Berkeley Buddhist Priory Newsletter
April – June 2012
Practice at Home
by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett
(The following writings on Buddhist training at home, is an excerpt from Roar of the Tigress; The Oral Teaching of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett. These Dharma teachings were transcribed from her public lectures and then beautifully edited by the late Rev. Master Daizui MacPhillamy. This section is from page 208-211. This book is available at the Priory.)
First of all, you must understand that, as Dogen says in his instructions for meditation, “The koan arises naturally.” Now, the koan is your fundamental question, the driving force of your Buddhist practice. And, in the beginning, you may think it is merely “My feet hurt during meditation.” So, you fiddle them around until you find where they don’t. And then you just sit again. And you realize that the purpose is not to sit there in pain, but to find the Unborn. So fiddle your feet until you’ve got them right; it’s very simple. If that’s the first koan to solve, deal with it and then you go on from there. And the natural koans soon get out of the practical and the mundane and are lifted to much greater things and much higher things.
But don’t despise the worldly, don’t despise the mundane. As Dogen himself said, “Remember, it is by the aegis of the human body that we can find the Truth.” If you’re in any other body, how can you find the Truth? We can’t talk to Winnie, my bulldog down on the floor here; we hope she’s found the Truth. You and I can talk to each other; I can tell you what to do. If you’re dead, I can’t tell you what to do: you’re not here. Don’t despise the human body and, above all, don’t ill treat it. Remember the “three lacks”: your body deserves food; it deserves rest; it deserves clothing. It does not deserve excess: “Six parts of a full stomach support the man; the other two support his doctor.” Don’t become a glutton, and, above all, do not turn yourself into an ascetic. The Buddha Himself warned that it was wrong; every one of the great ancestors have warned that it is wrong. Any extreme is wrong, and it will do harm, so don’t let it happen—under any circumstances. Not if you want to truly know the Cosmic Buddha. And a properly trained Zen layman, or laywoman, understands this, and uses it in their own daily life. It is their daily life.
Now, one of the things that is most helpful in reminding yourself of this Middle Way between indulgence and asceticism is the mealtime ritual, which I mentioned earlier. The mealtime ritual is solely to have a good look at one’s self and see the reasons for which one eats food. It starts by asking us to “think deeply about the ways and means by which this food has come.” Most serious Mahayana Buddhists are, of course, vegetarians, because one does as little harm as one can. But there is the harm of pulling leaves off the lettuce and cutting into root vegetables and this sort of thing, so one has to be sure that one is making use of one’s life properly. Otherwise things should not be sacrificed for you. Why should things be sacrificed if you do nothing of benefit in this world? So, we recite what we call “The Five Thoughts”:first, “We must think deeply of the ways and means by which this food has come.” What has been sacrificed, where has it come from? Then, “We must consider our merit when accepting it.” What have we done; have we been useful, have we been lazy, do we really deserve all that we’ve got; how well have we trained? Next, “We must protect ourselves from error by excluding greed from our minds.” In other words, don’t be so ravenous to attack the food out of sheer greed that you forget to think about these other things. There’s plenty of time; you are not starving. I don’t think I need to go into that one any further; you know what I mean. “We will eat lest we become lean and die.” I have interpreted that as eating for the food value but not for what one fancies all the time. This is something that I am not always agreed with by the people that are with me. But I eat now solely for the food value and nothing else; that and the keeping of my body healthy. In other words, I think of food as medicine and medicine as food—not as something that is just to be enjoyed and taken lightly. And finally, “We accept this food so that we may become enlightened.” I think you can see that all the “Five Thoughts” are really connected very much together. You eat so that you shall not become lean and die. You eat for the food value so that you won’t sacrifice more than you need, nor will you become greedy, and also so that you are able to train much better than you otherwise would. That’s the way I work it out. And if you recite these “Five Thoughts” before each meal, you will soon see how they reverberate all through your life, because the attitude of mind behind them applies to many things, not just food.
The same is true of meditation: make it part of daily life, not just when you are doing formal sitting, but bring it into all of your life. You do this by bringing your mind back to just what you are doing at the moment. It’s the same mindful awareness: you use it in the ceremony hall, in the meditation hall, and you use it when sitting in your car. We used to do a brochure on sanctifying the mundane which showed somebody sitting at a red light with a seat belt on, paying attention to the road, and a child in a child-restraint beside them. And another car alongside this one, where the person had the radio blaring, a coffee in one hand, and was talking to their neighbor. This is how to sanctify the mundane and, at the same time, help everybody else around you. Now, obviously there are going to be times when you need to talk to your neighbor in the car. The point that we were trying to make was: if you can be as alert and mindful in your car as you are in meditation, then you have taken the meditation out of the meditation hall and put it into the car. And you have made it possible to find the Cosmic Buddha, the Eternal, just as much at the red light as inside the temple. That is what you should be doing with all aspects of your practice: finding uses for it in your everyday life. You can do this not only with meditation but with ceremonial, iconography, scriptures ….. everything.
by Rev. Kinrei
Rev. Master Seikai stayed at the Priory along with his dog, Della, from mid January till early March. Rev. Master Seikai’s home temple is Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple in southern California. It is a wonderful opportunity to have another monk at the Priory and both the Priory Sangha and myself benefitted from Rev. Master Seikai’s example and training. Plus we benefitted from his dog, Della, whose brightness and joy whenever she met anyone, will be missed.
The wooden trellis that supports the wisteria alongside the back porch of the Priory had become extremely rotted and needed rebuilding. Rev. Master Seikai took that on as a project during his visit and replaced much of the structure with new pressure treated lumber. It is a big improvement and it should last, hopefully, for another thirty or forty years.
Another upcoming change at the Priory is Rev. Alethea, a monk who currently resides at the Eugene Buddhist Priory is relocating to this temple. Rev. Alethea was ordained at Shasta Abbey by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett in 1994 and was a monk at the Abbey until a year and a half ago when she went to the Eugene Priory. I have known Rev. Alethea for years before she was a monk as I used see her when she visited the Abbey as a lay Sangha member of the Santa Barbara Buddhist Priory. Rev. Alethea’s help and presence will be much appreciated at the Priory and her compassionate example and wisdom will be a great gift for our Sangha.
The Priory dishwasher gets considerable use and is an appliance I very much appreciate and unfortunately, our dishwasher was no longer good at its essential function, cleaning dishes. We bought and installed a new dishwasher which has the added virtue of being fairly quiet, a quality much appreciated when people are meditating nearby. The new machine holds more dishes and it cleans them very well. Much gratitude for well designed and well built major appliances.
Another change at the Priory which should be happening on April 17, is all the first floor windows are being replaced with new windows. The building was constructed in the 1930’s and we still using some of the original windows. The new windows will be double glazed and have extra energy saving qualities. Plus the windows in the meditation hall will have extra sound control features, which will hopefully reduce the traffic noise.
Charity is one of the four wisdoms and demonstrates the Bodhisattva’s aspiration. Deep appreciation and gratitude is offered to all those who contribute their spiritual practice, money, time, energy, and various gifts to the Priory. The generosity of the entire Priory Sangha is what makes it possible for the Priory to exist and for the Dharma to be freely offered to whomever is interested.
In recent months, we have been given many generous gifts, including a beautiful Avalokiteswara scroll, cat food, books, dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, tissue and paper towels. Providing monks with food is the traditional offering given when coming to a Buddhist temple, and we appreciate all the generous food offerings we have been given which provide most of the food for the Priory. During the past few months we have been given these food donations of quiches, soups, pizza, vegetables, fruit, soy milk, salad, salad dressing, eggs, vegetarian burgers, rice, coffee, muffins, bread, herbal and black teas, granola, olive oil, tofu, vegetarian meats, fruit juice, soda, crackers, pasta, nuts, flax seeds, cheese, chips, peanut butter, jam, raisins, chocolate, cookies, candy, pies, and cakes. You are always welcome to check with the Priory on what foods are currently needed.
We encourage our Sangha and friends to offer writings to this newsletter. We all have our own personal experiences and understanding of Buddhist training and it is an act of spiritual generosity to be willing to offer and share them with others.
Wesak Celebration–May 6
On Wesak, Buddhists throughout the world commemorate the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha. It is the most spiritually significant day of the Buddhist calendar and it is helpful for Buddhists to join together as a Sangha and express their gratitude and joy for the existence and transmission of the Three Treasures.
On Sunday, May 6, we will have the usual 9:30 am meditation, followed by the Wesak ceremony at 10 am. The Wesak ceremony is a particularly joyous service. The altar is covered with silk flowers, and a statue of the Buddha as a baby stands on the front altar. During the ceremony we pour water over the head of the baby Buddha, representing the water of compassion abundantly flowing over all beings.
After the ceremony, the Priory will have a Dharma talk. At around 12:15 pm, we will have a vegetarian potluck lunch. All family and friends of our Sangha are welcome to come to the potluck and to share in our celebration of the birth of the Buddha. The Priory potlucks provide a wonderful offering of foods, and allow us to deepen our contact and friendship with our fellow members of the Sangha.
Helping the Priory and Work Days
Buddhist training is based not just on receiving the spiritual benefits that Dharma practice provides, but also our own willingness to cultivate gratitude and finding ways to make offerings. Giving our valuable time to help with the work of the Priory is very much needed if the Priory is to flourish. During the past few months, Sangha members came by the Priory and helped with many different tasks, such as gardening, cleaning, cooking, construction, computer work and book-keeping. Please contact the Priory if you wish to help; we always has plenty of work that needs doing. In addition, the Priory has been having regular work days which have been a great help with fixing up and maintaining the Priory and its grounds. You are welcome to come to the Priory whenever you can and offer your help. The next work days are scheduled for Saturday, May 26 and July 28, from 9:30 to 3:00, but we welcome everyone to help for whatever part of the day they can come.
Priory Meditation Retreats
April 14 May 19 June 16 July 14
Retreats are an excellent way to deepen our meditation and training. The retreat begins at 8am and the day is a mixture of meditation, Dharma talks and Buddhist services. The retreat is over at 5pm. Please register in advance for all the retreats.
Meditation instruction and an orientation to the practice at the Priory are offered each Thursday at 6:45 pm. Please arrive a few minutes early so that we can begin promptly at 6:45. The instruction is followed by a 7:30-8:05 pm meditation period. We ask all people new to our practice to attend this instruction. The meditation instruction is free, as are all the activities at the Priory. If your schedule will not allow you to come on Thursday evening, you are welcome to call the Priory to try to arrange a different time for the instruction.
Rev. Kinrei is available to discuss your spiritual practice and to help you to better apply the Dharma to your life. Taking refuge in a senior member of the Sangha is an important aid in gaining a better perspective and deeper insight into our spiritual life. It is also helpful in learning to cultivate openness and trust. You are welcome to contact the Priory and arrange a time to meet.
Shasta Abbey Retreats
Attending a retreat at Shasta Abbey is an excellent way to deepen one’s Buddhist life by living and practicing together with a large community of monastic and lay members of the Sangha. The introductory retreats are the recommended first step in practicing at the Abbey. For more information, you can contact the Shasta Abbey Guestmaster at (530) 926-4208 or at email@example.com. or go to their Web site at www.shastaabbey.org.
Introductory Retreats: April 13-15 June 1-3
Wesak Retreat: May 18–20
The Teachings of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett: June 17-24
Introduction to Serene Reflection Meditation Retreat: July 10-15
Meditation Retreat: July 25-29
One of the best ways to help the Priory is to make the commitment to be a Priory Member. What this involves is making a pledge to contribute a certain amount of money to the Priory each month. There is no set or recommended amount as we leave it up to each individual to offer what he or she feels is appropriate. This commitment is a tremendous help to the Priory because it gives us a stable financial base. More importantly, deciding to become a member has deep spiritual significance. It means you are choosing to help take responsibility for the continued existence of the Priory. Some of you may only be able to pledge a few dollars a month and think it is not worth making such an insignificant commitment. Yet it is important to offer whatever you can and be willing to make a formal commitment to be part of the Priory. The most important help members bring to the Priory and the Sangha is not their donations but their Buddhist training. By being willing to come to the Priory and train with others, we help make the Priory a true refuge of the Sangha.
However, we are not suggesting that everyone who occasionally attends the Priory or gives us donations should become a member. For many people, it is not appropriate to make such a commitment, and we welcome them to join us whenever they wish, to help us in the manner they feel appropriate, and to be valued friends of the Priory.