Moon Watching

I contemplate the moon
through the night.
Human beings will gaze
upon it for eternity.
The Sermons and preaching
of the Buddha
Surely occurred under
the same kind of moon.

Zen Master Roykan

I’ll be back after the week-end, perhaps with my own photo of the moon in a night sky.
Happy New Year.

From Half Way Round the World

The Buddha protected by Mucalinda, King of the Nagas.
The Buddha protected by Mucalinda, King of the Nagas.

I received this in the mail to-day. It has come more than half the way round the world. It originating in Thailand, thence to England in luggage and onwards to Canada in a mailing tube. And there it was waiting for me at the front door of the Priory on my return from the library. It gives me pause for thought when considering the minor miracle of items reaching their destinations: that ‘planes stay in the air for long periods of time, that mailed items, 99% of the time, arrive in one piece, and packages can be left alone on the doorstep and not get picked up and taken away again!

At Shasta Abbey there is a huge statue of the Buddha protected by Mucalinda set beneath a structure to protect it from the elements. It’s the very first Buddha image that visitors encounter when entering the monastery for a visit. I believe it is covered in gold leaf and was a gift from devotees in Singapore.

The image, above, appears to be silk screened and the background is black fabric. It’s a kind gift and treasure it. Thank you.

Passing on the Teaching

As good fortune would have it I just received, via email, a link to an article on receiving the Buddhist Precepts. There is a lot of good teaching in it for those who have received lay ordination and those who have not, and may never do so. I should mention that we do not follow the practice of new aspirants sewing a rakusu (small kesa) and to not give a Buddhist name at the time of Jukai, (Ten Precepts Meeting). The teaching given in the article about the making a giving of the small kesa still stands very true though. Lay Ministers of our Order wear a blue/green small kesa which is made for them and given by a senior monk when they become lay ministers. Here is a photo so you can see what a small kesa looks like and to take you into the spring heat of China in May…

I’m wearing a small kesa. Iain Robinson who is a lay minister was not wearing his at the time. Taken this May during a visit to Tiantong Temple near Ningbo, Zhejiang where Zen Master Dogen came to practice in the 12th Century. That’s the Abbot and his mother in the middle with other relatives and attendants.

Looking back on early postings I realize that there is hardly a mention of the visit to this temple. Making postings while in China at all was quite a struggle though. Got anything to say Iain?

Listen and Hear

‘The Wild, White Goose’ is the personal account of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett’s early years training as a monk in Japan. She was there in the 1960’s where she faced unimaginable hardships. Being both a woman and a foreigner and the time being relatively soon after WW2 all contributed to the way she was treated. And, I have to remind myself that she was there over forty years ago, a different time, a very different place and novice training IS testing were ever one is. I sometimes wonder if I would have been able to stay the course as she did during those years.

I still find it hard to read my teachers diaries, to mentally travel beside her through those grueling times. There were ‘warmer’, as well as ‘cooler’, moments of course. Two years on the run she was alone in her country temple on Christmas Day. She records, “I don’t think I can remember one which was more enjoyable.” Having visited that temple this year I can now picture her there. Simple temple, simple pleasures.

There is a poem at the start of the Introduction to ‘the Goose’, as we affectionately refer to Rev. Master’s book, and it goes thus:

Flying clouds in a flying sky,
I listen and hear the wild goose cry;
Peaceful eve but it’s no use
For I am sister to the wild, white goose.

My heart knows what the wild goose knows
For my heart goes where the wild goose goes;
Wild goose, sister goose, which is best,
The flying sky or a heart at rest?

Author unknown.

I read the diaries for the first time over twenty five year ago and had no conscious thought of flying the same course as the author. However the call to take to the wide uncharted sky was strong enough to lift me up and follow her.

Music for the Heart

This afternoon I watched a dramatized version of A Child’s Christmas In Wales (1955) by Dylan Thomas the renowned poet. I didn’t manage to watch the program consistently as there was a phone call and then a couple, very kindly, brought a ready-to-eat festive lunch for me. When I eventually returned to the TV I heard, …….‘I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept’ . Those were the closing lines of the story!
They speak to me and I hope they speak to you.

More and more I appreciate the ‘music’ of language and the facility it has to convey that which is not well approached through words.