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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.

CHZC Garden 2017-06-17-6

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….


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.




The sangha witnesses.


Malas exchanged….



LInoleum block print by Bunkai

LInoleum block print by Bunkai


Wondrous cake by sangha member Andrea Ashdown.


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


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.


New bell and han structure


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


Posts for new railings

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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