March - June
In the month of March we had several people doing private retreats in the Willow Shrine, a very comfortable one-room retreat cabin next to the Sangha House.
On March 15 we held the Reading of the Precepts Ceremony and at the end of it, Bijou, our new dog, came into the Hall to have his Naming Ceremony, officially making him a Temple dog. He sat himself down on the bowing mat as if he had practiced a long time, and took the Three Treasure Precepts on a little dog biscuit. He has made unbelievable progress in his training – even the veterinarian complimented Rev. Seikai for having achieved so much in a short time. Almost all of Bijou's frantic behavior has vanished and he is becoming an affectionate and fun friend with Jasper.
On March 24 the monks visited an elderly couple in Moorpark on their request, and chanted the Shurangama Litany (in English) for the wife, who had entered hospice care. She has since somewhat recovered and we are glad to have been of service.
For the weekend of April 10 we had six people for our Silent Retreat, and we contemplated the Six Paramitas, or Practices that Ease the Way. The next day Rev. Phoebe went to visit with her family in The Netherlands, and also some monk friends in England. Rev. Seikai was grateful for Beth's help for several days during this period.
The Wesak celebrations were joyful and after a couple of years we once again had a few children: Max, little Phoebe and Camille, whose 11th birthday was that day, May 3. She had requested to come to the temple for the occasion, a traditional Buddhist practice which brings many blessings. Regularly we have adults who come here for a couple of days, to wake up in a temple on their birthday. Since the wildflowers by early May were nearly dried up, we resorted to using silk and plastic flowers for our offerings at the stupa. A string tied around the base prevented the flowers from blowing away immediately and it looked lovely. As has happened before, people sat down on the surrounding walls for a period of impromptu meditation, before we all had a lovely potluck lunch.
Since then the monks have been painting the stupa, (see top photo) using antique brass spray paint, which is giving it a wonderful muted glow and blends in the mortar joints that had been so visible between the stones. We went out into the field after morning service on days when there was no wind, and have made it a devotional practice to empty one or two cans of paint at a time. After two complete coats, the stupa looks wonderful.
We were visited by Rev. Master Haryo Young, head of our Order, for four days during May. He also visited the Berkeley Buddhist Priory before returning to Shasta Abbey, and has since traveled to Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in England, where he will reside through the fall.
For Memorial Day weekend we stayed open on Monday, and a couple of people took the opportunity to do a three day private retreat.
We had a members meeting on May 31, notes of which are available at the temple if you are interested.
On June 4, Rev. Phoebe assisted a young couple who came to the temple to renew their wedding vows on their 8th anniversary. The first five precepts are part of Buddhist wedding vows, they are: to do no harm on purpose and promote life; only take what is freely given and be generous with all one has; cultivate friendliness and honesty in all our dealings with one another; use sexuality wisely and lovingly; and make decisions and interactions as clearly, openly and sympathetically as possible. Making these promises to each other will bring many blessings to the couple's life.
As the drought continues, Rev. Seikai has cut back 25% or more on our automated watering times, and so far our well is holding up. The vegetable beds are ready for summer, with tomatoes, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, potatoes and herbs all starting to grow. We were given a dozen asparagus roots, which need to establish themselves for 2 years before they can be picked. The rabbits are so far not respecting this rule, so we will have to see if the plants will make it.
The previous newsletter was produced without the help of Dee, who has been taking care of the publishing and mailing for years, and was temporarily incapacitated following knee surgery. It made us especially grateful to realize how much work she puts in time and again, and we are happy she is back at it for this issue. Many blessings are offered for her generous contributions to the life of the temple and monks.
The work morning on June 12 saw three people, Beth, Brock and Jack, and all those extra hands were greatly appreciated. We cleaned the carpet and chairs in the common room, took down several dead trees and processed the fire wood. After showers, a nice lunch and a rest we had Dharma talk; we held meditation at the stupa in the evening to end the day.
The late season and much-needed rain showers this spring have prolonged the growth of weeds and brush, making it necessary for Rev. Seikai to do tractor mowing after it looked like that wouldn’t be necessary earlier in the spring. We will hold a couple more work mornings in the coming weeks, but any day anyone can come out to give a hand we would be really grateful for the extra help.
A gathering at the temple for Wesak on May 3 this year. It was a festive occasion. Pictured is the stupa, where we offered flowers and sat in meditation.
Our meditation retreats have been small but high quality of late. In May three people were present for the long Memorial Day weekend retreat. In June, we had four cancellations and two people finally make it to the retreat. Revs. Phoebe and Seikai accept what is put into their begging bowl: small is beautiful.
The first three weeks of August, 1 – 25, the temple will be closed. We will check email and phone messages, and if there is a need to speak with a monk, please do not hesitate to let us know.