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January 2016 DharmaByte

At the end of 2015, looking forward to the New Year and advent of 2016, the ASZC's 39th year of continuous operation, we have reason to celebrate. But we also have reason to question the reasons we are in the business of "selling water by the river," as Jiyu Kennet Roshi defined propagating Zen, in the title of one or her publications. It sometimes seems that we are not appreciated for our efforts, and that our mission may be a fool's errand, especially when we have difficulty with meeting our financial obligations, a characteristic of all Zen groups.

During the rampant consumerism of the holiday season, exemplified by the hysteria engendered by continuous promotion of sales and the giveaways of thousands of dollars in the Twelve Days of the Ellen DeGeneres show (which may have started as a play on her name), we come to question the values of the society in which we find ourselves. We must wonder at the stupefying, wide-eyed rapture all the bright lights and sparkling promise of prosperity inspires.

We can take some comfort in the admonition of one of our Chinese forefathers to, "with practice hidden, function secretly, like a fool, like an idiot"; and his assurance that "just to continue in this way is called the 'Host within the host'," a peak experience in Zen terms, the height of awareness. A high accomplishment that has nothing to do with how we may appear, or relate, to others, our "guests."


ROHATSU – Celebrating Buddha's Awakening

As we approach the end of the 38th year of the founding of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, established in 1977, we enjoy a spirit of celebration. At year's end, most societies, however "primitive," observe some sort of ritual recognition of the passing of the old year; as well as the potential represented by the new.

In the Christian tradition, the birthday of Jesus Christ is celebrated in December. But in Buddhism, it is Siddhartha Gotama's Awakening, instead. Then, in the spring, Buddha's birthday is celebrated, as is the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven, believed by the faithful to have happened after his crucifixion, 2000 + years ago. Notably, both of these seminal events — of Christ's passion, and of Buddha's enlightenment — occurred when each was in his mid-thirties.

But Buddha lived to an old age, of some 80 years, and died of natural causes, or, as one legend has it, of tainted pork. Which poses a challenge to those who think, or believe, that Buddha and his followers were vegetarian. We have to be somewhat circumspect as to these kinds of details, some 2500 years later.

It may appear, on face value, that the celebrations and observances around these events, from the recorded story of different religions, represents the same kind of dynamic for adherents of the various traditions. But comparing and contrasting attitudes, and the activities they inspire, may illustrate the difference.

Last Updated (Monday, 07 December 2015 20:53)


STO Founder's Month Celebration Continues

Bows of gratitude to Silent Thunder Order's Founder Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi for his efforts to bring Soto Zen to the West! Please join us in celebrating Matsuoka Roshi's life and legacy.

Todai-ji Temple     Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan

The Matusoka Roshi Video Documentary Project is seeking funds to complete the documentary on Matsuoka-Roshi's life and his efforts to bring Zen to America. Please click here to help us reach our $10,000 goal and to see the latest Indiegogo fund raising effort and new video footage from the STO Pilgrimage to Japan.

Please listen to the biographical talk about Matsuoka-Roshi given by Zenku Jerry Smyers at ASZC during Winter Ango in February 2010. Click the following link to the audio recording.

STO Affiliates and STO Supporting Members, please make a special onetime donation and an ongoing pledge of Dana to STO in honor of Matsuoka's efforts bringing Zen to the West. Click here to make your donation. Please enjoy the following video on the history of our STO Lineage created in 2011.

mission mountain2
Mission Montain Zen Center

Please help us continue to support Matsuoka-Roshi's legacy of bringing and sustaining Zen in the West. What he started in 1939 when he first arrived in the US continues today through Silent Thunder Order training center.

Matsuoka-Roshi's lineage is represented by 16 Zen Centers throughout North America. ASZC is the training center for Silent Thunder Order lead by STO Abbot Taiun Michael Elliston (click here for Sensei's bio). STO Associate Abbot of Operations Zenku Jerry Smyers leads Mission Mountain Zen Center (shown above) in northwest Montana. STO Associate Abbot of Training Tesshin Jim Smith leads Atlantic Soto Zen Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Click here for a complete listing of Affiliates.

Purchase Matsuoka-Roshi's collected talks: The Kyosaku and Mokurai.
Click here for ordering information.

Practice Zazen
And support your local affiliate with your presence. See the above affiliate list for the affiliate closest to you.

Participate in a Poetry Reading (Atlanta area only) & Fundraiser
Kuya Minogue, practice leader at our British Columbia affiliate, Sakuraji, will be reading from her book, Zen Essentials, December 13 at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center after morning practice. The book collects poems about her zen practice and her life as a zen trainee. The poems are a personal reflection of a genuine Zen practice which will resonate with all zazen practitioners and be a true companion for those following the Middle Way.  All profits from book sales will be donated to STO.  Send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to purchase a copy.  Below is an poem from the book. 

To Dogen
I climb long steps to Eiheiji,
bow in the Buddha hall
sit zazen in your shrine
question your ashes.
"How did you see eternity
from this treed-in temple?
When did you awaken from
this dream of dreams?
Where did you meet quantum physics
in thirteenth century Japan?
Do mountains really walk?"
"Shhhh," you whisper,
Kuya. Cross you legs,
Do zazen."

Last Updated (Monday, 07 December 2015 20:57)

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