Tuesday, May 31, 2005

House Keeping.

I have been told that this Blogger is taking a long time to open on a dial-up connection so I have changed some settings. I am sorry if this means that people are not able to read the whole blog from it's start in early April. I am not able to find out right now how or if people will be able now to access the Archive. There is the title 'Archive' however it doesn't seem to open anything. If Iain or anybody else can see a solution to this let me know. In the mean time I hope you continue to visit me here on line. I've set the Blogger to show posts from the previous 5 days.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Random Photographs for Your Interest.

I have not had much chance to be on a fast line to upload many photographs. This afternoon I selected a few and sent them onto the Blogger. They are in no particular order I am sorry to say as I was trying to get my business done at the cafe across the road from the temple and then be back in time for Medicine Meal.

Turtles at a cave temple in Ipoh.
The nuns in this photograph are disciples of an 86 year old nun who is the disciple of the old Master (85 years himself) who we were traveling with. We had lunch at their temple and the old nun just did not stop smiling and gazing and somehow 'looking deeply'. Because this was very much a family visit it did not seem appropriate to take photographs. We had, after all, just stopped by for lunch while on the road.

Turtle feeding in Epoh, Malaysia.

This is for my dear Dharma Sister in America, Rev. Master Phoebe. I saw this sign in the mountains of Taiwan and not for the first time thought of her in her temple in southern California.

Mr. Ng, who helped me with Reflexology, preparing to leave the temple. (See latter posting.)

Our traveling companion, refered to as 'the old Master'. In the background is Miss Chin, the driver for this trip.

On the road with Shih Fu. This wonderful monk traveled with us for over 24 hours. At 85 years he was an inspiration. Any English he knows was taught him by Rev. Master Jiyu...more on that when I get a chance to talk about that three day journey to Penang...

Just put this here for those who might to copy this idea of making a lotus out of spoons. I can see some applications already.

The temple where Rev. Master Jiyu was ordained in Melaka. Name of temple to follow.

Linzy who did so much translation for me and helped with my whole visit to Taiwan.

Back to Taiwan, a lay devotee with her deaf cat. I visited her home and she helped me to buy Chinese style monastic robes to wear while in Malaysia.

The monk who shaved Rev. Master Jiyu's head prior to ordination. We met his monastic disciple, a nun, at her temple in Melaka.

Seck Lee Seng with one of her five sisters at the bus station.

The Venerable Chung Zern of Chen Yen Szu, Taiwan.

Back to Taiwan, how many days was that ago! A small group of us went to this temple towards the end of my stay in Taiwan. There was a bit of a problem as we approached the temple. I'd quite forgotten to take off my slippers when leaving the city temple and a solution had to be found which involved me in switching shoes with the lay woman with us. The car load could not be convinced that the same problem then existed for the lay woman, i.e. the wrong shoes.

This was rather a brief visit. We looked round the new temple which had been completed about two years ago. It was really very nice looking however, it was explained to us, not very practical in design. One example of this was a big water feature running through the temple buildings which they could not use. Problem being that frogs had started to breed and kept everybody awake at night. Also there was fears of killing the frogs during cleaning...so they have a permanently dry water feature!

We had lunch with the disciples of the Abbess in the kitchen and the rest of the visiting nuns and lay devotees had theirs in a large room off the kitchen. It was all open to the outdoors and very very hot. As we talked about the temple and the multiple problems they had with its design, building and maintance it emerged that they actually all still lived in the old temple. They preferred it over the new one as it was more comfortable and familiar to them. I was really touched by this small band of nuns training together up a mountain. They were very pressing in wanting me to stay longer or to come back to stay longer in the future. I must confess I did entertain the idea for a few moments however it is unlikely I'd be able to do that. What a beautiful setting and, as it happened, just across the valley from the mountain temple of my host for the weeks stay in Taiwan.

In this mountain area of Taiwan there are many temples small and large, the area is called Puli.

Rev. Chung Zern with her disciple walk in the new temple. Rev. Chung Zern is a disciple of Rev. Kim Seng and my Dharma Aunt. She is one of only three female disciples of Rev. Kim Seng. The other three being Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett (the first one) and Rev. Seck Lee Seng of Cheng Hoon Teng, Melaka.

Here is Rev. Chung Zern, on the left, along with her disciple. They came to Shasta Abbey in the mid 1970's with a portion of the cremated remains of Rev. Seck Kim Seng.

The recently completed new temple building. There were over 60 lay people in the temple when we visited. They were just completing a 7 day retreat when they do nothing other than chant the Buddha's name.

The old building where the nuns all still live and practice.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Letter to Mr. Ng Yaw Koon.

Dear Mr. Ng,

I am so grateful for you coming to the temple last night and this morning to do Reflexology on my feet and for giving me the tablets and bottle of lotion made by your late father (also a Master of Foot Reflexology you tell me). I think the swelling in my legs is gradually going down. As you said things are looking better this morning and it was very reassuring to hear you say that it 'wasn't so bad'. As I said I have problems with my legs swelling with water all of my life and especially when sitting a lot and when it is hot. Both of these things are happening at the moment, right!

This morning you passed on such valuable information about the points to press to help myself and exercises that can help the flow of energy around the body. I only hope I can remember all, even part, of what you told me. I wonder if I managed to convey my gratitude to you adequately. You will have no idea how important our meeting was but perhaps you got the gist anyway. Ah Gi as always is such a help to me as she sits and smiles and brings me things, she is my guardian in the highest sense of the word. And she was there for me, sitting peacefully, while you worked and I talked to Rev. Master Meian and Rev. Shiko on my cell phone. Daily life continues where ever one is. As we spoke about, meditation is for always and everywhere. We understand each other very well I think.

So, it is time for me to get in the car and travel with Shih Fu and the two other women to Penang, I hope your travels in China next week go well. I'll be sorry not to meet you again. Thank you for telling me about your life and your close call with the Buddha in late 1999. (It was good to tell you my story about my fathers quick journey to the Buddha in early 2000.) I guess you have more work to do in this suffering world helping relieve pain and helping people to help themselves.

Please do take great care of yourself, help your wife sell the fruit and veggi and just a little foot work. As you said it is wise not to do too much each day, help two persons only each day eh?

Better go now. Thank you again for your compassion. I will not forget your.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Rev. I-Tjue ShihFu and the Robe Factory.

My tolerance for Mexican music at the Geographer Cafe (see Blogger entry 'Hotspot') where I have just spent a couple of hours writing for this blog came to an abrupt end. Not because of the music but because my laptop ran out of power. I'd thought, previous to that, to cut and run across the road and slip into the back entrance to the temple through the newly opened library however, having eventually crossed the road, I found the door locked! So I had to take my chances in the traffic and walk round the block and enter through the front temple gate. On the way in I sat to chat to the volunteers who are constantly on duty to help visitors. They often ask me questions about why I became a monk and other related questions. The English here, although talked at a rapid rate, is good and we can communicate quite well...I think!

Rev. I-Tjue ShihFu, mentioned in a previous Blog posting as being the nun who chants the Lotus Sutra. Here she is behind the wheel of a VW people carrier which she drove us around in for a few hours...at a sedate pace. Thank you dear Reverend for everything.

Here is the brown wool cape. It certainly is warm!

Di An Shih Fu trys on socks while I rummage through the shelves of clothing.


Part of this journey involves finding a fast internet connection to 'upload' photographs to this Blogger. I am starting to think the one I have at the moment comes at too high a price! I am not sure what the word is to describe what is simply a very 'interesting' situation at this very moment.

Cheng Hoon Teng is 'historic', many tourist visit it each day and when they step through the temple gate and enter the main shrine room it is like stepping back in time. Here is ancient China and Buddhism (as well as a couple of other religions too it would seem) kept alive by the faithful in this town. There is a minor city road at the front of the property and a very major one running along the back. So much traffic on a narrow road. Thankfully the road is only about one and half car widths, + a few motor bikes, wide so crossing it to get to this internet Cafe was not completely death defying! However now here and connected, embraced as I am by surround sounds, I question the wisdom of slipping out of the back door of the temple in search of fast connectivity.

Let's see now, the cars, tour buses, motorbike, bicycles, lorries and people on foot pass on two sides within feet of where I sit typing this. The cafe, having walls on only two sides the rest only closed by wooden shutters at night is hot and humid. Just to my left is a water feature, blessed water pouring from a bamboo pipe into a circular stone then cascading into a large pottery bowl. The loud Mexican music from the speaker just above my head is the real test! I see that the temperature is a mere 32c. What I thought was steam pouring from the building I now realize is water being sprayed onto the outside tables which are on the pavement. This, yes this is to keep the customers cool, wonderful!

So there you have it, a block away an ancient temple opens it's doors to all comers to make their bows and say their prayers, offer joss sticks, light candles and offer oil to keep the eternal light burning. Then here, a couple of hundreds yards through the temple complex, a wireless internet connection. They are called 'hotspots' by the way!

The fact that this journey can be shared through the medium of the internet adds a dimension, of offering I guess, that simply seems 'good' to do. It does take working at and I am only so glad and grateful that I am able to continue to type...and remain on my feet! Not both at the same time of course.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Back to Taiwan.

I don't have my notes from the days we were traveling however I do want to let you know about those days and post photographs too. That will have to wait until I am able to hook my laptop up to the internet. Just for the record here is what happened:

In the south of Taiwan we met up with a woman called Linzy (not her Chinese name but one I could at least remember and pronounce). I had come to know her via email and telephone and she had helped me a great deal with making plans for me in Taiwan. Linzy had spent a year at Lancaster University and meditated with the Lancaster Group (who hasn't meditated with the Lancaster Group?!!) so she was familiar with our practice and monks of the Order. I'd been put in touch with her through a member of the Leicester Group. Thank you Linzy, thank you so much for all of the translating you did while we were together.

While in Linzy's home town we met up with a nun who leads chanting of the Lotus Sutra for 5 and 7 day 'retreats' at temples that invite her. She had just come back from mainland China. It turns out that she is very well know in Taiwan and East Asia and I can understand why as just seeing her leaves a deep impression let alone being with here chanting for a week. I'd seen her briefly at Shasta Abbey in 2003 when a group came from Singapore and thought I'd like to get to know her. Our few hours together where, in a word, amazing! We went shopping at a robe factory and she me bought a brown wool cape, we drank coffee at a road side cafe from beans grown by her lay disciples, we had lunch and most especially we laughed together, it was so much fun to be with her. All this without a common language. Linzy's help was invaluable.

A day or so latter we visited my Dharma Aunt who is both blood sister and ordination sister of Seck Lee Seng the Abbess of Cheng Hoon Teng. She was one of the main reasons for going to Taiwan and sadly there was very little time left to spend much more than a morning with her. We had lunch with her five disciples and 60+ lay guests who had just completed 7 days of chanting one thing, Amitofu, Amitofu.....etc. More monks and nuns I will not forget. All pressing me to come back and stay longer.

On the Friday night I had the chance to speak to a group of people, perhaps 50 to 60 of them, who had come to the city temple where I'd been based. For the first time I spoke into a microphone (no wires attached and who knows how that works,) anyway it was liberating. By not having to project ones voice a lot of the tension around talking in public simply dissolved. Linzy had come by train to do translating for the evening and during the next day. On the Saturday night there was another talk in another center connected to the Master who was my host. That seemed to go well with the Master translating. Lay practice in the east is impressive, so much so that I had to restrain myself from going on and on about how impressed I was and am. Here in Malaysia it is the same, the word Devotee really does describe what I see. I'll have to write more about that another time.

Last day, Sunday, found me at Dharma Drum Mountain Temple near Taipei, the temple of Master Sheng Yeng (somebody correct my spelling please). I went here to meet a 6 year nun who I'd met at Throssel when she was staying as a lay resident. Yes, she had sat with the Lancaster Group while at Lancaster University and just happened to be friends with Linzy as well. I can assure all those who know her that she is a shining example, very definitely shining. Yes, I am talking about the former Ming Ting.

I can't sign off from Teiwan without a final mention of gratitude to the couple who picked me up at the airport, drove so many miles when we went south for three days and who finally scooped me up after the talk on Saturday night and placed me in a fabulous hotel room for the night. And then next day, driving all day to Dharma Drum Mountain and back to their home near the airport, feeding and housing me, telling me the breath taking story of their life and sending me on my way to Malaysia with coffee, mamalade and toast at the airport. Their friend, Clare, was with us for 24 hours doing a great job of translating. Thank you Clare.

Cheng Hoon Teng, Malaysia.

This is the temple where Rev. Master Jiyu came in 1962 and the home temple of Master Seck Kim Seng who was her ordination master. I arrived here last afternoon having been met at K.L. airport by two women volunteers from this temple. One I had met previously in England in 2001 when she came with the Abbess, Seck Lee Seng, for the celebrations at Throssel in that year. What a jolly pair! After the usual greetings and luggage handling, everybody insists that I do not carry anything, we set off in the modern air conditioned car.

For as far as one can see there are Palm tree plantations, palm oil is extracted from the fruit of these trees. The roads are three lanes each way, fast moving and not too crowded. It took about two hours to drive to Malaka (I have seen that spelt several ways). No sooner had we arrived and I had made the customary bows to the main altar and bow to Master Seck Lee Seng (and had a shower) and we were off for a meal at a vegetarian restaurant. There were the five Chinese male monks who live here, several lay women, who either live here or are volunteers, and an elderly Chinese monk who was here for the Wesak Celebrations which happened the day before. Seck Lee Seng was there too of course who presided over the ordering and distribution of the food. There is so much I could write about from just being here 24 hours. There seem to be so many people around just in the kitchen alone. Gradually I am getting used to faces, know who speaks English, know who (more or less) lives here and what time things (generally) start. There is a wonderful family feel here.

As I am on a slow dial-up connection I will not write too much as it might take a long time to 'upload' and it is time for bed. I'll be able to write more tomorrow hopefully. Enough to say thank you to those of you who post comments or have sent me emails letting me know you are following my progress. This encourages me to keep going with the writing.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Amitofu...and Answering the Telephone.

I have had a rare day of being in one place, sitting behind the computer here at the city temple, answering email and writing for this Blogger. Now and then the phone rings in the office and Dur Ann usually is here to answer it. Having heard her answer the phone I dared to do it myself when she was not here..."Way", "Amitofu"... and that is far as I got!

Amitofu is the Chinese name for Amitabha Buddha (Amida Buddha in Japan) the Buddha of Infinate Light, also known as the Buddha of the Western paradise in the Pure Land Tradition. Amitofu is the universal greeting when Buddhist do absolutely anything in China and Taiwan, Amitofu crosses language barriers, fills in pauses in conversations, covers confusions while making interminable arrangements (which change constantly by the way) and any rifts that come as a result of social interactions. (here comes dinner with Dur Ann, she is chanting Amitofu, of course!) I have witnessed Dur Ann repeat Amitofu, Amitofu to animals and even fish in one temple garden! She just keeps on repeating Amitofu, Amitofu. I did once wonder if she thought it might stop a dog going for her although probably not! At the monastery where we stayed the night before last I had the opportunity to join in the evening chanting. I was so glad I had listened to the Amitofu, Amitofu etc. etc. etc. chant before. Having heard it, and sang along with it too in the past, repeated over and over (there is a tune) made it possible for me to join in with confidence as we walked around and around in procession in the main hall at this small nuns temple and university. The master of this temple teaches the nuns English there.

Dur Ann does her chanting on her own two, perhaps three, times a day for about one hour. She plays a tape and practices using the musical instruments. She just showed me the small shrine room where she does that. Rising for her is at 5.00 am and I am not sure if she does seated meditation and chanting or just chanting. We have grown close during this week together.

Fo Guang Shan, Taiwan and .....(name of temple not known).

Firstly, the weather conditions! The days have seen blazing hot sun out of a clear blue sky, high humidity with temperatures around 30c +. Thankfully I still think in f degrees so 30 doesn't register as THAT hot and we were traveling in an air conditioned car with tinted windows. The car became, and continues to be, a welcome refuge after trips out to see places, people temples etc.

As for Fo Guang Shan, one of the four largest temples in Taiwan and a major tour desitnation, perhaps you would like to take a look at the web site. You will need to copy and paste the address into your web browser, Internet Explorer for example or just click on the address and you will go there. http://www.fgs.org.tw/english/templetour/Templetour.htm We were given a tour by a lofty Austrian monk who stayed with us all of the time and after two hours we had not seen everything. There are various tours one can take, up to four hours I see listed on the web site.

In the morning we visited a a moderately sized temple for nuns. My notes do not give me the name of it unfortunately and my attempts to communicate to Dur Ann through mime and our 'foriegners friend', the electronic dictionary, have been in vane. The Abbess there had become a nun at 17 and in due time the temple was passed into her hands. It was/is situated on top of a hill and at that time not easy for people to reach and, from what we saw on a DVD, in a poor state of repair. It did look like it was falling down. About ten or so years ago she, the abbess, decided to build a new one which to my eyes could have held 200 people in the hall. This took a number of years to achieve and in the middle of it she was in a bad road accident. In 1999 there was an earthquake which hit this region (we saw evidence of this in the mountains with, for example a hotel made derilict). She was not detered and went about rebuilding again, the amount of money this must have taken can only be imagined. We were told that there was a team working on the project, designers etc. etc. Part way through she decided it was not up to standard for possible future earhquakes so it was dismanteled and started AGAIN! Work was finally completed in 2003

We met the Abbess, now just 48 years old, and she watched a DVD with us (in English) in a very modern lecture room. We drank coffee and after awhile she slipped out not to be seen again. Latter we took a brief tour taking in the kitchen (stainless steel everywhere) and dining room. The main statue, usually they are of the historic Buddha, was carved out of one piece of wood from a tree 1000 years old. Everything about this place was 'high tec', for example the large drum and gong used during chanting usually stored by the altar where suspended on a wire and electronically winched up and down for ceremonies. We had a demonstration and there was just a minor hum as the drum decended. Apparently the Abbess had done a lot of research, visiting temples all around east Asia. She clearly had decided to break with traditional temple styles, which are often highly decorated, colourful and ornate and gone for simplicity and I must say elegence.

We were sent off with packets of coffee and tea for each of us and Dur Ann and I were given dana envelopes. This giving of dana to monastics (offerings of money in red envelopes) is a well known practice in East Asia. There is a specific form used to give them and I have learnt the monastic form for receiving them which is not unlike what we practice within the OBC.

As we were leaving I noticed, down by the entrance, two very large white elephants (statues of course) that had walked their way through the various incarnations of this temple having survived the earthquake. Elephants have a lot to teach us as they steadfastly walk on, they certainly symbolized what had been achieved at the temple they now stand in front of.

To be quite honest I left with a bit of a furrowed brow. Maybe I was mentally and emotionally exhausted on behalf of the Abbess and all that she had gone through over the years and there was something else too... Perhaps it is realizing that in order to have achieved this monument to Buddhism, a place through which Buddhism is taught to the lay congregation, nuns and a few monks (there were around 20 in residence), one needs to push, push, push towards a goal. For sure it can only be taken one step at a time and I can not conceive of the magnitude of offerings needed to achieve that goal. It is, incidentally, possible here since Taiwan is a booming and culturally a Buddhist country.

I saw this place, and other temples in Taiwan I've visited, in stark comparison to our modest establishments in the West within the OBC. It made me realize, firstly what CAN be achieved if one put ones mind to it and that good can come from setting (temporary) goals. People are attracted to Buddhist practice via these vast edifaces and no doubt benefit should they take up the practice. There is merit too in simply coming and bowing, as we did everywhere. I also see, and more importantly accept, that a temple builder I probably am not. There is not the push, push in me. Saying that however does not stand for all time, I could be busy building next year!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Was it the Coffee?!

It is 8.30 pm in Taiwan and it's probably around 28c outside. We, the nun Dur Ann, and I are back at the temple in Nangtou City after completing a three day 'tour' to the southern part of the island. We have the temple completely to ourselves as nobody else lives here and her Master, who now and then stays in s small house behind the temple, is away at a conference in Taiwan.

Things got a bit wild in the car during our return journey from the south of Taiwan and it could have been the coffee. But that story will have to wait until tomorrow as the nun is running about locking things up and gazing at me anxiously.

Couple of Photos from China.

Sculpture in the rocks in China.
Anybody know why this tree is wrapped in rope?


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Daily Life Practice On the Road.

Since the last posting I found out that the road we had taken from the airport was closed due to flooding soon after we passed in the small hours of the morning. So, glad we got through.

The first day in Taiwan? Can I remember back that far? Yes, lunch with the Master and his newly ordained disciple and maybe up to 15 lay practitioners as well. Then to the lecture hall in town to sit and drink tea and attempt to communicate what it is I am hoping to do while in Taiwan. Latter we (the Master and his three disciples)climbed into the temple mini bus and drove for perhaps two and half hours, at a sedate pace, to the temple in the central mountain area. I am growing used to the scale of the temples here however that first sight of the place where we were to stay was breathtaking. Since then, the following day in fact, we went to a temple where over 1000 monks and nuns live and practice.

The next day, at 6.00 am the nun and I were eating breakfast in the kitchen of the guest house and by 8.00 we were in the Master's car heading off for a tour into the higher mountains. I could see that the nun was driving with full awareness that she was driving her Master's car although there were a couple of times I couldn't help myself and encouraged her to drive closer to the right side of the road! (As I write this she is trying to tell me something via an electronic dictionary, it might be something about the virus attack warnings that keep popping up on this computer which I would really like to fix but the owner seems not to be concerned. Language difficulties again....). The most memorable place we visited was a temple above a lake where we met an 85 year old nun who had become a nun when she was ten years old. (Now the nun travelling with me is trying to tell me not to be anxious about the virus attack! The dictionary has come up with "to be affected by poison", yes I think that describes this computer so I had better get off quickly....)

To cut a long story short I am in the high mountains using the computer in a store next to the place where I will stay tonight. We have walked in the tropical mountain forest this afternoon and it is all captured on video. Today I've also beenaided by Millie, a young woman who kindly took a day off work to translate for me. Thank you Millie if you are reading this, please post a comment if you want to.

This morning we went to a temple where there are 60 nuns training. We had tea with the Abbess and I think it has been arranged that we will go and stay there on Friday night so I can get a feel for monastic training in a medium size temple where only nuns practice. If things sound vague it is because arrangements have the habit of changing very quickly. For example I thought we would only be away from the city temple one night and it turns out we will be away for three...or is it four!?

I really do need to get off this computer as the pop up messages are getting more and more serious, the nun is standing to my right mentally wringing her hands - well I would be in her position - and the TV is loud in my left ear. This is just a small picture of how life is for me on a moment to moment level.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Typhoon Rain in Taiwan.

The young nun who is my guide and escort tells me that "it ALWAYS rains this week", apparently next week it stops!

The plane from Japan to Taiwan was delayed about three hours because of an engine problem. The United pilot, attempted to pacify the passenges, gaily said "We wouldn't want to fly in a bad plane would we"?

At Immigration in Taipei the officer seemed amazed to see a Western Buddhist Monastic, I was the first one he had seen. This has often been the case here in Asia, people are supprised to see a Western monk. I was greeted at arrivals (they were holding up a large sign with "Welcome Mugo Master") by a novice nun and three lay people. The couple I found out trade in rosaries and there is a young woman studying Business who, I think, was on board as an interpreter. We climbed into a modern SUV all decked out with rosaries and the like and charged off into the night which soon become early morning. The humidity is high and it's about 23c. Thankfully it had been arranged for us to stay at a hotel for the night to rest before going on to the next destination...where ever that might be. We traveled for about two hours to get to this place. I see we are in Taichung...

(For those who are interested in technical matters it is a relatively normal feature of hotel room to have a LAN connection to the internet and that is how I am able to write this blogger on my laptop.)

The plan, as far as I can understand it, as language is difficult, is to have lunch with the Master who has arranged all of this and then go to the mountain temple after that.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Not like falling off a log!

There is Sumo wrestling on the TV to my left and beyond that is a United plane stocking up with supplies. I'm at Narita Airport Japan preparing myself for Taiwan where I will be in just a few hours from now. It has been arranged that a monastic contact, one made via Rev. Oswin in Eugene Oregon, to pick me up and whisk me away to a mountain temple in the middle of Taiwan. It is the Buddha's Birthday celebrations tomorrow and I understand that there will by a whole series of visits and events arranged for me while I am in Taiwan.

Iain will be back with Edera now, drinking tea and absorbing all that has happened these past weeks while we have been traveling together. It has been an unforgettable journey and I am, once again, very grateful to have been escorted through what was, at times, rather difficult circumstances. Catching a taxi in China is not like falling off a log, believe me!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Lotus Pond Resort.

Described as Lotus Pond Resort! This is just a small part of West Lake in Hang Zhou.


The halls and temple grounds are crowded with tourists and pilgrims and then in late afternoon, as we experienced at Tiantong, the gates are closed and the place returns to silence. The resident priests continue to walk about much the same as they do when there are visitors around. There seems to be nothing, not even the gathered crowds, the cell phones ring etc. that can shake the grounded stability of these ancient sites where Buddhism is being practiced, still.


First Constructed in 328 AD.

Here are a few photos from a visit made today to this amazing temple near to where I have been staying in Hang Zhou. It is old and the halls and statues are breathtakingly huge. There were said to be 3000 monks living and practicing at Lingyin which reached it's heyday when Zen Master Dogen was in China. We saw many monks walking about amongst the crowds, in addition a number of them were celebrating a ceremony in one of the (five) great halls.

Standing before Buddha statues in these majestic halls, one just wants to bow and bow and bow again, and that is what I did. The living link to Buddhism coming from India to China came through so strongly. Seeing the forms within this temple and seeing how they have been adapted in Japan and then how we, as an Order, have taken them up and show the teaching through them is moving beyond measure. Not so much the forms themselves more the verification of the living continuation of what they point to and that we/I am part of that great ancient tradition. Coming to this temple was the perfect end to this tour in China.

Iain and I had a celebratory lunch to mark the end of our time of traveling together this past month. Tomorrow will see us in Shanghai again and then I fly to Taiwan, via Japan, and Iain will be back with Edera in Sanbu.

Offering Incense.

Lingyin Temple, Hang Zhou.

Keep off the Grass.

Temples are a major focus for devout Buddhist and there are fist-fulls of incense constantly being offered all the time by them. I rather liked these simple notices which are the equivalent of "Keep off the grass" with a Buddhist sentiment attached.

Found in the temple grounds.

Temple Restoration.

There is much restoration work going on in every temple visited. These photos are from Puto Shan an island off the coast of China.

Temple building being restored on Puto Shan.

Restoration work detail.

Temple detail.

Temple detail.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ru Xian Shi.

Ru Xian Shi and Iain on Puto Shan. Ru Xian is 27 and has been a monk for two years. I will remember him with love and with gratitude.

Good Morning China!

Five days after arriving in Shanghai I am just about getting the hang of it all. It would take more time than I have at the moment to communicate what has happened these past days...and perhaps it is not possible to adequately convey to you. There will be photos so you will get a sense of what things look like.

From what I have seen and picked up from talking to monks and others along the way Buddhism is alive and well and growning. We were very fortunate to stay one night at Tiantong Temple near Ningbo, Zhejiang where Zen Master Dogen came to practice in the 12th Century. We joined in the daily practice with the 100 plus male monks, met the Abbot and even joined a formal breakfast. Doing that was a first for a female western monk, and probably a first for a male western lay person too. You should have heard the silent gasp as we walked in!

We were very fortunate to be traveling along with a novice monk from the Tiantong Temple for three days while we have been here. He escorted us to Puto Shan which is an island one hour ferry ride from the mainland and a major pilgrimage site for devout Buddhists. Ru Xian Shi, the monk, was both an inspiration and a doorway into a China we would not otherwise have known.

There is much to say about these days however I see the clock ticking away. Today we travel by bus, the train line having been closed, to our next destination. Thankfully Ru Xian has written our hotel name in Chinese script as well as instructions to taxi drivers to get us to the bus station here in Ningbo. It cannot be over stated how difficult it can be to travel in China when you don't speak or write the language.

The pavement where 'anything goes' and most things do!

As here in Shanghai so in the China that I have seen with poverty in the foreground and modern, western style, development in the background. You will see that theme with most of the photographs taken on this segment of the journey.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Sayonara Japan.

On May 1st we returned to Tokyo to have a farwell feast with Noguchi Roshi, Professor Shimizu and Okabe Roshi at a restaurant near Fukuji-in.

It would be impossible to express in words the gratitude I feel to these people, and to Edera and Iain as well, for my stay and travels in Japan. What I have seen, and more especially the connections that have been made with Dharma family in the Koho Zenji line while here, will remain and carry me forward in my 'next steps' on the path of training.

The meaning of being a Grand Disciple of Koho Zenji has deepened as a consequence of meeting fellow Grand Disciples and my appreciation of what Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett did for all of her disciples in coming to Japan to find the Teaching is beyond measure.

Noguchi Roshi and Professor Shimizu read about a calligraphy by Keido Chisan Koho Zenji which belongs to Professor Shimizu. The poem describes sentiments about his mother.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Koho Zenji's First Temple, Senpukuji.

Senpukuji is a small country temple a few miles south west of the town of Tateyama. This is an area which feels a bit like Devon and Cornwall, certainly the small seaside towns of this southern part of Chiba Prefecture are still a popular holiday destination for people from Tokyo. Away from the coast it's a very hilly place often covered with impenetrable hardwood forests which shelter troupes of wild monkeys.

This was Keido Chisan Koho Zenji's first temple as 'priest-in-charge'. He came here in 1906 when he was 27 years old. We were told at Fukuji-in that it was arranged because he had been suffering from pneumonia and the mild climate in this area was good for convalescence. So far we haven't traced any information relating to the building itself but Koho Zenji was the sixteenth abbot so it must have been founded in the Edo era of Japanese history. It's typical of thousands of small country temples across Japan and very like, although slightly bigger than, Rev. Master Jiyu’s temple, Umpuku-ji, at Hagino.

Senpukuji has not had a resident priest for several years and is looked after by a priest from Kokonoe about five miles away. The temple is still carefully cared for by villagers as is the graveyard on the hill above where there is a plain black memorial to Koho Zenji. Because it's no longer on the active 'official list' tracking this temple down took some real 'detective work' and many phone calls (at least seven of them), and we nearly made the mistake of visiting a temple with the same name in nearby Kamogawa.
By Iain.

Rev. Kobayasi, the priest presently responsible for Senpuku-ji, spoke English well which was much appreciated. A number of years ago he visited North America and spent time in San Francisco Zen Center and branch temples in the Bay Area and also in Brazil where there is a large Japanese community. While in the Bay Area he helped Vietnam Veterans financially, this however was not met with universal approval by his colleges. I got the impression that his vocation and movement to compassionate action was strengthened through this experience in San Francisco. We initially met Rev. Kobayasi and his elderly, now retired, father in their home temple. Our arrival was timed well since a memorial feast had just finished and a number of adults and bouncy children were just leaving.

Here he is checking to see if there is a wireless connection so he can look at this Blogger. There wasn't, however he will be checking into Moving Mountains blogger at his home temple. Sorry it has taken so long to get the pictures up Reverend. And thank you so much for taking us to the temple.

Just before leaving we were given a number of printed Japanese Buddhist books that had been waiting on a shelf for many years to find a good home. On behalf of the Order I accepted them and they will indeed have a good home within the Order. Thankyou.

Here we are with Rev. Kobayashi who explained that there is nothing written on this memorial. This is the custom for really, really well know individuals because people will not need to be reminded as to whose stone it is.

View over the village from the cemetary where Koho Zenji's memorial is.

Originally there was a thatched roof, now it is clad with zinc.

Main altar with wooden tablet for Koho Zenji. This temple celebrates a memorial each year on November 1st for Koho Zenji.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Enough for One Day!

There are a lot of new posts to-day. In an ideal world I'd write each day and not have this kind of back log to put into the Blogger.

As you will see Iain is responsible for writing the descriptions of the temples, and I am grateful for that, couldn't have done it without him. Couldn't have made this trip without the help of both Iain and Edera.

Before we fly to China on the 6th my hope is to record the following visits:

Fukuji-in in Tokyo and the wonderful farewell meal we had with Noguchi Roshi, Prof. Shimizu and Okabe Roshi.

Sempukuji, Koho Zenji's first temple near the Pacific Ocean where we met such kindness and generosity.

Oh, and there is this mornings nature walk Edera took some of the youngest English students on. There are a few really good photos to show you including the one of two children holding bamboo shoots we were given along the way. The shoots are as thick as an arm. They look nothing like what you get out of a tin! One of the mothers cooked them and delivered them this evening. Thankyou.

Koho Zenji's Temple, Raigakuji.

Raigakuji is a temple about two miles north of Chino in Nagano Prefecture. The site is on a hillside looking westwards towards the higher peaks of central Japan. From the top of the hill, on a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji far to the south.

Keido Chisan Koho Zenji was the 32nd abbot here, and from many of the things we were told about the temple it was clearly a place he loved very much and which he had strong personal and family ties with (towards the end of her life his mother lived here). When he was first associated with Raigakuji he was responsible for raising funds for a new ceremony hall for the temple to replace one that had been destroyed by fire, and we saw photos of him and people from the local community with this work in progress. In a place of honour on the ceremony hall wall is a big oil painting of him in later life.

The meditation hall at Raigakuji is reached by a staircase leading up the hillside.
By Iain.

Outside of the main hall.

The marker for Koho Zenji where we did a memorial when we first got to the temple. It had been a long day of traveling...

Rev. Misawa Roshi viewing the photo album brought from Shasta Abbey of photos Rev. Master Eko took during his 1999 visit.

Keizan Zenji's Temple, Yokoji.

Yokoji was perhaps our most important ‘discovery’ in researching this visit. In the short biography of Keido Chisan Koho Zenji in the Shasta Press edition of ‘Soto Zen’ it is called by an alternative name of ‘Eiko-ji’ so we were a little slow to realise just how important this temple was to our direct Dharma Family.

Yokoji is the temple where Keido Chisan was ordained by Koho Hakugan and trained as a young monk in the 1890’s. He was later the 512th abbot of the temple. It is located in the hills behind the small town of Hakui half way up the west coast of Noto – the peninsula that sticks out northwards into the sea of Japan about half way along the coast of the main island of Honshu. This is the original heartland of Soto Zen practice in Japan

Yokoji is also a very important place in the wider transmission of the Soto tradition. We usually think of Sojiji as being Keizan’s most important temple but actually Yokoji was his main place of practice during his own lifetime – the first he established in 1312 and also where he is buried.

There is also a unique place of pilgrimage at Yokoji – the Gohoro. This is a mound on the hillside behind the temple containing relics associated with five Ancestors in our tradition - Tendo Nyojo, Eihei Dogen, Koun Ejo, Tettsu Gikai and Keizan Jokin.

Only the gatehouse survives of Keizan’s original buildings but the plan of the temple follows the classic form of the original with the Hatto directly ahead as you pass through the entrance and the meditation hall and bell tower to the left and administrative buildings and kitchen to the right.
By Iain.

Mr. Gouda in the back row is in charge of the temple office. The five people here basically run and maintain the temple, Rev. Koho lives in a nearby town and comes to the temple each day.

Celebrating a memorial at the Gohoro,

I just love this picture so I put it in for the record.

We did a memorial for Koho Zenji, Rev. Koho assisted.

Memorial stones for past abbots and Zen Master Keizan's grave in the distance to the right.

Looking down on the temple compound from the little temple in the woods.

Temple in the woods.

Dogen Founded Eiheii-ji in 1243.

In the late summer of 1243 Dogen was invited by local disciples to establish a temple in Echizen, the province where Eiheiji is. At that time he moved his growing community of monks from the capital area of Kyoto up to a beautiful and remote mountain valley. Over the subsequent centuries Eiheiji has expanded into one of Japan’s largest monastic communities whose main buildings and halls are tiered up steep hillsides and connected by long staircases protected against the winter snows. The climates of Shasta Abbey and Eiheiji are rather similar.

Eiheiji is now a huge international institution, accepting more than 200 new trainee monks every year. Typically they study here for a minimum of two years after university before returning to a home temple. Visitors are looked after in a large guest building with comfortable Japanese-style tatami rooms and are able to join in the schedule during their stay.
By Iain.

From left to right, Rev. Kuroyanagi (International Department), Rev. Matsunaga Roshi (Assistant Administrator), Mugo and Iain.