On February 2, 2020 – a palindrome date, 0202|2020 – Choro Carla Antonaccio had a formal Monk Leaving Ceremony ahead of her moving to Austin, Texas to support practice at Austin Zen Center. After offering incense and circumambulating the zendo in the posture of humble apology, as is traditional, and receiving the bows of the assembly, statements were made by Abbess Josho Phelan, Rev. Zenki Kathleen Batson as a dharma sibling, and David Guy representing the sangha. In her statement, Choro (who is writing this post) said in part:

I can’t offer enough bows to express my gratitude and deep feeling about Red Cedar Mountain. To my root teacher Josho Roshi, my boundless and enduring gratitude for demonstrating Suzuki Roshi’s way beyond the words on a page. To all my dharma siblings, and you are all my dharma siblings, present and past, you have been my companions but even more, you have been my teachers more than I can say. I can never repay you. And to all the teachers and sanghas everywhere who have practiced Soto Zen and especially Suzuki Roshi’s Zen, and in ever more places. Even Texas.

A wonderful potluck lunch followed.

May we continue and extend this practice endlessly, lifetime after lifetime, and may we all realize the Buddha Way.

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Every year in late autumn we hold a meeting of the sangha – formally it’s the annual business meeting mandated by our bylaws. But it’s also a chance to have the best carrot cake we can obtain, celebrate the birthdays of our elders (80 and up!) and hear about the past year and what’s coming up. But mostly, we get to be together. Nov. 3, 2019…..

Opening Ceremony for the annual meeting of the Association of Soto Zen Buddhism that our Abbess Josho Phelan attended in early September. It was held at Zenshuji in Los Angeles –  the first Zen Temple in the mainland United States.


On the last weekend of June, shuso (head monk) Myokyo Zenki Kathleen Batson took up the dharma staff in the elaborate ceremony known as “hossenshiki”, or dharma inquiry. With the participants in the 90 day practice period and honored guests from California, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, including the sokan (“bishop”) of Soto Zen in America, the Rev. Genko Akiba, she completed the second step of training for a Soto Zen priest.

The night before this ceremony, a formal tea was prepared and offered by Ango participants to the assembly including guests, and Rev. Akiba Roshi offered a dharma talk on the theme chosen by Zenki. This was the first time this ceremony had taken place at our temple.

Two weeks later, after a final dharma talk by Zenki and a tea with participants, the Ango ended with many expressions of gratitude and great congratulations.

On September 29, 2018, Senmyo Jeff Sherman and Eden Kevin Heffernan received the precepts as priests in the ceremony of Shukke Tokudo in Chapel Hill. This joyous occasion was attended by many friends and family members from near and far.

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Senmyo entering zendo.

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Eden at library altar.

Both new priests are long-term Zen students. Senmyo practiced with Suzuki Roshi and received the precepts from him as a lay person and also practiced in Santa Cruz with Sobun Katherine Thanas (from whom he also received the precepts). Eden began sitting with Josho Roshi soon after she arrived in Chapel Hill and continues to practice with the Chapel Hill sangha and Josho while living and working in Richmond.

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Josho and priests: Jakuko Mo Ferrel, Zenki Kathleen Batson, Senmyo Jeff Sherman, Kuden Paul Boyle, Choro Carla Antonaccio


Our first 90 day practice period, or Kessei Ango, began with a shuso entering ceremony for this Ango’s ‘head monk’, Zenki Kathleen Batson.  We were honored by the presence of Rev. Chimyo Atkinson from Great Tree temple near Asheville, NC, for the occasion.


Chimyo and Jakuko await the procession

This is the fourth practice period at Red Cedar Mountain with a Shuso, but the first of this length, made possible by our becoming registered in Japan as an overseas special temple of Soto Zen. The final “shuso ceremony” (Hossenshiki) will be attended by a number of visiting priests including the ranking representative of Soto Zen in the United States, Genko Akiba Roshi, in June. Congratulations, Zenki!

We were again fortunate to have Okumura Roshi with us to teach Genzo-e sesshin retreat on Dogen’s teaching, March 1-6 this year. This time it was Shobogenzo Menju, or “Face to Face Transmission”. Thirty-five participants from around the country and abroad spent five days together, the largest retreat we have ever had.

On Saturday September 23, on a beautiful late summery evening, sangha and friends gathered to celebrate our new entry garden and renovated approach to the temple with art, music, food, and a silent auction to benefit the garden fund. Generous donors offered fifty works, ranging from images of the Buddha to ceramics, scrolls, photographs, and a performance of African drumming, to benefit the Zen Center.

There is still some artwork available if you are interested in bidding. Details on request.

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Photo by John Paredes


Procession arrives


Altar waiting


After words of gratitude by Josho


A small feast to celebrate


Buddhas, fish, lotus, trees and zafus/zabutons by Andrea! and mochi!


A small selection of art, some by sangha members


The Raleigh News and Observer newspaper (called “the N and O” around these parts) sent a crew to our annual Buddha’s Birthday celebration this year and posted a wonderful story, with many photos and a video. The ceremony was indoors this year (rain! and below normal temperatures).


There has been incremental progress on our garden renovation project during the fall and winter. The large koi that have been with us for over 15 years were moved to a holding pond while the old pond was demolished and a new one took shape. Great care was taken to make sure that the temporary pond had the same biology as the one they had lived in all their lives. Fortunately they made the transition and have come through the winter in fine shape.


Gradually the old concrete pathways and flagstones were demolished and removed and the new stream and pond took shape.


IMG_0159Finally, in the past 10 days, the new pump was activated and you can hear and see the result! We will be re-introducing the fish to their new and improved home – the new pond is deeper and more natural, with rocks and pebbles in the bottom and sides. New plants will follow soon, and a stone bridge over the stream to access the new central steps to our entryway.


Donations toward the remaining costs for this project are needed and gratefully accepted….