This guest post by Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot of Houston Zen Center, was originally published on the Houston Zen Center blog.
Friends, our sangha was one of the original sponsors of May We Gather: A National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors. Buddhists of Asian descent from all Buddhist traditions in the US gathered at Higashi Honganji, in Los Angeles, which was recently vandalized. 49 Buddhists speakers gave teachings on practice, and how we can heal from violence and the causes of violence that have rocked our country: the violence that has been shown to Asian Americans for decades.
The ceremony took place on May 4th, 49 days after a gunman killed 8 people, including 6 Asian women in the Atlanta area. One of the most moving testimonies was in the form of a video by the sons of one of the women.
You can read an article about the ceremony: Learning to Heal in the Wake of Anti-Asian Attackshere. You can watch the full video of the ceremony here.
May all beings be peaceful and free from suffering, hatred, delusion, and greed.
We hope you are spending time outdoors, enjoying the spring flowers and somewhat warmer days. It’s an ongoing practice of finding ways to stay grounded and connected, as of us some get their vaccinations, others continue to wait, and infection rates remain high. You can read commentary on the pandemic everywhere, so instead of adding more, we’d like to share one thing that has helped us get through the past year: watching hummingbirds!
Here in coastal BC the Anna’s hummingbird stays year-round. This small marvel has extended its range northward over the past 50 years. Kate saw her first in mid-winter, in Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver soon after moving from New Brunswick in 1977, and could not believe her eyes. How could a hummingbird live through the winter? As she watched, it repeatedly darted out from its perch and snatched tiny gnats from the air. Mystery solved.
Anna’s hummers arrived here on Blue Mountain about seven years ago, and have been a source of daily delight ever since.The males flash their iridescent magenta head feathers in the sun. The females are the earliest nesting bird in North America, and just this past week we saw a fledgling at the feeder. Also, a few days ago we saw the first flashy male rufous hummer, returning from wintering in Mexico–no quarantine required. They arrive reliably every year just when we see the first pink salmonberry blossoms, and the females a week or so later. Soon the yard will be buzzing with hummer activity–feeding, display flights and chases.
How can we humans take ourselves quite so seriously when hummingbirds are around? Yes, we need to find our way forward, and address the serious and urgent issues of climate and social justice that will continue beyond the pandemic. And we need to do that well-rooted in our dharma practice and insight, with wisdom, compassion and skillful means. But we need not only, our formal meditation practice in the zendo, but direct experience of the world around us, the more-than-human world of such wonder, diversity and resilience. The mountains and waters, red cedars, hummingbirds, salmon, and dragonflies are our source and sustenance, our teachers.
Let’s celebrate Earth Day by going outdoors with a companion or two, and re-sourcing ourselves. And joining in community to take skillful action.
The Milwaukee Zen Center recently published Dharma Gates Are Boundless, a book with vibrant art work by a member of a prison sangha and essays by ten contemporary Soto Zen teachers. Royalties from book sales are collected for the artist, MC Winston. It’s available through Amazon for $19.50. Here is the link.
As we move on in 2021, you may enjoy watching a video of photographs from Branching Streams sanghas’ experiences in 2020. The video was compiled by Teresa Bouza (a member of Kannon Do in Mountain View, CA). It expresses many of the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows of last year.
Marcia Lieberman has authored a new book, Clean Slate: Images from Dogen’s Garden. Here is a blurb from Dale Wright, author of The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character: It’s hard to imagine a more apt portal to the heart of Dogen’s Soto Zen sensibility than Marcia Lieberman’s Clean Slate. Her brilliant photographs isolate fragments of plants from Dogen’s Japanese gardens in various stages of life’s impermanence so vividly that the fragrance seeps through the medium. Breathe in: black pine, camelia, wisteria, magnolia. Responses from five lifelong Dogen affectionados and an introductory doorway to Dogen from Soto teacher Taigen Leighton let the extraordinary Zen master and these botanical sentient beings speak to us directly. Just breathe, savoring “mountains and waters”– no translation required.