Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice

On the evening of December 20th, a Winter Solstice ceremony took place at Shao Shan Temple.  Sitting together at the darkest time of the year in the midst of candlelight blessing.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

New Year's Greetings are coming!

Shao Shan Temple's 

2018 New Year's Greetings 
are in the mail!  

Below is the message on the back of each.


This prayer tablet is an expression of Shao Shan Temple’s deep wishes and dedication to the welfare of the community.  It is a bridge between the temple and your everyday practice

This has been placed on the temple’s altar - it has been charged with the great energy of faith and courage. 

This prayer tablet is designed to be displayed in your home to bring peace and protection for the upcoming year.

This year’s message is

May peace and blessings extend from your home to the wider world in the upcoming year.

New Year's Greetings are also available at the Temple if you do not receive one in the mail.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Family Program: Generosity and Blessing Wishes

In this month's family program, the children explored generosity while preparing a box of food for the Worcester Food Shelf.  They decorated the box with hand made snow flakes and pictures.  They also made popcorn strings to share with the woodland creatures.

In the Temple, the children had a magical opportunity 
to give generous blessing wishes to their parents.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Rohatsu Sesshin!

December 1st-8th was the Rohatsu Sesshin (Meditation Retreat) at Shao Shan Temple.
The Rohatsu Sesshin was a time of concentrated practice to commemorate
Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment upon seeing the morning star.

This year's sesshin included zazen and kinhin (sitting & walking meditation) from 5:30am to 8:30pm, daily oryoki breakfast, daily dharma talks following the story of Buddha's life,  food offering walks, the possibility of Dokusan and delicious garden produce meals.

On the final morning, we hung above the altar, the scroll from Tendo Nyojo's monastery that Taihaku received from her teacher in Japan.

Dharma Talk
Kinhin (walking meditation)
The scroll from Tendo Nyojo's monastery

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Montpelier High School class visits Shao Shan Temple

Shao Shan Temple was honored to host a  World Religions class from Montpelier High School on November 30th.  The 30+ students had an opportunity to hear about Buddhism, Zen, and Shao Shan Temple from Rev. Taihaku and a chance to ask questions.  The program also included a brief guided meditation, a time to offer incense, outdoor walking meditation and chanting.

Welcome students!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Annual Meeting Report - Newsletter Article

Shao Shan Temple Annual Meeting
and Potluck
On September 24 members of the Development Committee and the temple sangha met for the Annual Meeting and Potluck at the Maple Corners Community Center.  After some conversation and visits to the potluck buffet, sangha members sat in a circle to talk about events at the temple during the past year.  Taihaku and Kenzan began by welcoming the members of the sangha and thanking them for their continued support. They then reviewed various programs and activities at the temple during the past year. Highlights included a growing interest in the temple’s website, an increase in attendance for the Study Group Program, the Family Program, the Young Adult Program, the newly initiated Open House Program, and the different types of private ceremonies including memorials, baby blessings, and weddings that have been held at the temple.
Donna O’Malley reported on a sewing retreat that she and Kathleen Daye attended this summer in Minnesota and Kenzan reported on the status of the cemetery and how to purchase a lot.  Taihaku then advised the sangha on new facilities projects at the temple including the new “Treasure House” cabin, which was supported by an anonymous gift, and refurbishment of the temple exterior, including a new roof for the bathroom.   Taihaku also provided an update on the land transfer project.  
To begin the financial report Taihaku and Kenzan thanked the sangha for their generous support of the first Annual Alms Round which was mailed at the end of July.   A total of 37 sangha members and friends of Shao Shan Temple made donations to the temple in response to the mailing.  Total donations amounted to $6,521.  One-time gifts were donated by 26 people and 11 people made monthly pledges which will total $593 per month.  Monthly pledges are especially important because they make it easier for the temple to budget expenses and ensure a steady cash flow.
Taihaku subsequently explained the temple’s financial structure which includes a General Fund for operating expenses, a Repair Fund for capital improvement, maintenance, and repair of the buildings and grounds, the Land Transfer Fund, and the Endowment Fund, which is for the long-term care of priests and the temple. The temple’s annual budget is $21,000; $16,000 is budgeted for the General Fund and $5,000 is budgeted for the Repair Fund.  Donations are used to first meet the needs of the General Fund.  If the General Fund needs are met, additional donations are placed in the Repair Fund.  In the event that more than $21,000 is donated in a given year, the additional funds are directed to the General Fund.  Kenzan then presented the year-to-date financial report.  He highlighted several major expenses for 2017 including the purchase of a new computer for the temple, the new roof for the bathroom, and additional expenses related to completing the new cabin. 
During a brainstorming session at the conclusion of the presentations the sangha made three suggestions:   1) investigate how sangha members and friends of Shao Shan can make bequests to the temple;  2)  move the Annual Alms Round from July to November so that the fundraising effort will coincide with the holiday gift-giving period (based on this suggestion the Development Committee has decided to launch the next Annual Alms Round in November, 2018);  and 3) convene the next Annual Meeting at Shao Shan in conjunction with another temple program.  The Development Committee has scheduled the 2018 Annual Meeting for Saturday, June 9, after the completion of the regularly scheduled Saturday morning programs.  The meeting will be held in the Little Hall building.
After the discussion sangha members continued socializing with temple friends and made another visit (or two) to the delicious potluck buffet table.

This article was written for the Fall, 2017 Shao Shan Temple Newsletter.

Click here to view the Newsletter in its entirety.

Taihaku's Japan Trip - Newsletter Article

The Trip of a Lifetime
By Rev. Taihaku Priest,
Abbot, Shao Shan Temple

I recently traveled to Japan to visit Hokyoji Monastery where I trained for many years under my teacher, Dochosan (Shinkai Tanaka  Roshi).  I had not been back for eight years.  Time has flown by like a dream.  Returning to the monastery where so much had happened was filled with poignancy.  We have all had this type of experience:  perhaps returning to the town where you grew up or attending a reunion, maybe meeting an old lover, or returning to the old house where long ago children merrily ran about.   
Our present moments so often pass us by unappreciated as we strive to keep up with the activities of our busy lives.  Often the days go by without our awareness of how fleeting time really is.  All our current situations will be gone with time, the people with whom we share our life will be gone, and we will be gone. Our life is really a very short time, even if we live to be 100 years old.
It was wonderful to be present at this Hokyoji reunion with my brother monks with whom I had shared such a wealth of experience.  For these brief few days my brother monks returned to our home monastery in order to attend and prepare a very important ceremony for our teacher.  In some moments it almost felt like no time had passed at all.  We knew each other so well that we could readily function together in all the preparations.  But, at the same time there was also in the background the awareness that we were here for only a day or two and that we might never be together in this way again.  It was a revisit to our past, a heartfelt embrace of all that had happened at Hokyoji and what it meant to train under such a teacher as our Dochosan.  It felt like a parting embrace for this time in my life; so well loved and known so intimately.  So it was a mix of celebration and deep bowing in appreciation.  A tender parting. 

Rev. Shinjo (l) and Rev. Taihaku (r) 
with their teacher Rev. Shinkai Tanaka (c)

Life is this.  It is this tender transient river of experience.  But when our days pass in much the same routine day to day with no big changes, it is easy to lose sight of this perspective.  So, I take away from my visit to Japan a renewed appreciation for the moment that is now, for those with whom I share the life of Shao Shan, for those who share my life.  When you realize it is short and passing, the value of what is in front of you becomes evident. 
My dear teacher, Dochosan, is giving me these tender teachings through his own example.  With gusto and delight he whole-heartedly practices even within the decline of body and mind.  Structure and form fall away and the spirit of full life shines forth.  A tender mind arises naturally when we appreciate the transient nature of the time-stream in which we are all carried along.  Tears and laughter combine in a deep bow of gratitude. 

Rev. Taihaku at Hokyoji where she trained

This article was written for the Fall, 2017 Shao Shan Temple Newsletter.

Click here to view the Newsletter in its entirety.

Sewing Practice - Newsletter Article

Sewing Practice at Shao Shan Temple
by Donna O’Malley
Shao Shan Temple Sewing Leader

Sewing practice is part of Buddhist tradition. Followers of the Buddha have always worn a robe that shows their commitment to the Path of Buddha’s Way. Originally, robes/okesas were made from discarded scraps of cloth. Siddhartha Gautama, the man who would become Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, was born a prince in the 6th century BCE in India.  He traded his princely clothing for that of a mendicant seeker in his search for freedom from suffering.  Over time and in each tradition, the sewer of the robe has varied, but here in the U.S., Soto Zen students have the opportunity to make their own robes. Shao Shan Temple carries on this tradition. 
Our sewing practice, as in all Zen sewing practice, carries with it an attitude of reverence and quiet mindfulness so that, with the exception of teaching moments, stitching is done in silence, along with a mantra to anchor the mind. At Shao Shan each year there may be up to five people sewing Wagesas (for receiving the 1st five precepts), and three people sewing Rakusus (becoming “Formal Students” and receiving the 16 precepts). Rakusus are sewn together as a group, once weekly over the months from January till June.  The students work with sewing leaders, currently Donna O’Malley, Judy Harden and Kathleen Daye, to create the miniature robe (Rakusu) that Taihaku will finish with personalized calligraphy and the temple seal.  The Rakusu is then formally bestowed at the July Jukai ceremony.

People are often surprised by how much sewing is a practice and what they learn from it.  In the words of several sangha members:
I don’t know how to sew. I made a Rakusu and you could safely say I still don’t know how to sew.  However, the experience threaded my intention to learn how to sew my presence into every moment of  life. The doing and being of sewing practice was the portal for believing I could this. My teachers held me through finding the courage to try.  I was - and am, most grateful for the good fortune of this support.      – EnKai  (Raven Bruce)

The practice of sewing, though ultimately producing a symbolic garment, allows for many opportunities to explore self in the arising of conditions often inherent in the process; striving, perfectionism, judging, and frustration, to name some. It is also a beautiful moving meditation incorporating chanting and repetition. Watching self in the process of creating was so informative that I now use a similar process every day.    --  ShiKan  (Sharon Dube)

The most powerful thing I took away from sewing practice is the mantra. When I’ve had difficulty focusing on a task or if something is not going smoothly I stop what I’m doing and connect my movements to the mantra. After a few rounds I relax so much that I can connect more easily with what I’m doing.
-- Monica DiGiovanni

Sewing leaders devote themselves to the practice of guiding others in the sewing because they truly value the heart/mind that arises in themselves and their students through this process of Zen in action.   
We [the sewing leaders] review our process of working together - how best to work as a resource team, how much support to offer and when.  We address the goals for the work, considering the students’ previous sewing experience and abilities, and how to facilitate the best sewing experience possible for the particular student, keeping in mind the primary goal of the work as one of deepening practice and commitment to the sangha through meditative sewing, rather than perfection.  We view this work as part of our service to the sangha.  --  Judy Harden
Sewing leaders Kathleen Daye (l), Donna O’Malley (c), and Judy Harden (r)

The sewing leaders study to learn how best to lead the sewing projects.   Recently Donna and Kathleen participated in a valuable and inspirational sewing retreat in Minnesota for Zen sewing leaders nationwide.
In 2011, a special sangha sewing project began to create the Mountain Seat Robe (Funzo-e) for Taihaku’s Shinzanshiki, when she formally became abbot. The entire Sangha and many others, under Donna O’Malley’s leadership, worked together to accomplish the complex nine-panel, four-layer Okesa.  Two years later, through the hands, hearts, and minds of over 35 Zen practitioners, accompanied by the Namu Kie Butsu mantra, Shao Shan Temple’s Mountain Seat Robe was completed.  This Okesa is worn at special Shao Shan ceremonies, and a photo story book of this process is available for viewing at the temple.
When a student expresses interest in taking the precepts, they are taking the first step in a commitment to the Path.  Sewing leaders now provide students wanting to take the five vows the opportunity to learn the sewing stitch using the 'Namu Kie Butsu’ backstitch to make the Wagesa.  A Wagesa is a simple neckpiece made by the student.  It is ceremonially received from the preceptor during the Jukai ceremony. 
The sewing of a Rakasu, one’s own “Robe of Liberation” (a chest-size five-paneled Okesa), is not only one of the preparatory steps before taking vows to become a formal student, but is a symbol of commitment to the priest-teacher relationship and to the temple’s community. I wonder how many readers know that the ‘face’ of the Rakasu’s panels of short-over-long patchwork pieces resembles rice fields? “Water nourishes the rice, the rice nourishes beings and enables them to practice.”  Sewing practice is, taking refuge, again and again, stitch by stitch, in the same manner that we practice breath by breath on the sitting cushion.
Sewing practice is not, however, reserved only for those making a Wagesa or Rakasu.  The sewing practice can be experienced by anyone who just wants to make a bag to protect and carry the books used each week during Study Group programs. Sangha members are encouraged to contact Shao Shan Temple at any time to express their interest in learning more about this profound practice.
For more on the history and variations of the Buddhist Robe see also:

This article was written for the Fall, 2017 Shao Shan Temple Newsletter.

Click here to view the newsletter in its entirety.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Grateful Family Program

Amidst the year's first snow, 
a vigorous group gathered for the  November family program.  
The children focused on the theme of gratitude. They shared aspects of our lives that they were feeling thankful for.  And made peanut butter pine cone bird feeders to share kindness with the animals of the forest.

Homemade Items for the Holidays

The temple’s bountiful abundance has produced a profusion of crabapples and blueberries, among many other items. 
Shao Shan Temple is sharing the overflowing blessings of the land.
Temple-prepared jelly, jam, teas, honey, applesauce, 
pickles, gomashio, and comfrey salve 
are available for a suggested donation. 

Preparing the items at work practice

Monday, November 6, 2017

"Connecting with the Natural World"

On Sunday, November 5th an enthusiastic group of young adults (in their 20's and 30's) gathered at Shao Shan Temple for a full day program with the theme 
"Connecting with the Natural World"

The day long program included meditation, mindfulness activities in nature, a guided nature walk and a hearty lunch of garden produce.

Special thanks to the program "staff": Noah Weinstein, Stella Marrie and Steve Young.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Japan Trip Presentation

An enthusiastic group braved pouring rain to take a vicarious trip together - the Tuesday evening study group on Oct. 24th was replaced by a Japan trip slide show evening.
Taihaku and Stella recounted their adventures in Japan and China accompanied by photos, upside-down videos and much laughter.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Autumn Sesshin & Kanzeon Eye-Opening

October 20th-22nd was Shao Shan Temple's autumn sesshin (meditation retreat).  Amid the sunny warm autumn days, this year's sesshin was well-attended and inspirational.

One highlight of this retreat was also the unveiling of a Kanzeon Bodhisattva statue that was a gift from Ryuunji Temple in Japan (Shinjo).  An "Eye-Opening Ceremony" for the new statue was part of the Sesshin.  Other highlights included a dharma talk by Rev. Taihaku on teachings from her Japan trip and delicious meals from fresh garden produce!


Food offering walk

Food offering

Dharma Talk

Kanzeon Statue - gift from Ryuunji to Shao Shan Temple

Eye-Opening Ceremony

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rev. Taihaku and Stella return from Japan!

Rev. Taihaku Priest traveled to Japan from October 4th-16th accompanied 
by Stella Marrie as her Jisha (assistant).  

They report that their trip was wonderful and full of miraculous, magical moments.  
They were together with Rev. Shinjo Nohara for most of the trip.  
Shinjo-san is the abbot of the beautiful temple of Ryuunji in southern Japan.  

The primary purpose of the trip was to be present for the Kaisanki and "solving of the road-problem" ceremonies at Hokyoji (the monastery where Taihaku trained)

Welcome Home!

Ryuunji (Shinjo's temple)

Taihaku(center), Shinjo(right), Stella(left) at Eihiji
Taihaku at Hokyoji

At Jakuen-Zenji's Zazen Rock

Docho-san with Taihaku
Docho-san with Shinjo and Taihaku at the ceremony to celebrate solving the road problem.

Hokyoji Docho-san

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October Family Program - leaves, leaves, leaves

The family program this month enjoyed a number of leaf&tree focused activities.  
Foremost for the children was raking together a leaf pile to jump in !!! 
The time also included meditation and mindfulness activities.

Sitting under the Bodhi Tree

Snack time!