After a fairly quiet May we made up for that with a busy June and July, with several longer staying guests and well attended weekend retreats. The last Sunday of July saw 12 people for the Kshtigarbha Festival and that was the day we closed for a rest time for the monks. However, as fate would have it, on July 30 our valley was hit by prolonged thunderstorms and a flash flood, which left the temple grounds covered in mud and sand. Fortunately no one was injured and no lasting harm was done to buildings and shrines. Only one small shrine was washed away, its Buddha floated and we found him, still smiling, weeks later in the bushes in the neighbor's field.
Thanks to an outpouring of many kind donations we were able to hire two men who operated a big road grader and a backhoe. In one day’s work they leveled the roads which had been gouged out by the torrents of water running over our property, graded the roads to shed water better, and dug water diversions for the future. Later in August, we were able to hire a work crew from Taft who cleaned the mud out of our workshop, from the stupa surround, and the storage barn—really hard work. They also repaired a fence, and cleaned out all the rain gutters and water access boxes, which had filled with mud. These men needed the work, as their regular job is roofing, which hard to come by at the moment. So our cleanup job in the end was beneficial to many people and gave a real sense of our interconnectedness. We will continue with Saturday work mornings through the fall, as there is still a lot to do—particularly in the gardens, which were buried in a layer of silt and sand.
We have two long term lay residents for the next several months, and retreats in October are filling up.
On August 21 our old cat Nanda (15) died; she had been hunting kangaroo rats, which reappeared after the flood, and her karma caught up with her in the form of a coyote. We held a small ceremony for her and pray that she will let go of her cat body and realize the mind of a Bodhisattva. Nanda was a different sort of cat; affectionate in her way, but eccentric. We will miss the little creature.
There were five people for the work day on September 5 and we got a lot done; the cleanup of animal cemetery and rock gardens is painstaking and slow, but every day we see progress, and many helping hands make for an enjoyable morning. After a shared lunch we had a Dharma Talk with all guests.
On Sunday the 6th Rev. Seikai, Beth Kaminaka and Travis drove to Kinh Mung Temple, located in the North Hills district of Los Angeles. It is a large Vietnamese temple; Rev. Seikai had been invited to attend an Ullumbana ceremony by the Ven. Minh Chih, with whom he went on the pilgrimage of holy sites in India in 2013. The ceremony was held in their beautiful Buddha Hall. Rev. Seikai chanted in English following the Vietnamese and Sri Lankan monks chanting in their native tongues, and a long homily by one of the senior Vietnamese monks.
On September 11 Rev. Seikai went to Colorado Springs for three days to another Vietnamese temple, at the invitation of Ven. Pho Khai, who had been his close companion and interpreter on their pilgrimage to India. There are some English speaking members of the congregation there, and Pho Khai wanted them to be able to hear a Dharma talk in English, which Rev. Seikai gave that Sunday. It was enjoyable for Rev. Seikai to renew his friendship and spend time with Ven. Pho Khai.
On the afternoon of September 13, Diana and Brian Vilchis came to the temple to renew their wedding vows in a brief ceremony with Rev. Phoebe. They spent the day at the temple and offered lunch to the group at the temple that day.
On September 20, following the Avalokiteswara Ceremony, Beth Seongwan Fehrensen, who had taken the Five Precepts last January, was given the remaining ones of the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts given in the Zen tradition, by Rev. Master Phoebe. Beth has been a lay resident at the temple since late August, and has been good company to practice with. She will be moving to Massachusetts, and we offer her our gratitude and wish her well in her continued practice.