News and updates from the Tenpyozan building project
Ze n and the Cries of the World, part 1
By Jisho Siebert
Shakyamuni Buddha taught to never turn away from any suffering. But what does that look like? 

Buddha talked about old age, sickness and death, which are timeless. But now human beings also know about climate change, racism, war, poverty, terrorism, and many other systemic forms of suffering. 

When there are hungry children in our communities and around the world, what place is there for a monastery? 

Just before I asked to become Akiba Roshi’s student, after the midnight ceremony closing a week-long meditation retreat, I asked him a similar question. 

I had burned out again working on issues of domestic and sexual violence in my community. I told him I have a more difficult time dealing with the suffering that comes up in the world outside the meditation hall than that within it. I said something like: “I’m a decent person in here, but out there, there are things I have never seen a Zen priest respond to. Going into a monastery feels like a copout, an escape. So where should I practice?”
 
He said, “There is suffering inside the meditation hall. There is suffering outside the meditation hall. You can practice anywhere.”
 
I ordained, and two weeks later, accepted a job working with sexual violence survivors at the end of a 15-year long war in Liberia, West Africa. Maybe not what my teacher had in mind, but I spent the next decade going between visits to him and posts in various countries in Africa, the Middle East and, most recently, Haiti. I was blessed to mix in more Ango (3-month monastic practice) and retreats toward the latter years of that decade. 
 
The world is our monastery and our practice place. And yet, in the next few issues I would like to explore what happens, from my experience, when our attempts to “not turn away from any suffering” are not grounded firmly in the practice of abandoning our egos. One of the key reasons Tenpyozan is relevant to our world and our own lives is precisely because of the monastic experience it can afford to a generation of priests and lay practitioners.
 
The Soto Zen Buddhist Association’s conference later this month will be on the theme “Regarding the Cries of the World,” and we invite anyone inspired by that theme to also submit articles to the Tenpyozan newsletter within this upcoming series.
Why should I Care?
By Zuiko Redding

A couple of people I really like and respect have recently asked me about Tenpyozan..  “What does it give America that we don’t already have?” they asked.  “Why should I care about all this?” they prodded.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on why anyone other than myself should care about all this.  

I went out to look at the back garden.  It hit me as I passed between the apple tree and the oak.  Once, in Japan, when I was asked why I was doing the practice, I replied, “To create more peace in the world.”  I am deeply attached (yes, in the worst sense of the word) to Tenpyozan because, for me, it will create more peace and more dharma in the world.  In this way, it doesn’t give anything special, it gives more of what we deeply need.

Tenpyozan’s unique contribution to Buddhism in America is that it makes it less thin on the ground.  In a country as vast and populous as America, the number of Zen Buddhist monasteries could probably be counted on the fingers of both hands.  The number of all Buddhist monasteries might take the hands of five people. How can so few places serve so many people?

Monasteries tend to be rather remote, cloistered places, and you might wonder what such places contribute to people whose shadows will never darken the sill of the main gate?  Many people find strength in simply knowing that such a place exists.  They think of it from time to time, and they feel peace and steadiness.  Someone is out there among those buildings doing what, because of their commitments, others can’t do, and some strength comes from that.  They want this to continue, both to strengthen them and to strengthen the dharma in America.  In this way, Tenpyozan will be a beacon to us all, reminding us to practice, giving us peace and strength to practice.

Monasteries also spread the dharma.  These are places where new dharma teachers are formed and from which they spread out through the world to show their practice and to act as guides for those who want to practice.  Today, we have maybe a couple hundred Soto Zen teachers in the entire United States.  In Japan, with perhaps half our population, there are 15,000.  Think of what could happen if there were even 1,500 dharma teachers here.  More monasteries will create more teachers who will spread the dharma, creating peace far and wide.
Tenpyozan Land Transfer

In August, the Tenpyozan Board of Directors decided to continue to seek information about how to transfer land legally from Oakland Zen Center, which has previously been housing the building portion of the Tenpyozan monastery project, to Tenpyozan as an independent nonprofit. Drawing on precedents and legal advice, this transfer is anticipated to happen slowly in the coming months.

D edicate a roof tile at Tenpyozan 
By Juntoku McCoy

The tradition of kawara-gaki or 'roof tile writing' allows individuals and families to share in the merit of building a temple. Your name, or the name of friends, or even your business can be inscribed on the back of the tile before they are placed on the roof this spring. To dedicate a roof tile at Tenpyozan, click here.

  Gratitude
Tremendous gratitude and congratulations to Hoko Karnegis, who for years has found ways to support Tenpyozan’s communication with the world and who in 2016 filled the position of Communications Committee chair. This month, she steps out of that role as she assumes her ne position as vice-Abbess of Sanshin Temple in Indiana. Without Hoko’s contributions, this newsletter would not exist. Thank you, Hoko!

What is Tenpyozan?

Tenpyozan is an international Soto Zen training and retreat center being constructed 3 hours north of San Francisco, in Lake County, California, under the guidance of Rev. Gengo Akiba. Its mission is to support, encourage, and facilitate the international transmission of Soto Zen Buddhism by offering training for Soto Zen clergy and opportunities for formal practice, cultural and religious study, and community fellowship for both clergy and laity.


There's a place for you at Tenpyozan! 

Tenpyozan's activities are mainly carried out by volunteers, and we'd love to have your participation. You might work on the land, write articles for our newsletter, lend your carpentry skills, help raise money or assist in other ways.  For a current list of volunteer activities, please  contact us .