First they have to be manufactured, which will take a couple of months. Meanwhile, Rev. Seikai has been working away steadily at outfitting the garage as a workshop. He and Rev. Phoebe painted all the walls; work benches have been completed, and drawers built. A neighbor put five large drawers out on the street for anyone to take, and now four of them have been incorporated into one of the work benches. We have also scavenged several pieces of furniture from street offerings, yard sales and thrift stores. It took about four months to move in, unpack everything, find places for stuff, redo the floors and find the furniture we needed. The results are very pleasing.

              We have been warmly welcomed to our neighborhood in Santa Paula by many of the residents. Our immediate neighbors are all very friendly, and people often stop to chat as they walk past on Loma Vista Place. We were invited by a couple a block away to a centennial celebration of their house, which afforded the opportunity to meet several more people from this area. Downtown Santa Paula, including the Farmer’s Market on Fridays, is walking distance from the temple. Although we loved being in the semi-wilderness of the back country for over 20 years, so far the move here has proved to be right move. We’re grateful to everyone who has helped make it possible, in so many ways.

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


            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.


            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

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            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

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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.