Friday, July 11, 2008

The wood shed

Tassajara lost another structure this afternoon when the woodshed by the inside parking lot burned. The pool is now full of debris and rocks. There are small problems with pretty much all of the infrastructure.

There is no helicopter access to the Tassajara site. In previous emergencies we have had to ferry people to the ridge so that they can be airlifted from there. So thank you for the offers to helicopter people in and...

Please do not come to Jamesburg. There is nothing you can do from here to help Tassajara that you can't do just as well from home.

The Jamesburg area has just been moved one notch up the evacuation scale to a Voluntary Evacuation notice. The local fire service seem confident that the firelines will hold the fire which continues to burn vigorously on the north and that the new evacuation order is just precautionary.

Fire crews backburned away from The Observatory today and that is now safe.

225 comments:

1 – 200 of 225   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

I am sitting here this eve .a few miles up from jamesburg .....and remembering a month or so ago I called the zen center day use line. Stated I had been a local tassajara road resident for a decade...and could I come on up for a soak...at a discounted price...any day of their choosing... if I came late in the afternoon...nope …was the answer...I said the price of the soak was a little out of my budget....more for the marin crowd wallet size...and the answer was...well you can come up ... stay...and do work exchange...and I said...well ya know...I work...fulltime...not really possible....and the man who answered the phone..said..well...that's too bad...and I said not really...so.as I sit here contemplating options for my animals...for me..as the fire continues to blaze...I think...well at least all the squirrels and woodpeckers on the road....are safe from being obliterated by all the bmw's and range rovers that come flying up to jamesburg each and every season... ..and hey....now the mailboxes are clear to get to….which as far as I can tell makes the locals happy.........and the best thing of all....I do not have to see another bumpersticker which reads..."breathe".. or “compassion” for at least another month or two...so..here's to this blog… offering a peek into the non-materialistic world of buddha boys and girls as they weep over stone and mortar....and feel triumphant in their practice...which has them...well ...exactly where they choose to be...practicing nonattachment....and ready to take your cash when the road is open again...cause you know the hot springs and the healing waters......well they belong to those that can pay... signed your neighbor....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you might keep in mind that many of us who love Tassajara have absolutely nothing to do with decisions that are made about how much to charge for use of the hot springs. It seems unfair to judge an entire community of "buddha boys and girls" based on a policy and some bumper stickers you don't like. That said, I hope the best for you and your animals and your home. May you too be safe from the fire.

Anonymous said...

heres to anonymous.... it seems like the tears and material attachments.. have been added to the swirls of dust as the land rover crowd rushes down the road to enlightenment.... i wonder what the rate for a cabin in the woods with a carrot lunch and a dip in the hot tub would be if buddha came walking down the road...but one thing is certain.. he didnt set the prices either ...namaste to all the seekers.. and hope that cash register gets running again soon ..bring on all the dust

Renee said...

The main thing I am getting from all this is that it is going to take time for the land to heal, for people to heal, and for Tassajara to rebuild itself.

I get the impression that the damage from this fire is worse than the from the two previous fires in Tassajara's history. Is this true?

As for the money: I have always worked full time and until recently have done that work for very little money. Through coming to Tassajara as a student or doing guest practice not only was I able to have an incredibly affordable retreat, I was also able to be part of a community and practice that I cherish. Coming to Tassajara is not simply about a dip in the hot springs, though I sympathize with the need for that after a hard days work.

lifetraveler said...

New koan for the monks " If a cash register catches fire in the woods, can they hear it in San Francisco?

Did anyone see the buddhists at their door to offer any assistance or support to their neighbors, or is the center path really the (self) centered path?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous in Jamesburg,

Your point is clearly made. It is important for those of us in the Buddhist community to consider the resources of the land and the people who are neighbors and share the land, as well as "all beings". I hope Tassajara will let you in for a soak sometime, just because you are a neighbor. Maybe you have something to share with your Zen neighbors as well. I think perhaps you have done it by sharing in this blog. Perhaps a gift of awareness.

Thank you. May you and your animals be safe and your home as well.

Mary

Anonymous said...

lifetraveler got it right - a cash register did burn in the woods and they did hear it in SF.

lifetraveler said...

mary, thanks for your reflection

those of us who share the road with our buddhist neighbors can only observe the path and practice that you have chosen

i studied buddhism for some years before deciding it was not the path for me.. my nature is taoist

it has been interesting for me, as an unattached observer to watch the perigrinations of the buddhists as they scurry up and down the road

some of what i see, appears to be very different than what what i learned when i was a student of the center path

i see fancy cars, i see much attachment to the possible loss of material stuff.... i see that the boss buddhists come down when the wood and sticks are in danger.. and i see a growing detachement from neigbhors and fellow carmel valley residents... i would have thought i would have seen the tassajara folks going door to door with shovels... or working at the displaced persons center at carmel valley middle school...

the focus on material loss .. and money.. .and that somehow the tassajara site was or is more sacred than the homes and people on the road is kind of disturbing to the casual observer

i dont judge the path of others.. sometimes i am forced to observe the drama of it however....

hopefully the tassajara folks will gain some enlightment from this that is not related to how to quickly install a sprinkler system and bunker down with visits from the abbott

the rest of us have graciously accepted the large number of cars.. the huge amounts of dust and the commercial interests of the san francisco buddhist community... with some grace and tolerance..... the smug introverted disinterest of the devoted as they trundle up and down the road sometimes gets a bit tiresome for the rest of us

but go in peace

namaste

lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

Anon's comment is interesting as the last time I was visiting Tassajara a whole big family of neighbors whose water system had just given out were welcomed and spent a happy (and free) afternoon at the baths.

Please consider Tassajara is no longer primarily a resort. Summer guest season supports a disciplined and pretty austere practice community during the rest of the year. It may not be your cup of tea, but please don't judge it so harshly.

lifetraveler said...

the price of that "pretty austere" practice is pretty dear to necessitate the over a hundred dollars a night charge for a cabin....

i think another appropriate koan might well be "What would buddha charge?

no one is judging .. or judging harshly.. we are observing the "practice" of the community we share the road with.....

its hard not to see sometimes

lifetraveler

Amina said...

Hi Anonymous near Jamesburg,

I just wanted to say that I appreciate some of your concerns. Thank you for sharing them. I wish you would have been able to go into Tassajara for a soak.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

moaning and groaning creates the condition for more moaning and groaning...maybe taking a short vacation from work to do the work exchange for a soak might be a neighborly exchange...might create a feeling with your neighbors of connection..might lead to less need for moaning and groaning...might lead to less envy about "breathe" and "compassion"...signed, a fellow sufferer

sarana said...

My heart aches for all of us. It's so hard to be a person.

Anonymous said...

In the History of the habitation of Tassajara and the lodge before, this is the first time that only five people have encamped in this property in the middle of the Ventana Wilderness. Bless thier valor and unyeilding heart to keep alive the spirit and structure of Suzuki Roshi's dream.

Steph said...

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you for inviting me to study my ignorance and greed. I for one can always use some help living up to my vows.

I'm a resident evacuee of Tassajara, currently at Jamesburg. Anything I can do to help you with your fire preparations?

Steph

lifetraveler said...

the last two comments are humorous... observation and reflection are not synonyms for moaning and groaning... and in my limited experience.. its not hard to be a person.. its easy.. u breathe and u are..... its that taoist thing..

i do have some compassion for the person who sees the original posting as moaning and groaning instead of seeing it as a persons honest reflections and perceptions.. and as an opportunity for each of use to reflect on our practices and whether we embody the buddha in our life view or if we have stumbled and fallen onto a more self centered path

i thank anonymous for sharing their truth.. and i dont see it as moaning and groaning.. im happy to see the godspirit in his/her remarks

namaste

lifetraveler

Ikushin said...

Dear all the Anonymous ones who have been lurking on this post tonight, lashing out at Tassajara:

Ouch. You just hurt me big time. You just took your pointed, witty humor and you stuck it right in and hit real hard. There. Does that make you feel better?

I am not Anonymous. I am a student of SF Zen Center. I live on a small stipend. I am not in any way rich or privileged. I work hard for Zen Center. I get up every morning and I sit meditation, then I work. All day. I don't personally own land in California or on Tassajara Road, or anywhere for that matter. I don't have a retirement fund or a savings account.

I do this because I have witnessed, in myself and in others, that the practice at Zen Center is profoundly beneficial. I have seen it literally save lives, transform difficulties and bring peace.

Believe me, I would not be getting up at 5AM (and even 3:30 AM) every morning just for the fun of it.

So you should know that Tassajara's summer guest season helps to pay for my small stipend and my insurance which isn't the best insurance, by far. There's co-pay and it doesn't cover glasses and major dental work. That's all that ZC can afford, actually. But that insurance has saved my life, just as the practice has saved the emotional and psychic and spiritual lives of many people. That insurance costs ZC over $500 per month per student.

But even more than that, even more than the hundred ways I've seen ZC and the practice we do here really, sincerely help people, what hurts is that you would hit us when we are down. That's just plain nasty. Tassajara is hurting right now, hurting really bad. And you have taken this opportunity to giver her a swift kick in the ribs. And, you do it while hiding behind 'Anonymous'!

When i think of the amazing and wonderful students that have stood by Tassajara these past two weeks, have risked their lives to save Tassajara, have stood facing fire and fought in her defense, I actually cried when I read your words. We are the real face of Tassajara, this is who we are. Why are you attacking us?

You know, I wish there was a way I could call up Jamesburg right now and arrange for you to have a free soak in the tubs, if that's what all this is about. Really. If that would make you happier and remove some of the bitter juice of your words, I would gladly pay out cash or some of my (limited) ZC influence.

Seriously, all Anonymous posters on this thread. Who are you? Can we offer you a free day pass?

A Zen Center Student

ac said...

"smug introverted disinterest of the devoted"? it's so terribly easy to dogpile on, to point to rich people as all annoying and shallow, or all practitioners as interested in their own spiritual practice to the exclusion of everything else. very satisfying to characterize an entire group of people with a quick "thank heavens i'm less materialistic than all THOSE people." (no matter if a spiritual center has sliding scale options & outreach programs.) i'm sure most if not all of us have succumbed to the temptation at some point. too bad the world doesn't fit into such convenient categories, but stubbornly persists in nuance, complexity, and contradiction.

really, if a place you dearly loved were threatened with fire, you wouldn't worry about it? since when is that considered unspiritual, some transgression of nonattachment? tassajara has been home, or at least refuge, for most of the posters here; why anyone would deride that care is beyond me. we don't mistake the stones for the spirit of the place. and there have been comments galore about concern for the whole area as well.

jamesburg resident, i appreciate your post, and i'm sure all of the traffic is a royal pain for locals on those roads, the summer "clientele" may seem obnoxious, and the zen center administration no more enlightened at times than any other company hierarchy. sure, there's some truth in there. of course you should've been let in for a soak; it's sad that you were denied such a simple thing. but let's face it, zen center is a practice place and an organization both, and as deep as the dharma runs, there is that jarring administrative element as well (at least i always had a hard time with the mix). but practice centers all over the country face their experiments of how to afford to minister to a community; many models are being tried, and it's certainly a deeply imperfect process. everyone i practiced with, however, down to very nearly the last person (it's been awhile; memory grows dim), was earnest and committed to doing their best, to figuring out how to make things work. sure it sucks that i can't afford to go to tassajara on my measly salary these days, but i was able to earn practice periods through the summer work program and not have to pay anything for my time at tassajara back in the day. and i could still come for some part of work period, i'm sure, if i ever got my act together a little more. as for the prices that seem prohibitive to many of us, well, it's chump change for many of the people who come, who seek refuge of their own, and can feel good about supporting the practice place monetarily. for those of us (usually newbies) who used to wish that tassajara was a monastery year-round, the wise leslie james told us that interacting with guests was a crucial element of checking our spiritual practice-- if we were feeling in any way superior to those who visited, we had a LONG way to go on the path of right understanding (with apologies to leslie if i mangled her diamondcutter's teaching at all in the retelling). in my experience she was spot-on in her assessment. as suzuki roshi said, each of you is perfect the way you are, and you could use a little improvement. we all have to find our place in the world, and the best way to go about it. tough as hell, in or out of the monastery.

pajaro said...

Ikushin:

In regards to your labor for enlightenment .....
Tell me, when you think of taking consistent action in the general direction of your dreams, Ikushin, do you imagine discipline, stamina, work, sacrifice, monotony, courage, and strategies?

Or are you thinking adventure, discovery, new friends, excitement at the crack of dawn, magic, surprises, fun, laughter, and, on occasion, the Macarena?

Lighten up Ikushin...you chose it...why such the sourpuss. Go chop another 40 organic carrots and feel your breath as you do so...sounds lik eit may be good for you....or how about....walk the road and knowck on some doors and see if anyone needs a little help clearing brush...i know its not the fortress called the zen center....but maybe it counts for good karma too?

And in reponse to the post of why kick YOU and Tassajara while YOU are down....last time I checked...Tassajara was a road...and there is a whole bunch of folks living up here...that are seeing this as an opportunity to....share....buddha style...open and honest...if you don't like it...look within...and see why you are having a reaction....to what is essentially ...opinions.

Dreamcatcher said...

I can't afford to go to Tassajara, I also can't afford to own property on Tassajara Road, but I don't expect anonymous or life traveler or Tassaraja to let me camp on their property for free. What makes me so sad about this discussion is that people in the Big Sur area lost their homes, people in California died from the fires, and people around the world are dying from war, genocide, and disease. With so much pain, with so much fear, how can a visit to a hot tub, or dust on the road become so vital. I'm quite certain the folks at Tassajara are not perfect, but I've never encountered a spiritual group or any other organization that was. But I know these "buddha boys and girls" have comforted the dying and fed the homeless. I admit to some envy. How many of us can say we belong to community where hundreds of people care about our physical and spiritual welfare, much less the survival of our home, and how many of us can deny our yearning for just that. Tassajara isn't the visitors; Tassajara is a community striving for little things like compassion. Maybe someday they will perfect it, and maybe someday the rest of us will join the effort. For now I will hold Tassajara, and Jamesburg, and all the neighbors in my heart.
- Carolyn

ac said...

not exactly the tea & sympathy thread out here tonight, ikushin. new & exciting definitions of "buddha style" abound. i'm so thankful for having internet access to keep in touch with the extended community at a time like this, but equally grateful it wasn't an option when i lived at zen center.

here's hoping some communal spirit & understanding rather than potshots will prevail all round. or respectful disagreement, at the very least. still wishing for the well-being of all homes, people, and wildlife in Los Padres and beyond...

Aielwen said...

Some interesting discussion going on here about materialism and how restricting access to certain things brings out feelings of resentment. I waited _14_ YEARS to visit Tassajara and when I did, it took me many hours of driving in order to attain the very best fuel economy I could and I only stayed one night in a dorm cabin. In spite of the necessary "austerity", it was one of the most relaxing and blissful experiences I've ever had and I've been lucky to experience many esoteric things in my relatively short life. There IS something special about Tassajara and the people who practice there. Although I am not buddhist (Mormon actually), it was easy to recognize the spirituality of the place. I was lucky enough years ago to get to know this area well and have a deep attachment to Carmel Valley and the folks who live out Tassajara/Cachagua Roads way. I pray for all those affected/ soon to be affected by the fire to find peace and safety. OT Note: there ARE drivers on that long dirt road who have no business being up there in control of running automobiles. When visiting Tassajara, PLEASE consider taking the Stage or at least take a vehicle that is appropriate to the road (not sure a Prius counts) and DRIVE SLOW. I narrowly avoided 2 head on collisions and since both nearly occurred while I was driving UP hill, I feel comfortable in assuming that I was not driving faster than conditions should allow.

Tim said...

Many of my thoughts have been expressed by other people on this board tonight, and many thoughts have been expressed that were difficult to hear. Nonetheless, I welcome the views of those who feel pain at the way they experience Tassajara. May we, staff, students, administration, guests and volunteers be open to such views because if not, we may not hear the voice that is telling us to look again. If it takes the fire to make these seeds sprout, then so be it.

Also, thank you, Steph, for offering assistance. Seeing your words, I felt your presence. "I love Steph" came to my heart/mind, because we have practiced together and I know your sincerity and that you will be there if the neighbors need it. I've enjoyed seeing all the photos of of you doing what needed to be done to save Tassajara.

As a practical matter, SurFire2008.org has boards for volunteers to post their availability and for people in need.

Ikushin said...

Hey anonymous-turned-pajaro:
I'm sorry for lashing back at you last night. Many of the Tassajara students are friends and I think I was still pretty raw from the events of the previous day.

When I step back and look at things, I actually can see where you were coming from in your comments.

So I really hope that folks like Steph and Tim can come round and help you and others on Tassajara Road. I don't know if the fire is still a threat to you this morning, but I would imagine some help would be appreciated. Wish I could be there to lend a hand.

Most importantly, I really hope that the Jamesburg/Tass Road people stay safe. Wildfires, including the one in my own mind, can be very dangerous.

Still a Zen Center Student

elizabeth said...

Morning

Yes ~ I have survived
at least one forest
fire

says the ponderosa, golden
tears dripping
down ashen

bark ...

vanda said...

Feelings seem to be running high on this blog just now - I respect that and thought I would share a letter I wrote at Tassajara in 2006 to fellow writers in a writers workshop. It gives a glimpse of the power of the place, and the experience of being there. For,as a Brit,Tassajara seems to epitomise for me an unusual and invaluable piece of America. May it, and all its neighbours come thro this fire safely and with increased wisdom and mutual understanding.

Vanda

A Letter to my American Friends

It’s a hard thing being an American in today’s world, and yet this short week with you at Tassajara has confirmed to me all the reasons I came here a decade ago.

In 1996 it was an easy thing to be drawn to your native optimism and ‘can do’ mentality. As I packed two small suitcases and put my belongings in storage, most of my British friends rather predictably told me all the reasons why this couldn’t work out.

I stepped out blithely anyway. For meanwhile, here on the other side of the Atlantic new friends and friends-of-friends were finding ways to help me. Pretty soon, it was working out.

I know that in those first few years I was a bafflement to old friends in England, when on trips home I proselytized about the Promised Land. Particularly baffling was my choice to work as a volunteer at Zen Hospice rather than make my fortune in Silicon Valley. That would have made sense to them! That would have fitted with their view of America – the land of Hollywood, Disneyworld and McDonalds. But that is not the America I fell in love with, then or now.

I am in love with creeks and trees, with the slopes of mountains that march into great vistas of kindness. I am in love with people who care deeply about their ecological footprint, who rescue ladybugs from swimming pools. I am in love with people who bake applebread and eat meals in comfortable silence. I am in love with people willing to not turn away from the difficult and the obscene, willing to examine what it is to be human in the 21st century. People embracing a two thousand year tradition born on another continent and finding in it truth and rigor and simplicity, that can feed us all. Now. Today. Even as the bombs drop on the Lebanon.

Each one of you has brought something particular alive for me in what it means to be ‘American’ - an openness, a feisty fight, an inclusiveness, an inquiry, a gentleness, a not-knowing-but-willing-to-look-ness! And I thank you deeply for that.

I know that not all of America is like Tassajara yet, but just as we discussed yesterday – how hope is a quality not attached to outcome – I assert that ‘America’ is a quality not attached to geography, and can be found in inspiring quantities right here among you in the rocks and trees of Tassajara. As the server said to Jean yesterday, pouring her coffee, ‘We are Buddhist. We are American. We must stay awake!’

Metta

Anonymous said...

Sorry to anon @8:01 am. I have often felt it was ridiculous to commandeer the hotsprings and start charging people i believe by now $25 for day use. Places like that should not belong to anybody. I remember being told at tassajara about the native amercan legends, and their use of the the springs, that we were merely stewards of sacred land, but may as well make a buck while we are there. Very very very very sorry, that we can't even let our neighbors in for free. I have often felt that the buddha would either run away screaming if he came to tassajara or if he was not fast enough we'd burn him at the stake....

Anonymous said...

words like wildfire
burn hot, cold, good, bad, black, blue
still, earth survives
songs, complaints, we too survive
ah, what happens, this music.

Anonymous said...

my definition of austerity does not include 3 meals plus tea cooked and served for me, bag lunch, free hot tub, sauna, stipend, health insurance, maybe 3 hours of work a day, one kitchen counter full of sweets including vegan options during bag lunch day and so on. It is more along the lines of... if people give me only rags to wear, that is what I will be happy with, if I get no medicine I will drink my own urine to get well, and i will eat once a day whatever is put in my almsbowl. I will spend my days living the teachings, not studying them intellectually while also worshipping the comfort of my body and mind and engaging in work to insure it. I will have no possessions except my robes and a bowl and maybe a toothbrush. You get the idea. Buddhism in america today is to me largely a scam. How can we stroke our egos and believe we are doing something spiritual while also enjoying all the benefits of living a material lifestyle as members of a privileged minority within an exploitative capitalist system.... but we are on top of the dungheap why should we not have our cake and eat it too?

Anonymous said...

hmmmm..... I do remember receiving homemade, organic cream-puffs and real hot chocolate during a Tassajara practice period sesshin afternoon tea....but I might have drunk my own pee too, had it been served to me.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You all certainly woke me up on this Saturday morning!

The Buddha's First Noble Truth - there is suffering. Thank you all for this wildly vivid illustration of that reality.

May all beings be happy, may they live in safety and well-being, may they look after one another in open-hearted compassion and awareness, and may they all have an opportunity when most needed, to use the Tassajara baths for free.

gassho.

Anonymous said...

This certainly is an interesting thread, and as I sit in here from Oakland I just hope that people are able to return their focus to the present needs–at Tassajara, at Jamesburg, at Big Sur, and all over California. Thank you to the person who noted the suffering existing all over during this fire season, and if not in the world at all times.

I am a Big Sur girl, born and raised there and now live in the bay area–and not as may be assumed with a big pocketbook, but instead in a small flat with 2 teenagers. I wanted to share that I came down last week to work 4 days at the shelter in Carmel Valley, and was reminded of the wonderful community spirit of fellow neighbors from the area. Despite the circumstances there were many who came to help, stop in, offer jobs, assistance, food–it felt so wonderful to be a part of it, drop what I was doing here and give my time, what I could afford.

I can sympathize with the initial post, having in my fear and anger thought that about Big Sur's newest inhabitants over the years. But as we know, Big Sur and even Tassajara rely on their supporters, and with that is a monetary element.

If anyone listened to the recent KQED forum where Michael Krazny interviewed 5 Big Sur people about the fire, including the CEO of Esalen, one woman called in and fired off a litany of objections for similar reasons. He responded with understanding and compassion.

This fire and recent events that transpired at the Carmel middle school reminded me how we each have our place; individually and collectively we can help each other if we open our hearts and make ourself available. I hope you (anon) and others on the Tassajara road find a way to hear each other, with compassion and understanding–it can go a long way in being better neighbors.

By the way, I love Tassajara–having spent years dipping into the baths at Esalen for free as a kid and young adult (it is different now, though they offer special local days, etc), I have been grateful for what Tassajara offers and for how it differs from that experience. Every time I'm there–in the dorms–I see old friends from Big Sur, some of whom now live on that road and in Jamesburg.


Blessings to you all. Nani

Tony said...

I love this thread.

It seems to me that it raises some of the least discussed and juiciest aspects of "spiritual practice" (whatever form) in our present modern, American, materialistic, Californian, human, urban and rural circumstances with its attendant class, racial, religious and other apparent "divides."

I hope and trust and sense that each of us is listening.

(From a former resident of an expensive retreat center with hot springs (charges apply) on the Big Sur coast, also still sitting with fire, that will remain nameless, mostly.)

Anonymous said...

Maybe tassajarans could get together with their neighbors and figure out ways to live more harmoniously and to offset some of the impact a high traffic resort at the end of the road has. It might be nice to find ways to communicate these things. to actually find ways to integrate tassajara into the larger community and to transform what might be perceived as narcisistic self-concern into genuine caring for all beings...chanting the metta sutta is all good and well, but if there are actual things we can do to live in metta with our neighbors, that might be nice as well. So often it seems like a spirit of me or us rather then we... If religion does not translate into action it is merely opium for the ego

rosyfinch said...

I lived in a place (not CA) where there was a "free" hot springs and people made a mess of it. They had wild parties, left trash, and made it uncomfortable for people who just wanted to enjoy the wonders of nature. Of course, not all locals behaved this way, but it was only when a fee was imposed that the springs became a peaceful place again. I don't think it's unreasonable for Tassajara to charge a fee and protect the property. After all,I don't get discounts for services in my neighborhood. In fact, it gives me pleasure to support neighbors for the services they provide.

We have a daughter who is a member of the SFZC. We are not members; we don't even live in CA, but we have come to think of the SFZC as our community because of their sincere human generosity and commitment to environmental responsibility. I don't fault SFZC for making enough money to be able to provide the services and spiritual comfort that they do. Their guests want to come. Why so bitter? People like the SFZC members are sustaining our future with their practice and sense of fellowship.

The drama of the fire has been intense. May the fires of your area, physical and interpersonal, soon cease to burn. As one of your members so elegantly stated, "We aren't fighting fires; we are clearing brush so the fires can't burn."

Anonymous said...

Hello to all readers here!
Although I have not been to Tassajara, I live in the SF Bay area & have been following the news of the fire through this blog for the last couple of days.
After reading this particular thread, regarding the use of the baths, I have thought of a creative idea that intrigues me -- so, would like to know what others here think of this, since I have not seen the baths in person, & know nothing about what may be involved in
their maintenance, upkeep, etc. Perhaps there are costs associated with keeping the baths clean & useful for everyone.

I wonder if it would be practical to extend a discount to neighbors & other persons who pay for a single use (or, "day use") of the baths AFTER they pay for (and enjoy) using them -- *contingent* on some agreeable requirements. Perhaps everyone wanting access to the baths should pay, so the place does not become overrun; but for those who live nearby (or have some other acceptable reason for receiving a discount), a part of their payment could be refunded to them after they have peacefully used the baths.

Perhaps this would satisfy everyone's reasonable interests. I am sure that the Zen Center would like to extend its generosity and compassion to its neighbors, just as much as to all other living beings, to the maximum extent possible without undue costs to itself... and those who would like to receive this generosity could do so within respectable, reasonable limits.

Thanks for your thoughts about all of this!
:-)

tp said...

It just occurred to me...

...that what we are all talking about here is how to be in genuine Community with each other, which no one on the planet actually knows how to do just yet.

Not even the SF Zen Center, the Tassajara Road Residents' Collective, or Oprah!

We are ALL learning that -- from time to time anyway.

And all of these/our comments are from the (growing) "edge" in that sense.

So LOTS of compassion and humility and wisdom are in order...

Celebrate imperfection,

Namaste.

lifetraveler said...

my heart is happy that these blogs are beginning to touch at the issues of community and the equality of suffering for all in the world... for the record... tassajara is an insignficant speck of dust compared to the magnitude of pain that this fire has caused for the people and living creatures of california

no one ever suggested free anything... what was posed was a question of community, and what it means to be a neighbor.. albeit an elephant sized, dust and revenue generating one

another concern, is what would buddha charge.....

and if the center path is so about freeing onself from material things.. whats the fuss about the sticks and bricks... and the sense that tassajara sticks and bricks are worth more concern than the non center sticks and bricks

while burning down a bath house represents an inconvience to a few.. .the loss of a single home or pet is something other than losing a place to meditate and reflect

i thought the comments about how tough it was to be a monk were interesting. and the reflection on what poverty really looked like

i was never paid "a small stipend with insurance" to find my spiritual path... i had to do it on my own time, "fter work" so to speak

from the outside.. it comes across like spoiled, self centered children of priviledge bemoaning the fact that their playground was being disrupted, abiet temporarily.

its good to see these blogs start to mention concern for those who are not currently members of the spiritual prepschool down the road

namaste

and good luck with that enlightenment thing.. it appears you have got a ways to go on that


with caring and concern,

lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, sorry to hear you're feeling slighted. But really consider the difference between the various hot springs out in the wilderness, like Sykes, which are free. They don't have a nice bathhouse building with showers and shampoo, a nice swimming pool for you to lounge around, and a nice afternoon tea with cold drink and snack for you. You can hike in to Sykes, anytime you want.

If you are a landowner on Tassajara Road you are better off than most of us. You say you can take time any time you want, so you must have a pretty flexible job. But you can't afford $25 for day use fee?

Last time I checked, the landowners on Tassajara Road don't offer free camping out on their property, or allow trespassing if someone wants to hike through. The gates are locked. Seems like you understand the value of your own property, you just think other people's property should be open to you for free, too.

I hope you, and your animals are safe and happy.

Anonymous said...

To add my 2 cents to this interesting thread, I'd like to admit up front that I come every year to Tassajara from a house in Silicon Valley, right in the heart of much materialism. I come with friends who live here also. I wouldn't characterized any of us as extremely wealthy, although compared with most humans in this world we are very well supplied. Anyway I can't take the, "I'm poor so I have legitimacy" defense. However, when we come down that road in a 4 wheel drive SUV that has seen better days and has even broken down on that road, we all feel that we are crawling in on our bellies in great need of healing, time, space, meditation, the wonderful kindness of the people there who care for us in our brief stay. We understand that part of the purpose of our visits there is to try and bring some of the peace we find back into the world where we live and raise our children, which is often very difficult because we are not surrounded by others who are striving to be compassionate, peaceful, non materialistic, etc, etc. All four of us love Tassajara and strive to keep up our practice during the intervening year while juggling the many demands of our not impoverished but still valid and relevent lives and also to share some of the peace with others who live where we do. To see Tassajara under threat by fire has been yet another opportunity to try and focus in my practise, to savor memories of the landscape and the healing moments I've had there, and to appreciate the sorrow in the changes I know are taking place. It is bittersweet to hear that our visits are a challenge to the locals and to read about how we are seen by some. Namaste and all the best to all in the area.

Barbara said...

Individuals who denounce any aspect of the financial or moral management of the Zen Buddhist monastery at Tassajara have not spent twenty-four hours there, sitting zazen in the meditation hall, "taking the waters," eating in the dining hall or reading by kerosene lamp in a cabin.

Please be sure and tell me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

.. i wonder how many students tassajara could support if they closed it to buddhists, opened it year round to the public. .and used the money to send the students to india to live in something that really resembled a non material existence? oh wait its not about walking in a path of non materialist, meditative peace.... its about passing the carrot cake

Anonymous said...

Wow! The bitterness of that carrot cake comment is amazing! This form of Buddhism is not based on flagellation of the body. I believe it's more of a middle way. Yes it is a tremendous priviledge to be able to pursue such a thing unburdened by hunger, discomfort, or the need to also work full time out in the world. Yet it's a path, just as all of us have a path. Perhaps you might consider looking at what it is about yours that makes you so angry at others. Walk on.

Anonymous said...

Barbera,

i know you are wrong.

i know that at least one of the persons with concerns, has indeed spent days at the center.

and no one is "denouncing" anything

people are sharing what they see and what they feel

namaste

lifetraveler

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

lifetraveler,

I wonder if you might find your spiritual path in your work. And if you did, I wonder whether it might be helpful to get paid and to have health insurance. For some of the people at Zen Center, many of whom are not as financially privileged as you suggest, this is how they buy toothpaste, chocolate, shoes, etc and make sure they can take care of their bodies when they get hurt or sick. It would seem that there is a division expressed between work practice and spiritual practice, both of which are integrated at Tassajara, hence the small stipend and insurance. Of course, these issues come up all the time in the community. Zen Center is a place where people like you express themselves.

Also, I don't sense an acknowledgment that Tassajara exists within a conditions of its past and present, which includes the country, society, and economic system in which it lives, which includes the fact that the people who pay to be guests during the summer are making it possible for monastic practice the other half of the year (with no traffic), as well as support the activities of City Center and Green Gulch Farm. Tassajara is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned that it is the manifestation of intentional human activity, imbued with compassion and wisdom, to the extent of our awareness.

So, when someone like you or anonymous speaks, we listen. And I welcome different perspectives, and sometimes it's hard to hear charges levied when there isn't the "care or concern" to understand before writing. And so I hesitate to respond because it would be easy to dismiss what you say as ignorant. And, yet, here I am. I guess I don't want ignorance to spread.

What would Buddha charge? As far as I know, Buddha wasn't in the resort business. That was his way.

Anonymous said...

Clear communication in a stance of compassion is difficult to attain at the best of times. There are clear issues here that are surfacing: community relations, neighbourhood resentments, and personal individual ones: anger and irritation. I am stunned at the sarcasm in the opening comments and in some other ones (eg carrot cake). If conflict resolution needs to be done between the centre and the area residents, then anonymous, you can ask for this and the centre can as well. The sarcasm serves no purpose and resolves nothing.
It stuns me that at this time there would be a comment made that the heads of the centre did not stay in light of the danger, when in fact some did and some did not and all is okay in terms of how it sounds decisions were made. This is no time for unclear communication. Take responsibility: ask clearly for what you need and then give support at a time when much support is needed all around. It is not an appropriate time to be sarcastic....
I am kinda shocked at the timing of this response of neighbourhood resentment.
In terms of using facilities, you were given the information that everyone is given it sounds like. I am not sure why you should be able to whip in and use the facilities when the rest of us cannot do this. Do not make assumptions about those who attend the centre in terms of finances and how people got to be at Tassajara.
Love all around.

lifetraveler said...

tim,

i think u summed it up nicely,

buddha, wasn't in the resort business.... and apparently, tassajara is

namaste

i would not be so pretentious as to suggest that your perceptions or path was based on ignorance

that would appear to be ignorance on my part

i wish u peace

lifetraveler

Barbara said...

Dear lifetraveler/12:18 p.m.,

People are denouncing on this blog.

The person who has stayed at Tassajara and has concerns is the one to respond to my post.

If I were a Zen Buddhist, I would smile with genuine equanimity at, and take pains to be patient and polite with, fatuous, facile and benighted statements about the meaning and operation of Tassajara, and the changes that should be made.

I will now do what I recommend to Tassajara critics:



Shut up.

lifetraveler said...

barbara,

hugs to you,

have a bright and sunny day

namaste,

lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

Hi there lifetraveler -
and also the original poster --

I've returned to read this thread again this afternoon, and would particularly like to know your thoughts about the suggestion I submitted this morning (see above -- 7/12, 10:27 AM).
I wonder if you feel that receiving a discount *after* using the baths would (or, wouldn't) adequately address the concerns you have raised.
(And if not, some details about this, of course.)

Just curious --

(still hopeful that a practical suggestion may generate some addtional positive dialogue -!)
-thanks -

lifetraveler said...

dear whoever made the suggestion,

i cant speak for the original poster,

for my part, i think that anything that the tassajara community chooses to do to extend their hands to the greater community of the road and the valley is welcome

i see lots of opportunities

i see a tassajara road day.. where the community hosts the road residents in a celebration of our community

id love to see tassajara noviates walk the road with some of those cookies they shared with the firefighters

id like o see a welcome sign at the mail boxes

a carwash day at jamesburg....

and maybe even reinstatement of reduced rates for people who live on the road

an extension if you will

its not about charging money or whos path is more enlightened

its about being focused on something besides ones self

in my sorta humble opinion


lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

Wow again. I continue to be blown away by this thread. Both by the level of bitterness and anger towards Tassajara and the practitioners who live and visit there, expressed by some of the comments... and also by the degree of compassionate listening and genuine open-hearted suggestions to address some of the criticisms expressed. The latter, to me, speaks volumes about the true value of our practice. It is not just about one's self, it sometimes about changing the world one conversation at a time through deep listening, compassion, inquiry and hard work.

Blessings to all of you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, lifetraveler!
(was fun to read your last comment, about your "sorta humble opinion" :-)
And it's lovely to see your other suggestions -- very creative.
I like brainstorming, when I can -- which isn't always..
so you can call me "hopeful" if you like, although I guess my official title will humbly remain "anonymous".... ;-)

lifetraveler said...

i think a coupon could be nice.. hand lettered.. come and bring a friend to share the peace we have built at the end of a road

a way of saying thank you for eating our inadvertant but well intended dust

namaste and enjoy your soak

your neighbors

how bout an open house. .once a year to gather the community and share what u folks have been accomplishing or discovering all year

pappa said...

I think I´ve got it. Ivé been trying for hours to make a meaningful statement. Because I can´t believe this thread, and where it is going. All because of "Neighbour" and his envy. I pity him, having no BMW and no Range Rover, and no Hot Spring, which he was offerd to use if he only would pitch in an "help do the dishes". Shame on you and others of the same likes. What ever happened to Peace, Love, and Understanding. Ignorance is what it often comes down to. I often say "nobody is born with wisdom". Wisdom comes with age, if you are only so fortunate that you can look yourself in the mirror and learn from your own mistakes before it is too late. Otherwise you go through life repeating your mistakes and are simply no wiser than you were to begin with. About 30 and 25 years back my wife and I had the great opportunity to go sailing in the beautiful Stockholm archipelago. We had no boat. My sister had no boat. But my sister had a kind boss that let my sister and brother-in-law borrow the boat. What I had experienced during those wonderful 3 and 5 day sailing trips was how "very friendly and helpful" all the boaters(sail and motor) were to each other. One people in one element, all friends! But you know what happened when we docked the boats and put all our "stuff" into the cars. Even just "merging" onto the freeway the people(some of them!) weren´t waving any more. They were clenching fists and showing the finger; Here I come, get out of the way! You all are wondering where this is taking me.Right smack HERE. Up untill the last comment on the thread before we were all compassionate and concerned about our loved ones(including anybody and everybody who helped). Just like the boat trips on the lake, everybody happy and helpful. And the moment the fire passed Tassajara and it was saved(not only) because 5 monks stayed behind, but because so many, many helpful people, hardworking people, residents, nonresidents, people with"trades and knowhow", firemen, you name it, they all had pitched in and prepared so that it at least was possible to take a last stand and "Fight the Fire.And now that it has passed and noone was injured(do you know how many firemen have injured themselves in calif fires?) it´s like coming back to dock with the boat and trying to get on the highway again. Theres always some jerk like the neighbour on the top of this thread... Why did my mother put up a fence and pull down the shades so the neighbours couldn´t see her, all her life. I learned that a few years back. My mother will be 88 next month!. It is BECAUSE when she was a little girl, she wasn´t allowed to play with the children on the other side of the fence. Why?. Because they had fleas in their hair. So, without really understanding it herself my mother had put up a fence allher life (to protect herself). That taught me that it is extremely dangerous and unfair to criticise people you don´t know. You simply don´t know their history and why they behave diffferently. I´ll be 59 in september, so I´ve had time to make a lot of mistakes I have met a "few" people in my life that have really impressed me. It is "the people" that have "taken their time to listen" when somebody has something important to say. My boss asked me some years back if there was anything i could help her with. If i had an idea where she could change to the better.I answered...You ca listen. Because if somebody has something to tell you, it is imortant to them. Otherwise they wouldn´t tell you.My son is one of those people. He stops and takes time to listen. He even listens enough to me(his old dad) that within a few minutes he can often say. "Well I really don´t see the problem Dad. If you just think of it this way.." And most often I cherish his answers. because they are right. Circle almost closed. Tassajara saved, and my son among them. Once again, Thank U Siting With Fire and all people who have helped. I hope someone has time time to read this. I will close with a song ´bout 40 years old. 5 years back i wrote an e-mail to my son with these exact words. Imagine, 35 years old. Is there a chance in our lifetime Johan? I won´t tell you his answer. But I ask of you to read the lines, and what is inbetween them. I will leave you with a thougt. "There are choces to be made". Let us do what is right. Once again, Peter from Sweden.Imagine by John Lennon.
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religon too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
In a brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say i'm a dreamer
But i'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Namaste

Anonymous said...

wow, an open house sounds like it would be a lot of fun! And very appropriate in a way -- almost seeing the Tassajara zen center as a special (and, *benevolent*) sort of research institution.. ;-)

I don't even live in the area, but I would like to recommend this idea to the largest landowner in my neighborhood as well, because he too has some of this same dynamic with the neighbors here. (so the concerns of the Tassajara neighbors aren't completely unheard of, actually.)

Anonymous said...

Hehe, tassajara has kind of an open house, for the main donors and financial suporters of tassajara, nice and extravagant, involving lots of gourmet fare, fun activities and mutual chest thumping and shoulder clapping, like an extended fundraiser....

Anonymous said...

Okay, I am reminded of the very wise words of Thumper the Rabbit, from the fable of Bambi: "If you don't have anything nice to day, then don't say anything at all!"

A very wise bodhisattva, that Thumper...

Anonymous said...

Hi there anonymous (2:32 PM) --
I got a different impression from lifetraveler's "open house" idea than you did -- if you review the original comment:
"..once a year to gather the community and share what u folks have been accomplishing or discovering all year"

(and I want to encourage this kind of creative thinking, as well. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Maybe we could cut down on organic pecans, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried apples, figs, dates, apricots, raisins (gold and regular) currants, cranberries, maple syrup, soy, rice, no fat, 2%, whole milk, half and half, coffee, 15-20 tea choices, and many of the other luxuries that are part of the austere lifestyle of the tassajara monk during practice period, and use the savings to keep 10 % of the guestslots open for low-income people, minorities etc. so they could have a free vacation, or donate it to charity....

Anonymous said...

Howdy anonymous (2:44 PM) --
wow, sounds like you've eaten at least a few meals at Tassajara zen center!
As I mentioned earlier, I haven't been there & don't live nearby.. so, really I was focussing on the original dialogue in this thread -- concerning the impacts of the center on its local neighbors, who obviously have to cope with some unintended consequences of the operation of the center. So, not so much focussing on the reformation of the center into an agent of affirmative action -- as noble as that could be... My ambition right now is just to help out with the more modest project above. ;-)

the unreliable narrator said...

Holy bamoly!!! All this, appended to a little old post about a woodshed burning down. NICE. I'm so happy I found this (seriously).

There was an anonymous commenter on July 12 at 1:56 PM (it'd be much easier if you guys made up names for yourselves) who said:

"I continue to be blown away by this thread. Both by the level of bitterness and anger towards Tassajara and the practitioners who live and visit there...and also by the degree of compassionate listening and genuine open-hearted suggestions to address some of the criticisms expressed. The latter, to me, speaks volumes about the true value of our practice. It is not just about one's self, it sometimes about changing the world one conversation at a time through deep listening, compassion, inquiry and hard work."

Because this author said "our" practice, I can only guess that s/he's a ZC student? Well, my two cents, just to bloat up this wacky impromptu thread some more: I wouldn't be quite so quick to be quite so self-congratulatory about "our" compassionate answering and deep listening, which rings awfully saccharine in places to my nervous ear...nor so prompt to judge that anger is always a poison, always the inevitable result of not-practicing. You know--Jesus and the moneychangers, for an easy one.

The original anonymous commenter alleged that the "buddha boys and girls...feel triumphant in their practice." Don't Zen students sometimes think we're better than non-Zen students? I know I did.

I got to stay at Tj because of two friends and because I worked; and you know, it's a both. All these things are all, contradictorily, true. The exclusivity (whiteness, upperclass makeup, cultural alienation) of American Buddhism IS a problem; envy and bitterness are also problems; and actually, there aren't really ANY problems, not even beloved homes going up in flames (bloody easy to say when it's not my bloody home, of course).

What is the harm in interrogating ourselves, asking: If others are responding to our choices with anger, should we reexamine those choices? What's the threat? What risk is there in investigating with gentleness and curiosity?

That is what sitting with fire means to me.

Anyone pickin' up what I'm throwin' down?

ac said...

lifetraveler, thanks for demonstrating spiritual materialism at its finest. i'll take zen center's imperfections over sanctimony any day. spiritual prepschool, my ass. you want the austerity schools, go find one. you don't like the way other practice places operate, just leave well enough alone and spare us your uninformed opinion that no real dharma is present at tassajara or anywere else that doesn't meet your annointed standards. not sure what drives your need for relentless criticism of zen center, but it's rich that you end your screed "with caring and concern". no need to try to couch the blinding negativity in such a sign off. that's taoism these days, is it? thanks, i'll pass.

Anonymous said...

yeah, thanx for the saccharine sweetness reminder. so easy to throw out zen platitudes and not really hear what people are trying to say. As a zen center student I like the opportunity to voice some long standing frustrations, i.e. the discrepancy between walking the walk and talking the talk at sfzc, and the skill with which we convince ourselves we are actually walking it. the original buddhist path was designed so that each component supports the final goal. we have done away with all the uncomfortable ones, austerity, no picking and choosing, celibacy, no handling money (hoarding) etc., being dependent on the goodwill of the laiety and therefore the need to inspire them by our actions to support us etc...unfortunately i feel i need to remain annymous, because i fear the wrath of the powers that be....

Anonymous said...

-Great post, "unreliable narrator" (not sure you're all *that* "unreliable" ;-)
-- answer to your question is YES, I *am* "pickin' up what you're throwin' down" -- and thanks for bringing this back around to actual Sitting With Fire!
I'm impressed that you've managed to squeeze most of the essential issues into your message.. including even the bigger picture perception of American Buddhism in general as a somewhat exclusive pursuit.
(I'm not a practicing Buddhist, BTW ;-)
So at least as far as the local impact of the zen center is concerned, I was very happy to get the creative thoughts of its neighbors (such as lifetraveler, presumably)... and think this a good example of your own suggestion, which was:

"What is the harm in interrogating ourselves, asking: If others are responding to our choices with anger, should we reexamine those choices? What's the threat? What risk is there in investigating with gentleness and curiosity?"

Thanks again for that :-)

signed,
"hopeful" .

Robert Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

thank you lifetraveller, i for one do not feel you to be a spiritual materialist and have enjoyed everyone of your comments, especially the cash register koan, so right on spot. thank you for saying what is on your mind.

Robert Thomas said...

Thanks to all of you for the variety of perspectives expressed here. I love the idea of a discount for the locals! If and when we re-open this year I will make sure that this happens. And while we do have at least a month or more of the year when locals can (and many do!) come and stay for free while pitching in with community work, the open house idea is also a very good one that we should consider. Thanks!

As for the comments expressing a lack of comfort with the cost of visiting Tassajara, or with the people who drive in with their fancy cars, I can very much appreciate where you are coming from. For all of us at the Zen Center, which exists right smack dab in the middle of an increasingly expensive and materialistic world, this is a constant concern and difficult challenge, and one which we try to meet and investigate with the honesty and integrity and values of our practice.

While it may look different from the outside, the Zen Center is definitely not a wealthy organization, and the people who come to Tassajara are definitely not the rich and the famous, but just ordinary, everyday people who, while some may own a newish four-wheel drive car, are making their best efforts to cope in a very complicated world with their own unique mix of challenging choices. Somehow, somewhere, for these people Tassajara and Zen practice has a place in that mix.

We are grateful for the fact that some people choose to take what is often their one vacation of the year at Tassajara, and that in doing so they might find something essential in themselves nourished, and that in the process they can support and be a part of something that is larger than themselves.

Obviously, for many, many others a different choice is made. The Zen thing is not everyone's cup of tea, or better yet, flavor of cake, and that's cool, at one time it wasn't mine either!

But either way, all of us in the Zen Center community wish for your safety and happiness, and I would like to express our sincere thanks to everyone -- in the Jamesburg community, with the brave firefighting teams, and the many others beyond them -- who has offered support during this time of great danger and uncertainty.

A deep bow to all of you.

Robert Thomas
President
San Francisco Zen Center

Kathryn said...

This is a very important discussion happening here.

I'd like to offer this as a long time student of Buddhism, who has spent alot of time, including practice periods, over the last twenty years at Tassajara, practiced in Japan, became ordained as a priest a few years ago and am now studying for a master's in Buddhist studies...although I do not propose nor believer that this makes me any kind of expert on anything. First I just want to preface my remarks with this observation: the middle way means not getting caught by either the material or non-material...it means not attaching to anything, including non-attachment.

To those who may suggest that economic concerns have not been and should not be a part of Buddhist practice is historically incorrect and just plain impractical. First of all, economic concerns have always been an issue for monastics, from the time of the Buddha and before. The Sangha was supported by the upper classes and laity in general...in the time of the Buddha they were people of the royalty including kings and princes who donated land for the use of the sangha. After the death of Shakyamuni, many decisions in the ensuing centuries by the various sects and schools, as Buddhism migrated and adapted to the various countries and cultures in which it became established, were very much influenced by economics, otherwise they would not have survived. Chan monasteries owned land, were landlords (leasing land to farmers) and were also subsidized by the emperor or other royalty. A lot of their support came from conducting ceremonies. This is just a broad and inadequate sketch.

Now Buddhism is becoming established in this country and the same issues that other cultures experienced when it first came to those places are part of the American Buddhist reality. How does Buddhism survive and flourish in a culture in which there is no historic precedent for it?

It seems to me that SFZC has come up with a very creative solution combining monastic practice with a guest season that allows Buddhist, non-Buddhist to enjoy the natural beauty of this place and to experience a taste of dharma should they wish to do so. That, to me, has always been a win/win situation. But this doesn't happen in a vacuum. While Tassajara may be remote, it should never exist in isolation.

The concerns raised on this thread I think are very valid and important. How we do this, how we are in community, in relationship, with one another is at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Because what I hear on this thread is the voice of disconnection: suffering. The Buddha taught just this: suffering, the root of suffering, the end of suffering and the way to do accomplish that. And the root is ignorance, a basic misunderstanding about how we are all connected, and when we disconnect by creating the other we create suffering. That is what I observe happening on this thread. True happiness lies in the happiness of all.

My experience with Tassjara and ZC and the people I have come to know there has been one of receiving great compassion, support and generosity. Sincere human beings doing the best they can to create a refuge for awakening to the suffering in this world. But the key words here are human beings…perfectly imperfect. We leave neither our perfections, nor our imperfections at the gate. And sometimes we get caught by our blind spots and unconsciously hurt each other…but I feel sure that whatever hurt is being felt as expressed here is certainly not intentional on anyone’s part.

I hope that ZC leaders at some point, when this crisis is over, will read this. Perhaps there can be a meeting of all concerned to openly express the concerns voiced here and to do so with generosity and compassion.

I'm sure there are ways to create more outreach and a closer feeling of community with Tassjara's neighbors...knowing the impact of the guest season on the locals, perhaps there could be a limited number of day passes set aside for the use of the area's residents, by reservation, at no charge, as a way to compensate for the dust and congestion on the road and any other adverse effects. I know there used to be a locals day at the end of the guest season when everyone could come in and share a meal and Tassajara for the day. I hope that is still happening. A little goodwill goes a long way.

I want to thank the person who raised these concerns and for having the courage to be honest and open. Wounds can only heal when they are cleansed and attended to.

And for those who have the privilege to go to Tassajara whether as guest or as a student may we all remember that it’s about the journey and how we conduct ourselves on that journey, and not about the destination.

As the Dalai says, let’s make our best effort to be kind to one another.

Anonymous said...

Hello Robert -
I was in the midst of typing a comment just as yours was being posted, so I hadn't known you were participating here --
thank you for your contribution to this thread. :-)
I'm the poster who requested suggestions from folk such as lifetraveler, so I'm very happy to know that the "open house" idea appeals to you also. Even though I don't live nearby, I have enjoyed seeing some solutions come from the center's neighbors.
Thanks again for your involvement today! Very inspiring!

signed,
"hopeful" .

Robert Thomas said...

Hi "hopeful",

Thanks, I do follow the comments on the different threads and now that I've outed myself, I hope that I don't derail what has been a one of the more insightful and entertaining conversations!

Zora said...

Folks, we have griefers here. Posters who use the anonymity of online posting to spew bile. The intent isn't to air and solve a grievance, but to hurt others and feel powerful.

The usual solution is moderation. Another solution is to cease responding to griefers with anger or hurt. When they don't get any reaction, they stop. However, it's difficult to do that in an open forum. Old-timers may decide to ignore the griefer, but then a new-comer sees the postings and reacts emotionally.

This blog is a temporary forum, so moderation is probably not the answer. Folks here have been displaying admirable poise and compassion. Keep it up.

(I used to sit at Bush Street, long before Tassajara; I'm continuing my practice, such as it is, elsewhere.)

Kathryn said...

Just a quick addendum...

when I said what I saw happening on this thread as disconnection, I meant to add that I also see it as the expression of connection as well, caring enough to make the effort to reach out to each other...

saccharine sweetie said...

unreliable narrator, thank you for your thoughts regarding my earlier post. It was certainly not my intent to be, as you say, "self-congratulatory."

I wholeheartedly support "investigation with gentleness and curiosity" and I agree that examining and sitting with anger and "fire" can bring useful insight. I am all for constructive dialogue, and I also agree that many in this "wacky" thread have raised some very valid questions and concerns about the value of Zen practice and Tass and perspectives worth examining.

My practice and life experience have also taught me that insults and sarcasm are for the most part harmful and unnecessary and generally unproductive ways to express discontent. It was largely that mode of expressing bitterness and anger that I was responding to with my earlier post. I am sorry that it sounded "saccharine" to you. In fact, it was meant most sincerely.

One of the *dis*advantages of this mode of communication is that one does not have the benefit of other nuances of expression, such as facial expressions and tone of voice and body language, to convey one's message. So all we have are sometimes imperfectly expressed words and phrases by which to be judged, alas.

lifetraveler said...

ac

hugs to u...good luck dealing with all that bittereness.....

namaste

to the others.. thank u for listening.. and to the president of the zen center.. thank u for hearing

i would love to see the day when the zen center hosts a day of sharing the peace that u folks are building at the end of the road.

namaste to all

a special thanks to those who used this opportunity to look inward and not to deflect and deride those who brought their concerns to the light

special thanks to the original poster for taking the time and caring to share and to not just be hurt and silent

walk on

Anonymous said...

Hi there Robert & lifetraveler -
thanks again for keeping up with this!
Perhaps someday I'll introduce myself to you at a zen center open house :-)
(you'll know it's me, because I am...
"hopeful".

:-)

Robert Thomas said...

Great, I'll look forward to that. As for that "hopeful" part, me too.

ac said...

unreliable narrator,

no harm in asking questions, no trouble with anger, no problem with criticism. let's discuss legitimate concerns, fine, but i don't see any point in justifying zen center or anyone else to those who choose to engage in the mode of wildly inaccurate blanket characterizations. bring on the actual issues, i'm all ears.

anon @ 3:23, i encourage you to find a practice place more in line with what you think practice is supposed to be, then, if that's what you think of sfzc. (seriously, there are a multitude of different models in california and all over the country nowadays. we all need to find what speaks best to us.) doesn't sound like a good match. in my experience there were always questions about our relationship to practice, about how we practiced there. i'm sorry if you feel there is some complacency or lack of awareness at work, but please don't insult your fellow practitioners by the suggestion that they're all deluded. some of the wisest, clearest-eyed, most grounded people i've ever met were sfzc students and teachers. awareness & enlightenment are not dependent upon circumstances, does anyone remember that? the second-guessing of what buddha would think on here is right up there with the 'what would jesus do?' crowd. guess what folks, remember that even lay practitioners, even rich people can be enlightened. luckily for us all, our true nature is not dependent upon conditions for awakening to itself.

lifetraveler, not bitter, but thanks anyway. a little discernment between dogpiling criticism & reasonable raising of issues was always the point.

lifetraveler said...

dear hopeful,

your hope helped to focus this thread on the light... thank u for showing us the path to positive. open discussion

id love to share a soak with u at the open house.....

here's to hope

namaste my (as yet) unmet friend on life's path (sorry for the pun, it just kinda slipped outta my fingers as i typed)

Anonymous said...

Right-o, lifetraveler - here's to hope! :-)
I too will be happy to be with you at a Tassajara gathering, whenever that may be... :-)
(may need to be alerted to it somehow, as until today I have not been a regular participant in the zen center's online community)

as always,
"hopeful".

lifetraveler said...

you may want to get robert your email address... id hate to see a tassajara gathering without hope

lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

:-)

Thanks 'trav --
I will do that..

cheers -
from
"hopeful".

Count said...

"but it's rich that you end your screed "with caring and concern". no need to try to couch the blinding negativity in such a sign off. that's taoism these days, is it? "

I agree. What ac stated is not bitter. The comment does not cause the commenter to need a hug offered. This blogger stated his sign-off in a particularly dramatic way as to fend off people. Ac made a genuine observation about the quality of Lifetraveler's thoughts. While the original comments about materialism were overall justifiable points, it seemed clear that this blogger was unable to accept and respond to the nature of public dissent, which suggests a personal discontent and disconnect.

Steph said...

Dear Pajaro,

I haven't heard back from you about my offer to pitch in. If you'd like help clearing please give a call to the Jamesburg house: 659-2229.

Steph

lifetraveler said...

steph .... u da bomb i let pajaro know u have positive energy to share

namaste

lifetraveler

lifetraveler said...

lifetraveler sees the buddha in steph and lifetraveler has poor vision

the unreliable narrator said...

Dear anonymous who now calls him/herself saccharine sweetie? I certainly did not mean to accuse YOU of being disingenuous, not least because I don't know you; just that I (and only I) find (sometimes) it to be not-so-accurate, this idea (not belonging to any one person) (I saw it among many in my 4-5 years of residential and off-campus Zen) that students of Buddhism are more compassionate or better listeners. But I think you agree and, as you wisely say, we're missing the nuance etc. which a regular forum might offer commenters. May you be happy and well!

Thanks to all for all you said and will say--with deep gratitude that Tj is spared, for the moment anyway (as we are all only spared for the moment and no one gets evacuated).

May all beings be well, especially the wacky chatty reactive e-human ones--all homeleavers and itinerants, from neighbors and locals to summer visitors and workers, to practitioners and residents.

(And thank you Robert for outing yourself with such a good clear open letter. I'm sure the displaced students will serve the world as best they can wherever they do so.)

lifetraveler said...

lol... i dont find buddhists better listeners.. im not sure that buddhism has any monopoly on compassion or empathy,, sometimes i think buddhist THINK they have superior skills in this area but hey,.... that might be where outsiders see some pretentiousness ...go figure

namaste

the unreliable narrator said...

PS--also? I kinda like toasted organic pecans. When you got up at 3:30 am and you're cold and your back and knees are screaming and your brain is filled with howling lunatics, sometimes the thought of an oryoki bowlful of them can get you through some otherwise interminable periods of zazen/kinhin/zazen.

I'm just sayin'.

May all beings have chocolate.

Anonymous said...

I want to share with everyone my story. This is my view of how things have happened for me (at least the one I am telling myself as I read this thread)... It is in no way a reflection on anyone, but I felt it important to share.

I am disabled. I have been disabled since 1995, and have lived since then on an income of about $800 per month. I have medicare/Medical which covers my medical care (at least the western part) and a subsidy that covers the rent beyond the 1/3 of an income I pay towards housing.

I have never actually paid a single fee to ZC, despite having practiced here since 2003. I have done a number of sesshins, I have done a number of intensives, and a number of classes, etc. The fact that I was on "scholarship" was never mentioned beyond the initial granting of it. There was no difference in anyone's treatment of me. I don't even know if anyone ever knew I was "not paying my way".

The Zen Center also spent two years working with me and the folks who manage my housing subsidy to work out the details so that I could experience and benefit from residential practice. I now live full time as a resident, and am grateful for all of the efforts on my behalf to make this happen.

THey have never asked me to do more than my fair share nor, have they expected me to work beyond what I am physically capable of( which is often less than "my fair share" honestly). The responsibilities I have as a resident are exactly the same as every other resident.

I have considered what makes my experience of Zen Center different from those in this thread, and I thought back to the many times when I felt the same way as some of the comments in this thread, and for me (I repeat FOR ME) this goes back to my approach to things. I came to Zen Center and asked them to teach me. I have been honest and forthright about what I had to offer to Zen Center, and they have accepted that. I recognize that I am not entitled to anything. I tend to not think about what Zen Center owes me, but more about what I have to offer to the place that is my spiritual home. I do what I do here, because I want to, because I can, and because it needs to be done.

The times when I have thought about the disparity in my income and some folks, or the times when I would be angry because things weren't working out the way "I thought they should" were mostly due to my own feelings about how things are. My own feelings about what I can or can't contribute, my own feelings about what I did or didn't have.

When I was a child, the church I grew up in was big on tithing. But the part most people never paid attention to was that there are 3 T's you were able to tithe with. Treasure most certainly is the easiest to give, but TIme and Talent are perhaps just as valuable. At least that is how I have always heard it. I no longer belong to that church, but I still think of my offerings to Zen Center in that way... I give in some combination of the 3 T's and I get back immeasurably. NOt because one side or the other expects it or is "entitled" to it, but because that is how it is when giver, receiver and gift are all empty.

VG

Thank you for reading.

Anonymous said...

Great post, "VG" -
always good to have an
inspiring story to hear.

Thanks..
from
"hopeful"

Anonymous said...

*L*O*L* to you, "unreliable" !..

(I'll bring some extra -
chocolate, that is -
when I come to an open house
at Tassajara someday :-)

-"hopeful".

Anonymous said...

"PS--also? I kinda like toasted organic pecans. When you got up at 3:30 am and you're cold and your back and knees are screaming and your brain is filled with howling lunatics, sometimes the thought of an oryoki bowlful of them can get you through some otherwise interminable periods of zazen/kinhin/zazen."

or u could just sleep in and start your practice from a place of joy....

jeremyS said...

Greetings all. It brings many emotions and thoughts to read this thread. Not thinking it possible to convey and express the deep currents flowing through me at this moment I ask u all to be kind in your receiving of my attempt to do so.
Overall i feel a bit pissed off with the exception of a few postings here. Original writer(ow) I feel u and am here in whatever way i can be at this time of crisis(contact info to follow). For the rest of us what are we doing here. I know we are all stressed out but I am assuming that we are all sitting at a computer in fairly comfortable conditions and I believe we really need to challenge ourselves here. Im not sure what kind of response is called for
but do we know what we are responding to? Many of us are fortunate. We have many blessings like the dharma, ZMC, and maybe even family to which we can rely on. What state is our neighbor in? How unstable have many of us felt at times in our life and that may have been without the fear of losing, at the least, our home to fire. This is a great opportunity for all of us to heal these many wounds. We can do it.

Sorry for the ranting im upset too.

Neighbor: not sure what i will be able to do time/ effort wise. Maybe
i/we can come and clear brush and have tea or something. Please contact me if you do need a hand down there.
Zennies: really great to be be able to hear so many of you.
Special thanks to Steph for your example of an awesomely proper response. Exactly what i needed to witness.

Jeremy Stetter
Learning2b@gmail.com

the unreliable narrator said...

To anonymous @ 7:23 PM:

"or u could just sleep in and start your practice from a place of joy...."

Aw, I was just bein' funny. ;o) Of course it's not either/or--like I said, it's a both, right?

Yet you put your finger on why I describe myself as a recovering Buddhist. Westerners often have a difficult time reconciling our innate shame/masochism with genuine loving discipline; I decided to take a break until I felt personally clearer.

May all beings be well-slept. :o)

Anonymous said...

may all beings have multi million dollar homes, bmw's, chocolate and every other possible thing to take refuge in. to buffer ourselves from the experience of our true nature, the uncertainty of life, the smallness of the egoic mode, the incessant Howling of the 10,000 Lunatics, etc..
god/buddha help us, to have to actually face our difficulties without distracting ourselves with food or things, sounds terrible, who would we be if we were fully present to all that? would it be like sitting in fire? what would be burned? so let's have some pecans and watch friends, shall we?

Anonymous said...

whhhooooodiwhooooooooo

Preston said...

Forgive me for not taking notes about who wrote what, but somewhere before the toasted organic pecans, someone discussed outreach. That reminded me of something that His Holiness the Dalai Lama said once at a lecture. This is my paraphrasing from an admittedly faulty memory, but he said: Buddhism has a lot to offer, but also can learn a lot from other religions. His example was the Christian churches that build schools and hospitals to help tend to the social needs of a community, not just the spiritual needs. Maybe there are some examples of Buddhists building churches and schools (the Maitrey project in India has such plans), but I just don't tend to think of Buddhism as being in that kind of business.


Don't know much about Soto Zen, and I'm not suggesting that Tassajara get into the hospital/school building business, but just wanted to make a comment about Buddhism being heavy into the spiritual side of things, but sometimes light on the social side. Never having been to Tassajara, I have no knowledge of the history of their relationships with the community, but I do suspect that there are always possibilities for open hearts and open minds.

Anonymous said...

im with u reluctant....

it is an important distinction between self imposed masochism and a love of discipline..... or is it

go for the joy. to quote joseph campbell...... follow your bliss. when u do u will find yourself on a path that has been there all the while.. waiting for u. .and the life that u are living will be the life u ought to be living

heres to following our bliss.. everyone

Anonymous said...

oops ... make that im with u unreliable..

and i also agree with the buddhists being a tad light on the outreach parts.... i think thats the overarching theme of this thread...

lorway said...

I have been following very intently the fire at Tassajara and in Big Sur county for a few weeks now and as I opened my dialog yesterday I came upon this discussion that is curretly the range.

SO I will speak to this community from a perspective of a child that was born to a very angry father. I come to the discussion with this topic because it is most meaningful to me. I gained the love of my father through the practice of zen teachings. I found this love through his devotion to change, his devotion to take the teachings of buddha and shift his experience and perspective in life.

Much of his change came through in his time spent at Tassajara being a studnet of Reb
Anderson. And what I got out of it was father that I could forgive, love, and cherish.

Tassajara has sense become a refuge for me over that summer. So yes I am a summer guest, but so what. I come this place to recollect, remember, and reflect. I am not the perfect zen student, but so what. I generate further in my work as a teacher for at risk youth by experiencing what I do at my time at tassajara and carrying that throughout my my work.

I know I have done some rambling but I do feel a little bit frustrated. Why kick a man when hes's down. This discussion of policies and procedures while we are threatened seems a little bit uh what do I want say inappropriate.

Let us remember that we can not be a community of just one.

Old student said...

This is a wonderful conversation and glad I stumbled on to it. I see the neighbor's discontent as a mirror that gives us Zennies yet another opportunity to look deeply/honestly, think creatively and practice in an engaged way.

And thank you Kathryn and Robert and Steph for your open heart/mind responses.

Yes, we used to have open house days for the community, and I also recall many years of 4th of July being a type of "open house" (dare I say party) when the Jamesburg/Tassajra/Church Creek neighbors came in for the day.

I have to say that during my 5 year stay at Tassajra I personally was guilty as charged. Caught up in my own personal quest I did little to help out our neighbors and regret it-both from a more mature understanding of "practice" and from a personal stand-point. Others at Tassjara and Jamesburg did engage more actively-helping with everything from truck repair to babysitting- and not only fostered community relationships but personal ones that have lasted a life time.

So I hope that SFZC reaches out to the extended Tassajara Road community in the wake of this fire and in the years to come. Perhaps there is room for "engage monastic practice"

In Gassho,
GenRyu

Anonymous said...

Dear People who don't want pay any fee for Hot Springs;

There is hot springs for free of charge in this area. Big Sur has two hot springs which are open to the public; Sykes Hot Springs and the hot springs located at the Esalen Institute. A third hot springs is located at the Tassajara Zen Center which is accessible by way of Big Sur and an 18 mile hike over the rugged Ventana Wilderness. You can reach Tassajara by automobile through Carmel Valley.

Sykes Hot Springs is a popular hiking destination. The springs are farther down the creek than one is led to believe in a few of the guidebooks. Sykes Hot Springs has a stone lined natural tub that sometimes gets washed out in winter storms. Its about 8 feet across and knee deep. It averages about 100 degrees Faihrenheit and can hold about four adults.

At times you may find several people at the Hot Springs. Because it is a popular destination, you can't count on having this place to yourself. There are a couple guide books that will guide you to Sykes Hot Springs. In addition, the Ventana Wilderness Alliance maintains an online trail guide that may offer current trail conditions. To get the latest trail information, call 831.385-5434
If you'd like to practice true Zazen, you're welcomed to come over Tassajara as well.

Gassho...

Anonymous said...

I'd like to recommend you SYKES HOT SPRINGS, it is free to soak, but you still have to spend your effort to reach. It's fun walking, too. Tassajara is not the only one to soak, there are many other hot springs nationwide.
You're ALWAYS welcomed to leave donation to SFZC. Donation is something from your heart, it is not required.
Let us hope everybody is safe while they're facing this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

seems to me like everybody is safe, with full stomach, parked at computers defending their dogma

katharine said...

As a 30-year resident of Zen Center, now living on the "outside" for 12 years, as they call it, I can resonate with the original post -- with a few outstanding exceptions, my experience of Zen Center is often staff or administrators express a unique lack of empathy for non-residents, and inability to communicate in a way that takes into account the realities of the person with whom they are speaking. I often get the impression that communications consist of telling you something they know to be true for or about Zen Center, without much awareness of the person to whom they speak.

suzuki roshi was not like this. You always felt seen and heard when addressed by him. Even more, you felt he understood your deepest nature and aspirations when he addressed you, and spoke to that part of who you were.

My experience of native American speakers is like this as well. When they speak, I feel they are speaking to me, out of our common humanity.

Why Zen Center culture should be this way has puzzled and fascinated me for years, and I have no explanation.

It does feel like the time to address this, as my sense is that were that culture of neighborliness and empathy to be cultivated, eons of energy and support would begin to flow towards the Zen Center. Many "old timers" I have discusssed this with seem to feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

Wow kathyrn,

your depth of experience and knowledge of both the history of the center and buddhism as well, offer huge amounts to this discussion.. . i was also blown away from the old student's comments which seem to resonate with your comments

i studied buddhism for several years back in the 60s.. D T Suzuki and Alan Watts...... and would also describe myself as a recovering buddhist

i hope the thinkers and practicers of the community are able to hear and listen to the concerns that are being raised here and not retreat into a.. go someplace else.. its our magic place.. ... mentality

i agree with what u say about suzuki roshi.. surely his vision could not have been about isolationism, and bricks and mortar.. surely he must have seen a caring, connected compassionate place at the end of the road .. not just a hey we can eat all the honey roasted nuts we want kinda place

strange how dreams evolve and mprph when u are not looking

Anonymous said...

Hi there Katharine -
wow, what a history you have! (since I am not affiliated with the zen center, I have not encountered anyone with a long association such as yours)
May I ask -- if you are at liberty to say this here -- what led you to move from the zen center to the "outside"? I wonder if you experienced any sort of culture shock, also!..

Thanks for your comments!

the unreliable narrator said...

"god/buddha help us, to have to actually face our difficulties without distracting ourselves with food or things, sounds terrible, who would we be if we were fully present to all that? would it be like sitting in fire? what would be burned? so let's have some pecans and watch friends, shall we?"

Oh, well, now; as for that, yes and no. It can be looking forward to pecans or it can be the intolerable itching behind your knee or it can be reviewing everything you ever did wrong in your whole life. The truly amazing thing is how tireless and how CAPABLE the mind is, when it's shoved up against the wall, of seizing upon ANYTHING to distract itself with. So unfortunately we could take away all the pecans and shiny things in the world, bury all the Buddhas deep in the ground, and still we can't ever evade all the distractions.

For as the AAers say, wherever you go, there you are. The pecans are just another trick of our intimate friend, the wily conditioned mind.

We can also distract ourselves from our open awareness with, oh, say, for example, aversion to and criticism of our practice center and our spiritual lineage. That one's certainly given me countless hours of entertainment. ;o)

Keep the flames coming, dear hearts. May all beings be vajra.

rishi said...

gassho and namaste.

i would like to add the heart of my dharma brother, and family friend, to the heart if these communications.

kobun

3 bows.

A Feral Monk said...

l am familiar with several "old timers" who are well into their third decade of association with the SFZC and its outposts.

Most are Buddhists in form. They tend to practice wanting to seem Japanese. Though only a few are Buddhan in spirit, who practice presence.

All, however, are simply folks - dear persons - seeking refuge in their vulnerability.

That being said, I have an opinion to share that may have some bearing on this discussion:

Monasteries are but bell jars; the monastics within them but specimens. Monasteries exist to make -isms out of insight.

I am told that two pillars of Buddhan consciousness are insights into the simultaneous "impermanence" and "interconnectedness" of all forms, fits, and functions.

For brief moments, one may be able to contain this paradox in a space of blissful unknowing, or rather find oneself buoyed in it.

What seems to arise is often reported to be compassion spontaneously combusting, burning all cocoons, touching what's been created as the chaos settles.

Some call this the perfection of generosity - others, perhaps, enlightenment.

Whatever, it seems less earned or learned, than simply discovered in the seams of all brokenness.

May all that follows suffering, be wonderfilled with celebrations of our liberation from the cocoons of our isms - and particularly the false securities of our greeds, our hatreds, and our delusions.

Anonymous said...

this has been fun...yum....good night to all. sleep well and sweet dreams

Deborah said...

Although I have never been to Tassajara, I have always loved the fact that is is there, and that I may in the future be able to visit. It is part of the larger "sangha" that I take refuge in. As for the "sticks and bricks" idea... Tassajara is home to quite a few people, and the heart of a practicing community. Nothing is "just sticks and bricks". I am very glad that Tassajara made it through the fire, and that those 5 monks put themselves at risk to save it.

May all beings be safe.

Namaste.

Falling Angel said...

"May Day Sermon to the Inhabitants of the Tassajara Basin By the Angel Now Falling from the Sky"





Now look up at the sky and watch me spiral and soar
while I fall into the creek in this final bright, sparkling splash.

Know that fear is not now, and that the sound of the wind on water will be there for me in the last moment.


Was that the the crunch of gravel under your feet as someone near gasped and the deer looked up from the shrubs under the fiery spruce?


When will you look me in the eye as I fall and tell me that you will be kind?

water said...

there is a fire somewhere?.....over the rainbow....

Anonymous said...

Discussions about engaged Buddhism have been part of American practice conversations for some decades now, appropriately, and those who live on the Tassajara Road may not realize how much SFZC does elsewhere--mostly through the City Center: Help a park get built in what was then a poor neighborhood, to give the local children a place to play. Staff soup kitchens. Start very early on in hospice movement days a hospice that now is an independent organization serving Laguna Honda public hospital (as well as people in a smaller, private building) find some assistance with end of life transition, who would otherwise be alone in their suffering. Participate in the anti-war movements of three wars now. And probably many other things I don't know about.

Social action is not SFZC's greatest strength--Bernie Glassman in NYC is amazing at this, runs a major soup kitchen and asks all his senior students to live, without safety net, as homeless people for a week. That is his group's strength, among others, the path of helping others in concrete ways, the Bodhisattva path of engagement.

One of SFZC's strengths is providing a monastery. It is the nature of a monastery to give, for a limited time, the chance to concentrate entirely on meditation and what comes up from that concentration, to observe the mind and find a relationship to impermanence and interconnection. The Ten Oxherding Pictures propose that this is one stage of a practice that leads, later, to returning to the world with bliss-bestowing hands-- and that world is described in the pictures as "the marketplace." Buddhism doesn't say not to participate in the marketplace, it teaches that we should do so in a way that emerges from the heart and mind of interconnection and non-self serving practice.
Tassajara, in the summer, tries to do this. Like any institution, SFZC needs to support itself, and I doubt people would be pleased if that were done by a group of monks standing outside their door every week with begging bowls in hand, hoping for some rice or funds to be put in. This is America, not ancient China, and in America we expect people to work for a living. Guest season is Tassajara's work. It's also a way for non-full time practioners to get a small taste of what Zen looks like and feels like. For guests, to refresh and renew themselves. Or for guest students, to get some fuller experience of Zen, as introduction or as refresher.

As the woman described in the post about her father earlier, we cannot know the ripples that will come of the "selfish" looking practice of monastic time. I know that many people in our outward turning, action oriented culture, just don't get or approve of monastic practice. It looks privileged--and it is, in both the good and bad senses of that word. But I would not want to see the world deprived of this stage of practice for those who want it badly enough to get there--to leave their lives' courses and change everything in order to practice fulltime for a while. And I don't begrudge some toasted pecans for a person who is getting up at 3:40 in the morning in an unheated cabin with cold water and being exhausted and in physical pain a lot of the time, all in the hope of perhaps changing their relationship to interconnection and transience by paying close attention to the ebb and flow of practice mind and heart for some months or some years. It may be luxurious, but it's a luxury that can feel awfully uncomfortable. You may be enjoying those pecans while your knees or back are in tremendous pain. For many, that's what it is like. Not so easy, let alone all the frictions of communal life rubbing against the ego. (A friction this whole conversation is a part of, now.) But people put themselves there because they feel there is no other way to become more open hearted, open of mind, permeable, generous, and kind, to others and also to self. I don't think anyone becomes a full time student at Tassajara for a luxurious break.

This conversation will probably awaken SFZC to the need to be better neighbors to the community of the Tassajara Road (though I have to say, it seems a little odd to me to move to a road that a resort has been at the end of since the 1880s, and then complain that it gets traffic). It's always good to have failings pointed out, and I'm personally very sorry that the friendship formerly extended the local community by discounted day use and an annual free day have fallen away over the years. But Tassajara is what it is--a monastery in winter, a publicly open retreat in summer--and people are what they are. I've never yet met a fully enlightened person, and Zen Center is filled with people who are trying to act and live in ways more enlightened than they were before entering practice, not people who manifest fully awakened mind every second.

Thanks to everyone here for reminding that there's much more to learn and do differently. In return, please do keep Tassajara and ZC in your hearts with some compassion--it's just people trying to figure out how to change themselves and the world as best they can... flawed people, but trying.

Tzila "Z" said...

This may have been said (too many posts to read them all), but the Monterey Aquarium has a free 'locals' day each year. How about one at Tassajara? Or perhaps seasonal...a couple times a year.

Or just a 'neighbor appreciation day', limited to the neighbors on the same road. Simple, direct, and would do much for 'community'.

Perhaps a meeting with the spiritual 'leaders' and a meal of some of the good food there, as well as a soak would create good connections.

In the meantime...A VERY LARGE FIRE IS BURNING IN THE AREA AND PEOPLE NEED HELP. Time to GET BUSY!!

Author: Maia Duerr said...

There is a great deal of generalization here about "Buddhism" and engagement or lack of it.

Keep in mind that Buddhism is not a monolithic entity, and that SFZC is but one manifestation of it... imperfect and yet perfect in its own way. Hopefully the more productive parts of this blog will continue to encourage the conversation about skillful engagement at SFZC.

Bernie Glassman's work is another example... but please don't forget the so-called "ethnic" Buddhist community which is often incredibly involved in the community. If you want to see a wing of Buddhism that is truly engaged, check out the Tzu Chi Foundation: www.tzuchi.org. They did massive outreach in the case of the earthquake in China, the cyclone in Burma, and the floods in the Midwest U.S.

Blessings to all who have been affected by these fires at Tassajara, Big Sur, Cachagua, and all through the Los Padres forest.

Anonymous said...

I've been following this, but what got me to write is Kathryn's comment about ZC's "lack of empathy for non-residents, and inability to communicate in a way that takes into account the realities of the person with whom they are speaking":


A longtime practitioner, I left ZC shortly after 9/11/01 because, in a world full of suffering, I saw ZC as insular and even arrogant. Zen students as only concerned with their individual practice and their own odd community.


I was a non-resident ZC practitioner, and spent a practice period at Tassajara, and a lot of time at Green Gulch. I was upset with the insularity and inwardness of Tass and GG. My teacher reminded me that Tass is for training; that people were expected to leave and take their practice outside. But what I saw was many who never left; and many who left didn't make the transition to practicing in the real world.


Outside of Tassajara, I found much the same among ZCers. An arrogance among residents, that non-residents weren't "real" Zen students. (Most residents could have benefited from the challenges of practicing in the world and not behind ZC's safe walls.)


A lack of understanding of the constraints on people with real jobs. (E.g., staring Saturday sesshins at 5 am; taking seriously only people who spent huge amounts of time at ZC.)


An arrogance among Zen students (and other Buddhists) toward non-Buddhists.

I don't fault Tass's high fees, which make possible the practice periods (for which I was one of the few who paid -- others having "earned" it by summer work).

But I do fault ZC for its insularity. Why didn't the students displaced from Tass spread out in Jamesburg to help the locals clear brush, get their livestock out? Why does it take this sort of exchange for Tass to think about improving its relationships with people in the area?

Iann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
East Carmel Valley Resident said...

iann who apparently lives in texas and knits: heed your own words and don't wait for the buddhists to show compassion. Go knit yourself a muzzle it appears you need it. Oh and I showing you poor customer service? How sad to feel the loss of something so lovely.

David Burn said...

"Everyone has the same dreams
On different days of the week
We are the watchdogs of your mind
We are the dream police...

The judge has closed his eyes
The court begins to dream
Of crimes that you committed
While you were lying asleep...

...Everyone has the same dreams
On different days of the week.

David Byrne
"The Dream Police" (Cha cha Cha)

lumin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lumin said...

I can't decide. Would it be more Zen to comment on this post or to leave it blank (my status is on the line here). Seriously. Wait... Dang, asking that question in itself
means that I'm not Zen, doesn't it? Maaan! Wait...just by 'thinking' that asking that question makes me not Zen...is what makes me not Zen. Ohhh...bummer. Wait...hey look, I made a comment!

old student said...

The noted "lack of empathy for non-residents, and inability to communicate in a way that takes into account the realities of the person with whom they are speaking" are what I also experienced at ZC. While there was ongoing talk about how to change it, it doesn't seem to have changed. Yes there are many flavors of Buddhists/centers out there now (some who offer their monastic experience by donation only and still flourish). Many that I have visited (who are deeply practicing) give a warm welcome with no sense that the practitioners are "better than" the visitor. So I too have been fascinated by ZC's culture of arrogance and superiority that has now been mentioned by several people from inside and out of ZC, and wonder how/why it is so deeply embedded.

As Kathrine and Kathryn note, historically monasteries have been closely involved with and supported by their communities-because the community/government saw them as valuable and wanted to support them.

So yes, individual monastic practice is valuable. But since Tassajara is already open during the summer couldn't engaged buddhism be as simple as having a rotation of students doing something out in the surrounding community? As well as inviting locals in to see what is happening at Tassajara. Perhaps both lead (hopefully) to the neighbors valuing and supporting Tassajara instead of resenting it.

Another suggestions: some retreat centers don't offer the option of driving in yourself-so perhaps ZC should consider requiring that all summer guests use the stage, which is better for the environment, for those who live on the road, and fo all who are trying to avoid head-on encounters. Invest in a "fleet" of hybrid stage-vehicles.

lifetraveler said...

Observations from the sidelines:

It appears to me that this thread has become a metaphor for the fire.

Like the fire, it took a spark to ignite it.

Like the fire, it burns with a heat of its own and has shifting directions. Also, once lit, the fire has burned through the insular shell of those affected, and real pain and sensations result.

The thread has had far reaching impact as well. Blog additions from Sweden and Texas, for example.

Like the fire, the thread will burn its course till its fuel is exhausted. In this instance, the fuel is the feelings of the participants, the unheard feelings need to see the light.

Like the fire, when the thread has burned through the community, it will have changed...forever.

The topography will be different, but so will the minds and the hearts of the occupants, as it should be.

Like the fire, the thread will perform a much needed cleansing funtion, a new begining if you will.

Like the thread, the peoples responses to it have also become a metaphor for the fire.

Some are in denial - there's no problem with the practices or presence of the zen folks.... its all just whining

There are some who feel wronged.... this fire is taking away my right to a place to be

There are some who are angry... how dare these comments be made and thought.. the "fire" is an ingrate and does not understand the sanctity of my pecans.

There are some who are reflective of their practice and how their actions feed or quench the fire.

I am particularily taken by the "old timers" coming out of the woodwork to weigh in with their truths. To a person they seem to say... "I understand that spark", "I experienced that spark", "the community which I was so long a part of would do well to reflect on that spark and reform their practice to one that was more connected, compassionate and engaged" (Apologies if i misrepresented their sparks in any way)

In my opinion, fires and self involved buddhists are the same, neither good nor bad, just a force of nature.

One of the earlier posts referenced a quote from suzuki roshi i think and it said something like.. we are all perfect in every way and we all could benefit from some improvements in that perfection

In the end, the value of this fire will prove to be the ways in which it causes us to cleanse our thoughts and being and improve our perfection.

thats how it looks from overhere

lifetraveler

Pennie aka: pendoodles said...

I also was a Cachagua resident many decades ago. One doesn't need to have a fat wallet in order to visit the Tassajara Zen center. I have done the work exchange program in the past, in order to provide for time with my young daughter and I. We both worked, but I used my 'vacation time' from my job for the work exchange program in order to not have any work conflicts. It was very rewarding vacation.

Iann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

i sure hope the cash register boys are printing this out and passing it around in san francisco

New koan: What are the odds that the abbott never sees this fire?

elizabeth said...

Options

the morning sky holds its shifting
continents of clouds
its herd of furry mammals moving
to and fro as they feed
on tender stalks
of light

they touch and merge
and separate, an easy
diplomacy, spontaneous love-
making as they share this
floating
field of my vision falling

over its illusory
horizons ...

lifetraveler said...

I think it's a really great idea for the Zen center to get a hybrid suv and require that visitors take the stage to the center

What a caring idea for the residents of the road, the environment and the consciousness of the visitors.

robert< mark me down for a one hundred dollar donation towards the first hybrid if the ZC decides to go one hundred percent stage to the center

Anonymous said...

I cant help but wonder if Barbara is still following this thread and whether she is now satisfied that the old timers who spent years at ZC in some cases see the same things as the initial poster did?

Pajaro said...

Last night there was a pair of screech owls outside my window conversing...and I thought...how much this blog is like that...one speaks...the other listens..and then one speaks and the other listens...and sometimes they talk rapidly and it builds to a frenzy and then ....relax. The ebb and flow ...much like the fire.

I would like to thank steph for her compassion and offered action. It just struck me as to the point without adding fuel to my inner fire.

I do not need help with clearing brush...but I agree with those who mentioned maybe checking in with the neighbors on the road...some of them are elderly...or alone....and I think could use a visit from someone other than the sheriff's deputy asking them to sign a release...just not now...but all the time...and with this fire...I myself have come to see the value of checking in with my neighbors ...be they residents of the zen center...or the road...more often.
So thank you Steph.

I feel Lifetraveler has experiences and perspectives that offer the reader much to ponder...and it brought my original post... to a place of addressing what was behind it...and looking at our beliefs....individually ...and as a whole. Thank you.

Katherine I feel also adds to that bigger picture and I appreciate her years of experience.

To Ikushin I say...my hat is off to you. My hope is that your day is good...not easy to come back-in and post like you did...and I appreciate your open heart and mind.

To Robert Thomas...thank you for listening...

Thanks to the wood shed for having started such a conversation....and as the day unfolds...those of us still here on the road ....do varying versions.. of sitting with fire.

Yeshe Samten said...

I started coming to San Francisco Zen Center when I was 18, in 1995. After 10 years of committed, sincere, challenging (and rewarding!) practice at Zen Center, I left, and now practice Vajrayana in a different city.

I mostly did my practice at a "sister" temple of SFZC, at Green Gulch, and a little at Tassajara. For the most part, I really liked it at Zen Center. I used to save months and months pay to be able to go to classes and retreats at Tassajara and Green Gulch-- and live off that meditator's "high" for the months I was saving. What I couldn't afford, I put myself (deeply) into credit card dept over. For me it was worth it-- I was completely devoted to Zen Center and all its teachers, sangha, and programs. The thrill of going to Tassajara for the first time was electric for me-- I must have taken 3 rolls of film on the first day. How it inspired my practice so!

Just as the fire now is catalyst for this blog, and there is a "fire" of sorts going on in this discussion thread, these fires can be cleansing. I had a "fire" of my own a few years ago, and ended up sadly taking my leave of zen center (voluntarily). Just as this blog fire, my own inner fire was pretty cleansing.

When I left Zen Center, I felt like I had many, many friends and comrades that would support me, and support my practice. Here I am 3 years later, and only 2 have ever returned my phone calls. When I left, I felt so hopeful that I could still hold my time there with a special place in my heart... but when I returned to Green Gulch this year, I had a major panic attack, and spent the rest of the week crying. I don't think this is an "extreme" example, and I don't feel that I'm trying to make a mockery of Zen Center, or criticize anybody directly, or hurt any feelings.

Zen Center was a special place for me, and it really put me on the path of Dharma. I had some great times there. But I feel compelled to post this here today because I think that what many other people have written really rings true for me, too. Zen Center is a profoundly unfriendly, cold, and aloof place. Zen Center students (myself included, at one time!) can sometimes be cold and distant with "new people," and speak in spooky poetic-ish koan riddles when asked for help (some of the teachers did this with us when we asked for practical help, and we then naturally did it with other people).

The prices being charged for dharma retreats in America (hey, it's not just Zen Center, now) are exhorbitant. But the prices, the unfriendly staff, and the aloof nature all seem to add up to one thing (for me): SFZC seems to care more about training rich white yuppies to act like Medieval Japanese Samurai than teaching people how to relate to each other, warm heart to warm heart. Go to a Tibetan temple sometime. Go to a Vipassana retreat at Spirit Rock. For heck's sake, go to an Episcopal Church or a Synagogue! You will find that the parishoners at the other places are warm, friendly, and happy to have you there. They have learned from their religious training that, in the words of the Dalai Lama, their religion is kindness.

I'm truly sorry if I offended or hurt any particular students at Zen Center by this post. Really, I would have been hurt by it if I'd seen it while at SFZC. But can you stop for a moment and reflect on the way you treat people at Zen Center? I know I'm not the only person to feel this way, so I'm not some wacko ex-student with crazy ideas. Please, please, Zen Center-- use this fire, this forum, this moment to re-evaluate the way you relate to other beings. THAT will do more for the survival of zen center than some roof sprinklers and reflective heat shields.

Anonymous said...

Greetings,
I logged in here out of concern as a former Tassajara road resident, hoping for information about loved ones still in the area I’ve not been able to reach.

I'm so thrilled to see you all squabbling, as I’m pretty sure that means there is at present no insurmountable horrendous crisis at hand. Otherwise who would have time to be at a computer griping. That’s great. I hope it’s true and everyone has made it through and will continue to make it through nature’s spectacular display.
I’m trying to understand resentments. I’m guessing it comes from a place of entitlement. Many years ago residents, if I recall correctly had 3 free passes each summer, and beyond that discounted tickets.

During my days on Chews ridge the number of residents grew exponentially almost overnight. The population went from 2 persons, on just one loop of a 6 mile stretch of dirt road, to nearly a dozen in just the year of the Marble Cone fire alone. I can’t even begin to guess at how many hundreds more people now inhabit that particular loop, much less the entire neighboring area from Jamesburg onwards (a 14 mile stretch along Tassajara road with a great many roads branching and looping off), likely thousands.

It’s certainly understandable how the rising numbers could have impacted the feasibility of the free pass offer for neighbors situation, as there are now so very many more neighbors. I can also understand how someone (more than likely a long time resident) losing such a privilege could come to feel disgruntled.

In a purely practical sense it’s going to take a hard look at the calendar, management, juggling skills and likely a closer boundryline drawn as to who constitutes a neighbor, in order to provide a happy solution. I’d think right now ‘trade for aid’ ought to be viable at least through next season.

Sincerely hope the flames are content with burning brush and that everyone of you, your homes, and animals, are spared.
Love you one and all
Ancient History
PS Its great you all have internet. No such thing back in the day.

Author: Maia Duerr said...

I appreciate lifetraveler's reflections on this blog as a metaphor for fire. It's been amazing to 'watch' as dialogue has taken place.

I want to note something I haven't seen yet on these comments or elsewhere on this blog, although I could easily have missed it.

There is a bigger context here...which is the larger political reality we all live in whether we are Zen students, Jamesburg residents, volunteer firefighters, CalFire, Taoists... all of us.

The Basin Complex fire is a natural disaster, but one that is exacerbated by a political climate that has been steadily moving toward de-funding essential government services and privatizing as much as it can.

Here's an interesting posting from another blog by Tom Hopkins, a board member of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance.


"The catastrophic fire regime on the western public lands in recent years is, to a great extent, the result of a hundred years of very successful fire suppression and the resultant increase in fuel loads. The environmental community AND the public land management agencies now understand and agree on this fact. But getting our public lands back to a natural wildland fire regime, while providing protection for the exponential growth of private housing in the urban/wildland interface, is going to take a long time. And it is not going to happen if the politicians in DC place foreign interventionism, lower taxes for the wealthy and reducing the size of the federal government ahead of adequately funding public land management. Crisis management is not management...

If we want our federal public lands to be environmentally healthy, including their natural fire regime, AND have private property in the urban/wildlife interface reasonably protected from natural wildfire, it is going to take a lot more money than is currently being allocated. That means changing the status quo in DC by electing leaders who will adequately fund our public land management agencies so they can fully implement their missions."

We've all been affected by this fire, and the exhausted firefighters on the frontlines especially so.

So while we are trying to find better ways to connect with each other across our differences, perhaps we can remember that we might share some common ground in building a government that is truly 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.'

Anonymous said...

Responses to 2 comments above:

About whether the abbot will ever see the fire: Co-abbot Steve Stucky was one of the 5 who stayed behind through the fire.

And about arrogance etc: I too found that my "friends" at ZC were no longer my friends once I stopped being a true believer spending heaps of time at ZC. A friend of mine at ZC died and no one bothered to call me before the memorial service -- I only found out when I called someone to ask how our sick friend was doing. It was as if I had vanished from the earth. I left because I was suicidally depressed, and none of my "friends" checked to see how I was.

lifetraveler said...

WOW! A deep bow to Yeshe Samten.

That was a brave and powerful refection that you posted.

I hope that both the students at the center read and reread your post and that it finds its way to San Francisco as well.

The value of this fire (both the sticks and bricks fire and the blog fire here) is to provide cleansing introspection of our individual contributions to the fire or quenching the fire.

Your words are a powerful invitation for the readers to engage in that kind of introspection

namaste

and a 1,000 thank yous for stepping up to the plate with your truths

lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

we all knew the abbott (abbotts?) came to see the cash register burn.... the question was whether their eyes were open to the blog fire burning as well

Anonymous said...

"Suzuki Roshi washed his feet on the doorstep after working in the garden. his attendant, who was standing just inside the door, handed him a towel. She then reached down and pinched one of his toes.

"That is one of the powers of Buddha," he said.

"What is?"

"To see what someone needs and give it to them."

(from the book, To Shine One Corner Of The World, Moments with Shunru Suzuki

Anonymous said...

new idea for the zennies to connect to er the real? world

since they drive up and down the road daily anyway... and they bake organic veggie stuff everyday anyway

how bout they take the time to find some of the old folks on the road (like 80 year old fred nason perchance) and stop by once a week as they drive by with a zen meals on wheels deal

or how bout the students get a meditatitive walk the road assignment ... meet one person u do not know and give them this cookie u baked

since they are already on the path.. it would take so little, save a less than 100% preoccupation with self... to be the buddha in themselves

or things could continue as they are... unchanged

Anonymous said...

what a thing to stumble upon, when I just wanted to know how Tassajara was faring in the fire!

Like a few here, I am an old -- even antique -- zennie, from the Baker Roshi era. I too ultimately found the ZC community uniquely, profoundly, self-absorbed and cold.

I too didn't realize it until I had left. About ten years later, I converted to Catholicism, which has a strong, if somewhat hidden, contemplative branch. It was then that I had my second bingo realization, which was that the biggest reason I had found ZC congenial when I was there was that it reminded me so much of my own upbringing, which was full of silence and secrets and coldness too. We all gravitate to the familiar I guess.

You can be a contemplative and connect deeply with those around you. In fact I would say that is the only kind of contemplative practice worthy of the name.

ZC does have a problem, and denial is part of it. So is sanctimony. But coldness is the biggie. And what is coldness but fear of the Other?

Gosh, the internet is a great thing, ain't it?

Anonymous said...

Yesterday morning we had a long conversation with Graham. He was disappointed that the wood shed had burned. But what a conflagration it is turning out to be. He will be very pleased, hopefully soon, to learn that "The wood shed" goes on.
Walter

Anonymous said...

wow... the testimony of the old timers is pretty compelling.,.. .and it cant be discounted as... "outsiders dont understand us".... or "we are special" "nobody else gets it so they are (somehow) envious of our self centered behavior and hot springs"

wow.. what an introspective opportunity for the zennies to see how the prepschool looks to outsiders and to past practitioners who devoted years or decades before being turned away by the suffocating self involvment

i think suzuki roshi would be proud of the opportunity to reflect on our individual practices

again.. are we part of the fire or part of the forces that will quench the fire?

Anonymous said...

The fire is miles away from my home. No real direct threat and that is the word from the Emergency Op Center @ 796-1991 and from Cachagua Fire Dept. So why is is I cannot leave and if all is the same return to my propery later today? "Hard Closure" beginning at Jamesburg seems to be overreaction on a situation that may go on for weeks.

http://thecalifornian.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080712/OPINION/807120331/1014

Anonymous said...

Vote: Bernie Glassman for abbott

azazl said...

I LOVE this thread. I can kinda sympathise with both sides, though I must admit I enjoy the sarcastic humor of the original anonymous post and find the wee bit of self-righteous indignation of the some of the responses irritating. I have lived in upper carmel Valley for 21 years. I never actually visited the hot springs, though its always been on my 'to-do' list. I admit to being sad at the idea of it being burnt to a crisp, but probably for selfish reasons. Ultimately this fire is a really good thing for the land. Perhaps it will wipe out the sudden oak death, pine pitch canker and bark beetles that have been plaguing the area. I do hope the human element- homes, families, animals etc. dont suffer too much. Does anybody know if there are long term environmental effects of the tons of fire retardent used in the watershed?

the unreliable narrator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the unreliable narrator said...

"Vote: Bernie Glassman for abbott"

Oh, but the ZPO has its issues too, like any other spiritual institution and community (as it happens, I received the precepts in the Peacemaker order, so I got to watch up it close for a few years).

Fire can burn anywhere. May all beings be nonflammable.

Anonymous said...

well the residents...no not those ones... have begun a network of sharing canned goods, milk, and cat food, and tp; the mainstays of the good life...thinking it was good I have the pantry stocked, cause now I have many things to offer and share and it feels good to be able to reach out to my neighbors to make this time a little better for them. thanks to ole waz his name for helping me to know the value of a stocked pantry of non-perishables. Where are the infamous organic pecans hiding?

Kathryn said...

Reflecting back on all these comments, I have to chuckle a bit...
"The wood shed"—what a apt title for this thread...in days of old the misbehaving child was dragged to the wood shed to get "straightened out"...looks like we've dragged ourselves there!! Hope everyone feels a little more straightened out...I know I do...as Reb Anderson says, our practice is to remain upright in the midst of all the chaos and stress!

Anonymous said...

wood·shed

(Slang) to practice on a musical instrument so as to improve or perfect one's technical facility, develop ideas, etc.: said esp. of a jazz or rock musician

Anonymous said...

To Azazl, on the subject of the retardant drops. Kelly O'Brien had a photo of it a few days ago, you have to her Life in the Fire Lane blog, and then check the archives section. It is basically ammonia-phosphate salts, and from looking at the MSDS sheets it seems like it does not harm fish. I know they try not to dump it in creeks but from the MSDS that must basically be a precaution or an instruction left over from some previous product.

Do go to Tassajara when you get the chance, it is a nice break!

To SFZC: maybe one thing that would improve the neighborhood would be to reduce the number of vehicles at Jamesburg. Seems like a lot of them just park there all winter long. Can't there be a better place for them?

Anonymous said...

To Azazl, PS. So the Phos-Chek is basically fertilizer, and long-term it seems OK.

$$ said...

the word from the prez is posted. sfzc has officially begun their pleas for some mula and lots of it as of this afternoon....via a secure pay site, so I guess the comments about the cash register talking a break is not quite true, as it has just changed shape. i feel a telethon coming on maybe Richard Gere will man the phones.

Jim said...

again.. are we part of the fire or part of the forces that will quench the fire?

We are both.

Anonymous said...

I was about to say something rash, and then I thought "breathe."

I feel better now.

Anonymous said...

wow.. wouldn't it be wonderful if the SFZC were half so quick to come to the aid of the many families impacted by the fire as they are to fund the relatively minor damage done to the ZC here.

Oh well, the silence is very telling about the vision of the middle path... it leads.. sadly right to the cash register at the end of the road.

The qoute by the mulit year student that:

"the SFZC seems to care more about training rich young white yuppies how to cack like Medieval Japansese Samuri than teching people how to relate to one another, warm heart to warm heart..... is seeming to ring true.

Time to get to the phone banks..... Oz has burned around the edges.. can the abbots be far behind.

The answer to the koan: When a cash register burns in the forest, do the enlightend in SF hear it? is becoming apparent to all who choose to see..heh?

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or has anybody noticed that the zennies appear to have chosen to disengage from this discussion entirely....

aside from the old students respectfully relating their experiences...... conspicously absent from the blog is any input, reflections or comments from the folks at the end of the road....robert checked in and everybody appeared to check out from that point on

i wonder if that is a mandate from the top .. or if they feel that their time for reflection is over and its off to man the phone banks

i for one would be saddened if their apparently short attention span precluded any meaningful interchange and growth on this matter

oh well.....

how many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

one, but first it hast to want to change


how many zennies does it take to build a community?

(see above)

Jim said...

How many anonymous, bitter commenters does it take to try and stir conflict and drama?

Reflection and honest discussion are most welcome, but if you find it frustrating that people refuse to retaliate to your hurtful words and snark, well...

Anonymous said...

jim,

im just what you might call an interested observer

i might characterize the comments being made differently.. and i have... as feelings that real people have.. their truths.....

i think its brave for these people to share them.. and its not in a hurtful way.. i am blown away with the respect and constraint being shown

i also see the long timers affirming these concerns

what i dont see is much introspective. .how have i fed the fire and what can i do to be a fire quencher going on

cept for stephanie and robert.. the silence is deafening

charactrizing the concerns as drama does little to put out the fire of disconnect that the folks at the end of the road are at least 50 percent responsible for having occurred

in my sidelines opinion

lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

I joined the Zen Center community as a non-resident lay person four years ago, and have greatly benefited from the experience. It also has been a very vigorous practice, in the great Soto Zen tradition. Through sittings, taking classes and doing volunteer work, I have also gotten to know the President, Vice President, and the Abbots, and have found them to be good people – open to new ideas, responsive to my spiritual questions and needs, and having ample measures of compassion and humility. As Suzuki-Roshi would say, “they are perfect the way they are and they can use a little improvement”. (Yes, me too) So keep sharing your suggestions...

For me, raising money for the SF Zen Center is about reducing the suffering in the world by supporting the practice of thousands of students, helping to continue the organization’s very worthwhile programs, and providing a refuge in this noisy and somewhat crazy world. I appreciate that all types of people, ranging from BMW drivers to more humble folks like me, visit Tassajara to share in its beauty and support the training of future Zen teachers.

I also applaud the President’s announcement of a new good neighbor policy for the Tassajara area. That’s the right thing to do. I encourage SFZC to keep opening up by also hosting (annual) open house events for its City Center and Green Gulch neighbors. Opening the doors wide and letting fresh air in is a good thing, especially for an organization that is contemplative, quiet, and initially cool to newcomers.

This is our sangha. Let’s make it what we want it to be. Starting with me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys are tough!

Sure, the "zennies" have stopped reacting to the sarcasm and ugliness of anon 4:28, but that is as it should be.

162 comments of valuable connection, reflection and acknowledgment -- it slows down and you've written off the whole thing.

Sometimes introspection means more than sitting at your computer.

Why so dismissive of what's clearly been quite valuable?

lifetraveler said...

wow.. great comments and introspection


and i really appreciated the ..starting with me moment

thats all it takes

and then there were three

walk on....your words make my heart sing

namaste

lifetraveler

Kathryn said...

I'm sad to see the acrimonious comments continue...constructive criticism yes, blaming and judging doesn't help. Yes SFZC has it's faults and blind spots and as S Roshi said we all could use a little improvement...this is a never ending process for us all...but SFZC has done far more good in this world than ill...

We should all be asking ourselves how compassionate am I, how generous, how non-judging, how observant of the suffering of others before casting judgement on others.

As the Buddha said, you can't take the splinter out the eye of someone else until you remove the log from your own.

lifetraveler said...

We should all be asking ourselves how compassionate am I, how generous, how non-judging, how observant of the suffering of others before casting judgement on others.

amen

Yeshe Samten said...

First off, I need to apologize. I should have chosen my words more carefully in my post. Some insightful, thoughtful questions have been raised here (both by current SFZC students and ex-SFZC students alike), and I wanted to share my own personal perspective.

I dislike the term "zennies." People used to call me that at the center, and when personal attacks were made against my teacher or other center members, I leapt to their defense. My rude judgement of zen as medieval samurai wasn't intended as an attack-- but as an obeservation of the SFZC training I felt was being given at my time (that is, purposely showing a lack of outward emotion, and acting very submissive to others). I am sorry that my words here were taken as a personal slam, or used as fuel to make other personal slams (e.g., "zennies.")

I know the people down at Tassajara right now fighting fire. I have sat with them, I have practiced with them, and they are sincere practicioners. I think I have been very upset by this fire because yes, even they, seem to think that personal risk of death is a risk that is OK to take for some insured property. (What good is a zendo if you aren't around to use it?)

I responded here because I have been reading more, and more, and more quotes and posts and soundbytes from SFZC staff and students that seem to echo what I said earlier-- there, in my experience, is a lack of humility, a lack of reflection, and a lack of patient human warmth in much of SFZC doctrine and training. I repeat again, this is NOT a slam against anybody personally... but merely my own personal experience that sounds like some other people have also seen.

And again, my only intent in posting (the first, and now the second time) is to hopefully raise the awareness of enough SFZC leaders and teachers that this problem is very real, and very serious. Not all students or visitors will feel the sting of unfriendliness that I did. But please recognize that by building on the teachings of love, compassion, and basic human kindness (and frankly, separating real American Zen Buddhism from what are just Japanese cultural norms), you will be building Zen Center foundations stronger than those in the Stone Office. These foundations will shape the core of the community, and inspire others to show such kindnesses on (sometimes shy, sometimes melancholic...) Buddhist students such as myself.

Anonymous said...

Why so dismissive of what's clearly been quite valuable?

Words without action and change in one's heart.. are like chaff blowing in the wind.

Anonymous said...

What would you like the "Zennies" to say? Would you have us all line up for your firing squad? You know, we have feelings, and might possibly be hurt by what you say, and accuse. You offer hurt, but no salve for the wounds. YOu offer condemnation, but little praise. Why would I want to engage in that?

Honest discourse and disagreement is fine, but this is cruel at a time when people I love are in danger both at Tassajara and Jamesburg. A place that is my spiritual home has taken a devastating loss, and you want to bitch about your entitlements.. Sorry I don't have time, I am busy with my grief.

And for those of you who think that is selfish, I would encourage you to look at your own grief, and what it is calling you to do instead of being with it. You avoid it by this childish behavior.

More and more this sounds like when I was 5 and my older brother wouldn't let me hang out with him and his friends... i would go whine to my mother, and cry about how hurt I was.

I stopped whining a long time ago, and instead realize that relationships are built by people, and I am only responsible for my part in it. I can point the finger at how you aren't living up to your part, or I can continue to work on living up to mine.

Real concerns were raised here, but then it turned into a slam the "zennies" fest.. Sorry I don't want to play that game.

Jim said...

Lifetraveler,
I appreciate and embrace the honesty here, and I have certainly found in these comments yet another mirror in which to examine my own relationships.

I would never disparage the concerns being expressed as they are obviously very real.

If you're honest, you'll also admit that there exist anonymous posts above that are clearly meant to sting and to create conflict rather than understanding. That was my meaning when I used the word "drama".

While mostly householders and ex-residents are commenting here (I suspect in part due to the limited internet activity of ZC residents and the displaced Tassajara community) I assure you that the waves of this thread will be felt for a long time in the sangha.

Gassho.

lifetraveler said...

"I assure you that the waves of this thread will be felt for a long time in the sangha."

and hopefully even acted on...for feelings without actions are just warm fuzzies.

namaste

lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

How many entitled whiteys does it take to kick another entitled whitey when they are down.

172 at last count

Anonymous said...

"How many entitled whiteys does it take to kick another entitled whitey when they are down."

Hey folks ....look .. one way to avoid introspection and self examination is to deflect and miscatorgize other people's concerns so that you dont have to consider them.... u can keep on doing just what u are doing

Anonymous said...

From J.
1) Reaching inward to one's self is also social action. I am a community activist in another country who is also a psychotherapist working in agencies and in private practice; I am also a practicing zen buddhist. I come from a family of poverty, I take nothing that I have attained lightly or easily.
I have been to SFZC, Green Gulch and many vacations have been spent at various zen centres. I am also a so- called lefty! Most of my working life has been in homeless shelters, or with people using opiates or who are HIV positive or just in general distress. I would like to say that it is a political action to do meditation, to try to ease patterns of human behaviour and responses, to believe in interconnection, to help one and help all, to note the small self and let go to the larger self (for lack of better language). There seems to be a polarization in this thread between notions of meditation as naval gazing vs soup kitchens as outreach/social action. The distinction is a false one I believe - it undermines and undervalues change through meditation, done by well heeled attendees at some centres, or inmates doing vipassana....
In addition to the above however, I had the impression that SFZC had quite a bit of practical outreach happening....

2) On another note, there are shadow sides to everything we humans do and perhaps the shadow sides of SFZC practices are showing up on this site, (several comments on being insular etc etc). This can be good, this can help with improvements.

But please dont undermine the importance of practice on the mat as well....

3) ON yet another note, I have been distressed at the sarcasm of some of the entries at a time when there has been danger and fire. In particular, I dont quite understand how the original blogger has been lauded as brave and courageous for posting, when I have found the timing of the posting (in a time of danger) and the relief described at no cars etc at a time of danger resulting in no cars, to be worrisome - there is a disconnect in terms of empathy and consideration. Maybe the ideas were useful, but the timing and sarcasm? Not laudable. Something is amiss here.

4) In conclusion, meditation is action. Sarcasm is destructive. SFZC can improve as can I. SFZC needs support.
Thank you.

May you all be well. May there be peace. May SFZC raise enough money to continue the stellar work they have done including reflecting on the shadow side of their center and practices.
Thank you for reading this post.

carol said...

This has been an interesting group of comments to read. Not easy, but interesting. It's brought up lots of thoughts and feelings and memories, and I'd like to share a few of them.

In the past few weeks, as I've been watching the fire from afar, I've found myself telling people what was happening at Tassajara using "we" and speaking as if I were still a resident there. Even though I left a year ago, it is still home, the people in it still family. Like the home and family I was born into, it's far from perfect. And I still love them.

I remember rearranging furniture in the front office at City Center when I became office manager, so that I could physically make the place more welcoming. I felt like people were more important than procedure. But no matter what I did, some people said it was great, some were indifferent, some said it wasn't enough. Everyone needs different things, and no matter how I tried I couldn't make it work for everyone. It didn't mean I stopped trying. But I had to learn to do it without expecting specific results. Very tough for me, and it still is!

I remember helping out at Jamesburg when Leslie and Keith were on vacation, and being startled by the Tassajara road residents who stopped by Keith and Leslie's porch to pick up their packages, which were delivered to Jamesburg. It was the community unofficial post office. Also during that time I met one neighbor who was helping with maintenance of fruit trees she'd planted at Jamesburg, checking to be sure they had enough water and were healthy.

There was also a cold, wet afternoon on the ridge when the big white truck I was driving, with all of the students' luggage packed inside had a flat. I'd had the flat early that morning, and we hadn't been able to get the truck jacked up safely in spite of numerous tries and different jacks, so there we sat. Along came a guy named Travis, who had recently moved to Cachagua road, with the right kind of jack. In 20 minutes he changed the flat, almost by himself, and then took off.

I remember driving the stage in and out of Tassajara, listening to guests talk about what it meant to them to be there. What struck me was their awareness of what went on in the zendo, even if they didn't sit themselves, and the fact that for so many of them, they saved up all year to come to Tassajara.

Last summer when I worked for Tassajara Reservations, I got a reservation form with a letter. It was from a woman who was dying, and wanted to come with her husband and parents, and her only request was that she get dates early in the season, as she didn't think she'd be there for the end of it. I happened to be there the weekend she was, and I knew who it was without even checking. Her face was luminous with joy.

One final memory: a guest practice person talked to me during my final summer, and said he remembered me from my first summer. He told me he'd thought I was the angriest, most unpleasant person, and he couldn't figure out why I was there. He wanted to know what changed, because he found me quite different two years later. All I could say was that when I first got there, there was nothing to do but look at myself and how much I wasn't who I thought I should be. Not as a Zen student or a person. It made me pretty miserable, and I showed it. Two years later I understood what my teacher had been telling me all along - "The 'shoulds' will kill you." And I started to love myself, flaws and all.

I didn't leave Zen Center because I thought it had problems. From my 52 years on this earth, there isn't anything involving people that doesn't have problems. We all need different things, or want different things. It causes conflict. I left because it was the next thing for me to do. I needed to go back to school, and that's where I am.

Being out of Zen Center gave me a chance to see what I miss and what I don't. And yes, it is still home, and its sangha, resident and non-resident are still my family.

Oh, and the other feeling is gratitude. For being alive and well, and being able to write this.

With deep gratitude and respect,

Carol

Barbara said...

Dear Anonymous at 10:51 on July 13,

Yes, it looks like some individuals who have spent time at Tassajara have objections. That means I was wrong in my earlier assertion. There it is.

I want the last word, but I'll never get it. So, I'll let everyone else have the last word.

Anonymous said...

Well Ive been out walking
I dont do that much talking these days
These days--
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
For you
And all the times I had the chance to

And I had a lover
Its so hard to risk another these days
These days--
Now if I seem to be afraid
To live the life I have made in song
Well its just that Ive been losing so long

Ill keep on moving
Things are bound to be improving these days
These days--
These days I sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Dont confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them

Jackson Browne...

howard harawitz said...

Hello,

Although I am now living far from California I am very much interested in this thread. Most importantly, I'm glad to hear that Tassajara and the residents of the area have survived the fire.

The frustrations and problems described here appear to be universal.

I lived in Berkeley for nearly 20 years and had several friends who were students of Suzuki Roshi and practiced at the SF Zen Center. I visited SFZC several times. I also stopped in at Tassajara when a friend and I were hiking in the neighborhood.

I now live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I am part of a Buddhist community of more than 500 people. In 1974, while I was living in Berkeley, I began the study and practice of Buddhism with Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. I left Berkeley in 1981 to live near his main center in Boulder, Colorado. At that time he was encouraging his students to move to Nova Scotia to establish an organizational and practice community there. The following year I did just that, and I've been living here ever since.

In our Buddhist community there are, as it seems there are in yours, issues around what looks like the ever-increasing cost of programs and retreats. And there are always complaints, by outsiders and newbies, of arrogance on the part of the insiders and old-timers -- it was the same way back in the '70s. Yes, the in-group can be heavy-handed and overbearing at times. I also found that to be true in universities and political organizations, the only other groups I have had long-term experience with.

I too sometimes become impatient with our Sangha's general neglect of social problems at home and abroad, unless they directly affect Buddhists in places like Burma or China.

Our monastery and rural practice centers don't seem to have friction with neighbors because neighbors are very few and far between, and, in any case, we rarely generate enough road traffic to bother any one.

Thank you for sharing yourselves during your very real time of troubles.

Regards and best wishes,

Howard Harawitz
Halifax, Nova Scotia

rishi said...

this world is my sangha. i feel heart-hurt by the aggression of the spiritual so-called wisdom leaders and teachers response to this precious thread...asking for money...NOW.

such poor timing is no accident.

clarity sees such.

i can not bow assent. hear me. namaste.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra

"After the original awesome sound King Thus Come One had passed into extinction, and after his Correct Law had also passed away, in the period of his Counterfeit Law, monks of overbearing arrogance exercised great authority and power. At this time there was a bodhisattva monk named Never Disparaging. Now, Gainer of Great Authority, for what reason was he named Never Disparaging? This monk, whatever persons he happened to meet, whether monks, nuns, Laymen or laywomen, would bow in obeisance to all of them and speak words of praise, saying, 'I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparaging and arrogance. Why? Because you are all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood.'
"This monk did not devote his time to reading or reciting the scriptures, but simply went about bowing to people. And if he happened to see any of the four kinds of believers far off in the distance, he would purposely go to where they were, bow to them and speak words of praise, saying, 'I would never dare disparage you, because you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!'
"Among the four kinds of believers there were the those who gave way to anger, their minds lacking in purity, and they spoke ill of him and cursed him, saying, 'This ignorant monk - were does he come from, presuming to declare that he does not disparage us and bestowing on us a prediction that we will attain Buddhahood? We have no use for such vain and irresponsible predictions!'
"Many years passed in this way, during which this monk was constantly subjected to curses and abuse. He did not give way to anger, however, but each time spoke the same words, 'You are certain to attain Buddhahood.' When he spoke in this manner, some among the group would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him. But even as he ran away and took up his stance at a distance, he continued to call out in a loud voice, ' I would never dare disparage you, for you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!' And because he always spoke these words, the overbearing arrogant monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen gave him the name Never Disparaging.
"When this monk was on the point of death, he heard up in the sky fully twenty thousand, ten thousand, a million verses of the Lotus Sutra that had been previously preached by the Buddha Awesome Sound King, and he was able to accept and uphold them all. Immediately he gained the kind of purity of vision and purity of the faculties of the ear, nose, tongue, body and mind that have been described above. Having gained this purity of the six faculties, his life span was increased by two hundred ten million nayutas of years, and he went about widely preaching the Lotus Sutra for people.”

Anonymous said...

love thy neighbor as thy self - the bible - chapter sumptin

the unreliable narrator said...

My favorite part is how Never Disparaging always keeps his stance, but "at a distance." :o)

Anonymous said...

From J
why not ask for financial donations, this thread and its discontents do not mean there should not be a responsible attempt to preserve and maintain SFZC and TJ. The request for donations is not about greed........
thank you.

rishi said...

lotus sutra. (20)


please accept my obeisances.

still, we must say something.

may it be of benefit.

Anonymous said...

whats the need for fund raising again? some insured outbuildings burned down and there are some rocks in the parking lot.

let the students move the rocks, let the marin crowd come for an extra month at the end of the season and voila.. the money flow and the place at the end of the road goes on.. unchanged

there wasnt so much as a sprained ankle so far... .the only loss has been the loss of paid soakers for 30 days....

how bout the monks all go get a job at starbucks until the center reopens

did i miss something

Dai-i said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dai-i said...

I live in Wash. Sate. I found this thread on a day when I returned home after being verbally assaulted by an anonymous person because my partner and I were driving too slowly .
A very entitled man got out of his vehicle at a traffic light and pretended to be concerned about our tire, then let go with a tirade that sent me, literally, into PTSD episode.
About two weeks ago, I took the precepts in the Soto Zen lineage with my teacher, a former abbott of Zen Center who has taken the message of Buddhism from the monastery and attempts to bring it to the "real" world context. I'm certain that this is in part because of a concern with the insularity of Zen. And living as a monk in the real world, I know this is where Buddhism is sorely needed. As I pondered the violence of the road rage incident, I think about how if my partner and I were not both practicing Buddhists, violence may have occurred. My partner's equanimity, and my ability to quickly move from triggered anger to engaging with my fear helped diffused the situation. Thinking of all the people I've known who have been helped in looking at their reactivity through meditation practice, I feel grateful for Zen Center, especially with all of its problems. If I didn't run up against some coldness there, I would not then have the opportunity to look at my reaction in a place where it is safe to do that. Going to Green Gulch was precisely the venue I needed to work with myself, and if it had been perfect with only well-behaved and kind people, I would not have been prepared for the world. In my home sangha, it is the same. I brush up against conflict, but in a more contained, conscious and thoughtful way. Then I take the lessons learned and apply it to my life, as a person working and living in American culture. Each of us who works so diligently on our reactivity, to create more conscious communication , is contributing a great deal to the world, from where I'm sitting. I've also watched as sangha members created significant social change outside of insitutions through their everyday efforts--saving salmon, starting 12-step groups, caring for the dying, and so forth. These are good people--if they like carrot cake and pecans, so what? They aren't raging at anonymous strangers or beating their wives, or a million other things I see everyday. What constitutes real harm here? I also know that they are indeed, working to be more conscious, thoughtful and concerned, even if it isn't always apparent. I just have to say, having been similarly judgmental, I've learned to look more deeply. And then, look even deeper. When we really understand our neighbors, we find there's nothing to forgive because they really are doing the best that they know how to do.

ZenMama said...

> did i miss something

Yes, you did. Tassajara is an attempt at right livelihood that supports both Zen Center San Francisco, and Green Gulch, two active practice communities that offer residential practice, lay practice, and diverse forms of outreach (prisons, homeless, chaplaincy training, hospice work, individual Dharma support and instruction, etc. etc.).

I have been a lay practitioner at San Francisco's Zen Center for about 8 years. I have always been on a limited income and have never been made to feel bad about this at Zen Center. I feel very supported in my practice by the teachers at Zen Center San Francisco and hope that they will find a way to make ends meet, now that this summer's guest season at Tassajara will most likely have to be canceled. I have never been to Tassajara itself. I have seen photos, and I have heard stories of friends who have spent time there on work exchange. I'm a busy mom of two, so just taking time off isn't in the cards right now, but I've kept promising myself that one of these days I would find a way to go. I guess, it's kind of my Shangri-La. I don't know if I'll ever make it there, but I'm glad the place is still standing and even gladder that the people who defended it against the flames are ok.

I met my share of kooky people at Zen Center. Very few happy, well-adjusted people feel drawn to sitting practices here in the U.S., so I wonder if the coldness that some people experienced was possibly due to a lack of skillful means and an excess of interpersonal clumsiness expressing itself.

I am wishing well to all of those lashing out at Zen Center in their grief. I wish there was something I could do to help beyond wishing well. As it is, I can currently only send my thoughts, love, and prayers (yes, I'm one of those weird Buddhists that also pray).

With much love,
Julia

Anonymous said...

one quick quote from thich nath hanh, when he last visited sfzc. he said he would not come back until we learned to smile... so far he has not visited again.

lifetraveler said...

julia,

i can't presume to speak for others, but i can say that, for my small part in this, my concerns are not meant to be lashing out.. but to speak what i feel is the unspoken...

how do u feel about fellow students of the path, such as yourself, posting the same kind of observations based on their personal experiences,

does any of that give you pause for reflective thought, if so, id be honored to listen if u shared them


lifetraveler

Anonymous said...

regarding the thich nath hanh comment about SFZC and the lack of smiling, i would agree with this observation to some extent. however, in my experience the SFZC abbots and leadership smile quite a bit but that doesn't always seem to filter down to the sangha. yes, a serious practice doesn't have to be so somber...but, hey, that is a lesson which takes a while to learn and master. everyone is doing their best.

Anonymous said...

i really really hope that the sfzc sangha takes these cocerns very seriously, coldness, aloofness, sanctimony, lack of warmth are all very real problems at sfzc as far as my experience there goes, plus a request to fall in line and be a company man. I was actually told by a dharma transmitted teacher that i would have a hard time being ordained as a priest at sfzc because i was not enough of a yes/company man and had trouble toeing the line

Dai-i said...

I need to ad to my last post--I also sincerely believe in the practice of gently confronting the leaders of our community when the need arises. None of us should be "yes men." A humble heart is not a silent heart, and when we feel hurt, I think it is our responsibility to say so--it helps the leaders lead better. I have also found when I have done this--and I've done it many times--that the one who "hurt" me, really had no intention of doing so--and we both learned something about ourselves in the engagement of the issue. Two more cents...

Anonymous said...

a wee thing in response to a couple of comments above: I don't think Tassajara is insured.

Anonymous said...

ooh, eewooops, forgive me -- seems like they do indeed..?

Anonymous said...

indeed

Anonymous said...

let's face it...an ancient and contemplative spiritual tradition transplanted from japan isn't likely to be know for its warmth and informality...even in northern California. i don't believe in the suppression of legitimate complaints nor do I care for anonymous whining. it is a fine line.

elizabeth said...

BirdBath

only this
matters: this ecstatic
baptism

this standing on stick-
thin legs where the singing
creek pools at the lip
of the waterfall

only this
ruby-feathered
chest diving to meet
its reflection

this beak piercing
again and again that quivering
surface, these wings half-
unfolding, a ruffle

of joy guiding rivers
of light a tumble
of droplets dressed
in rainbows along your hidden
spine

shattering all
decorum beneath
blue branches in quiet

assent ...

Anonymous said...

umm, i don't think the request for donations has anything to do with this "precious thread"

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