Over the last weeks of November and December our old dog Della became more and more feeble and sick with the cancerous growth she had around her bowel. The tumor was bleeding and the vet did not think there was anything more he could do to make her more comfortable. So on December 23 we told her we were going to take her to the vet's clinic to help her die, and instead of trying to get away from a vet trip as she had done in the past, she stationed herself by the car and waited there, as if to say: I am ready. She died calmly in complete peace, held in our arms and by Kanzeon. We took her body home, gave her a funeral and buried her in our animal cemetery. Della lived over 14 years, all but about nine months in the temple. Rev. Seikai had adopted her in April, 2001, shortly after moving to Pine Mountain Temple.
About one week later Rev. Seikai found a small dog in a Paw Works shelter in Camarillo, who had been rescued to prevent being put down because of his anxiety and fear biting. In the county animal shelter he was called Havoc, and it was not undeserved. However, he showed promise and Rev. Seikai took it upon himself to show him love and patience and train him. His new name is Bijou, which means jewel ornament (as is sometimes used to describe the precepts) and he is proving to be a wonderful new member of our temple. Bijou had his naming ceremony on Sunday, March 16, and sat down on the bowing mat to receive the Three Treasure Treats.
During January the temple was closed for a couple of weeks, which gave us much opportunity for long walks with our dogs and rest time. Ron and Thea took the monks out for a day in Los Angeles, to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum and the Norton-Simon Museum, and Barry treated us all to a dinner before the long trip back home.
On January 9 we were visited by a group of Vietnamese Nuns from the Sacramento area who had been to Shasta Abbey a few times and wanted to see our temple. It was late on Saturday afternoon, they still had to drive all the way home, so the visit was short and sweet.
The Mahakankala Buddhist Center from Santa Barbara and Prajnaparamita Buddhist Center from Santa Monica organized their second retreat weekend here, it was well attended and people were grateful for the opportunity to spend time in our quiet temple and we are grateful that our place is being shared.
On January 25 we held a memorial ceremony for Rev. Alexis Barringer, who lived at North Cascades Buddhist Priory and had died in a car accident. Rev. Alexis was from Santa Paula, in Ventura County, had been ordained at Shasta Abbey in 1980 after practicing for some time with Rev. Jisho at the Santa Barbara Priory. Teishin and Judy came for the service and we shared memories from those days. Rev. Alexis and Rev. Seikai had been good friends over the years at Shasta Abbey and for a period in the 00s when R. Alexis lived in Santa Paula.
The January Home Practice month was attended via email by 12 people, who all found it helpful in various different ways. See Paul's article on pages 13-14. If you are interested in joining the next home practice month, please contact the temple; it will be July or August depending on the consensus.
On February 9 the monks again hosted an evening meditation and Dharma Talk for the Insight Meditation Group in Ventura. The topic was the Noble Eightfold Path: how every moment of our day can become one of practice by keeping this in mind. We hope to do an evening for this group once every few months.
The 2-day silent retreat on February 14 – 15 was very successful. Retreatants really appreciated the stricter observance of the Noble Silence all through the day and the deeper meditation that brings with it. We had a nice mixture of new people and familiar faces for the retreat, and reasonably pleasant weather for February.
For our Ventura Meditation group meetings we are now putting an ad in the Meetup.com website, which for our March meeting drew eight new people, several of whom have already signed up for the April meeting. Rev. Seikai's meditation benches prove to be a valued option for people who find sitting on a cushion too difficult. He has been making them over the winter months, as demand appears to be increasing.
Rev. Seikai rebuilt the handicapped access ramp in front of the Dharma House, which had been slowly falling apart over time. The new ramp is extremely solid, and the lower portion, which was rotten, was replaced with concrete. Rev. Phoebe then painted the entire thing.
The weather in our valley has been mostly mild, there are some wild flowers and a promise of many weeds. In late March, the goldfields have come into bloom and the north field in particular is blue with a carpet of bluebells. Anyone interested in helping us, even a little, with the weed abatement or tree planting we need to do this spring, please know that you are very welcome anytime. We will have work Saturdays on April 4, May 9, June 13 and 27, and July 18.
The OBC Journal has produced a very lovely printed and bound issue of last years Journal Articles. If you wish to buy a copy, go to www.lulu.com and look under OBC Annual Articles.