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STO News

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  1. 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!
  2. ROSHI'S YEAR'S-END MESSAGE 2015
    ROHATSU – Celebrating Buddha's Awakening

    As we approach the end of the 38th year of the founding of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, established in 1977, we enjoy a spirit of celebration. At year's end, most societies, however "primitive," observe some sort of ritual recognition of the passing of the old year; as well as the potential represented by the new.

    In the Christian tradition, the birthday of Jesus Christ is celebrated in December. But in Buddhism, it is Siddhartha Gotama's Awakening, instead. Then, in the spring, Buddha's birthday is celebrated, as is the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven, believed by the faithful to have happened after his crucifixion, 2000 + years ago. Notably, both of these seminal events — of Christ's passion, and of Buddha's enlightenment — occurred when each was in his mid-thirties.

    But Buddha lived to an old age, of some 80 years, and died of natural causes, or, as one legend has it, of tainted pork. Which poses a challenge to those who think, or believe, that Buddha and his followers were vegetarian. We have to be somewhat circumspect as to these kinds of details, some 2500 years later.

    It may appear, on face value, that the celebrations and observances around these events, from the recorded story of different religions, represents the same kind of dynamic for adherents of the various traditions. But comparing and contrasting attitudes, and the activities they inspire, may illustrate the difference.

    Read more...

  3. STO Founder's Month Celebration Continues
    matsukadecember
    Bows of gratitude to Silent Thunder Order's Founder Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi for his efforts to bring Soto Zen to the West! Please join us in celebrating Matsuoka Roshi's life and legacy.

    Todai-ji Temple     Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan

    The Matusoka Roshi Video Documentary Project is seeking funds to complete the documentary on Matsuoka-Roshi's life and his efforts to bring Zen to America. Please click here to help us reach our $10,000 goal and to see the latest Indiegogo fund raising effort and new video footage from the STO Pilgrimage to Japan.

    Please listen to the biographical talk about Matsuoka-Roshi given by Zenku Jerry Smyers at ASZC during Winter Ango in February 2010. Click the following link to the audio recording. http://drivetimezen.org/category/zenku-talks/

    STO Affiliates and STO Supporting Members, please make a special onetime donation and an ongoing pledge of Dana to STO in honor of Matsuoka's efforts bringing Zen to the West. Click here to make your donation. Please enjoy the following video on the history of our STO Lineage created in 2011. https://youtu.be/qOiIAtg8aWA

    mission mountain2
    Mission Montain Zen Center

    Please help us continue to support Matsuoka-Roshi's legacy of bringing and sustaining Zen in the West. What he started in 1939 when he first arrived in the US continues today through Silent Thunder Order training center.

    Matsuoka-Roshi's lineage is represented by 16 Zen Centers throughout North America. ASZC is the training center for Silent Thunder Order lead by STO Abbot Taiun Michael Elliston (click here for Sensei's bio). STO Associate Abbot of Operations Zenku Jerry Smyers leads Mission Mountain Zen Center (shown above) in northwest Montana. STO Associate Abbot of Training Tesshin Jim Smith leads Atlantic Soto Zen Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Click here for a complete listing of Affiliates.

    Purchase Matsuoka-Roshi's collected talks: The Kyosaku and Mokurai.
    Click here for ordering information.

    Practice Zazen
    And support your local affiliate with your presence. See the above affiliate list for the affiliate closest to you.

    Participate in a Poetry Reading (Atlanta area only) & Fundraiser
    Kuya Minogue, practice leader at our British Columbia affiliate, Sakuraji, will be reading from her book, Zen Essentials, December 13 at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center after morning practice. The book collects poems about her zen practice and her life as a zen trainee. The poems are a personal reflection of a genuine Zen practice which will resonate with all zazen practitioners and be a true companion for those following the Middle Way.  All profits from book sales will be donated to STO.  Send an email to lizlaw108@gmail.com to purchase a copy.  Below is an poem from the book. 

    To Dogen
    I climb long steps to Eiheiji,
    bow in the Buddha hall
    sit zazen in your shrine
    question your ashes.
    "How did you see eternity
    from this treed-in temple?
    When did you awaken from
    this dream of dreams?
    Where did you meet quantum physics
    in thirteenth century Japan?
    Do mountains really walk?"
    "Shhhh," you whisper,
    Kuya. Cross you legs,
    Do zazen."
  4. Founder's Month Poetry Reading!
    Poetry Reading (Atlanta area only) & Fundraiser!

    Kuya Minogue, practice leader at our British Columbia affiliate, Sakuraji, will be reading from her book, Zen Essentials, December 13 at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center after morning practice. The book collects poems about her zen practice and her life as a zen trainee. The poems are a personal reflection of a genuine Zen practice which will resonate with all zazen practitioners and be a true companion for those following the Middle Way. All profits from book sales will be donated to STO. Email lizlaw108@gmail.com to order a copy. Below is an poem from the book.

    To Dogen
    I climb long steps to Eiheiji,
    bow in the Buddha hall
    sit zazen in your shrine
    question your ashes.
    "How did you see eternity
    from this treed-in temple?
    When did you awaken from
    this dream of dreams?
    Where did you meet quantum physics
    in thirteenth century Japan?
    Do mountains really walk?"
    "Shhhh," you whisper,
    Kuya. Cross you legs,
    Do zazen."
  5. November is Founder's Month in honor of Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi!
    Matsuoka collage3


    Please join us in celebrating Matsuoka-Roshi's (11/25/12-11/20/97) life and legacy. We invite you to celebrate in several ways.

    Both STO Affiliates and STO Supporting Members, make a special onetime donation and an ongoing pledge of Dana to STO in honor of Matsuoka's efforts bringing Zen to America. Click here to donate.

    Please help us continue to support Matsuoka-Roshi's legacy of bringing and sustaining Zen in the West. What he started in 1939 when he first arrived in the US continues today through Silent Thunder Order headquartered at Atlanta Soto Zen Center with 15 affiliates throughout US and Canada.

    Help fund the documentary of Matsuoka's Legacy by going to
    http://igg.me/at/silentthunder .

    Matsuokas nephew
    Taiun Elliston-Roshi, Zenku Jerry Smyers and others traveled to Japan in October to gather information about Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi. Interviews, film footage, and pictures will be used to create a documentary about Matsuoka's legacy. Here the STO Pilgrimage Group is visiting Rev. Hideo Matsuoka, who is Soyu Matsuoka Roshi's nephew and Abbot, at our Founders' home Temple, Tenjoji, on an island south of Hiroshima. We will share film clips in coming weeks. Please stay tuned and help us off-set costs for the project.

    Purchase Matsuoka-Roshi's collected talks The Kyosaku and Moku-Rai. Click here for ordering information.

    "The original nature is already present and shining. Most of us have become so conditioned and so scattered in our thoughts, emotional surges of despair an elation, and in our livelihood and leisure actions, that we have forgotten this real self. In Soto Zen when we sit, we let this original nature shine as it is. Its rays are perfect and of their own nature seek to radiate abundantly in all directions. When we simply stop interfering, this original nature will melt all our hardness; will untangle our confusion; will blunt all our sharp and jutting angles; and will balance us perfectly without any effort of the small self directing an assault on the great and enlightened self." (excerpt from O'Sensei Matsuoka's "Dyannayanna" lecture from Moku-Rai)

    Practice Zazen!

    Support your local affiliate with your presence. Click here to find the affiliate nearest you.

    Read and hear more about Matsuoka-Roshi's life.

    Click here for Matsuoka-Roshi's biography on the STO website.

    Zenku Jerry Smyers shared a few pearls of wisdom from Matsuoka-Roshi.

    "One Sunday during tea after zazen and morning service, Matsuoka Roshi was asked the questions of, 'How do you know if you are making progress in your zazen practice'. Even though in our zen practice, of letting go of self-centeredness, we do not look to gain anything, Matsuoka Roshi, after a moment consideration said to the student, 'Sitting Mountain feeling'."

    "On another occasion, at a similar setting Matsuoka Roshi was asked by a student, 'What is the purpose of zen practice'. Matsuoka Roshi thought for a moment and said, 'Confidence in Everyday life'."