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).

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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.

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

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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.

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

 

On Sunday March 5 three disciples of Buddha – Andrea Ashdown, Sheldon Clark, and Craig Adamski – received the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts from Josho Sensei in the ceremony of Zaike Tokudo. Unable to join the group on this day, Bruce Miller received the precepts in a second ceremony on March 17, supported by fellow ordainees and members of the sangha. Each sewed their rakusu with the guidance of sewing teacher Jakuko Mo Ferrell over many months and years. Tokudo is always a joyous occasion for celebration – congratulations to them all!

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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!