Silent Thunder Order June 2016 Newsletter
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2015 Silent Thunder Order Annual Conference and Precepts Retreat Participant

2016 Annual Silent Thunder Order Conference and Precepts Retreat

This year's Annual Silent Thunder Order Conference and Retreat will take place from Wednesday, July 13th through Sunday, July 17th. The retreat will include a wonderful opportunity to practice together, take part in the STO Conference and 501 (c) (3) Annual General Meeting on Saturday, July 16th and wrap up on Sunday, July 17th with Jukai & Zaike Tokudo Ceremonies. All are encouraged to attend as much of the retreat as their personal schedule allows. The conference will include morning workshops for the sharing of ideas and best practices between affiliates as well as introducing the activities presently taking place within the Board and its Committees to help all feel comfortable in participating and contributing their talents. It will include an update on the work done so far on the Matsuoka Documentary and archive. Election of 2016-2017 STO Board of Directors by active members will take place during the afternoon Annual General Meeting portion of the Conference. This Annual Conference is a great opportunity for old and new practitioners from across North America to practice, learn, and plan together.

Click here for more information

Click here to contact Registrar Tom Pongratz or to Register

Dharma Byte
by Taiun Michael Elliston-roshi

As we approach the 6th Annual Conference of the Silent Thunder Order (STO) — held this year on Saturday, July 17th, 2016 — we invite you to plan to attend the Precepts Retreat that precedes it, beginning Wednesday the 13th. Especially if you are undergoing Initiation (J. jukai), scheduled for that Sunday, the 18th. Please register at: Click here for registration link.

But even if you are not taking the Precepts this year, the retreat represents an unusual, mid-summer opportunity for you to attend.

Several Zen priests of the STO, Practice Leaders of our Affiliate centers, will be coming to Atlanta as guest teachers during the week. They will give dharma talks each day, so you will be treated to different takes on the meaning of the first Five Buddhist Precepts, from a variety of personal perspectives.

The retreat begins with Wednesday evening arrival and orientation. It features early morning and evening meditations; a direct dialog on the Precepts, led by a guest teacher each afternoon, for retreat attendees; and a public talk, each evening of the retreat. If you cannot come for the entire retreat, you can attend morning and evenings, "bookending" your day with Zen. Or you may be able to attend only the public talks, each evening.

In any case, participate as much as you can in this once-a-year event, including the conference on Saturday. There, you will gain an overview of what the STO is, and how it serves our network of practice centers, including, especially, our training center, ASZC.

So all of these are reasons to plan to attend this retreat. But they are not the only, or most important reason. Other retreats do not have this kind of content-laden program.

Let me go over our general approach to Zen retreats in the STO, and the reasons we conduct them the way we do. Other groups, representing other Zen lineages, may take a different approach; but, at base, all Soto Zen retreats represent an opportunity to deepen our practice, with a more intense emphasis on meditation, or zazen, than is afforded by regular, daily and weekly practice sessions. Zazen is the sine qua non of Soto Zen retreats.

Read More About STO's Buddha, Dharma, Sangha style retreats.

STO Featured Affiliate
Mission Mountain Zen
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Mission Mountain Zen is a community of practitioners dedicated to Soto Zen Buddhist practice, located in northwest Montana. We want to make this practice, of returning to our true nature, available to everyone. MMZ is a Silent Thunder Order (STO) Affiliate and fully recognized by the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA).

MMZ center and zendo may someday be renamed the Mountains and Waters Zendo (Sansui Zendo) as we are very fortunate to be greatly informed by our beautiful Montana surroundings, including Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains.

In May, 5/11 to 5/15 we had our annual MMZ Precepts Sesshin. The following photos were taken on Sunday morning during and after our Jukai Tokudo Ceremony. Throughout the week, we studied the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, (cultivating right zen practice) and there implications during our daily dharma talks. On the last day, Zea Friesen received the Precepts and was given the Buddhist name Joshin, Pure Heart/Mind. Others that participated in the sesshin and ceremony pictured in the group photo were from left, standing Kuya Minogue, Kushin Jim Parker, and seated, Kanzan John Slattery, and Hadukai, Lorraine Smith. The photographer not pictured was Zenku's wife and wonderful Tenzo (cook) for the week Teresa Smyers.

MMZ2MMZ3MMZ4At MMZ, the guiding teacher is Zenku Jerry Smyers, a Dharma Teacher in both our Soyu Matsuoka and Shohaku Okumura Soto Zen Lineages. Zenku began his training as a disciple of Kongo Langlois Roshi, Abbot of the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago and a dharma heir of Matsuoka Roshi, in 1976. Zenku trained at the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago and was ordained a Zen Priest in 1982. Zenku was a Priest in Chicago until 2005, assisting Kongo Roshi until his passing in 1999, and then providing Temple leadership. In 2005, Zenku moved to Montana and established the Mission Mountain Zen Group in Dayton Montana. In 2010 Zenku became a disciple of Taiun Elliston Roshi. In 2012, Zenku received dharma transmission from Taiun Roshi.

Read more about Mission Mountain Zen's services and schedules.

Affiliates Listing

Atlanta Soto Zen Center, Atlanta, Georgia (founded 1977)
Atlantic Soto Zen Center,
Dalhousie Multifaith Centre, Halifax NS Canada
Buddhist Philosophies
NCSU Campus Group, Raleigh North Carolina
Falmouth Soto Zen Sangha, Falmouth, Massachusetts
High Plains Zen Ness City, Kansas
Iqaluit Soto Zen Group Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
Jacksville Soto Zen Meditation Group, Jacksville, Florida
Memphis Zen Community Memphis, Tennessee
Mission Mountain Zen Group Dayton, Montana
Nashville Zen Center
Nashville, Tennessee
Ottawa Soto Zen Ottawa, Canada
Sakura-ji Creston, British Columbia Phone - 250-428-6500
Savannah Zen Center, Savannah, Georgia

Southwind Sangha Soto Zen Buddhist Assoication Wichita, Kansas
Treehouse Sangha Troy and Cohoes, New York
Wire Grass Soto Zen Group, Headland AL
Zen Group of Chattanooga Chattanooga, Tennessee