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

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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

CHZC Amy + Ethan-August 09, 2015-10

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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On Saturday evening, June 28, Head Monk or shuso, Jakuko “Mo” Ferrell, completed the Dharma Inquiry ceremony which is the culmination of a formal practice period in Soto Zen (ango). The ceremony includes all participants in the practice period, who each ask a question of the shuso in rapid succession and receive a direct answer, punctuated with a sharp strike of the shippei, a staff of bamboo. Thus the head monk directly meets everyone in the immediate moment. It is considered a kind of trial or test of a teacher in the making.

The ceremony began with a procession that includes clappers and a drum as well as the traditional hand-carried bells. After the usual three bows, we chanted the Heart Sutra very slowly to the beat of the wooden mokugyo while the Abbess incensed a copy of the Book of Serenity, which was carried in a slow circumambulation of the room by her attendant and given to the shuso. At the end of the chanting, the shuso read a case, the first one in the book, about Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu. She then returned the volume to the Abbess and after bowing to her and to the assembly on both sides, she received the shippei and returned to her seat. The benji, or shuso’s attendant, read a poem composed for the occasion, and after a formal statement, Jakuko called out, “bring me your questions!”.

The last question came from the former shuso, Kuden Paul Boyle (who returned from Canada for the occasion). Upon making a statement on the case she read earler and a ritual apology, Jakuko returned the staff and exchanged more bows with the Abbess and assembly, then resumed her seat for statements of congratulation. After the procession ending the ceremony and a round of photographs, we all enjoyed two kinds of cheesecake, the dessert requested by the shuso, and wonderful handmade chocolates provided by some of the participants.

Congratulations to Kengan Jakuko on this momentous occasion!

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On Sunday, May 18, Kengan Jakuko, Maureen “Mo” Ferrell, took her seat as shuso, or head monk, for the 2014 Practice Period at Red Cedar Mountain Temple. Carrying the inkin is her brother Peter (PJ) Mooney and Michael Emberson is jisha or attendant. The entering ceremony traditionally features a ritual invitation from the officers of the temple and a formal request from the teacher (Taitaku Josho, Pat Phelan, sensei) to the shuso, to share her responsibilities.

The photos below show the procession in the abbess’s room in the order in which it moved in and out of the meditation hall.

Congratulations to the shuso!

Procession

Procession

PJ, Josho sensei, Jakuko, and Michael Emberson

PJ, Josho sensei, Jakuko, and Michael Emberson

Spring is late to the Southland this year, and we have had long and tenacious winter (for Carolina, anyway). Buddha’s Birthday was celebrated earlier than in many years, on April 6, but was still a festival of flowers, bubbles, banners, and (potluck) food.

The altar, waiting for the sangha

The altar, waiting for the sangha

Jakuko helping us get into place

Jakuko helping us get into place

The event includes a short talk by Josho about the meaning of the Buddha’s birthday (how does a newborn take seven steps in each direction and make a declaration about who he is, anyway?). Then we move outdoors, the adults gather around a special altar in the backyard, and the kids parade around to join them on the wooded meditation path. Then, after an offering of sweet tea (regionally appropriate!), birthday cake and strawberries, everyone has a chance to offer incense and bathe the baby buddha in his flower pagoda with ladlesful of more tea.

The food offering

The food offering

After that we had a wonderful potluck lunch accompanied by music from Kathleen and Trey Batson.

Sweet tea!

Sweet tea!

Homage to Shaykamuni Buddha!

Homage to Shaykamuni Buddha!

Homage to Shaykamuni Buddha!

 

Three offerings are made

Three offerings are made

Cool outside but the sangha was not deterred.....

Cool outside but the sangha was not deterred…..