Category Archives: Daily Life

Once Lost Now Found

Found wandering on a busy road today. She sleeps safely tonight. There is a story to tell, a touching one however that’s a story for another day since we do not know what the outcome will be. Enough to say a BIG thank you to all concerned who helped to make this a ‘wonderful rescue’. Never easy or straight forward to pick up a stray or abandoned dog on the road. We all did well.

Thinking Day

At the start of a meeting Brownies dance (skip) around a giant plastic toadstool, or at least that’s my memory, something to do with ‘togetherness’. My rebel sister in arms and I didn’t! We were five or six and not ready to be ‘together’ with the rest, dancing. My fascination with fungus however has been lifelong and here among the trees at Shasta Abbey they are shooting up everywhere.

My rebel friend and I parted and by eleven I was a Girl Guide and devout. Each year we had Thinking Day when at our evening meeting we would remember all the other guides around the world lighting a candle for each country where guides were doing the same thing. Not a toadstool in sight! It was a solemn occasion and I loved it.

In Britain we have just had Remembrance Day and here in the US it will be Veterans Day on Sunday. I like to think of such occasions as Thinking Days as I remember them from Guiding. Massive transfer of merit occasions for everybody around the world. Alive and dead.

More to death than dying

Faith traditions invariably have teaching, based on faith/belief, around what happens when somebody dies. Hopefully such teachings bring comfort to those who are grieving as well as strengthened faith in those approaching death themselves. Buddhism has a number of schools or traditions with similar yet different teachings around what happens. Personally I don’t feel a need to know!  However I’m able to offer meaningful thoughts to the grieving which tend to focus on living and the departed persons life.

I was out walking just now pondering on this whole subject. It would seem we (in the West) are held in a dynamic tension between verifiable scientific proof as to what happens and real-time imaging/the visionary (including visionary dreams). My experience around death, which I do not take as fact, tends towards the visionary. This all is coming to mind since there seems to have been a lot of death in the family lately.

Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, my teacher, died eighteen years ago on the 6th November 1996 here at Shasta Abbey. She’d had a really bad cold for three days and finally on the third day around 2.00 in the afternoon her system gave out. On that day and generally around that time a number of us noticed how up-beat we seemed, joyful even. We refer to one who has died such as Rev. Master Jiyu as entering Eternal Meditation and in a certain way we all joined her there. How could there not be collective joy and celebration?  Yes, and at the same time there was sadness at the person of our Masters’ leaving us.

Around this time of year there are ceremonies held within our religious order remembering Rev. Master Jiyu and Shasta Abbey was no exception. Invariably memories of that time are very personal as is the case around any death of somebody close, or one of our animal companions too for that matter. These are my memories.

Last Sunday morning a Memorial was held for Rev. Jiyu which included a separate ceremony at the site where she is buried, marked by a majestic white stupa with a smooth paved area  surrounds the stupa. Everybody present, lay and monastic, went out in procession to the stupa site and sang scriptures as we walked around (circumambulated) the stupa a number of times in honor of the one interred beneath. As we sang together in the crisp sunny morning air I was taken back to the actual burial ceremony, eighteen years ago.

I was one of the two officiating monks for the burial and chose to wear the black novice monk kesa Rev. Master wore when she was a novice in Japan. It was a huge honour to wear her robe and of course being asked to be one of the celebrants. It was freezing cold, I had a well developed cold as did several other monks. I felt like death! A monk stood close by with extra tissues and cough sweets as we stood on the uneven newly dug earth facing the end of the ceremony hall with Mt. Shasta behind. The ceremony went on for perhaps two hours with scriptures being repeated over and over as everybody, quite a crowd, put a spade full of earth on the coffin. I might have been a bit delirious by the end of it all, possibly during the ceremony as well! Was I seeing things?

Returning now to last Sunday. I was standing in much the same place I’d stood at the burial with the tip of Mt. Shasta white with snow peeking out from behind the meditation hall building with blue sky above. Around me I sensed a crowd gathering among the surrounding trees, larger than the one physically present. In the sky there appeared a lively sense of beings riding on large birds, flying freely and joyfully. I didn’t look up. Didn’t feel the need to. Didn’t concern myself as to whether or not I was seeing things, again.

Yep, there is more to death than dying and I guess we will all know what that is when our time comes. Until then let us fully appreciate the lively sense of being physically alive while going about our day, and when in repose too.

This post is for the brother of one of the monks who is getting closer to death by the day. May he find true peace.

Audio Recording: Rev. Master Koten Prior of Lions Gate Buddhist Priory British Columbia, Canada gave a talk after the ceremonies last Sunday. The title of the talk is: To View The Morning Star. The Reverend speaks about Rev. Master Jiyu; giving teaching about training with a master and about training generally. It lasts just over one hour and rich with Dharma and best listened to while sitting quietly. Not for example when out jogging or driving or while doing the dusting or washing the dishes! Just a thought.

walking in step with

Linda Payne was one of the artists who exhibited work at the opening I went to a few days ago. I rather liked this ‘gatha’ she wrote. Walking in step with the present – very good. Walking with the ever-changing present, nothing static, nothing unmoving or non movable.

Knowing without knowing

Yreka - from an art show.
Yreka – from an art show.

The other evening several of the monks and many lay members attended a small art show in Yreka titled Women Who Know Alaska. One of the women is a regular attendee here at Shasta Abbey. We went to support her and her artistic endeavours.

After a fairly brisk look at the art on the walls I chatted sociably and then sat with an elderly woman on a window seat, the town of Yreka behind us. After the preliminaries, What’s with the hair thing? and Brown and purple, nice colour combination! we settled to chat. Story or in this case autobiography tumbled from her lips. The abridged version. I was not a passive listener, Oh yes, and how did you learn to walk again after the accident? and having been invited to feel the metal in her reconstructed knee, Yes the metal is close to the surface! Her lived-in face and hands spoke volumes, as did she.

The whole room was redolent with memory, animated memories through the art works, the people and specifically the elderly woman. It was as though all was animated wallpaper; to appreciate, enjoy and wonder at. To engage with wholeheartedly and without reservation. And silently,  out of sight, is the knowing-without-knowing. Knowing the story, the multi-faceted, multi-coloured and textured surfaces in the room were fundamentally as passing smoke in blue sky or rocks and pebbles in clear running water. AND.  And this is the wonder of engaging anywhere at any time, that the knowing-without-knowing is known through the animated wallpaper of events and circumstances of living.

For anybody who might be wondering the above is simply a creative way of talking about meditation in daily living. And, in particular, affirming that daily life isn’t the poor relative of *formal meditation.

*The word formal was added into this post on 30th October for clarification.