During the month of April we continued to have cool weather suitable for work projects. Adrian finished the Ridge Trail, and Nick made signs for it, which are now in place. Steve McBride came to help us take down four pine trees that had died over the winter; we have piled the logs in preparation for splitting.
On Monday, April 28 the monks were invited to do a talk at a meeting of the Ventura Insight Meditation Group, which meets at a Methodist Church in Ventura. Before the meeting one of the members offered us dinner at her house. The meeting was well attended and the topic of the talk was the Four Divine Abodes, which are the four attitudes of mind that bring peacefulness and contentment: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative Joy and Equanimity. Generosity was mentioned as a foundation for all of these attitudes.
Later in May a few people from that group joined us for the Buddha's Birthday, and some have since come to the meeting of our Ventura Meditation Meeting.
On May 3 the monks drove to Garden Grove/ Westminster to participate in a large Wesak celebration held by the Vietnamese and Sri Lanka communities in Orange and Los Angeles counties. The festivities were held on the grounds of a high school, where a large canopy and a podium had been erected to provide seating for over 100 monks and nuns. A delicious meal was offered as well as gifts of money, and at the end of the meal monks and nuns took turns in offering blessings. There were only two other western monastics, including a woman who is currently practicing in the Vietnamese tradition. She was happy to see Rev. Phoebe and came to sit next to her during the meal. When we went up to the podium to offer blessings, the Sri Lankan monks there were very friendly and respectful and made sure we stood in the middle of the group. Ven. Sutadhara from the An Lac Mission was the only monk there that we knew, and he was glad to see we had accepted the invitation.
In May a succession of 10 students from Cal Poly came to do a 24 hour immersion period in Zen Practice as part a class requirement. We offer them a bit of everything: meditation, a chanting ceremony with bows, a meal ceremony, working meditation, questions and answers and the opportunity to walk around and experience the quiet meditative atmosphere of our temple. Two of them stayed on to join us in the Wesak Festival and were very moved by the experience. We made use of their youthful enthusiasm to clear a lot of dead wood from the poplar trees, and they much enjoyed the job satisfaction such work gives.
For the Wesak festival this year we had a dozen people for the Saturday retreat/preparation day, and in evening we traditionally come together in the meditation hall to read to each other sections of the Life of the Buddha, interspersed with songs, most of which were written by Rev. Master Jiyu. It is an intimate ceremony, almost like a tribal storytelling, and gives a sense of togetherness. On Sunday there were about 25 people for the Festival and Dharma Talk. Somehow the timing this year worked so that the wildflowers as well as the garden flowers and trees were all in bloom, and the temple looked lovely. We were even able to use real flowers this year to decorate the Stupa and make flower offerings of roses all along the ledge. Then everyone sat down spontaneously on the wall around the Stupa and we enjoyed a 15 minute meditation, while the sun was neither too hot, nor the wind too strong. People thought that was the high point of the day, even though as usual the potluck afterwards was splendid.
We had several men come for week long retreats this month, most of them young, which is a nice change in the pattern of guests.
On May 27 we went to Ventura to meet Rev. Leon, who many of you know from his time living at Pine Mountain Temple. Rev. Leon currently lives in Columbia, SC and is visiting the West Coast. It was very good to have his company and rekindle our friendship. Rev. Leon offered a Dharma Talk on Sunday and spent time with several people who came to see him. Beth kindly hosted him for a day and took him to the train station to continue his travels to Shasta Abbey.
On June 1st we had a Members Meeting, notes of which can be seen at the temple. Also we did a Memorial Ceremony for Timothy O'Keefe, who had passed away on May 26th. Tim had been in regular correspondence with Rev. Phoebe for several years and had supported the temple generously, wishing to have Buddhist Blessings offered at the time of his death. When Rev. Phoebe was informed of his passing, she did a private funeral ceremony for him. We will continue to offer merit for his benefit. If anyone wishes for a Buddhist funeral or memorial service—or a visit around the time of death—it is a good idea to make arrangements with family or friends, as well as the temple, so that we will be informed in good time.
On the evening of June 14 the monks and a guest went to An Lac Mission to participate in a Prayer for Peace and pay respects to the Buddhist Relics that were on exhibition there. This exhibition includes relics of Shakyamuni, as well as of several of his disciples, and of many Buddhist teachers from the far past to our present times.
Ven. Thich Thong Hai carried a small stupa with relics of Shakyamuni Buddha on his head as we walked around the temple garden three times, followed by a long line of people, all chanting the name of Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. We sat down in front of the Jade Buddha and chanted scriptures in Vietnamese and English. Rev. Seikai recently combined the melody of the Litany of the Great Compassionate One with the Metta Sutta—the Scripture on Loving-Kindness. After singing the Scripture of Great Wisdom at the request of Ven. Hai, we sang the Loving-Kindness Scripture and made our dedication. Then we all carried small candles into the shrine room, did more chanting and offered our candles on the altar for world peace. A group of Sri Lankan practitioners performed a series of devotional songs, which were very lovely. After that we were offered some food and friendship, before driving home quite late, under the full moon of June.
As we close for three weeks in August, this newsletter and the next one will be three-month issues. The next issue will come out by the beginning of October, instead of September.