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Silent Thunder Order

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STO News

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  1. Are We What We Think We Are?!
    5-Day Sesshin - "Are We What We Think We Are?!" - Seminar at the Watershed Retreat Center in North Carolina
    Tuesday, April 5, 2016 7:00 pm Eastern Time to Sunday April 10, 2016 1:00 pm Eastern Time

    Studying Self and Other through Zazen Practice 

    In Zen tradition, the sense of self and the sense of separation between self and other is vigorously studied by the method of zazen meditation. Master Dogen speaks to this in his famous poem:
    To Study the Way is to Study the Self
    To Study the Self is to Forget the Self
    To Forget the Self ... is to Remove the Barrier from between Self and Other...

    During this Sesshin practice session we will use the stillness of zazen to investigate Buddhism's Five Skandhas: Form, Sensation, Perception, Intention, and Consciousness  with the aspiration of finding a clearer view of what our self actually is, and what it is not.

    Please join us for this 5-day meditation retreat in the mountains just north of Georgia in April. Watershed Retreat Center is located on 60 acres in a pastoral farm setting highly conducive to finding, or returning to, our true nature, in the warm embrace of Mother Nature awakening in the Spring.

    Click Here for More Information and to Register
  2. SAVE the DATE
    A Zonolite Road Block Party Benefit -
    View this email in your browser

    Festive Friday - Insider Tips

    Festive Friday parking is free, but limited. Consider taking Uber. Street parking is available along Zonolite and Dalon Roads. You may also use parking lots at 1155, 1145, 1123 and 1075 Zonolite Road. Overflow parking is available at the Sage Hill Kroger, 1799 Briarcliff Rd, about a 1/3 mile walk to the Festival. Festival Entrances are located at 1145 Zonolite Road and 1167 Zonolite Place (Atlanta Soto Zen Center). RSVP NOW >>

    For festival guests 21 & over, your $5 suggested donation entitles you to two free drink tickets. Additional drink tickets are available for further donation - 4 for $10 or $3 each. Contact for an advance copy of the festival program or for questions.

    SAVE the DATE! Friday May 6th is First Friday Festival at Zonolite. Plan to attend and bring your family and friends. Music, great food and even a circus! Watch for more details to follow.
  3. Sewing Retreat and ASZC Upcoming Events!
    STO Annual Sewing Retreat will in held on March 4-6, 2016.  You do not have to be sewing a vestment to attend.  Any and all are encouraged to participate and learn from Certified Zen Sewing Teach
    er, Kyoku Tracey Walen Sensei. Click the link below for more information.
    Sewing Retreat Information and Registration

    ASZC upcoming events!
    Saturday, February 13th

    1-Day Retreat " A Buddhist Valentine"
    Click here for more information

    5 Day Sesshin at Watershed Retreat Center!
    Are We What We Think We Are?!
    April 5th through the 10th.
    Click here for more information
  4. ASZC, STO Training Center, Has Had A Makeover!
    Zendo Renovation 2 compressed

    Thank you to everyone who helped to remodel and reset the Zendo. The remodeling lasted 60 days but the outcome is, well, as you can see, beautiful! ASZC will have a "grand-reopening" celebration soon so be on the lookout for an announcement with the details! Retreats are planned for February and March. Please plan to attend one or all!
  5. Dharma Talk – Winter Solstice 2015 by Kuya Minogue
    Within all Light is Darkness; In Darkness There is Light

    This talk is based on talks that Eihei Dogen, the 13th century founder of the type of Zen that we practice here at Sakuraji gave between 1240 and 1248 in his temple in Northern Japan. When I read Dogen's recorded dharma talks I often imagine living in that unheated stone temple without electricity or any form of central heating. In the case of these talks, Dogen and his monks had been doing so in the dead of winter. Imagine how, under these conditions, he and his students would welcome the return of the long days of light.
    Before getting into the heart of this talk, I want to briefly review the Asian understanding of darkness and light, of yin and yang. It is most important to know that in the Asian view, darkness is not equated with evil; and light is not equated with good, like it is in our western cultures. All too often I've read and heard that yin, darkness, is the negative energy and yang, light, is the positive energy. This is a very westernized interpretation. To the Asian mind, darkness is a time when we can know the oneness of all things because we can't visually distinguish one object from another. It's all one. It is only when light arises that we make the distinctions that we have to make in order to physically sustain our lives. In a way, darkness gives us an opportunity to know the oneness of all reality; and the light gives us an opportunity to know that each of us is just a unique expression of that oneness.

    Dogen begins his winter solstice talk in 1240, by quoting the Tao Te Ching, a text that was written about 1500 years earlier by Lao Tzu in China. "Attaining oneness, heaven is clear; attaining oneness earth is at rest." Dogen interprets these words for his students. He says, "Attaining oneness a person is at peace, attaining oneness the time becomes bright. "

    This idea of attaining oneness is best explained by a classic Zen metaphor. I won't go on and on about it, but I do want to give you this image. Imagine that all of reality is as big as a prairie sky. Now imagine looking at that sky through a plastic straw. This is the usual way we view our lives, but if we truly realize that we are, in fact, the whole sky, we realize oneness.

    Realization of our oneness with all phenomena grows and sustains our best intentions as the days grow longer. And within this growth of light we have an opportunity to arouse awakening mind, to invigorate our spiritual practice, to engage the way with wholehearted effort, and to attain realization of our profound interconnectedness. With clear realization that we are all one body, with and within each other; with and within the earth; and with and within the whole universe, we have no need to express greed (which creates poverty and ravages our planet for wealth), hatred, (wages wars), or delusion (that we won't get enough, and that happiness is something to seek outside ourselves.) Dogen teaches that we have already attained the power and vitality that is within this growth towards full realization of our oneness with all being. He says we are all born with original enlightenment. We need only polish this jewel through practice to make it shine.

    At 9:49 pm tonight, we begin our journey back into the light. This arising of yang (that is the slow increase of daylight) is an auspicious occasion. This is our opportunity to begin our lives anew. Of course every moment brings us that opportunity, but winter solstice is a special time for renewal.

    2600 years ago, an ordinary man named Siddharta Gautama sat under a bodhi tree for eight days and abruptly changed his brain through the simple practice of meditation. Like a butterfly, he underwent a complete metamorphosis. His transformation was so complete, enduring and repeatable by all humans that he is still remembered as the Awakened One. He awoke to a complete understanding of how to reduce suffering and increase happiness, and then spent the rest of his life teaching what he had learned.
    Winter solstice is an awakening of the entire planet. All year we have been sustaining our lives as best we can. The number of ways in which we can do harm no matter how small, to ourselves and others in our endeavor to survive is inexhaustible. We can't survive without diminishing the life of some other sentient being, be it plant or animal. These harmful acts of body speech and mind leave traces – and on one side of your piece of art, you have depicted those traces.

    Solstice is the time to reach a new maturity. Today the long length of night departs. In just three hours, we will be at the darkest moment of the year. We will be immersed in oneness. Yin will have reached its fullness. And then, with one tilt of the earth's axis yang arises. At this moment our state of body and mind changes and we will already be moving toward the growing length of days. As we release our karma by burning our pieces of art in the fire and empower our best intentions for the coming year, we can celebrate with a boisterous clamor. We can feel happy and know that this planet sustains us. We can dance with joy.

    On this auspicious occasion of the first arising of yang I respectfully wish you all ten thousand blessings in every area of your life. This is, indeed, an auspicious day and we now enter an auspicious season with ten million changes that begin with the warming of the earth and end at Equinox with the sprouting of greens in our gardens. After we have burned our pieces of art, we can eat the solstice feast and, later enjoy a deep renewing sleep.

    Happy Enlightenment Day. Happy Solstice!