News January 2023


              We decided to look for a Bodhi Tree, which in Buddhist temples is one of the three things that mark it as a space devoted to the Buddha and Buddhist practice. Rev. Phoebe made a phone call to the An Lac Mission in Ventura, and before a day had gone by we got a call from a Vietnamese couple that had visited the former Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple in Ozena Valley. They happened to have a tree that they would be happy to donate. So with the help of Jack Collings and Ezra Herman, we loaded up the tree in Camarillo and brought it to the temple—and planted it, all on October 7. This Bodhi Tree is from India, but that is all we know about it; it may well be a descendent via propagation from the original Ficus Religiosa under which the Buddha sat. It was somewhat pot-bound and so far hasn’t grown noticeably, but neither has it died, so we are hopeful it will show more signs of life in the spring.

              Having been donated and planted the Bodhi Tree, we turned our attention to building a small Stupa in our back garden. This was the third and last item which we needed to make the temple complete, the first one being a large statue of the Buddha, which we had secured during the summer and set in place on his base against the back wall of the garden. The Bodhi Tree is immediately to his right. We decided to place the Stupa at the top of the waterfall, in the basin where water had formerly emerged to run down some rocks and into the fishpond. The original plumbing proved to be irreparably blocked up, so we used an ordinary garden hose to pump water up to its new high point, just below the Stupa, and converted the top basin into a base for the Stupa. Rev. Seikai filled it in with homemade adobe. Then we went to a garden center and bought three large plant pots, making a mock-up in the store aisle; Rev. Phoebe skillfully constructed the top and the spire out of self-hardening clay, and when all the component parts were painted and ready, we assembled the new Stupa. So, by the end of October, nine months after moving, we had the traditional components of a temple in place, and it felt like we’d finished the transition.

              Meanwhile, we were invited to take part in another Bodhi Tree planting, this time at the Camarillo Buddhist Center, where our good friend Venerable Sutadhara has bought an old church property and turned it into a temple. So on November 6 we were part of another Bodhi Tree event, along with a Kathina, or robe-offering ceremony. Ven. Sutadhara had lived at the An Lac Mission for many years, and now has his own temple where he and another monk, Ven. Vimala, live and are supported by a Sri Lankan Sangha. The main sanctuary of the temple is particularly beautiful.

              Also in late October we had a visit from a Dharma sister, Rev. Clairissa, who lives with Rev. Master Meido at the Wallowa Buddhist Temple in northeast Oregon. We had visited them in the summer of 2021, literally just a few days before making the decision to move our temple out of the backcountry and into an urban setting. On October 30, a Sunday, when we formerly would have held a Segaki Ceremony, we held a simpler memorial for those who’ve died in the past year, followed by a Dharma talk given by Rev. Clairissa. It was delightful to have her in our presence for a couple of days.

              We had another enjoyable occasion on Thanksgiving Day, when neighbors of ours invited us to join them for their dinner in the late afternoon. Among our many neighbors who have welcomed us to Santa Paula, this couple, Matthew and Philippa, have been especially warm and gracious. 

              On December 4 we celebrated the Buddha’s Enlightenment with a ceremony which consisted of nine readings about the Buddha’s life and enlightenment. They represent our current iteration of an old Church of England ceremony our teacher was fond of, the Nine Lessons and Carols.

              Work on our garden continues, as Rev. Seikai is preparing a garden bed for perennial flowers. We have already planted a passion fruit vine and made a trellis for it. Perennials are starting to drift in. In this climate—so different from the high desert—the yearly cycle starts in winter instead of spring, and we are still having to adjust our gardening calendar to this new situation.