Welcome everyone to our Fall-Winter edition of Boundless, the newsletter of the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship.
There are some wonderful contributions to this edition. Here is a list of contributors:
Is Love – a poem by - Diana Miles
Buddhist Practice is to Keep Going - Dan Patterson
Not Knowing is the Most Intimate - Kakuyo Sensei
Retreat Photo Essay - Gretchen Faulk
Coming Home to Healing -Tristan Solies
Showing Front and Back – Karlee Carter
Gardenia - Amy Kendall
Thailand Photo Essay - Dave Gardner
A Prayer Journey - Vaughn Lovejoy
Namu Amitabhaya - mp3 - Chant by Linnea Ross
How the Fellowship Began
And Last but not least Tenzo # Rana Miller’s Pomegranate Salsa
(Cover Photo by Jeffrey Friedl)
So What’s Been Happening?
Our fellowship is growing and doing more and more in the community. Our Wednesday night gatherings are going strong with Exploring Mindfulness, Mantra Meditation, Cultivating Bodhicitta, and Laughter Yoga. We are attracting new people and meeting the needs of our sangha family.
I want to thank Terry Huff, Gretchen Faulk, Vaughn Lovejoy and Cardin Martin for their continued support and creativity.
Since our last newsletter, we have started a podcast that has our dharma talks, we have started working with the VOA to help homeless youth and will be starting a Monthly Buddhist gathering with them. We also are helping them out by doing Taco Tuesdays.
We were also asked by the Governor’s office to be a part of the state’s homeless awareness month. We were able to show support with a diaper drive for homeless mothers and their children. We collect more than 3,000 diapers! I want to thank all of you and especially our compassionate Miriam Barth for leading the efforts and making both of these things happen.
And for those visual people... Check Out The Slideshow below of some of the fun we are having.
Tree of Life Synagogue Vigil
The most significant thing we have done since our last newsletter was our Summer Retreat. We have a photo essay by Gretchen Faulk capturing some of the images from our retreat. We had a number of our Sangha family go for refuge and take vows. What a wonderful way to celebrate our 5 years of being a Sangha!
I can’t express how grateful I am for everyone who helped out and pitched in during the retreat! A special thanks to Jenn Munson and Rana Miller and all their helpers who fed us and then took what was left to feed others- and Dan Patterson and Stephanie Patterson for being there till the end with Tiffany Angulo and Brandon Johansson helping take out the garbage and doing a final walk through. Also Jenn Munson, Gretchen Faulk and Vaughn Lovejoy helping lead some wonderful meditations so I could take time for other tasks -
For a retreat to be meaningful and transformative, it takes the collective energy of everyone there - where the personal gives way to the universal activity of compassion, service, and love. If any one of you would not have been there it would have been a different experience - each of you contributed whether you said or did anything, or simply were a quiet presence.
Dharma is the Word and the Law,
is what holds all things together,
is what inter-connects all things,
is the true nature of all things,
Thus, the dharma of me is my Law,
is what holds me together,
is what connects me with all things,
is my true nature,
Thus sangha-dharma is the Law of a sangha,
is what holds a sangha together,
is the connection between sangha members,
is the true nature of the sangha,
I have a confession to make: I’m not a very consistent meditator. And you know what I’ve learned over the last couple of months? That’s perfectly ok!
I get the feeling that a lot of us in the West seem to view meditation as the most essential aspect of being a Buddhist. And while I enjoy meditation and I’ve found it to be very beneficial, it’s not the only important aspect of Buddhist practice. It’s easy to get caught up in having to check the meditation box every day to feel like I’m a good Buddhist. But the truth is that there are lots of lay Buddhists around the world that don’t meditate at all.
I may not consistently meditate, but I do continually try to practice kindness and compassion. I practice giving people my attention when they’re speaking to me. I practice being aware of things going on around me. I practice seeing with the “I’s of Wisdom,” Impermanence and Interdependence. I practice trying to be ethical in my interactions and choices. I try to practice these things daily, and these are the practices that happen off the cushion. And I’d argue that meditation doesn’t really matter if I’m not practicing things in real life off the cushion.
Buddhism is a practice. It’s why instead of calling myself a “Buddhist believer” you’ll more likely hear me say I’m a “Buddhist practitioner.” But what does that really mean? To me, it means we focus on the journey. We focus on “keep going” as Koyo Kubose sensei loves to say. We focus on practicing each day being more aware, more mindful, more compassionate. Meditation can help with these things, but if the only reason I meditate is to check a box I’m missing the point entirely. It also leads to the dualistic thinking that I’m a “good Buddhist” if I meditate every day and a “bad Buddhist” if I don’t. And really, you could apply this to the other things I mentioned above. Am I a bad Buddhist if I’m impatient one day? Am I a good Buddhist just because I was more patient one day?
The truth is, this kind of dualistic thinking isn’t very helpful. If we look at our practice as a journey, there will be days that maybe we aren’t as mindful. Maybe there are days that we get upset. That’s ok. That’s part of the journey. But we keep going. I’m sure that even the Buddha had moments when it was tougher to be patient or mindful because after all, he was human as well.
In his book, “Bright Dawn” Koyo Kubose sensei shares this about the idea of “Keep Going:”
“It has been said that Buddhist thinking or philosophy is like a circle rather than linear. Linear thinking is like a straight line, which has a beginning and an end. Linear thinking is dualistic because the beginnings and the end are seen as two separate things. In this conception, goals are achieved by starting at the beginning of the line and going forward to reach the goal at the end of the line. If we stop halfway, we did not succeed.
Buddhist thinking is non-dualistic; reality is not dichotomized into two opposites. When considering a circle, any point can be both a beginning and an end. This means that regardless of where one is at, one can begin a journey. It also means that one can find fulfillment at any point on the circle. Fulfillment (e.g. Nirvana, enlightenment, the Pure Land) is possible right here, right now, in the “Pure Moment.”
The present moment is both the starting and ending point. What a dynamic way of living! The end goal of fulfillment is simultaneously the beginning of the next adventure and vice versa. Both life and nature are in constant change and movement. To live in accordance with such a dynamic reality means one always “keeps going.” Rather than this “keep going” meaning one never reaches an end goal, it means one is always beginning/finishing or finishing/beginning.” --
Bright Dawn” by S.K. Kubose, pages 109-110
The challenge here is to find fulfillment no matter where we are on the path and to not get hung up on any one aspect of our practice. Is there anything wrong for example with having a goal to meditate every day? No, of course not. But can you find fulfillment even in those days when you don’t?
From a young age, many of us are afraid to be someone who doesn’t know. Maybe we are afraid to be seen as dumb and therefore unacceptable, so we wing it and hope the other person doesn’t see that we actually don’t have a clue. This is not just anecdotal, studies have shown that when children are given unanswerable questions, they make up answers to seem like they know rather than to be found not knowing. This habit sticks with as we grow up, for some of us they become the three hardest words to say. We all know that feeling; usually, halfway through, when we realize we really have no clue what we are saying and how much easier it would have to simply say, “ I don’t know”. Instead, we find ourselves five years old again, dancing around with our made up answers, again hoping no one will notice.
To act as a “knower” is fraught with challenges and pitfalls. Deciding that we know “this is the way it is” has a tendency to close us off to a myriad of other possibilities. We become fixed in our ideas and perceptions, our world gets smaller and smaller. Another problem with knowing and being afraid of not knowing is we can never really be confident that what we know is reality. To paraphrase Mark Twain.
“…they think they know something that just ain’t so.”
To be clear, the knowing I am referring to is not confusion or paralyzing doubt. It is also not knowing in opposition to knowing as in not knowing the capital of Nebraska or even a set of propositions such as the four noble truths. When I say “I don’t know” I am talking about the spirit of openness and curiosity an “I don’t know! Let’s find out!” or “Let’s keep going and see what happens,” it is the not knowing of faith. Suzuki Roshi wrote in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “With beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert mind there are few.” Beginner’s mind is the essence of not knowing”. For those trapped in “knowing” the vista is limited, the questions are answered, all is settled, the world is fixed, but in the end, the light at the end of the tunnel is not more knowledge but the Dukkha Express and it is coming fast.
So how can we cultivate the non-dual spirit of “I don’t know?” The first thing is to simply be willing to not know, to let go of the knowing. I have found the world is lighter when I am free of having to know, I am more patient, less stressed, open. Here are two concrete things we can do to cultivate the not knowing.
First, there is a good practice suggested by Buddhist teacher, Gil Fronsdal, is to attach “I don’t know” to as many thoughts as possible. For example, when thoughts arise like, this is good or this is bad or I can’t handle this; these become, I don’t know if this is good or I don’t know if this is bad or I don’t know if I can’t handle this. As he says,
“the phrase “I don’t know” questions the authority of everything we think.” It allows us to be free of fixed ideas, it can create curiosity and allows an openness to creativity.”
He goes on to say that this simple phrase can help us challenge tightly held beliefs and can “pull the rug out from under our most cherished beliefs.” Not knowing opens the world to us, it makes a way for us to be compassionate, patient, kind, honest and help cultivate equanimity.
The last thing that we can do to cultivate the essence of “I don’t know” is bowing. James Ishmael Ford has written about not knowing and how it relates to the act of bowing.
“Don’t know. Not knowing. That is the ancient spiritual practice of bowing in a nutshell…The bow, I suggest, can open our hearts, can take us places we never dreamed of, to a palpable, transformative, endless world of possibility called not knowing. This is what I really want to underscore: this not knowing has endless creative possibilities, to throw in another metaphor, one or two simply aren’t enough for this place, this moment when we surrender to not knowing, when we bow to life: we discover a well that apparently is bottomless, bubbling with life-giving waters.”
I raise my hands in gassho and bow to each of you.
I would like to close with the words of Zen teacher of the 9th century, Dizang, “not knowing is most intimate.”
Namu Amida Butsu.
Click through the images
My time at our Sangha has been the most healing experience I’ve ever found in my life. I was suffering in a pit of ignorance, and the compassion I learned liberated my soul. There is so much in our practice that helps me see life as it is and accept it gratefully now. I no longer live with pent-up regret about my journey, I am able to release all the shame and guilt I felt. I continue to work on myself learn better ways to be mindful of the important things in my life that I dismissed or overlooked. Seeing everyone and everything as a teacher has freed me up to learn lessons from my experiences, painful or pleasant. Hearing others go through their own struggles and share their insights have been tremendously helpful, turned my life around. I cannot thank everyone enough for the support I feel when I come to Sangha, it really saved me.
Namo Amida Butsu
A few months back when Jenn Munson presented her wonderful concepts with the red unidentified brand cups (which I still have one sitting on my dresser) she also spoke about the maple leaf. The maple leaf falls. It doesn’t care what it shows the world, it just is. That resonated very deeply with me for some reason. I have always been labeled as the sarcastic, snarky, blunt friend. That isn’t all that I want to be, nor is it all that I am. I am also loyal, thoughtful, kind, and adventurous. Among many other things. The thought that we don’t ever have to be one thing and stick with it really opened my eyes. All we have to do is be like the maple leaf. Be who we are, as we are, and let the world take that how it may.
I like to get a tattoo for my birthday sometimes, and this year I chose the maple leaf because of all that it represents. Letting go, being what and who you are, and my favorite season.
One evening earlier this summer, I went outside in the backyard with the dogs for their nightly routine. It was a beautiful night, warm but not too hot and there was a soft breeze. I looked around the yard, surveying all the work that needed to be done with the overgrowth of plants and trees. I then looked at the little zen garden I’d started. Among other things, I’d planted a gardenia topiary tree a few weeks before and had been looking at the tree daily to see if there were any blooms. Gardenia is a very fragrant, delicate white flowering plant with deep rich green leaves. Tonight, there it was – a perfect flower, completely white, symmetrical and providing a perfume that I noticed even before seeing it. There were other flowers, but none such as this. Some had not yet opened and some had already begun to wilt. I immediately thought that I wanted to keep the flower…just like it was. I thought I might take a photo of the flower, but that photo wouldn’t have captured the scent of the flower, nor it’s presence at that moment in the whole of
backyard. I knew if I cut the bloom from the tree that it would also change its surroundings and presence and would eventually wither and die as all cut flowers do. I decided to simply bow to the tree, thanking it for its beauty and offering me that moment to reflect on impermanence.
Many times during my life, I have sought after those “perfect” moments and strived to create them or to recreate a remembered moment from the past. These efforts have often led to a great deal of suffering when plans and expectations did not quite live up to reality or when others didn’t quite share in my vision. Holidays and other events are often this way. We want so much to try and make things special or beautiful, that the true beauty of each moment is often missed or we are so busy trying to capture or preserve the moment that the essence of it is also lost.
When I find myself caught up in these things, I remember the gardenia flower. The following morning when I went outside, the flower had begun to shrink and wilt. The scent was still present, but it was not as strong. I bowed to the flower again and thanked it for being exactly what it was and what it is.
“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.” - Hubert Reeves
“Every time you connect, a little bit more clarity stays around the love, a little bit more space opens up around it. Your mind becomes clearer. You experience expanded possibilities. You become a little more confident, a little more willing to connect with others, a little more willing to open up to other people, whether that means talking about your own stuff or listen to theirs. And as that happens a little miracle occurs: You’re giving, without expectation in return. Your very being becomes, consciously or not, an inspiration to others.” -- Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Kathmandu, Nepal. “Monkey Temple”
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” -- Pema Chödrön
It Was Many Years Ago Now While Hopelessly Lost Within A Very Deep And Seemingly Endless Dark Night Of Utter Despair Emanating From The Festering Wounds Of Our World When I Pleaded For A Healing Vision For Our World I Was Given This Prayer From The Inner Buddha Realms Of Infinite Healing Light:
Om Lord Amitabha, Inconceivably Magnificent Cosmic Buddha Of Infinite Healing Light
By virtue of this prayer of Avalokiteshvara, the Archetypal Bodhisattva Of Compassion
And all of the prayers of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout
All of the immeasurably vast Realms and Dimensions of space and time
May the Sacred Bodhichitta Tree of Infinite Healing Light
Now blaze forth within the Inner Heart and Soul Realms
Of Humanity, Mother Earth and all of her many different living beings
To purify, illuminate and transform Mother Earth
Into a Radiant Mandala of the Infinite Healing Light of the Potala Mountain Paradise.
May the roots this Sacred Tree penetrate into the deepest most horrific hell realms.
May its crown reach into the highest most sublime heaven realms.
May the trunk of the Sacred Bodhichitta Tree of Infinite Healing Light
Be sculptured from the Indestructible Diamond Light
Emanating from the vast primordial vows of the Cosmic Illuminator Buddha Vairocana.
May its four majestic boughs blaze forth from the vast primordial vows
Of the Cosmic Buddhas of the four sacred directions
Within Vairocana Buddha’s Cosmic Temple of Infinite Light.
May its stately branches blossom forth
From the immeasurably vast prayers and practices
Of the Cosmic Bodhisattva Samantabhadra.
May its shimmering translucent leaves arise from the kind acts of all sentient beings
Throughout all of space and time.
May its luminous blossoms flower forth from the infinite prayers and practices
Of all the innumerable Bodhisattvas who traverse the Immeasurably Vast Oceans
Of the Six Karmic Dream Realms of Samsara
Extinguishing the suffering of all living beings.
May its radiant fruits ripen into the Infinite Buddhas a
And all of their inconceivably magnificent Buddha Realms.
May the inconceivably magnificent healing light
Of this Holy Tree now blaze forth with the purifying radiance of a billion suns
As an emanation of the Inconceivably Magnificent Healing
Eleven Faced Thousand Armed Avalokiteshvara
To purify, illuminate and transform the Immeasurably Vast Oceans
Of the Six Realms of the Terrible Karmic Dream Realms of Samsara
Into Radiant Mandalas of the Infinite Healing Light of the Potala Mountain Paradise
Immersed, Lord Amitabha, within the very heart of the Miraculous Infinite Healing Light
Of your renown exalted cosmic Buddha Realm, Sukhavati,
The Primordial Buddha Realm of the West
Within the Cosmic Illuminator Buddha Vairocana’s Inner Cosmic Temple
Of the unfathomable depths of Pure Awareness
Of the Immeasurably Vast Buddha Realms of Infinite Healing Light
Where within may each and every living being without a single exception
Who are transmigrating throughout
The Immeasurably Vast Karmic Dream Realms of Samsara
Awaken to the Cosmic Heart Mind of Bodhichitta
And set off to realize and fulfill their unique individual cosmic destinies
Of awakening into the Omniscient Light of Complete Supreme Cosmic Buddhahood.
In All Of The Ensuing Years Since Then I Have Tried To The Best Of My Abilities To Honor And Bring This Prayer To Fruition And In The Last Year Or So, Every Now And Then There Have Been Brief Moments When This Sacred Tree Blazes Forth From The Depths Of My Heart And The World Is Bathed In A Benediction Of Healing Light Hinting Of A Coming Dawn.
Tenzo 典座 head cook, “celebration/ceremony seat”, one of the Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers (roku chiji 六知事). The monastery kitchen; also the head cook for a monastery or sesshin. Traditionally the role of tenzo was a position of high honor in zen monasteries.
Jenn( Tenzo #1) and Rana (Tenzo #2) Did a wonderful job during our retreat to make sure we were fed and fed well. A deep gassho to both of them - In the Spirit of the Tenzo here is Rana’s contribution
“ This is my one of my favorite recipes and has become a staple dish for my Thanksgiving dinner. The salsa can be eaten with chips or use as a topper to a vegan, vegetarian, or meat entree.” Rana
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 small habanero pepper, finely chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
Remove the arils or seeds from the pomegranate. Add to bowl then add cilantro, habanero, red onion and garlic. Zest lime and add to bowl. Juice lime and add to mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Allow to sit for at least an hour to let the flavors develop.
It is crazy to think that our fellowship started over five years ago. How far we have come since our very first gathering in Sugarhouse on August 18th, 2013. I am planning on a longer version of this story later but thought it might be a good start to share some of our origin story also with some encouragement from Gretchen Sai-yo.
In many ways the origin of the Sangha are all the causes and conditions to that brought me to the point I was when I decided to create a place of refuge and acceptance for all those seeking the Buddha Way. It was the circuitous journey of looking for meaning and understanding in an unsettled world, a conscious and at times unconscious journey home. In the end, that is what it was all about, finding a home. Sometimes, if you can’t find a home you stop, pick a good spot and build one. I found the spot to start within the teachings of the Buddha.
The fellowship was initially inspired by a chance encounter with a book by Tatetsu Unno, titled River of Fire. River of Water, a book about Shin Buddhist teachings. It was curious because I had picked up the book before at the same used bookstore but never bought - this time it called out to me - As Koyo Kubose Sensei likes to say, “Person, Place and Time”. Evidently, this was the place and time. I found out that there was a local Shin Buddhist temple and started to attend. The local temple was warm and welcoming but I was looking for something with the spirit of Shin Buddhism’s “come as you are” but less sectarian in its approach and more expressive of a modernist expression of its teachings.
While learning and studying, I came across a non-sectarian Shin organization called the North American Shin Buddhist Association. NASBA was experimenting with creating chapters anywhere in the world if someone was willing to lead a group. Glenn of NASBA gave me an outline and said to go for it and the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship was born.
The Fellowship began by offering classes on Buddhism, especially the Pure Land tradition, in addition to offering Sangha in the Park and other activities. For years many have come and gone and brought there life experience, insight, openness, and compassion to the fellowship. Whether they are still here or not, all of them are still part of the living heart of the sangha and have contributed to its evolution. Through the process, we have grown so much and learned so much, which has helped us to create a sacred space where everyone is welcome regardless of practice, experience or who they are.
Things have changed a lot since the first days and the Sangha has evolved from a Shin Tradition Sangha to an Independent all-inclusive, lay-led, non-discriminating, trans-sectarian Sangha influenced by the Pure Land Buddhist tradition and the teachings of Gyomay and Koyo Kubose of the Bright Dawn Lineage, that I learned about while completing the Bright Dawn Lay Ministry program.
Since those first few days not having any idea of what we were starting, we touched so many lives - and that has been because of all of you have been willing to be open and vulnerable with one another - and by truly manifesting, come as you are.