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Update — 12-30-2010

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Mt Baldy Zen Center Newsletter
December 30, 2010

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Hello friends!

With the completion of our Rohatsu Dai-Sesshin retreat a little over a week ago, Mt. Baldy’s winter Seichu is now officially in full-swing.

Roshi is in fine health and spirits, the MBZC staff is working hard down in LA to prepare Rinzai-ji for the upcoming New Year’s celebration, and, up here at Mt. Baldy, where I am stationed today, the skies are a crisp clear blue — this, after seven days straight of rain, timed almost perfectly by mother nature to coincide with our seven day Rohatsu retreat.

Roshi led the Rohatsu retreat with one teisho (public talk) and four private meetings or sanzens per day. He gave us each five sanzens on the final day, serving as a continued inspiration for how and why to practice Zen.

Rohatsu was attended by the following people: the students included Dan MacKinnon, who is also a fulltime Seichu student this winter. Rinzai-ji board members Paul Humphries and Paul Karsten attended, as did Deva Graf, Anneliese Zobl, Wen Hsin, Jennifer Jones, Nora Haenn, Oscar Moreno and Gladys Jimenez.

On the Donai or Zendo end of camp we had the following officers: Daijo and Kendo served as Jiki-jitsu and Joko, their officer roles for this winter Seichu. Dokan was our Rohatsu Shoji, and will be serving in that role here all winter. Koyo was Shoji Osho for Rohatsu, and Genshu and Shahreyar Ataie served as Tanto Jokei and Jiki Jokei.

On the Joju end of camp, I occupied the role of Shika, my winter Seichu position. Myoren was Inji for Rohatsu, also her Seichu role, with Bindu Dexter as Seichu and Rohatsu Nakaten. Kazumi Tanaka was Joju Helper for Rohatsu. Soken served in the kitchen as Tenzo, with Myosen acting as Rohatsu transcriber. Fusae Yeshareem translated for Roshi.

But what you really want to hear about is the weather…

For the first five days of solid rain, it was merely very wet, with a leak in the Zendo, one of the cabins, and eventually the kitchen. Then, seemingly all at once, Mt. Baldy Road turned into a river, which blasted through the bottom of our driveway, digging deep ruts, depositing large boulders, and tearing up the asphalt.

It rained and rained, and this new river grew and grew, tearing up more and more of Mt. Baldy Road at several spots between the Zen Center and Mt. Baldy Village.

The great irony of the week, of course, was when we lost our water, such that it was coming down out of the skies and not out of the taps. (We quickly got it back, however, thanks to the hard work of SHIA, or Snowcrest Heights Improvement Association.)

On the last day of Rohatsu several retreatants had to leave early for fear of not being able to make their flight when the retreat ended, as the status of the road was getting worse and worse. Meanwhile, we had to evacuate the translator and her family from the guest cabin for fear of flooding.

At first Roshi said, “Every ten years, it rains like this,” then he changed it to “Three times I’ve seen rain like this.” Then after the retreat ended and we called a former Mt. Baldy priest to tell him that the center was ok, Roshi just said, as the rain turned to sleet outside his window: “Spectacular.”

And indeed it was. The entire landscape, both man-made and natural, has been transformed by the flooding. And yet, not much has changed at all. Evan Chapman, a Mt. Baldy Village resident, arrived a few days after the retreat in his backhoe and re-graded our driveway. Meanwhile, Mt. Baldy road was drivable right after the rain stopped, thanks to the Mt. Baldy road crews.

And so, with that as a preamble… a reminder that there is still room for you in our remaining Mt. Baldy winter retreats. Our winter schedule is:

February 7 Hashinkyuji; February 8-14 Dai-Sesshin; February 15 Nirvana Day Ceremony

March 5 Hashinkyuji; March 6-12 Dai-Sesshin

Please email office@mbzc.org to RSVP, or call 909 985 6410. A Mt. Baldy winter Seichu Dai-Sesshin retreat remains a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deepen your Zen practice with an unqualified Zen master and your sangha peers.

Finally, on a sober note, one of Roshi’s most senior Oshos, Genro, founder of the Bodhidharma Zendo in Vienna, died on the 28th of November at the age of 86. Many of us in the U.S. who started studying with Roshi in the past decade never got a chance to practice with and learn from Genro, but one of Roshi’s long-time students told me a story that illustrates the significance that Genro played in his life and Zen practice.

The long time student told me that he was suffering intensely for many years on the cushion. He decided to tell Genro his troubles. “All day every day I’m just absorbed in self-pity,” he said. Genro smiled and shouted, “Yeeeees, isn’t it great?!” The student suddenly realized that all these years he had been savoring his self-pity; this insight allowed him to move past it. “Genro really helped me,” he said.

Best wishes to Genro’s Austrian Sangha in this time of mourning and transition.

Sincerely,

Gento, Shika