On Saturday, June 4, Choro Carla Antonaccio and Bunkai Stephen Tracy celebrated their marriage in a Zen ceremony of vows and precepts, attended by many sangha members and friends. Great joy, greatly supported.

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Vows

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The sangha witnesses.

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Malas exchanged….

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Together.

LInoleum block print by Bunkai

LInoleum block print by Bunkai

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Wondrous cake by sangha member Andrea Ashdown.

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Bunkai, sister Elizabeth, brother in law Doug (in from California), Choro

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Choro and childhood best friend Melissa Bessey.

We were very fortunate, and are very grateful, to have had the opportunity of a teaching retreat (genzo-e) with Shohaku Okumura Roshi, from August 5-10. Taking the form of a traditional meditation intensive (6 am to 9 pm, for five days, with formal zendo meals and many periods of meditation), this sesshin featured two, two hour periods of teaching each day for all five days. Roshi shared with us his translations and commentary on two fascicles of Soto Zen’s founder, Dogen Zenji: Mitsugo, or “Secret/Intimate Words”, and Dotoku, “Expression”. Planned for two years, more than 30 people participated, including from Florida, Virginia, Indiana, and elsewhere. (All photos courtesy of Kevin Heffernan.)

 

One of many pages of characters and terms....

One of many pages of characters and terms….

Shohaku Roshi

Shohaku Roshi

The group

The group

Much progress in recent days, despite quite a bit of heat, humidity, and sometimes ferocious rain.

The new steps are in and the old ones demolished. Cable railings and ipe wood rails are nearly done.

Today a temporary pond for the two large koi that have been in our pond for nearly 17 years was put in place. Once the biology is right, they will be transferred for the duration of the garden renovation – probably a period of months.

Meanwhile, the current pond is at its seasonal best. We will transfer more of the plants to the new pond shortly. The garden work should begin in earnest any day, too.

Please consider donating to support the renovation! thank you for your generosity.

The July 4 holiday and recent rainy weather have not assisted the progress of the ramp and steps project, but a sense of the renovation is still possible from the images.

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New bell and han structure

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Looking down the ramp: new steps will align with front door

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Posts for new railings

Red Cedar Mountain temple has begun a total renovation of our entry courtyard garden. The existing garden was created as part of the preparations for the Mountain Seat Ceremony in the fall of 2000 during which Josho Pat Phelan was installed as our abbess. New features included a tin-roofed structure housing our temple bell, a koi pond, and many plantings.

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Recent view of our garden, koi pond not visible to far right

Many individuals linger in the garden, observing the koi (two of the original 5 survive) and plants as they bloom from spring into winter. Over the years, the plants have changed, a new entryway and entrance was added and a new access ramp. A small shrine in one corner houses a figure of jizo  and serves as our work altar. But more than fifteen years after its creation, the garden needed serious attention. One of the cedar supports for the bell structure roof was rotting; the railings on the access ramp were hard to maintain, and warping; the koi pond needed to be moved because it is too close to the utilities meters on the building.

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Garden in 2004, before new ramp and entrance

Because gardens are a traditional feature of Japanese temples, and becuase of the many upgrades to our public spaces in recent years, it seemed time to attend to the ‘front room’ of Red Cedar Mountain Temple. Accordingly, the board of directors approved a project to redesign the garden according to Asian principles and using natural rocks, a new pond and water feature, and native plants. In addition, we decided to move the existing steps to center on the new front door, replace the railings, and move the bell structure away from the ramp and more audible to those in the building. Work on the carpentry aspects has begun (June 2016) and the garden work will start in July.

Updates will be posted regularly. Anyone interested in making a donation to support the project may do so here.

 

On Saturday June 25 shuso (head monk) Myomon Choro (“Subtle Gate, Clear Dew”) Carla Antonaccio participated in the Hossenshiki, or ‘Dharma Inquiry’ ceremony that concluded this year’s six week ango (practice period). In addition to the practice period participants, attending and taking part were former shuso Kuden Paul Boyle who traveled from Ontario, Konin Melissa Cardenas, guiding teacher of Empty Hand Zen Center in New Rochelle, New York, and Dai-En Bennage Roshi of Mt. Equity zendo in Pennsylvania.After receiving the shippei (bamboo staff) from the teacher, the the shuso reads a case (koan) and at the end, comments on this case. Each participant asks a question and receives an immediate response. After making a ritual statement of apology for mistakes, the shuso returns the staff and congratulations are offered.

Procession arrives in zendo

Procession arrives in zendo

Josho passes the dharma staff to the shuso

Josho passes the dharma staff to the shuso

The shuso makes several statements during the ceremony.

The shuso makes several statements during the ceremony.

Practice Period 2016

Konin, Kuden, Josho, Choro, Dai-En, Bunkai, Jakuko

Konin, Kuden, Josho, Choro, Dai-En, Bunkai, Jakuko

On August 9th, 2015, former sangha member Amy Leung and Ethan Elash came from California to Chapel Hill to be married at Red Cedar Mountain. It was a beautiful summer day, and the sangha was happy to be able to support these two joyful people in making their commitment to one other in the Ceremony of Flowers and Candlelight. Buddhist weddings at the temple are solemn but intimate occasions and always full of sweet hope and quiet joy.

Many thanks to John Paredes for his photography.

Preparing the wedding altar

Preparing the wedding altar

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Taking the refuges and precepts

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Listening to Josho’s words – after candle lighting

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Exchanging rings of redwood

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The rings were beautiful, handmade, and matching

The sangha witnesses

The sangha witnesses

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Complete joy!

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Sangha and friends

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Mary and Amy

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With Jakuko, such happiness

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Jakuko, Amy, and Josho….all smiles

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They went straight to the airport!

At the community room altar

At the community room altar

Sunday January 18 started with clouds and rain but clear skies prevailed by midday, in time for the ceremony of homeleaving and receiving the precepts as a priest for Myokyo Zenki (Bright Mirror, Total Function), Kathleen Batson. This was the fourth time we had shukke tokudo at Red Cedar Mountain. Preparing for this ceremony involves much effort over many months, on the part of the person to be ordained (each, with help, sewing their own okesa or priest robe and other accessories), the ordination master, the sewing teacher and many others.

On the way to the final altar

On the way to the final altar

The ceremony begins with the ordainee offering incense at all the altars of the temple and then arriving in the zendo to begin the ceremony itself.

The official photo for the Japanese authorities of Soto Shu – yes, her head was shaved!

Head shaving during the ceremony

Head shaving during the ceremony

Putting on the koromo

Putting on the koromo

Bowing in the new clothes

Bowing in the new clothes

Zenki’s vows were witnessed by her family, including her husband and son, friends, and sangha, and followed by a lovely reception.

The okesa goes on

The okesa goes on

The new priest receives, in addition to her robes, the priest’s eating bowls and lineage papers.

Procession: Michael Emberson, Jakuko Mo Ferrell, Zenki, Josho, Robert Haake

Procession: Michael Emberson, Jakuko Mo Ferrell, Zenki, Josho, Robert Haake

Priests (including Kevin, now sewing)

Priests (including Kevin, now sewing)

Congratulations to Zenki!

Zenki. Present.

Zenki. Present.

 

On the Sunday after Rohatsu sesshin concluded, we celebrated Buddha’s Enlightenment with the sangha, and as is our custom, the kids played a major part. Josho gave a talk directed at them, they each lit a candle and offered it to the Buddha, and then we circumambulated the zendo chanting the Heart Sutra 3 times, while the kids threw flower petals in the air. Homage to Shakyamuni Buddha!

The pansies on the altar are gifts for the children.

The pansies on the altar are gifts for the children.

When the candles were all burning before the altar, one of the kids whispered, That’s a LOT of candles. And I thought of something: during Rohatsu, as part of our daily morning service we were reading Dogen’s fascicle “Only Buddha and Buddha” as the sutra. This includes the sentence (Kanahashi trans.): “When you realise the Buddha dharma, do not think: ‘This is realisation, just as I expected’. Even if you think so, realisation always differs from your expectation. Realisation is not like your conception of it. Accordingly, realisation cannot take place as previously conceived.” Though we had sat for a week, mostly silent and facing our walls, while walking and chanting with the entire community, treading on the flower petals of scores of arrangements from the previous year, is when those words appeared in my mind in a different way.

Always, the reception manifests, without fail.

Always, the reception manifests, without fail.

 

Sangha chats.

Sangha chats.

We used to use the term jukai for our lay precepts ceremony, but now we usually call it zaike tokudo, ‘staying home and accomplishing the way’. Jukai can refer to a ceremony in which one receives five precepts and a kind of stole called a wagesa, whereas zaike tokudo involves the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts, and sewing a rakusu by hand. Several of our ceremonies are a variation on this form  – marriage and death included – where giving and receiving the precepts is our response to many occasions.

On Sunday, September 28, two disciples, Elliot Shafer and Conal Ho, received buddha’s robe (rakusu) and lineage papers as well as their new names in this ceremony. Elliot is Myoshin Eido, ‘Clear Mind, Endless Path’; and Conal is Kanshin Jikishu, ‘Generous Heart, Direct Practice’.

Josho sensei told us that these were the 50th and 51st lay persons to whom she had given the precepts.

As usual, after the ceremony we had a wonderful potluck spread. Thanks to John Paredes for the photos.

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