August 18, 2009

Coming to Los Altos and Kannon-do

Five days now I've been in Los Altos, being with the Kaye's prior to their Africa journey and learning the small things I need to know to help at Kannon-do. Les and Mary Kaye and I have been friends for about 40 years and we've had quite a jolly time of it during this getting ready to travel time. They live about a mile from downtown Los Altos which is a charming town that has come to life with sidewalk cafes, antique shops, galleries, bakeries, etc. In years past I remember it as a sleepy place with not much activity. Now, it is full of strollers and locals chatting together and sipping coffee in various interesting and friendly hideaways.

The Kaye's home was the old Haiku Zendo where Suzuki Roshi delivered his talks that became ZEN MIND, BEGINNER'S MIND. As I may have mentioned earlier, the old zendo still has ghosts of time past when we were crowded shoulder to shoulder to listen to a Dharma talk. I was not there when Suzuki Roshi was alive so I am referring to Kobun Roshi who was invited to be the teacher in Los Altos after Suzuki Roshi died. Kobun Roshi lived a block away and walked over each morning for Zazen. Eventually, the number of people overwhelmed the space and the neighborhood. Parking was intolerable and dangerous on the street. Neighbors began to complain. It was an illegal assembly and we had to move. After much rankling and losing out on several places, we bought an old Assembly of God church in Mt. View, restored the interior, and this became Kannon-do. Haiku Zendo became invisible. Nevertheless, when I stand in the room where it all began, I see the shadows of those days when Zen was still new and remarkable and we were fresh and innocent in practice. Zen had not yet become a perfume, a cereal, a technique for tennis, or a style of shoe.

Even the old Kannon-do outgrew itself and a new Kannon-do was built on Rock Street in Mt. View about three years ago. The entrance is shown in the picture. Kannon-do is large and bright with a Japanese/American flair. Kannon is the same as Kwan Yin, or Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Thus, Kannon-do means "place of compassion." Cathedral ceilings make for a spacious feeling. The sacred is imbedded in the care that is visible in the details. The rock pathways and the wood walkways give a taste of the monastic and Zen aesthetic. Situated in the middle of a neighborhood it offers a wonderful opportunity for people who live nearby to participate, to undertake the practice of meditation in their lives. The meditation hall is there for when people are ready to recognize its presence.

The sun is amazingly bright and I FEEL tan just thinking of it. Temperatures have been a little warm, but the 104 in Seattle gave me good training for the mere 90 that it might climb to today. So far the air has been wonderful and I hardly notice except that I don't have to drag along a sweater or a rain coat wherever I go. There's some high altitude smoke from the Lockheed fire that has drifted over the mountain, but it's not troublesome. I hope to get to the Stanford Museum, the San Jose Museum of Art, several galleries in Palo Alto and Los Altos, and I'll see many family and friends while I'm here. Each morning however, I'll begin with practice at Kannon-do and join with the Sangha there for a good beginning to the day. Next entry I'll talk more about Sangha and how life is lived in practice at Kannon-do.