July 31, 2011

Painting Gogo-an

"Gogo-an" by Allyson Essen, 12 x 12 acrylic, 2011
Sunday afternoons finds us doing plein air painting at Olympia Zen Center.  Allyson Essen has taken up Gogo-an as her subject and we're planning a small exhibit and sale of her Gogo-an paintings at the Ryokan event with the Port Angeles Zen Community next weekend.  Any paintings not purchased there will be brought back to OZC and will be available for purchase here.

Allyson has truly captured the atmosphere of Gogo-an.  If you try to paint it too strictly, you miss the point entirely.  You have to paint it a little off kilter and free form to be with the loving heart of Ryokan and get at the soul of the hut.

Gogo-an is a unique architecture and just to see it creates an intimacy, a particular sentiment, a longing for solitude.  It also generates joyfulness because it seems to say it has forgone all attachments to suffering.  While living at Gogo-an demands great sacrifice, to draw near to the realization of one's Buddha Nature, to feel intimacy with oneself and nature, brings about great happiness.  Gogo-an invites that realization.

Gogo-an in available for personal retreats and is most comfortable during summer.  Very hardy individuals have done long winter retreats there.  Please call Olympia Zen Center or email if you would like to stay there for personal renewal and reflection.

June 28, 2011

Urgent Prayer Request from the Apache Nation

Near Kobun Roshi's Stupa in Taos, NM

Southwest USA
Tribal Prayer 
Friday 24 June 2011

Wallow Fire - 
Special Request from the Native Brothers
and Sisters in the SW
Please forward as you see fit
Hello everybody - as you can see on the news the Wallow fire in 
Northern Arizona is still uncontrollable and spreading.
The fire has destroyed everything in its path, over 1/2 million acres so
far, the largest fire in Arizona history. Please join us in a tribal prayer
to help the firefighters and all involved. Pray so the winds stop and the
rains start (without lightning please) We want to pray for the safety of
all. Ask for heavenly walls to protect our land and animals from fire. All
the choppers, manpower, planes, and bulldozers are not enough, they need our
help. We are one Nation as Natives and our traditional prayers to the
Creator as Natives can be pretty powerful; not only are our tribal lands at
stake (White Mountain & San CarlosApaches, possibly Zuni, and some Navajo
areas), but our non-native friends also need our help. Please let us all
connect our minds, hearts and our prayers across the miles and pray.
Wherever you are and whatever you have plan please stop for a few minutes
and raise your hands to the Creator to ask for help. If all of you can
forward this message across the Nations, we can reach many thru phone and
internet. Please start forwarding ASAP to reach as many as we can. Please if
your spiritual preference is not traditional - pray with us in however way
you talk to the Creator.
Thank you,
Dorothea Stevens, San Carlos Apache Nation

June 27, 2011

Function of the hermitage and the hermit

Gogo-an, our solitary meditation hut
On Saturday morning, we fell into discussion about the function of a hermitage and the purpose of living as a solitary in a life of prayer.  I should explain that although we are called Olympia Zen Center, we are actually a hermitage, as our temple mountain name is Ryoko-an which means, Good Pond Hermitage.  A hermitage is literally a small dwelling place of a hermit. The "an" at the end is the designator of whether a place of practice is a temple or a hermitage.  Usually when a place is called "an" it refers to a quiet, holy place, a sacred space set aside for quietness, meditation, reflection.  When a place is called "ji" as in Entsuji, it means temple, which generally refers to a place that is more like a community or cultural center where a great variety of activities take place.  A temple is usually larger than a hermitage.

We refer to Olympia Zen Center as our temple although we may as well refer to it as a hermitage.  As our practice evolves, we more and more reflect the meaning of hermitage because of the deep and holy atmosphere that is being created through our practice.  Once in awhile we have social events, but the social is not our main interest and people don't come to satisfy their social needs but rather to answer their spiritual quest.  Our interest is to provide a sacred place for respite from the turmoils of life in the fast lane, in the market place, in the hustle of corporate life.  When we come together to talk, as we do on Saturday mornings, we may engage in rich laughter and lighthearted conversation, which inevitably occurs, but the continuous peace of practice has come to permeate the atmosphere and has become a guide which reminds us of the heart/mind of Zazen in all we do.  In essence, when we come for practice at Ryoko-an, even as lay people we enter a hermitage and become monks and hermits in community with others.

For many who come to Zen practice, there is an inner calling to live a deep and meaningful life which must be nurtured.  The hermitage is the nurturing connection that stands as a balancing force against the distractions and frivolous nature of materiality.  It represents the sacred in the awakening mind so that we can sustain the heart of practice wherever we go.  We essentially carry the image of the hermitage in the heart/mind.  If we don't have that sacred space, or those who maintain it, that is, those who vow to live in practice, we can feel ourselves adrift in a callous and disheartening world.  An imbalance is created and we have no touchstone for the mind of prayer.  It's like having a city without a park.

The Sangha functions to help support us in maintaining our own practice of solitude.  We can't be truly solitary without the backbone of Sangha which balances the solitary with the togetherness of community.  Oddly, we can be truly solitary when the community knows where we are and wraps us in the mind of protection.  Solitary practice is sacred and even in that we are never alone.  If we just go off by ourselves without the Sangha knowing where we are or what we are about, we miss the true point of Sangha.  That's the same as the Sangha having a gathering and not telling us. We are always a part of the whole, never separate from It.  We continually negotiate our way between silence and sound, solitary and togetherness, hermitage and marketplace, intensity and lightheartedness.

And, in the interests of Buddha Mind and continuing practice and the presence of our hermitage into the future for generations to come:  Ask not what your hermitage can do for you, ask what you can do for your hermitage.

June 24, 2011

The Function of a Zen Center

Years ago, Joko Beck Sensei spoke these words in a Dharma talk.  They survived in someone's notebook, were retyped, and are now making their way in conversation as a reminder of the wisdom teachings of Joko Sensei who died on June 15, 2011.

The Function of a Zen Center

from a talk by Joko Beck Sensei

            What I want to talk about today is the function of a Zen Center.  In a general way we can say that it is to support practice; of course that’s true. But we have a lot of illusions about Zen Centers as we do about teachers. And one thing we tend to think is that a Zen Center is a place that should be very nice for me – in other words, it should be non-threatening (laughs).  I think a good center should be quite threatening at times! It is not the function of a center to take care of your comfort or your social life. By that I don’t mean that we should not have social events – I think they’re great – but they are not the primary function of a center.  A Zen Center’s function is not to provide people with social life. It is not necessarily supposed to make them feel good, and it’s not supposed to make them feel special.

          A center is primarily a powerful tool to assist us in waking up.  As a sangha practicing at a center, yes, we need to support each other, but the nature of that support may not be exactly the kind of support that is often seen in an office.  You know, a girl’s boyfriend leaves her – “oh you poor thing! Why you know, when my boyfriend left me….” (laughter)  and off we go!  There is a “we’re all victims in this together” attitude which is not support. The more we practice, well, the less of that fake kind of support is what is met at a good center.

            It should be a place then that gives us support, yes, but also challenges us, and in that sense we’re all teachers of one another. Some of the most powerful teachings at a Zen Center have nothing to do with the teacher; sometimes the teaching is from another person, coming directly from that person’s experience.  To be honest, to be aware of what real practice is, and to share it with others – this is what makes a center a different kind of place to be.

            Sadly enough, Zen Centers tend to be somewhat ego-perpetuating: we want them to be bigger, better, more important that the other guy’s center, certainly! There are very subtle ego currents that can circulate in a Zen Center, as in any other organization if we are not especially careful.

            And some thoughts on the sangha:  one point is crucial – the longer people have been practicing, the less important the outward role should be. And for that reason I don’t want people who have been practicing for a long time to assume that they are always going to be monitors – sometimes, yes, of course, but the more senior the student, the more I want their influence to be felt through their practice, and through their willingness not to seem important; and to let the newer students begin to assume some of the outwardly conspicuous positions.

            The mark of senior students is to be working when no one else knows they’re there. I see people working in the Center office at odd hours; sometimes I come back from shopping and they’re working hard. That’s a sign of mature practice, getting the job done and keeping our own importance out of it. Personally, I’m trying to go that way by downplaying the tremendous importance given to the role of teacher. And I want this to apply to all of the older students.   So if you feel you are not getting to do what you usually do, GREAT! Then you have something nice to practice with.

            Another mark of a good Zen Center is that it shakes all of us up; it is not the way we want it in our pictures.  So, in our upset, what we get back to then, is the basis of practice – which is, as near as I can put it into words, to assume more and more an observer stance in our life.

            By that I mean that everything in our life will continue to take place – the problems, the emotional difficulties, the pleasant days, the ups and downs, which are what human life consists of – but it is the ability not to get caught – to enjoy what is happening when it is “good”, to have equanimity when it is “bad” and to observe it all, which is the continuing work.

            The mark of maturing practice is simply the ability, more and more and more, to notice what is going on and not be caught by it.  Easy to talk about, but probably 15 to 20 years of hard practice are needed before we are like that a good bit of the time.

            And that is not the final stage.  When there is no object, no person, no event, no thing in the world with which I identify, by which I’m caught – when there is no object and no observing self – then there is a flip into what, if you wish to give it a name, is the enlightened state.

            I have never known anyone whom I felt had accomplished that, but some persons have done well and, if you are lucky enough to encounter such a person, you sense the difference in one who is not caught by life (needing it, craving something or someone, insisting that life be a certain way) – You notice that such a person is at peace and free.

            These are the people who are a healing and beneficent influence on any life that is near them.  They don’t have to do anything – the healing comes from the way they are.  That transformation is what we want from our practice. We are more than lucky to have such an opportunity in this lifetime. Let’s take advantage of it and do our very best.

June 15, 2011

Charlotte Joko Beck

Charlotte Joko Beck died peacefully this morning, June 15, 2011, at 7:30 a.m.  She was a deeply influential American Zen teacher whose writings touched and supported hundreds and hundreds of people around the world.

She received Dharma Transmission from Taizan Maezumi Roshi and then founded the San Diego Zen Center where she served as Head Teacher from 1983 until 2006.

Her two well known books are Everyday Zen: Love and Work; and, Nothing Special: Living Zen.

This is a brief excerpt from Everyday Zen:
"Now, sometimes people say, "It's too hard."  But in fact, not practicing at all is much, much harder.  We really fool ourselves when we don't practice.  So please be very clear with yourself about what must be done to end suffering; and also that by practicing with such courage we can enable others to have no fear, no suffering.  We do it by the most intelligent, patient, persistent practice.  We never do it by our complaints, our bitterness and anger; and I don't mean to suppress them.  If they come up, notice them; you don't have to suppress them.  Then immediately go back into your breath, your body, into just sitting.  And when we do that there is not one of us who, by the end of the sesshin, will not find the rewards that real sitting gives.  Let's sit like that."

June 09, 2011

Qualities of a Spiritual Friend

In the past two weeks we've been talking about the Qualities of a Spiritual Friend.  The Buddha speaks of these after Ananda asks him about friendship.  Ananda says that he feels the importance of a spiritual friend is about fifty percent of practice and the Buddha corrects him and says, "No Ananda, it's one hundred percent."  The Buddha goes on to name those qualities which a spiritual friend practices to bring about and express connectivity.

In our discussion in the Zendo, I said that I thought these qualities are at the base of all relationships - sangha, teacher-student, parental, spousal, sibling, work, professional - and they indicate, just as the precepts do, the spiritual-ethical qualities we cultivate in the Bodhisattva path.  It's never easy to be a true friend, but it would be foolish not to try.  Perhaps the main qualities that we cultivate in this practice are the virtues of generosity, honesty, and loyalty.  And, there are other qualities that we can see that arise in our interactions.  This list is a fine subject for the journal, exploring the many depths of each quality and examining how we are doing in our spiritual expression and quality of life.

Here are the Seven Qualities of a Spiritual Friend which the Buddha expresses as most important:
A friend gives what is difficult to give.
A friend does what is difficult to do.
A friend patiently endures what is difficult to endure.
A friend reveals her or his own secrets
A friend keeps another's secrets.
A friend does not abandon another in misfortune.
A friend does not despise another because of their loss.


May 27, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

For the past several years, on Memorial Day or Veterans Day I've posted poems by my brother John Carney who is a Vietnam vet.  John writes poems in tribute to the lives of those who serve their country.  This poem is a new one for Memorial Day 2011.

Many have given their lives,
Because they were called to war,
Often lonely and afraid,
On some distant foreign shore.

We tend to recall the names,
Of big battles that were waged,
Such dubious distinction,
Where horror and conflict raged.

But many comrades too,
Were lost along the way.
A little known town or hamlet,
In some empty field they lay.

Who has heard of Samawah.
Outpost Harry, or Ong Thanh,
Kesternich, Wanat,
Or maybe Ap Tinh Anh?  

Some fell from the air or were lost,
Manning posts on a ship.
Some were just driving trucks 
On a simple supply trip. 

Others were struck down by fever,
Or run over by a tank or jeep.
There's a lot of different reasons,
For how they met their sleep.

Not knowing what the price would be,
Or the cost they'd have to pay,
They packed their bags and kissed goodbye,
And we sent them on their way.
So on this day of remembrance,
It's not how or where they fell,
Not about huge battles,
Or valiant tales to tell,
Nor any kind of discussion,
Of the reason they were sent.
We honor them in thought or prayer,
For the simple fact they went.

                                                  John Carney - 2011

May 24, 2011

Sleeping Through the Alarm Bells

Bell at Felsentor, Switzerland
This Letter to the Editor in the THE OLYMPIAN on May 15, 2011, was written by Barbara Monda and is reprinted here without permission, but the message is urgent and I feel hardly anyone could object to furthering this call to action.  

I plan to set my alarm for 6 p.m. every Sunday evening and will ring our 'Zendo wake-up bell' for five minutes joining Barbara Monda.  This seems like a simple thing to do, but imagine if we all did it, what actions and demands on our corporations and governments we might wake to. 

     "Today in global news: "Global mercury emissions could grow by 25 percent by 2020."
     "That's certainly a threat to all life as China, India and South America enter the race for energy consumption and pollution once monopolized by the industrial U.S. and Europe.
    "Closer to home, there is discovered a huge level of dioxins in Budd Inlet.  It is not disputable that these kill.
     "According to the U.N., world population will reach 7 billion to 10 billion by 2050.  This is beyond the earth's ability to sustain a healthy biosphere.
     "Everyone knows dioxins and mercury kill.  Everyone knows people are sick or have died because of impure water, tainted food, airborne toxins, radiation, new germs and viruses developing because of weakened hosts.
     "Now add to that the industrial family of mega-corporations working very effectively to kill environmental controls and protections.  The TV is full of their million dollar ads to convince a dying people of how safe they are without government interference.
     "The number one threat to human population on this planet is humans populating and the polluting effect of their existence, enhanced or caused by monetary greed and thirst for power.
     "The consequences are so frightening, we avoid its reality.  We hide, get distracted.  We sleep through all the alarm bells.
     "I propose we wake up.  Every Sunday at 6 p.m., I will ring earth bells to alarm us to the threats of ecological disaster.
     "Join me.  Ring loud."
                                                                                                                       Barbara Monda, Olympia

May 20, 2011

The days run away...

...like wild horses over the hills.  This, I do believe, is the title of a poetry book by Charles Bukowski.  The days do run away is how it seems.  Perhaps this is preferred than to sit around bored and wishing for someone to show up to make something happen.  But the days do run by and it often feels as though nothing gets done, nothing gets accomplished.  Bukowski says that that is how it should be.  His gravestone says, "Don't Try."  In a letter to John William Corrington in 1963, Bukowski wrote that someone asked him about his creative process and he answered, "What do you do?  How do you write, create?"  You don't, I told them.  You don't try.  That's very important; not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality.  You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more.  It's like a bug high on the wall.  You wait for it to come to you.  When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it.  Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it."

Michael Long will enjoy that quote.

I'll wait for the right words of prayer and poetry to write to hang in the garden tomorrow for the Day of Prayer and Healing for Japan.  Meantime, there's the sun today, and the sky is high up and deep blue.  This day too will run away...

May 09, 2011

Maylie Scott

maylie1 copyTen years ago on May 10th, Maylie Scott, a Zen teacher at Arcata Zen Center, died.  Alan Senauke who was her Dharma brother and friend, inherited responsibility for her teaching in Arcata.  He writes in his blog today at Clear View Blog about Maylie.  Maylie had a particular interpretation of the Metta Sutta and I print it here while remembering her on the anniversary of her death.

"Maylie reworked the Metta Sutta, the Buddhas discourse on lovingkindness into a prayer, blending her own words with the Buddha’s.   The unique point of this prayer emerges in the next to last line: “…our peace in the world is a result of our work for justice.”  The notion of  “justice” is not commonly found in the Buddha’s teachings, and some people are uncomfortable with it.  The Buddha often spoke of “just” or correct, in balance.  The Western image of Justice is a blindfolded woman, impartial even to her own preferences, holding a scale.  Justice is about balance, finding the proper balance in our lives and in our society. Maylie was passionate about social justice without turning away from her adversaries, without seeing them as less than fully human.  And in her steady everyday devotion to zazen, she was again and again finding balance, finding what was just in her own life."— Hozan Alan Senauki

Metta Prayer
May I be well, loving, and peaceful. May all beings be well, loving, and peaceful.
May I be at ease in my body, feeling the ground beneath my seat and feet, letting my back be long and straight, enjoying breath as it rises and falls and rises.
May I know and be intimate with body mind, whatever its feeling or mood, calm or agitated, tired or energetic, irritated or friendly.
Breathing in and out, in and out, aware, moment by moment, of the risings and passings.
May I be attentive and gentle towards my own discomfort and suffering.
May I be attentive and grateful for my own joy and well-being.
May I move towards others freely and with openness.
May I receive others with sympathy and understanding.
May I move towards the suffering of others with peaceful and attentive confidence.
May I recall the Bodhisattva of compassion; her 1,000 hands, her instant readiness for action, each hand with an eye in it, the instinctive knowing what to do.
May I continually cultivate the ground of peace for myself and others and persist, mindful and dedicated to this work, independent of results.
May I know that my peace and the world’s peace are not separate; that our peace in the world is a result of our work for justice.
May all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.
— Maylie Scott, 1994

May 02, 2011

All things are temporary

Days, words, events, even blogs are temporary.  Being away from blogs is temporary.  The weeks in preparation for David Loy's appearance for the 10th Annual Ryokan Lecture have been busy as I've eased back into daily life in Olympia.  Or did I come crashing in?  Believe me, the sense of light is an extraordinary change when someone is attuned to light, landscape, and color.  We had the coldest April on record and perhaps not the wettest, but it was plenty wet and grey, gray.  Payne's gray.  We are still getting only an occasional brilliant sky which is followed by another long period of falling water.

Loy began the workshop on Saturday by telling us about the origin of his writing the book, LACK AND TRANSCENDENCE and about the trilogy of his books, the connected unfolding and exploration of his basic thesis in Buddhist studies.  From there, we moved into a day of dialogue with him that flowed from the nature of the Self/No-Self to the work of the Self/No-Self in the social context.  From there we discussed the importance of story in the human experience and then ended with specific questions about the book LACK AND TRANSCENDENCE which the Sangha had taken up for its annual study.  For me, I took not one note but listened intently allowing the teaching to wash through me as the Dharma soaks into the blood.  I apologize that I have not one quote to give you which you may have been hoping for, to give you the feeling that you were there.  You can find Loy's work online and make your way to the text of his lecture on Healing Ecology at David Loy's website.

So, it was a rich exchange over this weekend.  Now we go forward with daily life, Zazen each morning, and preparing for A DAY OF PRAYER AND HEALING FOR JAPAN on May 21.  More thoughts to come as I begin to gather myself together and still transition into life in the north.

I think I'll include a very recent poem which speaks to grief, art, expression, loss, the human condition.

             “Trodden Weed”
The title does not reveal the power of the man’s boots, 
his determined stride across a deserted, colorless plain 
somber snowy hill in the distance.  No sky.  Just the hem 
of a black coat brushed at the top of the painting.
This is all Wyeth gives us
except for the single weed beneath the right forward foot 
that must be searched out on the landscape as it disappears 
in the tangled wintry meadow.  It’s a nameless
thing, the weed, snuffed out by capricious footfall
a juxtaposition of place and time
of purpose and what is easily broken.  We’d almost expect 
to see spurs, the buckle fed through a notch on the bridge 
of the ankle.  These large feet suggest lungs that heave
with the effort of movement.  And yet, and yet
we know nothing of this man
where he is going or coming from.  What of his hands?
Does he carry a rifle?  Is there anger in his stride?
Is he walking toward rescue, vengeance, or is it escape?  
Is he sure of himself, or turning from sorrow?
Is he moving toward someone he loves?  
It’s as if these boots that can tread on fields with ease 
are shielding a wound, a grief so deep 
that someone can’t survive except by edge and sway. 
A loss that eats the heart from inside out 
freezes tears in their welling. 


April 12, 2011

Harada Shodo Roshi's report of his travels to Sendai

Dear Friends,
Harada Shodo Roshi of Sogenji Temple in Japan wrote a report of his visit to the tsunami devastation area in Sendai.  The report is long but so moving and informative that I've decided to post it here in full and also on my own blog.
Sogenji is a Rinzai temple in Okayama, and during my time living in that city, I visited and sat Zazen many times at this temple.  When I returned to Olympia, a student of Harada Roshi came to stay with me, and Roshi visited my apartment in Olympia with some of his students when they came to pick her up.  Harada Roshi has a temple on Whidbey Island, WA where he comes to visit for sesshin several times a year.
Thank you.
Eido in Gassho

> APRIL 11, 2011
> To all of the One Drop Zendos around the world, to the many people 
> concerned, and to those with whom we have a karmic affiliation, I 
> am writing to you about the recent great earthquake and tsunami 
> tragedy. From their most profound mind, everyone has worried about 
> us and supported the disaster relief. I deeply thank you from the 
> bottom of my heart.
> On the eleventh of March at 2:46 in the afternoon, a huge 
> earthquake occurred in Japan, at a magnitude of 9.3. As a result, 
> there are presently 12787 people known to be dead and 14991 still 
> missing, making approximately 28000 who have died. In addition, 
> 95232 people are living as evacuees.
> Almost one month has passed since then. On the 8th of April we 
> celebrated the Buddha’s birthday with a flower festival. At that 
> time, a gatha for the day was given :
> The gigantic powerful tsunami overturns the heavens and the earth
> 28000 enter the Buddha's realm
> Gathered on Buddha's Birthday here and now, we honor his birth,
> While the brilliant colored cherry blossoms (the souls of the 
> 28000) blow petals and perfume the pond (receiving the Buddha’s light)
> The tsunami was over 38 meters high. A t 2: 46 pm the earthquake's 
> shook, and about thirty minutes later, from Ibaragi prefecture all 
> the way down the whole coast - Iwate, Ibaragi, Fukushima, Miyagi, 
> Chiba - all of the prefectures bordering on that part of the 
> Pacific coast were poured down upon by the tsunami.
> It was a huge earthquake, and countless buildings were destroyed 
> immeditaly. And then those weakened by the quake were hit by a 
> huge tsunami, pushing them all over with its power.
> The area affected is called the Sanriku Coast, and has long been a 
> place where this kind of disaster happens, again and again. In each 
> disaster, without exception, many have died and it is known that 
> this is the natural way of life there.
> 28,000 people. Perhaps many died in the instant of the earthquake, 
> but most were killed by te towering wave that followed. Even now 
> there are still so many missing, pulled into the ocean by the 
> undertow, all tangled up with the garbage and debris. Because even 
> the ocean divers cannot get to the bottom, they have not able to 
> find the missing bodies. Because the diver’s lives are at risk 
> diving in this area, it will probably take many years for them to 
> be uncovered,
> Today on the Buddha’s birthday we celebrate with a flower festival. 
> But for the 28,000 who died, their souls have returned to the 
> Buddha’s source, gathered at his knees, gone to the where he is. We 
> must think of them as being welcomed there.
> In Sogenji’s garden right now, the weeping cherry tree is bright 
> and in full bloom. We can see the 28,000 in each one of the 
> flowers, coming nto being in each of the petals, dancing on the 
> wind and drifting down onto the lake with their bright colors and 
> then fading away.
> On the 11th day of March we felt nothing at all in Okayama. We only 
> had the news about the tsunami and the earthquake. We tried and 
> tried to call the temple and the people we know there, but there 
> was no way to contact them. Eerily, this was the same experience 
> we had during the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, although then we could 
> already feel the hugeness of what happened. We tried everything, 
> and finally cell phones and email were possible. Although we could 
> not communicate with them directly, we were able to leave 
> messages. As time passed we heard more and more about the 
> situation from the people themselves, but no one, including those 
> on site knew what was actually happening.
> The next day, Saturday the 12th of March, we contacted many 
> companies and businesses in Okayama. Even though it was the first 
> day of Osesshin, the whole sangha went to the city to do takuhatsu, 
> gathering funds for earthquake relief. It was only the first day 
> after the earthquake, and so no one - all of the newspapers , all 
> of the systems and relief organizations - had their windows open 
> for receiving donations yet. We took the money we raised 
> immediately to the Red Cross who was ready to recieve donations. 
> Soon, the news of the horrendous depth of the disaster started to 
> become known.
> On the television, we saw cities buring and people reaching for 
> heavenly help. On the internet, the reality of the tsunami became 
> clear as more and more photographs were posted. All of this could 
> be found on the screen and in the newspapers.
> In Sendai there is a priest and a temple with which we have strong 
> kharmic affiliation. He has always sent samugi, sent rice, sent 
> straw sandals for takuhatsu for the people training at Sogenji. 
> Many, many times he has sent these things for the people at Sogenji.
> In some way, in any way possible, I wanted to go there and support 
> him. The Shinkansen (high speed train) was not yet running up 
> there, the local trains were irregular and frequently 
> nonexistent ,and all the roads had been destroyed and were still 
> impassable. Anywhere near the site of the disaster it was 
> impossible to enter, except for the national guard and other 
> emergency groups in their special vehicles. Regular vehicles could 
> not get there.
> On the 27th day of March, the roads finally were opened and it was 
> by chance that it was the end of the month so this was the 
> opportunity I had, using every possible means we were able to go to 
> Sendai and to the Fukushima area. Luckily, there was an all night 
> highway bus going all the way there after changing from a train to 
> Kyoto, and we were able to get seats.
> But there was already radiation leaking from the damaged power 
> plants, it was known to be a very risky situation. Considering the 
> one chance out of a thousand in which something could go wrong, it 
> was decided to not take younger people training at Sogenji there, 
> so Ekei Zenji and Domyo Koji were taken to represent the sangha. 
> We entered by going to Kyoto and then getting on the all night bus 
> that would go straight there. This was the chance we were given and 
> so we took all kinds of food supplies, and dishes to eat at meals. 
> They had told us on the phone that they could only make cooked 
> rice for us, and that they had nothing to eat with it. "We have no 
> supplies or fuel, and so please bring your own food,” they told us. 
> “we want to go visiting here and there, so for the children and the 
> various evacuees, please, as much as possible, please bring sweets 
> and simple foods that they can eat without any need for preparation."
> People at Sogenji worked as hard as they could to get the 
> breadbaking done and get as many loaves as bread made as possible 
> before our departure.It was very insufficient, only a little 
> something in a time of big need but our time had been limited. 
> People gathered candy to bring as well. Since there is very little 
> water available and they cannot brush their teeth, they also asked 
> for a gum that cleans your teeth when you chew it. We also packed 
> many many ,many hot packs, since it was still very cold. As we 
> didn' t know what we would encounter, we went in boots, warm 
> clothes, and samugi.
> In the morning we arrived in Sendai, a large city in the area of 
> Tohoku . There were many buildings which were still standing erect 
> and appeared to have no damage, that there was a strange weird 
> feeling. After our bus came into Sendai station, the priest who 
> was supposed to pick us up arrived and we put our packages into his 
> car. As we drove, the priest, told us that although the buildings 
> look so normal, inside all the offices were completely turned 
> upside down and a mess. Not one single place that can still be 
> used inside the buildings. He told us this.
> As we drove out of the center of town, there were cars in huge 
> traffic jams with endless lines. The priest told us that they were 
> lines of people waiting to buy gas, they were all waiting in lines 
> of one or two kilos length. There was no gasoline and everyone was 
> waiting for the tank lorry to come but the tank lorry did not have 
> enough gas to bring gas to every gas station and so it was putting 
> a little at each place and in a very short while the few cars that 
> received the gas were given gas and it was gone.
> In this situation people could only leave their cars and go home 
> until the next day, but people being so desperate to get gas would 
> leave it there and walk home and come back the next day, 
> everywhere, at every gas station there was a huge line waiting. 
> Finally, we began seeing rows of destroyed homes. Everywhere that 
> the Shinkansen tracks usually passed through was full of bent and 
> broken poles, and it was clear that it was still very very far from 
> being able to be back into use.
> Zennoji Temple was located about twenty minutes from the station. 
> Zennoji san's temple also had been seriously damaged. There were 
> 1600 graves in the cemetery and every last gravestone had toppled 
> over. It was a hideous scene. The hondo was just barely being 
> covered by its roof. There was continually a small earthquake 
> every thirty minutes or so. He said that they could not even use 
> the hondo yet. In the great stone lanterns there were big cracks 
> and all of the rocks were moving around, having been loosened by 
> the disasters.
> Even so ,the buildings were somehow still standing and had been 
> protected even in such a severe disaster and that was already a 
> great good fortune, he said. They already had their life lines of 
> electricity and water reconnected from a few day before and they 
> were still without gas. They apologized for not being able to make 
> a bath for us
> His wife came out and greeted us saying she had wanted to get our 
> bellies readied and had prepared some rice balls. Eating them with 
> instant miso soup, we had breakfast. That day when we arrived we 
> were first to go around and look at the area, and take around the 
> things we had brought and then the next day from the morning we 
> would work on the cleaning up of the Zennoji temple and house. This 
> was the plan.
> According to plan we went around in Zennoji's car with his son 
> driving. We drove and went around the city, to near the area of the 
> dunes and the coast . Zennoji's temple is near the mountains so it 
> has a little less damage because of its elevated location. Right in 
> front of us where the coastal area was it was so extreme, you could 
> see where a two meter tsunami had washed away everything, cars were 
> jammed together at our feet, and houses were destroyed and upside 
> down, and everything in the houses had been washed away by the 
> water, and so inconceivably a car was hanging from a telephone 
> line! How could his have happened? It was just so unfathomable, 
> the enormous power of the way of Nature left us in greatest awe.
> The cars that were all pushed together were bumped and ruined and 
> full of cracks and scratches, they were upside down, and sideways 
> and there was not a single car that was in its usual condition. all 
> of those cars had also crashed into houses and crushed the houses 
> in their collisions. It was truly full of violently ruined houses, 
> broken down and fallen apart in a hideous way, unimaginable...the 
> rooves of these houses in front of our eyes.
> First we went to the temple of Furinji, a temple related to 
> Zennoji's wife. The temple of Furinji was in the very middle of the 
> worst hit part of the earthquake and tsunami, but the temple itself 
> is just a bit above the worst -hit area. Although it is in that 
> very area it mysteriously did not suffer any damage whatsoever. The 
> water of the tsunami washed up right to the main gate of the 
> temple. and just because of its being built on slightly higher 
> ground it was not affected by the Wave. All of the houses up to 
> main gate were completely and totally destroyed.
> The temple priest had welcomed 200 people to live there, and every 
> day was making their food. At a time like this the extensive size 
> of a temple grounds was well put to use, the temple was able to 
> welcome everyone in the area, to serve them and to protect them 
> within the temple grounds. It had become a very important and 
> precious place. In this area and in these areas and seeing all the 
> various conditions, we continued to drive around in the car.
> We had seen many photos of the earthquake's damage but it was no 
> longer like in a photo where it is just like scenery, when you see 
> the actuality in front of your very eyes,it is actually possible to 
> feel the incomprehensible power of the water that came over 
> everything, and to taste the terror that the rapidly approaching 
> huge water brought. Here there had been gas tanks which had 
> exploded and caught fire, one after the next. It was said that the 
> gas had burned there for three days and three nights continually. 
> There were cars wrapped around poles, convenience stores completely 
> destroyed, and many hospitals and clinics, all wrecked beyond use.
> There had been a huge and very old moat here, a beautiful moat, 
> built by the Feudal Lord Date Masamune, it was circling all around 
> this city of Sendai and used as a canal as well, a canal that was 
> used for transporting goods in the olden days. This beautiful canal 
> had been the pride of the people of Sendai, and was now filled to 
> the top with all kinds of broken debris and heaps of rubble, it was 
> impossible to tell if it was a river or a garbage dump.
> Zennoji san said, with a sigh, that for him this Teizan Canal, this 
> Teizan Garden Park, had been his favorite and he had always been so 
> proud to show it to visitors, now it made him so sad.
> Going past Teizan Park, this park that was built to commemorate the 
> feudal lord Masamune Date, we came out on the other side of the 
> hills at a place called Shirahama, at the mouth of the Matsushima 
> Bay. There are seven small islands there, because this Matsushima 
> Bay area is a place famous for its great beauty, each and every 
> small island has a temple, seven of them all together,and one of 
> them was the temple of a friend of Zennoji, the Doshoji Temple. We 
> went there to visit next. This is the furthest small island and 
> the water that had swept over it had destroyed its entire small 
> town of 3000 people, all in the one instant that the wave had 
> poured over them.
> The head priest of that temple ran a kindergarten at the temple. 
> Taking the children of the kindergarten they had run up to the top 
> of the mountain and been saved. But everything else just up to the 
> top of that mountain had been swallowed up and covered in the 
> tsunami's waters, buried. No matter how hard he had looked for a 
> path down from the top he had not been able to find one. Everything 
> had been destroyed, and strewn everywhere. They had all eventually 
> been rescued from the top of the mountain by a helicopter of the 
> national guard. The helicopter lifted all of them out, one after 
> the next they had been lifted up and rescued by the helicopter and 
> this had been played again and again on televisions all over Japan. 
> And it had been this temple where that had happened.
> At this same temple they had just finished rebuilding their hondo 
> into a new and different hondo, this huge work had all just 
> recently been completed and now having entered this new year, they 
> were planning the opening ceremony for this new hondo on the 16th 
> of March. They had just been making the preparations for the 
> celebration day. This brand new hondo which had never been used 
> once was now completely buried in mud. It was truly a miserable 
> scene of sadness after all of the huge efforts which had been made-- 
> then having them come to this result.
> This temple's young successor to be iscurrently in the training 
> monastery of the famous Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto. He has been 
> given time to come back to his parent's temple and was there 
> digging the mud out from under the porches around the new hondo. He 
> was ripping off he new floors to get in beneath the building, we 
> watched as he was doing this. We made an offering there to the 
> temple's founder, and departed. The water had not receded from that 
> area yet, and the water level had gone up 75 centimeters since the 
> water that had risen there was not receding. Even after several 
> weeks the salt water remained, just as it had risen there.
> In front of our faces we could see how that the whole town that 
> was left there was nothing but a field of mud. Passing hill after 
> hill of debris we continued past the seven islands, went over the 
> mountain and came out at Shiogama, the next town.
> Here in Shiogama there were homes that had no one had yet entered 
> into so they had not been searched yet for missing people. The 
> national guard had not reached there yet . This town of Shiogama 
> when looked down upon from the hill above, looked perfectly regular 
> and as if there had been no damage nor disaster there. But when we 
> entered the town we could see what a huge amount of damage there 
> had actually been there.
> Here there had not been a huge powerful tidal wave thrust but 
> little by the whole shopping street had filled up with water and 
> been ruined, all of the things for sale there were unusable 
> garbage now, the houses had all been soaked through with salt water 
> and would have to be completely rebuilt. They were useless.
> On a slightly raised area there stood the temple of Toeiji san. We 
> called on them next. There had been a lot of damage at their temple 
> due to the earthquake. In front of our eyes the line between Sendai 
> and the neighboring town's houses was clear, the JR railroad had 
> passed through there but the whole area had been destroyed. The 
> Seashore Line had run there and the hotels along the seacoast had 
> been serviced from there, with Zuiganji as such a famous landmark, 
> it had been a huge tourist area. Because of that, there were many 
> hotels for the visitors, and since there was a large damlike 
> structure for protection, it appeared at first glance that there 
> had been little damage.
> However, now there was no one coming to call at all. The hot 
> springs hotels had opened their baths to all of the evacuees and 
> other victims of the disaster. All of the people in the area were 
> very thankful and so glad to have a place to bathe. Passing by the 
> typical shopping street area we approached Matsushima's Zuiganji 
> temple. The Zuiganji Roshi was not there, but we had brought Ekei 
> Zenji on this trip especially because he had a kharmic affiliation 
> with the Zuiganji temple. Zuiganji's former Roshi, Master Hirano 
> Sojo, was the good friend of Ekei's earlier teacher in Mexico, Eijo 
> Takata, and Ekei had come to Sogenji in the first place because of 
> that kharmic affiliation. For this reason he wanted to go to the 
> grave of Master Sojo Hirano to pray and since the Hondo was 
> currently under construction we chanted sutras in the Shoiin 
> instead. Here they gave us hot udon noodles which they had prepared 
> and Zennoji san who works at Zuiganji as one of the top 
> administrators, so it is like his own place, was very kind and 
> hospitable to us. Here at Zuiganji, ever since the earthquake 
> happened, 385 people were being given a place to live, there were 
> 16 monks who cooked and took care of them.
> At Zuiganji , the area of Matsushima was a most beautiful place, 
> furthest in the harbor,with many small islands which were visible 
> from there and they had each absorbed the power of the tidal wave 
> and had therefore saved Zuiganji from the strongest thrust of the 
> tidal wave. There had been no touch of a wave there, there was only 
> a slight damage to some buildings but in spite of it having been 
> facing the ocean it had not been touched by a drop of water.
> Of course the area in front of the main gate had been sunk into 
> deep water and there was much damage there, nevertheless the people 
> of the area all called this the oasis of the area.
> WE then went again in the car and went to the place where the damage
> was greatest of all, the Nobiru area, on the other side of Ichigahama.
> Tthe area of Ichigahama was also terribly damaged, and on its other
> side, is Nobiru. At the very entrance of Matsushima Port. Going there
> we were simply astonished at the intense severity of the damage. There
> were no railroad tracks left anywhere. The train was probably stopped
> here, we could not be certain how that was, but every last thing was
> pushed completely up against the mountain there, all fallen over in
> every direction. The station master's building was pushed against what
> must have been the platform and on top of the roof there was a car.
> This was done by the vigorous pushing power of the tsunami. The very
> beautiful ancient pine tree boulevard there, its hundreds of huge pine
> trees had been uprooted by the tsunami, by its Sheer pressure and were
> all laid root side up, side by side in the same direction. It was as
> if they had each been thrown down and been placed there upside down in
> rows. Seeing this we could feel the awesome and terrifying huge power
> of Great Nature.
> The evacuation place where many people had run to after the
> earthquake,the school's gymnasium, had been completely pushed along
> and flowed away in the tidal waves' wake. There was a Soto Sect temple
> there which is now nothing but rubble. There are the ruins but the
> temple's hondo's roof is two hundred meters away in a river, where it
> still remains. All of the gravestones of the temple's graveyard are
> buried in rubble and debris.
> If you compare this to the lack of damage to the temple of Zuiganji of
> Matsushima, here there was a great swirling whirlpooling affect that
> sandwiched things into its path and damaged them completely. So many
> people and things simply disappeared here and are gone.The degree of
> damage and injury to things is so great it still Has not even been
> touched by anyone. It is from now that the various support groups and
> crews will begin to enter this area.
> Shorinji is a temple nearby here, the abbot was not there. This is
> where the National Guard is staying while it works in this area. This
> is the last temple where we visited. Since there are still bodies
> floating and priests came even from as far as Nanzenji Temple in
> Kyoto,from there as well priest/ were helping with the many bodies
> that were in the water that were being brought ashore. The crematories
> having been damaged, there was no where to cremate the bodies, and so
> they had to make the open land into graves by digging into the vacant
> lots and burying many bodies there. To perform the ceremonies for
> these burials the priests were all going here and there to do the
> group funerals.
> We chanted and placed our offerings at the place of the founder, at
> this temple there were still one hundred evacuees living. They were
> eating living and sleeping there and we gave them all of our bread and
> other supplies that we had brought along. There had been three
> hundred evacuees but as the public support came in, it became 
> possible to
> move them .
> So many bodies were floating in the ocean still, they were raising
> them out and doing whatever they could, but even if they wanted to
> cremate them, it was not possible without any fuel for the fire or any
> electricity available, it s truly a very pitiful finishing up of a
> life. At present more than 12000 people have been verified as dead,
> and there are 16000 people still not accounted for, for these 28000
> people every possible effort is being made. There are so many cars,
> houses and businesses, and still no lumber available for rebuilding.
> In only Ibaraki prefecture alone 14600 cars were lost. In large and
> medium ships, 2000 of them are missing and the smaller boats missing
> are countless.
> Sendai airport was also poured down upon by the tsunami and there
> were 50 airplanes lost. The National Guard Base was also hit by the
> tsunami and everything there is gone. To just look around and see it
> like this makes one so miserable from the most profound place within,
> feeling exhausted, I returned to Zennoji. That night another
> earthquake of magnitude 6.5 came, every day again and again many times
> a day the earthquakes continuously come, people have become numb to
> them. In their mind the endless lack of feeling settled in any way,
> this is in every person's state of mind at this time.
> In this way we came to see how any resolution of this will be very 
> far from now.
> And not only these myriad challenges, but that which is most feared 
> by people all over the planet, in the neighboring prefecture of 
> Fukushima is the damage done to the nuclear power plant there.
> In the whole area around it, the radiation has been spreading, in 
> the air, in the things growing there, the vegetables raised there, 
> all of the things nearby are being found to have high levels of 
> radiation. In
> this area of Fukushima, broccoli, spinach, and other vegetables , 
> grown close to and usually sent to Tokyo these are the liveilhood 
> of the people of this area and now they are forbidden to be eaten.
> Now is the usual time for planting the next rice crop, it is being 
> forbidden by the government in this area and in the tap water, the 
> pollution is all mixed in so just any water can not be drunk 
> carelessly. Of course even if the water which is below the safe 
> radiation standard is drunk, the results will not happen all at 
> once, but, no one really knows what kind of bad affects will be 
> lingering, and as long as there is a standard measure above which 
> one should not partake of these foods, it will most likely be 
> impurities that will remain in our body, and for this reason the 
> tap water, the harvested vegetables, the seaweeds, all of these 
> need to be checked thoroughly. When we see this we have to ask, why 
> was there a nuclear reactor built
> here?
> It is impossible not to wonder about this.
> This is how it makes you feel. If you look closely at the past 
> history of the area, in this area of the Sanriku Coast there have 
> always been earthquakes, there are records from many eras, in the 
> Meiji era, in 1896 there was the Great Sanriku Earthquake, on June 
> 15th, and of course before then there were also earthquakes. In the 
> Chile Great Earthquake a tidal wave of 5. 5 meters struck here as 
> well. And at
> that time there was also a great amount of damage.
> And not only in the Meiji but in the Showa era as well, in 1933, on 
> the 3rd of March, there was also a Great Sanriku Earthquake.In 
> Iwate prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima prefecture, 
> there were great amounts of damage. At that time a tidal wave of 
> more than 30 meters also came, though in this time's earthquake 
> there were many more people that died, but while even having had so 
> much experience with this up until now, the experience of the past 
> was not given life to, it has to be said.
> There was a famous earthquake in Tokyo , the Great Earthquake of 
> Kanto, this great earthquake was really beyond anything usual, in 
> its casualties, it happened in 1923, on September first, and when it
> happened 15000 died in Tokyo and 33000 in the neighboring 
> prefecture.This was a huge and isolated case but in this current 
> area there had already been so many big earthquakes. From the 
> history of the year 869 on the ninth of July there was also 
> recorded a huge earthquake but there were not so many people then 
> so the casualites were many fewer, while 28000 lives were taken in 
> this recent earthquake. In this area there are always tsunami 
> shelters, an ongoing awareness of this possibility is constant, and 
> people are always marking poles with a line to where the last 
> tidal wave had risen, so many stories of past tidal waves and there 
> were thirty minutes from earthquake to tidal wave, so why did not 
> more people escape from it?
> During that time between the earthquake and the tidal wave, a 24 
> year old woman announcer said on air over and over again " a 
> tsunami is coming, run to somewhere higher, a tsunami is coming, 
> run to somewhere higher" she said it continuously for everyone to 
> hear, and she was then also swallowed by the tsunami.Those who 
> heard this and ran to a higher ground were huge in number. They 
> knew just where to go, and what to do, but the person who gave 
> the announcement died in the tsunami for doing that. The police 
> and firepeople were all helped thanks to her doing that, but many 
> others who simply wanted to guard their food, possessions and 
> places did not heed her warning and 28000 lives were lost. Isn't 
> there some indulgent point there hat needs looking at carefully, 
> This and the nuclear power plant being built in such a location, a 
> plant which is still pouring radiation into the Pacific Ocean, 
> there are so many points that must be seriously returned to and 
> reviewed carefully here.
> There are 19 of these nuclear power plants in Japan all together. 
> 19 of them now and above and beyond those already built that there 
> are many more planned to be built on already acquired land but it 
> is because of this accident that no one in the country wants 
> these plants to happen now, and this nuclear power plant In 
> Fukushima will no longer continue to function.
> Today all over the whole world, the biggest problem is this, the 
> earthquake and tsunami's challenges will be taken care o, but the 
> results of this nuclear power plant will not go away, this is why 
> it is such a greatly terrifying matter for many , because it is 
> unknown. Of course those at the site are working as hard as they 
> can and doing everything possible, and the Navy and specialists on 
> nuclear power plants are coming in from Japan and even from France 
> and trying to help and support them, desperately and steadily.
> Japan is a long narrow country so from Fukushima to Okayama and 
> Western Japan it appears to be a far distance but the winds change 
> and China and Korea and Russia all have great doubts, fears and 
> concerns. This is a matter of course.
> The high level of radiation polluted water in the ocean that cannot 
> be prevented is not only here near Japan but going on the waves to 
> pollute who knows where and who knows how much?
> Today the nuclear power plants are the number one producers of 
> energy and all countries want to have them but any one has felt 
> that these should not exists on the surface of this earth.
> This times huge disaster, in this disaster time, one very happily 
> seen aspect was that this disaster, while being truly a 
> ferosciously terrible thing, still people from all over the world 
> extended their hands in kindness and made one united great 
> hopefulness and effort and there is much data about all of the 
> people together and what they have offered and also of their 
> supporting with words from more than one hundred countries. I read 
> these messages slowly ad carefully. They were from America, South 
> America, Africa, Europe; all of its many countries,India, all the 
> various countries of Asia, people from all over the world worried 
> and were concerned and felt so deeply, wanting to know how they 
> could somehow help those who suffered in the earthquake and 
> tsunami. This is a very important thing. I felt it directly and 
> experience it deeply.
> If you look at the Japanese economics from the Kobe earthquake to 
> this point now, it is a big big difference. But in ten years from 
> now also it will be back to normal. That is without mistake.
> But to cool that high heat temperature of the nuclear power plant, 
> with its already greying reactors numbered 1,2,3, and 4, they can 
> never be used again yet even these, when and if cooled which will 
> take fifty years, these will have polluted things for that area, 
> the land and so many things in those areas that cannot be used 
> anymore. These must now become forbidden land to even enter. This 
> is saying clearly that while nuclear power has a potential for 
> providing energy for human kind, its power is also a terrifying 
> evil which destroys.
> The scientists have called it a circumstance beyond anything that 
> could have been imagined or estimated, it is this kind of an 
> unlucky situation and these circumstances will never happen again. 
> But it has happened now and this must not ever happen again. We 
> must not have these. Now many voices against nuclear power plants 
> have risen, and this is also for Japan a great responsibility 
> which has to be understood.
> Along with that many countries support and donations have been 
> given, those who suffered to gether and helped together, all of 
> this gathered together, I want to use this opportunity to say thank 
> you.
> The people who train here at Sogenji, every single one of them is 
> working totally and intensely wholeheartedly and to cultivate 
> them is my life work for the rest of the life left to me so that 
> even one of them will be able to open the truly seeing eye, this 
> is my deep vow.
> We cannot be deceived. We cannot be deceived by what we see and the 
> circumstances in which we find ourselves . In each and every era we 
> have to see from our truly opened eye which is seeing the 
> truth ,and not deceive ourselves. This is zen and this is the 
> harvest of our training and what our life is.
> Thank you very much
> Shodo Harada