Category Archives: Teachings

The Greatest Teaching of All

A grand day out.
Dizzy from animated, noisy truck riding, conversations I wander off alone. First nose to nose with deer then a passing glimpse at bear scat. Manzanita berries are on the menu, apparently. Picking my way along. Pass abandoned boat and a pick-up, sans engine and most of everything else. Signs of mining, gold mining I find out later.

Scrub oak and pine, everything dry as dust. Silence, no wind no breeze, blue sky. Rustles in the dry oak leaves. A chipmunk? Squirrel? Who knows. I lay me down. Fall asleep. Wake and wander about. Gaze out past trees to distant forest hills. What a treat! Two or three hours in the wilderness. No particular purpose. No destination. No biting insects! No threat nor fear. No NOTHING.

Then, back to help load the log splitter. We set up an easy rhythm together, she operated the hydraulics, I swung in the next log. A rare chance to work along side novice monks. What a treat! Lunch and amiable chat about deer under the deck, mountain lions and re-roofing plans. Then tea and seniors talk of sewing the kesa, quilting and re-learning balance after hip replacement. All the while work continues.

We go home towing wood and log-splitter. My work companions elderly wet dog in the back and another novice helper beside. We are all dusty-tired, the dog too. Mt. Shasta, almost devoid of snow save for the glaciers, is in view as we weave our way down Strawberry Valley. Which appears again to be dotted with mini slag heaps. I never travel this road without that thought, of slag heaps. They probably reflect a geological event millennia old. Who knows?

A truck passes. Emblazoned on the cab side, Never give up. A split second later the novice in the back seat asks, Have you any advice for us (novices) please Rev. Master Mugo? I pause. No, not really. What IS there to say to these very able, well informed, up-to-the-mark young monks? Err, well Never give up! Never give up on your fellow trainees. Never give up on yourself.

This was a favourite teaching of the late Head of the Order. He meant by it so much. So much that is important in terms of maintaining harmony in the Sangha. As we say, Harmony IS the Sangha Treasure. Thankfully I hit a spot with my truck-inspired teaching. We chatted back and forth on the subject until we were home.

This pair had obviously studied their Taitaikoho (How Junior Priests Must Behave in the Presence of Senior Priests), Eihei-shingi (Dogen’s Monastic Rules). One of the instructions is to always be diligent in the presence of a senior and take the opportunity to ask for teaching. The last rule, number 62, states: For you seniors will always exist; there will always be someone senior to you both when you are a first grade unsui and when you become a Buddha. This is the greatest teaching of all.

Nothing like being out in the wilderness to return home once more to humility. And wonder. One is never so old for that. Monk or not.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

New View on Right Speach

Ask Oxford Quote of the week.

No one gossips about
other people’s secret virtues.

Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), British philosopher and mathematician.

Many thanks to the Reverend in England for sending the link.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Dog Owners Must Fill up Holes Dug by Their Pets!

Another Place. An Antony Gormley art installation on Crosby Beach, near Liverpool England.
Wet dog, Crosby.

These Iron Men standing tall in the bay at Crosby have raised a great deal of controversy over the years however from what I read there are here to stay. Zipping now back to sunny California I remember driving along beside the East Bay and observing an art instillation sometimes awash at high tide often, forlorn, rising out of the mud at low tide. That’s all gone now it would seem. Perhaps Antony Gormley’s work will grace the Bay one day.

This afternoon I was taken out dog walking on the East Bay at the 23 acre Point Isobel off leash dog park. It’s just a couple of miles drive from the Priory. What a treat! Dogs everywhere. Watch out, she is a leaner! the owner of an Irish Setter warns me as the elegant auburn haired, long legged one pressed herself into my legs. Then I bend to stroke a tiny dog. What a cute pug, is she a puppy? No, she is petite! Shadow, the dog we were walking, accidentally-on-purpose allows his ball to dribble down into Hoffman Channel, again and again and again. He likes to swim.

Leashes are optional for non-aggressive dogs in Point Isabel with certain restrictions. Dog owners must have a leash on hand, clean up their pet’s waste and fill up holes dug by their pet. Dogs who become aggressive must be leashed immediately. Dogs are allowed to swim in Hoffman Channel, but not in Hoffman Marsh. Dog owners also must prevent their pets from disturbing feeding birds at low tide.
Wikipedia on Point Isable.

My early monastic life was shared with dogs. O, the stories I could tell! Later monastic life was dominated by a Bloodhound. The story goes he once dove into Hoffman Channel then vigorously shook his muddy self, spraying a freshly laundered white poodle to every bodies dismay! Thankfully I wasn’t present.

Our dogs taught us about compassion. They do some crazy things, as do all of us at some time or another.

Thanks to Angie for the photographs.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An Oblation to the Absolute

There is another kind of spiritual courage as well, quieter and less celebrated, but just as remarkable: that of making each day, in its most conventional aspects — cooking, eating, breathing — an oblation to the absolute.
— Philip Zaleski, From a New York Times book review. July 24, 1994.

Sorry, I can’t track down the actual review.

Years ago in the mid 1980’s I wrote a Journal article titled, To Proffer Abundant Oblations. I loved that word oblations, wonderfully expansive and all embracing.
Here is the definition of this phrase at the start of the article:

To offer for acceptance that which is intangible, in ample sufficiency, in thanksgiving to the Eternal Buddha.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Change of Direction

Muchie, blue eyed priory cat with robe.

Fancy cat, fancy ceremonial robe. Those golden ties so tempting. Briefly a paw flexes to pounce as I pick up the robe before the ceremony yesterday morning. Poised. The paw twitches again and…. No! Paw washing next. I’m not sure I can attribute this change to a deliberate decision on her part, non the less, I’m grateful she chose washing over pouncing.

A recent visitor reminded me of a helpful telephone conversation he had with one of the monks. He and his wife were caught between going to a retreat or standing by at their home to offer help to a small monastic community should the threatening forest fire come close enough to require evacuation.

Continue on with the original plan, while at the same time be prepared to change direction at any moment.

In the end they helped the small community. And, to maintain balance here’s a picture of their dog. Muji.


Muchie is a, mostly Siamese, Tortoiseshell Point. Muji? A miniature Schnauzer. Both are special needs animals.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email