Berkeley Buddhist Priory Newsletter
June – August 2016
by Carrie Crespo
I remember with intrigue the Dharma Talk when I was first introduced to the concept of the eight worldly concerns, or preoccupations as they are sometimes called. The way I initially understood them, it seemed that our karma is attached to a rollercoaster that we as humans have a lifelong ticket to ride. The concerns for me, are not entirely emotions but definitely emotional experiences. They are very familiar realms; Happiness & Despair, Praise & Blame, Gain & Loss as well as Fame & Shame. Like the truth of suffering, we should expect reversals, we should hope for the best and prepare the worst, we should remember that conditions change and nothing is permanent hence there is no substance or importance to these concerns except what we assign to them.
I’ve been attending Dharma Talks at the priory for the past four years during a time in my life which has very much felt like The Cyclone. For those of you who have never been to Coney Island in Brooklyn, The Cyclone is one of the oldest roller coasters in the United States. It dates back to 1927 and is made of wood, or as I like to describe, hundreds of matchsticks glued together, because that’s what it looks and feels like when you ride it. I recently learned a feature of the Cyclone making it particularly heartstopping is that there are no seat dividers so as the cars take the 60mph turns, you slam into year seatmate, sometimes knocking elbows and even heads during the ride. (I think this is such a fitting metaphor for how we experience the karma of others.) I’m certain more than one passenger over the course of the coaster’s infamous history has walked away with bumps, bruises and even whiplash.
When I think of the Cyclone, I wax nostalgic about New York, where I moved from seven years ago, this fall. It was 2009 when my now husband and I left to move to East Bay. Manhattan with all its seduction had betrayed many people when the economy crashed. A job transfer for my husband was the start of new life for us in California, a new ride on a new roller coaster for me and that roller coaster was bigger and more frightening than The Cyclone ever was. I had actually lost my job the month before we decided to move out West. LOSS. But then my now husband proposed a week later. FAME. I was able to find a new job relatively quickly after moving out West. GAIN. But the job was a more junior role than I held in NYC and paid half of what I was earning. SHAME. My husband and I were married the following year and we had a beautiful wedding back in NY that I was able to plan from across the country. PRAISE. But our first year of marriage was incredibly difficult. DESPAIR. My husband quit his job to start a business and felt I wasn’t supportive of him. BLAME. After a lot of soul searching and deciding to deepen my practice and joining the Sangha at the Priory, I discovered new insights to myself and my approach to life. HAPPINESS.
Four years later, I’ve had multiple jobs since moving to California, some I’ve left willingly and some not as much. Most recently, I was laid off in March from what I considered my ‘dream job.’ Each position I got after that first job was another bumpy ride on the roller coaster, especially this last one where I was laid off. I had finally worked my way back to a compen-sation level I was proud of: I felt financially stable and was able to buy nice things for myself. My husband and I started a major renovation on our house. I had a senior, highly visible role at a very well known company in San Francisco and I was doing some exciting things at times but I was miserable and bitter about how much I worked. The job was everything that I thought I wanted yet, so often during my tenure there I would reflect back on the talks about conditions and how changing conditions wasn’t a guarantee to finding happiness. When I was laid off I was relieved not to have to go back and with my newfound freedom, I found myself finally doing the things that my insanely demanding job left me no time to enjoy.
In April, I took a trip to Mount Shasta and visited Shasta Abbey for the first time, for the festival of Buddha’s Birth. I booked a bed and breakfast nearby on the Saturday night before and set out early in the light rain for a beautiful drive up north. The trip was long but I was able to listen to an entire audiobook on the drive there and back, which was a total indulgence. The Dharma talk that day was about being still which was so appropriate for my trip to the Abbey and helped me understand what I needed to do for myself and what should guide my next career move. Over time my practice and what I’ve learned from the Dharma talks have become my shock absorbers, my crash helmet, my seat belt and my guard rail. The worldly concerns have no meaning or at least the have less meaning to me now and I learned that on the roller coaster, I can always find stillness.
Letting Hurt in
by Nancy Townsend
One of the greatest challenges in my training and in my personal life is acknowledging to myself that my feelings are hurt. I will notice that I have a sad, yucky feeling, and I will try to figure out what the cause is so that I can make the feelings go away. Often, if I am truthful with myself, I can trace it back to something someone said or did that may or may not have been intended to hurt me. I glossed over it when it happened, but then – sure enough – my mood is one of sadness and despair, and this may include a pinch of anger too, either at myself or someone else (often my husband because he is a readily available target & I know he isn’t going anywhere).
Why is it so hard to catch these little moments? For me, I think it is a matter of being vulnerable, which I am working on. I know it is a human thing, but growing up in the Mid-West in a family where feelings were never spoken of certainly solidified the “stiff upper lippedness” & “get the job done” quality that I experience. That has its value, but it has its cost as well. Also, there is fear associated with it, as I take the hurt personally. I am so afraid of being hurt that I don’t want to look – and my denial has been practiced for a lifetime (perhaps many lifetimes!).
Once I do acknowledge my hurt feelings, there is a release which feels good. I don’t know whether it is acknowledging the hurt feelings that makes me feel better or whether it is being more open to myself – I suspect it is the latter. Then I can do whatever is appropriate, whether that is communicate to the person who did the action or just acknowledge it to myself and let it go.
My Buddhist training has been helpful in first, noticing my feelings, and second, dealing with the fear that comes up. It seems like a painfully slow process, i.e. I would like it to be resolved and never have these feelings again. But I am practicing patience and am grateful for the vulnerability that I have experienced. When I do either acknowledge hurt to myself or communicate about it to the person who initiated it, I do experience love and acceptance for myself and the other person. I have often experienced gratitude from the other person for bringing it up, which is a relief because it is so hard for me to speak about it. We all want authenticity in each other, I know that. So I declare my commitment to being more authentic with myself and experiencing the fear and love that arises with that.
by Rev. Kinrei
Wesak commemorates the birth of Shakyumuni Buddha. This is the most important day of the Buddhist year and Buddhists everywhere express their gratitude for the existence of the Three Treasures. Priory held its Wesak celebration on Sunday, May 22. We set up an outside altar in front of the Priory’s garage. A trellis of silk flowers was arranged around an the Buddha statue. At the Wesak ceremony, instead of offering incense at the altar, everyone poured water over the head of the statue of a baby Buddha. This symbolizes the waters of compassion abundantly pouring over the Buddha and flowing over everything in the whole universe. We sang many of the special hymns written for Wesak and the ceremony had a joyous feeling.
A Dharma talk followed the ceremony and then we had an extremely diverse and bountiful potluck lunch. Potlucks at the Priory are good occasions to get to know our fellow Sangha members and they help us to build a strong sense of belonging to a community of Buddhists.
The Priory was left some property in Alameda by Larry Donovan, for the purpose of being a retirement home for Sangha members. We named the property, the Kanzeon Home. We gained legal ownership this March and we do have some Sangha members planning to move in. We had various inspections done on the property and it does need some work which we will try to get done fairly soon.
On May 28, the Priory had a work day and our project was painting the hallways and a bedroom in one of the houses in Alameda. We had a large group for the work day. Painting can be a very satisfying job and it was nice to see the walls gaining a new white coat of paint. We did not manage to complete all the painting that day and a smaller group from the Priory finished the painting a few days later.
There is still space at the Kanzeon Home for one or two retired Sangha members who can still live independently. If anyone is interested in either living at the retirement home or helping with this project, they may contact the Priory.
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 silk flowers, dishwasher detergent, dish soap, cat food, books, kitty litter, toilet paper, paper towels, paper napkins, tissues, and cleaning supplies.
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 food donations of various vegetables and fruit, soy milk, eggs, tofu, breakfast cereal, granola, pasta, crackers, olive oil, rice, vegetarian burgers, vegetarian meats, peanut butter, cheese, beans, soups, salads, oats, bread, coffee, herbal and black teas, vegetable stock, coconut milk, fruit juice, nuts, chips, raisins, fruit preserves, chocolates, cookies, candy, pies, and cakes. You are always welcome to check with the Priory on what foods are currently needed.
Sandra Schnabel’s father, John Schnabel, died at the age of 96, on March 18. On March 25, Sandra and a few of the Priory Sangha went to his cremation and held a Buddhist service for John. Then Sandra’s 88 year old mother, Erma Schnabel, died a few weeks later, on April 8. We again held a service at Erma’s cremation on April 15. The Priory held a memorial for both John and Erma Schnabel, at the Priory, on April 17. It is very rough to lose both parents within a few weeks and Priory Sangha was glad to have the opportunity to offer merit for the deceased and merit and sympathy to Sandra in dealing with such grievous loss.
We held a memorial for Angela Monica Zuniga on March 20. Angela, 33 years old, died on February 28. She was in a California prison and gave birth to her son, Exodus, on February 10. Angela then complained repeatedly of severe pain for which she received no significant medical attention and she then died from internal bleeding. Her memorial was requested by her friend, who is a prisoner on death row, in California.
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 find 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 painting, yard work, gardening, cleaning, cooking, construction, computer work and bookkeeping. Please contact the Priory if you wish to help; we always have 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 offerfer your help. The next work days are scheduled for Saturday, July 30 and Saturday, October 1.
Priory Meditation Retreats
July 16 August 13 September 17 October 15
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.
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 go to their website at http://www.shastaabbey.org or contact the Guestmaster at (530) 926-4208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Introductory Weekend Retreats
July 22–24 Aug. 2-4 Oct.14–16
August 14–21 September 2–4
Working Meditation Retreat
Deepening Practice Retreat
September 30–October 2