Spring Training Newsletter

Dear friends,

My hairline has receded considerably since we last sent out an e-newsletter. In other words, it’s been a while! 

In February 2012, our founder and teacher, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, retired from teaching due to illness. For the first time since the Mount Baldy Zen Center was established, we held full winter and summer Seichu training seasons without Roshi. The retreats were well attended (but not full) and our Senior Zen priests or oshos provided spiritual leadership, dharma talks, and interviews with students during the weeklong intensives.

What does it mean to live at MBZC without Roshi on the grounds directing the training? How do you maintain a vigorous practice, and the edge that makes MBZC unique, while also steering a new course that improves on past shortcomings? How does MBZC transform into a temple that is open to newcomers, while remaining a training center for monks and nuns who have already spent many years in the practice?

The oshos have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and wisdom, and it’s manifesting in exciting ways right now as the fulltime MBZC staff contemplates how the center and the practice here will look and feel in the future. Equally important are the ordained members who have been continuing their training at MBZC, bringing with them skills and insights that inform our group practice and make it a joy to continue learning. And what a blessing it’s been to train with all the dedicated students who together with the ordained make up the real body of this center, and who are so necessary to help teach the next generation of practitioners. And what about our young, new practitioners? They are dedicated, sharp, eager to learn, and demonstrate an ascetic spirit uncharacteristic of their generation when they discover that our wireless Internet access doesn’t reach their cabins.

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As many of you know, we have also been dealing with serious issues having to do with our teacher’s past behavior with female students, and our community’s response to it over the years. Experiences and opinions differ widely, and while we may not come to a full consensus, it has given us the opportunity to recognize and address difficulties within our organization. For more information on how our community is addressing this issue please see the ”About Us; Director’s Tab” above. For a full account of our response so far visit www.rinzaijioshos.org. Please feel free to email Gento at office@mbzc.org or call 909-985-6410 with specific questions or concerns.

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Striking the right balance between all the different issues and challenges facing MBZC right now requires patience, fortitude, a spirit of openness, generosity, and compassion. Buddhism is the Middle Way, which is a lot trickier than it sounds — as those of you who are living the lay life know. It can be hard finding a balance between family, work, time for one’s self (those movies in your Netflix queue aren’t going to watch themselves), and the need to engage in a formal Zen practice. However, the good thing about walking the path is that while the questions that arise can be complex, the answer is often pretty simple: one foot in front of the other.                 

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Late last summer we completed the remodeling of our Zendo. The project included strengthening the building foundation; replacing the drywall; installing beams to support a vaulted ceiling; remodeling both porches; re-shingling the roof; and installing a composite wooden floor with a cherry wood surface. Every aspect of the remodel was carefully planned and executed, from the color of the ceiling (Swiss coffee) to the steel rings that support the bamboo where we hang the kesa portion of our robes. The result is a fresh, functional, and energized space for our zazen meditation practice.

When we began this remodel we weren’t certain what the level of support would be from our community. We knew that people would get behind the project, but to be frank, offering encouraging words and an envelope with a check in it are two different things. Fortunately, many of you came forward with donations large, small, and in between. Some of you gave several times. The tide of support grew as the project got underway, and by the time we finished construction the Zendo had been paid for entirely by our community. A little over $90,000 was donated (more than we’ve raised during any one fundraiser in my nine years here).

Touching and persistent generosity was the norm during this fundraising campaign, and we sit in that spirit of giving every time we practice in the remodeled Zendo. This project was a concrete example of how MBZC continues to be sustained by the efforts and care of our whole community. Many of us envision a future with a remodeled dining hall, freshly repainted cabins, and a bathhouse with a steam room, Jacuzzi, and high-powered showers (well, a monk’s gotta dream, anyway).

You own this space — you paid for it. Please come and practice in it!

We held four Sesshin retreats at MBZC this past winter. We were fortunate to have both longtime and new students sit with us, and help keep the Zendo warm. The temperature dropped below freezing a few times, causing several water pipes to explode around camp. (At one point, a geyser of water arced upward from a broken pipe like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.) Winter training lasted a little over three months, and we are now in the midst of a warm spring Seikan semi-formal training season. Very warm. All of us showed up for work bell in shorts today … eight legs in search of a tan.

During the spring and fall we host outside groups, who use the facilities for their own practices. MBZC’s year round staff is Dokan Charles Martin, Genkai Dan MacKinnon, and Gento Steve Krieger. The three of us, along with a new student, Ned McFarlane (from the Zen Centre of Vancouver), are busy hosting six workshops this spring. Our mothers would be shocked by our ability to prepare (and clean up after) a meal. 

MBZC crew

 (From left to right: Ned, Genkai, Dokan, Gento.)  

Summer Seichu formal training begins July 15. There is space available if you’d like to join us for a retreat or a portion of the training. Register by email or call 909-985-6410.

SUMMER SEICHU TRAINING SCHEDULE

July 15: Summer Seichu Training begins

July 21: Anniversary Celebration at Rinzai-ji in Los Angeles

Hashun-kyuji August 3

Weeklong Sesshin Retreat: August 4-10

Beginner’s weekend: August 23-25

Hashun-kyuji September 7

Sesshin Retreat: September 8-14

Summer Seichu Training ends: September 16

Gassho,

Gento

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