Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I used to somewhat facetiously rank the importance of Zen Center events by how many abbots were in attendance (for the sake of simplicity, abbots here is an umbrella term which includes abbesses and senior dharma teachers). For instance, Greg and Linda's wedding, which I think was seven years ago, at about this time of year, was a four-abbot event - and that was obviously impressive enough for me to have retained in my mind in the intervening period. Since then, Lou's funeral and Christina's Mountain Seat ceremony have been the nec plus ultra events, according to this ranking system.
Of course we have more abbots now than we used to, and it is sometimes possible these days in the city to have a three-abbot table at breakfast or dinner, which can make for wonderful conversation. Yesterday I was asked to help set up a recording in Abbot Steve's apartment for a conversation that will form part of our fiftieth anniversary celebrations, and having done that, it occurred to several people that I should come back with my camera at the end of the meeting to record the occasion visually, which we did by possibly breaking the world record for the number of abbots on a single sofa:

From left to right: Steve, Blanche, Mel, Linda Ruth, Christina

The abbots were concerned that they didn't look sufficiently dour and tried to rectify this
It happened that yesterday was Blanche's birthday, and it was much celebrated: we sang to her at the morning work circle, and at a special dinner in her honour. She got flowers, cake, mochi, and a day spent in meetings... I think that she also had her first session with Lydia, and is proudly announcing that she has her own personal trainer now.

Blanche with birthday flowers

And since I notice a little worry in myself that people might find this a touch flippant, I think it is my way of expressing how wonderful it is to be able to live intimately with such elders of American Buddhism, who are grand and ceremonial when they need to be, and completely down to earth the rest of the time.


Daigan said...

It is amazing to walk into the student lounge this AM and find Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi, Tenshin Roshi, Shingo Sensei and Blanche all in one room. Sometimes I am amazed by and grateful for the opportunity to live and practice here. The beauty, history and importance of this all leaves me awestruck (or perhaps Gobsmacked is a more British expression).

Other times, I am annoyed, and resentful and pushing against it all.

I suppose Dogen would say they were both practice realization manifesting.

Shundo said...

Of course he would.
Gobsmacked might indeed be the word. I rushed out of work meeting to take pictures of this august assembly, and if any of them are any good, I will post them later.

Melanie G, Austin Zen Center said...

I love these photos, and smile at the socks in the pose meant to convey gravitas. It's hard to appear serious in your socks. Do you ever sell prints?

Shundo said...

Hi Melanie,

It has been known to happen, mainly when I have done my shows here at City Center. Was there one in particular you were thinking of?

Djinn said...

Lovely pictures, Ino-samma. I was gobsmacked at the opportunity to spend some time in the same room as approximately 200 years of Zen practice.

Shundo said...

Hopefully not to the extent that you lost your usual silver-tongued charm.

Melanie G, Austin Zen Center said...

Shundo, I don't know if you'll see this comment since you may be on your way across the pond. I was thinking about a nice photo of Blanche for Kosho. Have a lovely vacation!

Shundo said...

Ah, well that is certainly possible. Let's talk when I get back.