After our last entry about our dog Della being close to the end of her life, she took out a new lease and is still with us, slowing down a lot but still smiling and happy to see people. Every morning she makes her way to the meditation hall building to greet us when we come out. She is a good example to all who know her.
On October 9 – 12 we were happy to have the company of Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder, who some of our older members remember from the time she practiced at the Santa Barbara Buddhist Priory before becoming a monk at Shasta Abbey.
October 17 – 18 we enjoyed a visit from our friends in the Theravada monastic tradition, Vens. Tathaaloka, Suvijhana and Anagarika Michele, all from the Dhammadarini Buddhist vihara in Sonoma County. They were on their way to the Annual Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering which was this year held in the Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, and we appreciated it that they took the opportunity to stop off and visit with us.
Thanks to the kindness of Beth, who came to look after the animals, we were both able to go to the conference as well, meeting with many friends from different Buddhist traditions and exchanging experiences. Revs. Jisho, Ando and Vivian from Shasta Abbey attended too, and we had an enjoyable private tea with them. During the conference a fund raising walk was held in Escondido to promote the Buddhist Global Relief Organization, which helps various charities to fight hunger and improve education in many poor countries but also in America's poor inner cities. Bhikkhu Bodhi, who founded the organization, also attended this year’s gathering.
On the way to Escondido we stopped at Chinatown in Los Angeles and found a shop with Buddhist supplies, so we were able to stock up on small statues and other items for our own shop. People who are starting their meditation practice at home can find all they need at the temple—altar supplies, meditation benches and mats, chair wedges, and even a small ready to use altar.
Shortly after returning we went to Ojai to help with a private memorial ceremony for Anna Maria Hemmingway at the home of one of her friends. We chanted scriptures and then Anna's son and several friends spoke of her with great love and appreciation. Afterwards food was shared while pictures of Anna were displayed on a big screen.
In November we held our traditional Autumn Retreat, for which people have been coming for 13 years now. The group varies some from year to year, but there is enough consistency to make for a deep sense of friendship among those who attend. The retreat is only open to those who have taken the Precepts and/or attended more than one retreat at our temple or Shasta Abbey. If you are interested in joining this group, please talk to one of the monks.
Because this retreat has been so successful, we now plan to have an annual Spring Retreat as well, with the same requirements. In 2015 the retreat will start on Thursday, April 9, with dinner and then an orientation in which we all get to know each other. Our intention is that the retreat will be mostly silent, with a Dharma talk in the morning and one discussion period in the afternoon. Sitting meditation will be interspersed with walking and private quiet time, and there will be opportunities for small group get togethers to deepen friendships. The retreat ends Sunday morning after breakfast to accommodate those who have to drive far, but local people may stay till after lunch. If you are interested let the temple know soon.
Due to illness and other factors, the members’ meeting on November 30 was sparsely attended. Notes of the meeting are available at the temple.
For the Buddha's Enlightenment Retreat and Festival we had a nice group of dedicated people. For the ceremony on the eve of the Buddha’s Enlightenment, we included a new version of the nine readings put together by Rev. Seikai, who used Bhikkhu Nananoli’s “The Life of the Buddha”. Everyone was moved and inspired by this rendering of the Buddha’s Enlightenment.
On December 11 Pacific storm Derrick rolled through California, with high winds and dropping a fair amount of rain. The Arizona cypress tree by the meditation hut, half of which broke off last summer, fell over the rest of the way. The two remaining trunks fell on opposite sides of the hut without causing any damage. We were without electricity for about 36 hours, during which time we ran on the two temple generators. It will take quite a few heavy rain storms to break the drought in California; we’ll gladly put up with the inconvenience in exchange for the water.
In January the temple is closed until the 24th. The monks will not visit the meditation groups but the on-line Home Practice period is going on. If you wish to know more about this, please email the temple.