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EkiZen - Newsletter by the Shinnyoji Sangha

Spring 2015 - n. 22 year VI (PDF)

Image of the Barobodur in Jakarta, Giava Island, Indonesia.

A GIFT TO SHINNYOJI

After many weeks travelling and crossing 9200 miles on a container of the freighter Hong Kong Bridge, the Jizō statue along with the Hokora small temple have arrived at Shinnyoji. They were donated by Rev. Matsuura Skunkai Kanshu, the abbot of the Mibudera Temple in Kyōtō in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Kyōtō and Florence as twin cities. The small temple is now in the guest quarters and will soon be secured in the backyard upon a specially crafted base. We are deeply thankful for Rev. Matsuura Skunkai Kanshu for his generosity and affection toward Shinnyoji and Florence

Construction for the Hokora in the Shinnyoji garden.

TRANSLATION OF THE ARTICLE from “Kyoto Shinbun” newspaper, published on Thursday January 22nd, 2015

Headline: Jizōbon will arrive in Florence

A Buddhist temple, the Jizō statue with Hokora (small temple). The Miburdera temple from the Chukyo-ku neighborhood in Kyoto are donating it to the Buddhist temple in Florence so Italian children can enjoy the Jizōbon holiday. This year marks the 50th anniversary since Kyoto and Florence became twin cities, Mibudera hopes that the connection between the two cities becomes ever closer through this Tradition. The recipient of this donation is the Shinnyoji temple belonging to the Sōtōshū School who Abbot is Rev. Anna Maria Shinnyo Marradi. Rev. Marradi, interested in the Jizō Bosatsus, visited Miburdera where more than 3,000 Jizō statues are found over ten years ago. The two temples have stayed in touch ever since. Six years ago the Mibudera temple donated six Jizō statutes in hopes of allowing the people of Florence to more closely experience the Jizōbon tradition, which is a traditional holiday in Kyoto. This time, they decided to also send a Hokora, a small temple housing the Jizō Bosatsu statue. The statue that will be donated is a reproduction of the one created during the Muromachi period (1392-1573), cultural accessories will also be sent, such as flower vases, lanterns and candleholders. The donation is expected to be shipped via sea at the end of January and arrive in Florence in March. In the meantime, in Florence they are preparing for the 50th anniversary since Kyoto and Florence because twin cities which they will speak about the Jizōbon holiday. Matsuura Shunkai, Kanshu (Abbot) of Mibudera said: “Jizōbon is a religious holiday where the people living in this neighborhood gather to pray for a peaceful year. I am moved for this occasion to bring the immortal cultural heritage of our Tradition to a place so close to the Holy See”.

Photo captions:
Above: Matsuura Kanshu of Mibudera with the reproduction of the Jizō statue that will be donated to Shinnyoji: written: “I hope this contributes to deepening the friendly exchanges between the two cities.”
Below: The Jizō Bosatsu statue, Hokora (the small temple), and a few of the accessories that will be donated to the Shinnyoji temple in Florence from Mibudera.

ANCIENT TEXTS
DOGEN'S PURE STANDARDS FOR THE ZEN COMMUNITY.
A TRANSLATION OF THE EIHEI SHINGI
TAITAIKO GOGEJARIHO

THE DHARMA WHEN MEETING SENIOR INSTRUCTORS OF FIVE SUMMER PRACTICE PERIODS

1. When meeting senior instructors who have trained for five summer practice periods, you should wear your okesa and carry your zagu1. 2. Do not wear the okesa covering [both] shoulders. A sutra says, "When monks meet the Buddha, or other monks or seniors, they should not wear the okesa over both shoulders. [If they do], when they die they will enter the Iron Shackle Hell."2 3. Do not stand and look at a senior while leaning against something with your legs crossed. 4. Do not stand and look at a senior with your arms dangling. 5. Never laugh raucously without shame or embarrassment. 6. Stand according to the "Dharma of Serving your Teacher."3 7. If you are admonished, bow politely and listen and accept it, and, in accord with dharma, contemplate and reflect on it. 8. Always arouse a humble mind. 9. Do not scratch or pick at lice while meeting a senior. 10. Do not spit in front of a senior. 11. Do not chew your tooth stick [yoji *] or rinse your mouth while facing a senior. 12. If the senior has not yet asked you to sit down [when you are with them], do not sit down casually. 13. When sitting on the same platform alongside a senior of five summers, do not [accidentally] poke them. 14. Do not sit at the place where a senior of five summers usually sits or lies down. 15. You should know that someone who has done five summer practice periods or more has the position of ajari [instructor]; someone with ten summers or more has the position of osho* [high priest]. This is nothing other than the sweet dew of the unstained dharma. 16. When a respected person of five summer practice periods asks you to sit down, gassho* and bow, and then sit down. Courteously sitting upright, do not lean against a wall. 17. When sitting do not be rude and indulgently lean against any furniture. 18. If there is discussion you should remain humble and not try to gain the superior position. 19. Do not open your mouth wide when yawning but cover it with your hand. 20. When you are before a senior, do not rub your face, stroke your head with your hands, or play with your legs or arms. 21. Before a senior do not make great sighing sounds. Be respectful in accord with dharma. 22. When you are before a senior, keep your body upright and settled. 23. If you see a senior coming to where you are with another senior, give them your seat and bow your head, waiting a while for the senior's instruction. 24. When you are across the wall from a senior's room, do not chant scriptures in a loud voice. 25. Unless a senior has directed you to do so, do not expound the dharma to people. 26. If a senior questions you, you should offer an appropriate answer. 27. Always observe the senior's expression, and do not cause the senior disappointment or serious distress. 28. While you are before a senior, do not exchange bows with your peers. 29. In front of a senior, do not accept prostrations from others. 30. If there is something burdensome to be done where a senior is, do it first yourself. If there is something enjoyable, offer it to the senior. 31. If you meet with a senior of five summer practice periods, you should revere the senior as an elder. Do not lose your enthusiasm. 32. If you are intimate with seniors who have done either five or ten summer practice periods, you should [still] inquire of them about the meaning of the sutras and precepts. Do not become negligent or lazy. 33. When you see that a senior is sick, you should respectfully nurture them and help them recover according to dharma. 34. When you are before a senior or near their room, do not utter unbeneficial or meaningless talk. 35. When before a senior, do not discuss the good and bad points or strengths and weaknesses of honored masters from other temples. 4 36. You should not ignore a senior and engage in pointless argument or inquiry. 37. Do not shave your head, clip your nails, or change your underrobes when in front of a senior. 38. When a senior is not yet asleep, do not go to sleep first. 39. When a senior has not yet started eating, do not eat first. 40. When a senior has not yet bathed, do not bathe first. 41. When a senior has not yet sat down, do not seat yourself first. 42. If you meet a senior on the path, bow with inclined body, and then follow behind the senior. If you receive some instruction from the senior, simply obey it and then return [to what you were doing]. 43. If you see a senior has forgotten something by mistake, point it out courteously. 44. If you see a senior making a mistake, do not laugh loudly. 45. When you visit a senior's room, first snap your fingers three times outside the door before entering. 46. If you enter a senior's room, enter through the side of the doorway. Do not go through the center of the doorway. 5 47. When you enter or leave the chamber of either a five-summer or ten-summer senior, you should use the guest stairs, not the host stairs. 6 48. If a senior has not yet finished the meal do not finish eating first. 49. When a senior has not yet stood up, do not stand up first. 50. If a senior is expounding the sutras to a donor, sit upright and listen carefully. Do not get up hurriedly and leave. 7 51. Do not scold someone you are supposed to scold while you are in front of a senior. 52. Before a senior do not call to someone from a distance with a raised voice. 53. Do not untie your okesa, set it down in a senior's room, and then leave. 54. When a senior is lecturing about a sutra, do not correct their mistakes from a lower seat. 55. Before a senior do not raise your knees and hold them with your arms. 56. When a senior is in a low place and you are in a high place, you should not bow to each other. 57. Do not bow to a senior from up on your seat. 58. When you are at your place and see a senior standing on the ground, do not bow to them in shashu. 59. You should be aware when a senior's teacher is present. 60. When a senior's disciple is present, you should be aware of their manners to their teacher and not disturb the senior. 61. When a senior meets together with a senior, both need not [follow these instructions for meeting] a senior. 62. Seeing seniors is inexhaustible. The first summer practice period we see seniors; at the ultimate fulfillment we see seniors.8

The above dharma for meeting a senior of five or ten summer practice periods is exactly the body and mind of the buddhas and ancestors. Do not fail to study this. If you do not study this, the ancestral teachers' Way will degenerate, and the sweet dew of the dharma will be extinguished. In the vast sky of the dharma realm, this is rare and difficult to encounter. Only people who have been developing wholesome faculties throughout previous lifetimes can hear this. Truly it is the ultimate summit of the Mahayana.

Taught to the assembly the second year of Kangen [i.e., 1244], the third month, the twenty-first day, in Echizen Province at Yoshimine Temple9.

NOTES:
1: “Anziano” è taiko [più grande di sé]. “Formatore” è ajari, termine proveniente dal sanscrito acharya, e indica ogni monaco anziano qualificato per avere discepoli. Al tempo di Dōgen, i periodi di formazione di tre mesi erano tenuti ogni anno durante l'estate. “Dharma” nel saggio indica l'“insegnamento” del corretto atteggiamento da avere nella Pratica verso gli altri, ma ovviamente esso denota le “maniere” e persino l'”etichetta” quando si incontrano gli anziani.
2: Nel Sōtō Zen moderno, l'okesa è generalmente indossato soltanto sopra la spalla sinistra, come fanno tutti i monaci buddhisti. Quando si conferisce l'ordinazione o durante la cerimonia di pentimento che avviene due volte al mese, il celebrante indossa l'okesa su entrambe le spalle. L'“anziano” qui e in altri posti di questo saggio è joza, termine che appare essere usato in maniera interscambiabile con taiko.
3: Il “Dharma del Servizio al Maestro” indica sia un testo attribuito al Patriarca indiano Ashvaghosha sia un altro testo avente lo stesso titolo di Daoxuan.
4: Maestri onorati è sonshuki [venerabili anziani]
5: Le istruzioni per entrare nella stanza di un anziano richiamano le istruzioni per entrare nella sala dei monaci. Vedi il terzo paragrafo de “Il Dharma per Prendere il Cibo”.
6: “Ospiti e scale per gli ospiti” è un'espressione oscura. Potrebbe riferirsi ai lati sinistro e destro delle scale per recarsi nella stanza di un anziano.
7: Benefattore è danotsu, che proviene dal sanscrito danapati. Dana, la generosità, è la prima delle sei perfezioni nel Buddhismo Mahayana. Il sistema dei sostenitori per i templi buddhisti giapponesi individuali è chiamato danka sin dal diciassettesimo secolo.
8: L'ultimo adempimento è gokuka [risultato finale] che si riferisce al frutto della Pratica ed è equiparato alla buddhità.
9: Il tempio Yoshimine è un piccolo tempio nei pressi di Eiheiji dove la comunità di Dōgen stette per circa un anno durante la costruzione di Eiheiji.

EVENTS
HŌYŌ in memory of Luigi Sarti
Castello di Sorci, Anghiari (AR) – Sunday November 30, 2014

Message from Rev. Shinnyo Rosh in memory of Teacher Luigi Sarti.

This is a sentimental place for me to remember Teacher Luigi Sarti whose friends lovingly called him Luigino. A cheerful, outgoing, open soul always open to what others gave to him. He is unforgettable after meeting him. I remember our first encounter long ago in October 2007, I was at San Sepolcro attending a demonstration organized by the Cultural Association AGAPE, where he invited me to speak about my Zen practice. At that time I had not yet completed my monkhood and took annual trips to Japan to visit my Teacher for instruction until I was entitled Teacher and Abbot in 2008, the following year.
At the end of the conference I received a series of questions, Luigino’s unique face and vocal tone summoned my heart. The next morning he picked me up at the hotel and took me to see San Sepolcro where we visited the local museum called, as he described, the Museum of Piero, where he commented on various paintings, in particular “The Resurrection” by Piero della Francesca. I immediately loved the light in his bright eyes and that lit up with enthusiasm of the exhibition and deeply explaining all of the things he loved about what he saw. Since then I have returned several times to the Sorci Castle, like on November 29th, 2008, for a Zazen sitting and an introduction to the Practice and where I again met with Teacher Luigino and spoke with him for a long time, finding reference points between his Research and our Practice.

Again, in 2009, we spoke about Zen, sitting in Zazen together and shared experiences about with a few other practitioners and acquaintances during the community dinner at the Castle. We spoke about the most important Passage rituals that I had passed in Japan, I invited him to visit our Temple in Florence. With great joy he came to visit us on September 26th, 2010, the following year when my Teacher Azuma Roshi presided the first Ordination ceremony that I officiated myself. They entered the Zendo, the Meditation Room in our Temple, Teacher Luigi Sarti along with Giovanni Terrieri, Enrico and Pietro Bini. Their presence was greatly desired by Luigino, spiritually closing a circle that had been open since our first encounter, sealing a close relationship between all of us together.
I went back to the Castle a few months after November 2010 for a day-long Practice, along with a friend, Nomura Sensei, the profession of Art History at the University of Art History in Gifu, who I remember had an intense visit with Teacher Sarti. I once again, on June 18th, 2011, along with Rev. Tamura Genryu, the vice abbot of the Beisen-ji Temple who came to Italy to help me during the ceremony in which I ordained Yushin to monk. Here I again had the opportunity to meet with Luigino, this visit to Sorci Castel was to officiate the funeral ceremony for our friend, Pietro Bini.
Luigino then reminded me that during the conference at San Sepolcro, replying to one of Pietro’s questions about death, I promised him a book that due to his worsening condition, I was not able to give him. Since then I have not been able to come back to Sorci Castle and meet with Zen practitioners, but good fortune has allowed to me to meet with Luigino exactly where we met, at San Sepolcro. It was February 14th, 2013 and I had just arrived in San Sepolcro to help out at the Bergonzoni performance at the Dante Theatre.
In the city center of San Sepolcro, looking for the theater, I met Teacher Sarti who warmly hugged me and invited me to another meeting at the Castle reminding me about the book that he wanted sent to Pietro. He was splendid as always, with an endless generosity, his big heart made sure that I had something to eat before the theater started; he took me to a pizzeria and at the end of the meal, I asked for the check and the waiter said that the bill had already been paid. Every now and then we looked at each other, a quick gaze and then we looked away, with a comforting feeling that we already knew each other, undoubtedly united in our Practice. Reconnecting in this life was brief but a deep impression was left and it will unforgettably endure in my heart. He was a beloved man, a man who knew how to warmly live amongst others, a man who lived waiting for the Path before him, ready to fearlessly confront the world like those who are truly upon the Way and who openly live by heart-mind, aware that welcoming and giving strengthen the disposition of the true Researcher.

Poetry from “Of Nature”.
by Luigi Oldani

This very happy autumn
and very sad, colored leaves
never seen, yet years are but
the yellow leaves in the woods, trees,
I walk against the wind here in all the streets
of Florence, Milan, Tokyo, Montpellier
Paris, Sain Lō... this close autumn
to my friends, close to the forest of Mount
Senario, blessings, water always water
saintly waves that call us men, dust...
this autumn I walk and I look
around and see like my eyes taste
that everything brings me daily sweetness
a happy anxiety that confuses me and perhaps
cleanses me and I no longer know who is the woods
who the branches, those years and seasons and
the cold arising and the sunset on a string
of smoke to not frost the valley fields,
I am moved when precisely perceive and
consumed by a sense of belonging
a support from the world around me while
the humidity of the wood whispers there is another
and this is reality, already here... this autumn
Anghiari,

Anghiari, wide valley holding the Sorci Castle
in the ancient angles of a field
envious and old, I see a rose between its walls
the garden reflects an everlasting life
hidden... this autumn I walk and enter,
I enter the landscape like never before and it lives
Around me like a house where I return, ours.

Speech by Rev. by Rev. Shinnyo Roshi – Sorci Castle - 30 November, 2014

A few words about Zen, its etymology derives from the Chinese character Chan, a phonetic transliteration from the Sanskrit word Dyana, literally meaning meditation, in fact, our ZaZen Practice, where Za means seated, is the Practice of seated meditation. Seated in silence, abandoning body and mind, simply being, this is the Practice upon which our Sōtō Zen School is based, founded by Dōgen Zenji in 1227 after his return to Japan from China.
Nowadays there is a lot to be said about Zen, even in the various Zen Schools outside of Japan, this is because Zen, born in the Land of the Rising Sun, finds a way of infiltrating itself into various realities according to which country is it found. This is why there is a Korean Zen, a Vietnamese Zen, a Western Zen expressed like American Zen rather than a European Zen, and specifically an Italian Zen that is searching for a peculiar identity. Every Teacher brings a part of him or herself, and so there are diverse realities of Zen practice in Italy from the most observant of Japanese rituals to that of the latest generation that transforms original Zen into Mindful Zen. I’ll leave it to your interest to look into the current panorama of Zen practice, I am now going to focus on strongpoints and guidelines of our practice at the Shinnyoji Temple in Florence.
My education took place in Japan, in monastery specialized for training: Daijoji, a national Japanese heritage site recognized by UNESCO, holding within it a Butsuden, the Room of the Buddha where every morning the monks recite the most sacred parts of the texts
Ando so the Zen that I embody, which was compassionately Transmitted from my Teacher, Rev. Azuma Dochoroshi, the 72nd Abbot of Daijoji, is absolutely a Zen that respects its origins and maintains the Japanese Tradition.
At the same time, while expressing this Practice in Italy, in the city of Florence, the Teachings must be mediated through the reality in which we live, also respecting the Tradition.
Most importantly, what I must emphasize is that, in my opinion, the Zen that we practice is a Liberating path. A path that brings the practitioner to his or her own Buddha nature, to the awareness of one’s own nature, to uncovering the Buddha on the path to Awakening. Therefore requiring a strong person, ardent, courageous, compassionate, able to discern.

In a world like today’s that tends to dull the human mind and automate emotional reactions, in a humanity that is succumbing more and more to closed control, placing one’s freedom in favor of a boasting “security”, taking consciousness of one’s life and Buddhist reality is not an easy task. I personally do not believe that we will encounter a period of greater consciousness of the human condition and human behavior. Also as the ancient Vedas recite, we are in the “Kaliyuga” period, an obscure moment, and I don’t believe that there will be an inversion of the tendency, also in virtue of the discussions and aspirations of Gianbattista Vico. This is way it is even more important that there are people who, with their silent effort and works testify at a human level, a free person, independent, taking control of one’s own life. This is our walk, this is our daily research in every moment of our existence, like spiritual researchers of the Way that the Buddha left. If one doesn’t pursue the way nor testify until our deaths what we believe, our lives will be wasted, because our pain will not transform into redemption, or catharsis.
I heard on the radio the other day that now in Milan there are taxis with a surveillance camera on board, insurance agencies benefit from those who accept putting a black box on their cars because it maps out every move, in exchange, the cab drivers receive a discount on fire and theft insurance policies. In Brescia, armed vigilantes patrol service areas to prevent the outbreak of riots. This entire system of protection is offered to guarantee our safety, and every chooses to be guaranteed safety, ready to pay, more or less unaware of the losing their freedom of action and privacy, because there is always more fear, this is always less strength in the individual because of the need to fill an empty space with anxiety. This is where the need to delegate our moral and physical security to someone else is born. Our obsession with this protection delegated by others, seems to protect us, it is in fact weakening us and always looking for something exterior to hang or lean on, freefalling from our self-esteem and self-reliance and our human abilities, slaves to machines and video cameras. The telephone phenomenon is the confirmation. People who no longer know how to live alone, who as soon as they have a free moment from others, go straight to their phones, most people walk while talking on cell phones on the street, running away from time alone, observing their selves. A world where no one takes action but hides inside a virtual reality. Where there is no longer the courage for one’s own actions, to truly react to and express one’s own emotional state, fragility, sentiments, personal thoughts, and that doesn’t follow a stereotype. Fragility that shouldn’t be feared, rather, is a part of our human nature. The most important thing is to become aware of our specific Buddha nature and take part in a path toward transformation, if we can.
Sit in Zazen to know yourself and discover, along with our weaknesses, also our strong points, and the infinity of potential that each one of us has within. Sit and embrace our limits, deeply welcome and recognize the light and darkness in ourselves, to be in contact with how our minds fool us, like our subconscious fears that stray us away from Awakening to the dignity of the Buddha. Sit and uncover feelings of gratefulness and recognition toward the entire universe and for having the opportunity in this body, mind and life. Sit and embrace our pain, let it go and transform in the silence of Zazen if suffering, a releasing process of our Karma and our destiny. Sit and uncover the walking Buddha, undoubtedly united with all human and sentient beings around us. Sit and uncover this red thread that unites us and reconnects us to the divine, to the pulsating subline, in every expression of the universe. Sit and simply be, encounter know, and recognize yourself, loose yourself in all beings, as our Founder Dogen Zenji teaches. Finally, sit with effort, determination and consistency, to move along the Path of Awakening, not only for yourselves, but also for the good of all beings.
A path of study and deeply spiritual is a slow walk, dutiful, requiring patience, concentration, perseverance, listening to others, from the study, to taking consciousness in each everyday action. The Awakening of our consciousness, of our True Nature, of our Original nature, it doesn’t not go beyond the here and now of our everyday lives. The Awakening to our Buddhahood happens in our minds, our ordinary mind is what leads us to Awakening, and there is no mind outside of our own, which suddenly become the Buddha mind. This is how the ultimate Truth, according to our Teaching, is constantly in front of our eyes, it’s just us who cannot see it. Our practice centralizes our effort and work, by cleaning the mind in the silence of Zazen we reconnect with the Source that is within ourselves, with our mind that is Originally pure. From there begins the slow transformation process, of reacquiring serenity, that is born from recognizing the unified One with the entire universe, One along with the others, capable of bettering the quality of our lives once we abandon our ego and egoism, our attachments and above all, our fears and we break the barriers of illusion that we think keep us from harm.
Once we learn how to speak with our overflowing egos, to relate to it, when we realize that our strength is to welcome everything that we encounter rather than fight and work against it, living in a sterile though frame thinking “I like it, therefore I accept it”, o “I don’t like it, therefore I refuse it”, once we discover that we are capable of being fluid like water flowing, taking shape according to where it is held, without losing its particularities, at that point we are truly ready for making big changes. Zen is not made up of words and a Zen walk cannot be explained through words. It is a Practice beyond writings and speeches that is transmitted via I Shin den Shin, from heart/mind to heart/mind from Teacher to follower, in an uninterrupted line from the historic Buddha to today. We cannot explain what Zen is, we can only manifest it and testify it in every action of our lives. It was this way for me, my Teacher, through 84 generations from the historic Buddha Shakyamuni, poured his bowl into mine.

Great steps have occurred in the past three years:

1) Enrolment into European Sokanbu Soto Zen, therefore monks recognized in Japan
2) Recognition from the Suumucho Japan as an official Temple outside of Japan, in the world, in Europe, in Italy, authorized to diffuse Sōtō Zen Buddhism.
3) Enrolment in UBI, starting November 20th, with recognition by the Italian state that I am a religious leader, given access to prisons, schools and hospitals.
4) Three-year role of Kokusaifukyoshi for Europe, meaning a kyoshi Zen missionary with the responsibility to diffuse Zen in Europe.

Risks:

1) That we become a new church, by loose definition.
2) That we become a New Age organization, losing our identity.
3) That we become a therapeutic-psychological practice.
4) That we become anything other than the saving religious practice, not in efforts of staying well and helping the well-being of others.

Our main responsibility is to conserve, preserve, and transmit our essence in the most faithful way, the one that since the year 1200 has been Taught and Transmitted, so that nothing is lost or changed.

NOTE: According to most of the Hindu Sacred Scriptures, including the Vedas, the Kaliyuga (lit. “The grading era”), it is the last of the four yuga; described as an obscure era, characterized by a number of conflicts and diffusion of spiritual ignorance. This era began with the physical death of Krishna (which according to the Surya Siddhanta, this event establishes the Hindu calendar, beginning at midnight on February 18th 3102 BC) and will last 432,000 years, ending in 428,899 AC: Kalki, the tenth and last avatar of Vishnu will appear in that year upon a white warhorse holding a flaming sword with which he will dispel evil. Il Kali Yuga is the last of the four Yugas, and at its end the world will begin a new Satya Yuga (or Golden Age): this implies the end of the world as we know it (more than what happens at the end of the other Yugas, because history will fall into an oblivion) and the Earth will return to an earthy paradise.

INTER-RELIGIOUS CONVENTION

Message by Rev. Shinnyo Roshi for the inter-religious convention: “Together for Peace” which took place at the Oblate Convent in Florence on January 13th, 2015.

Dear Friends,

It wasn’t possible for us to be physically together tonight, but we are together in our hearts. In behalf of myself and the entire Sangha of the Shinnyoji Temple, we would like to offer our heartfelt concern for the recent painful events.
What happened in Paris is, unfortunately, only one of the more frequent episodes of shocking violence in the name of a god that surely was not a Loving and Compassionate Being that embraces people of various beliefs.
The pain and horror in Paris are the same found in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, and in an infinite number of other places where senseless cruelty tries to prevail.
We unite with all of you, in prayer, in Zazen, until our minds and hearts catalyze energy releasing Compassion and Love, radiating peace and solidarity wherever the blindness of the obscure side of the Spirit is found.
Everything that happens, in any place, has an effect upon us. Everything is inter-related and inter-dependent, every single instant of Compassion and Love cause events that create wide waves: it is our job to keep this change alive.
A fraternal greeting to each one of you.

Rev. Anna Maria Shinnyo

4th ANNIVERSARY SINCE THE EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN.

Wednesday, March 11th, from 6:30 to 8:00 am, the Hōyō Funeral Ceremony was held in remembrance of the earthquake in Eastern Japan in 2011. In honor of the victims, at 6:46 (the exact time of the quake in Italian time, as in all Sōtō Zen Temples throughout the world) the bell was sounded and the Sutras were recited, accompanied by the Hopes for a quick rebirth in that region.

A TRIP TO SARDINIA

I came with the Teacher to a trip to Sardinia from February 6-8 to visit her close friend Antonio Pinna.
I have been to Sardinia several times before, but this trip was a chance to see new places that I have heard about.

I was amazed by the green color of the Sinis and Marmilla after having always considered Sardinia as a barren land, it was an attractive surprise to see stretches of green prairie beneath a blue sky, and it seemed like Scotland or Ireland.
Upon arrival, Mr. Pinna drove us to Barumini, sparking our curiosity for the local antiquities, the symbols, the suppositions on the origins and roots united all of Mediterranean civilization.
His eyes gazed like ours at the Museum of the Stone Giants at Monte Prama and he took us to see the Losa Nuraghes (ancient megalithic edifice found in Sardinia, developed during the Nuragic Age between 1900 and 730 BCE) and Sinis beach, accompanied by the deafening noise of the wind and the heavy white clouds that seemed to fall over.

The trip opened up another chance to learn and another ray of light upon the Way. Constant Practice is there, imminent, in listening and in freedom from attachment.

Piergiorgio Masi

CALLIGRAPHY COURSE

This past January 12th, a course for the path to learn Zen Calligraphy began with 5 practitioners at Shinnyoji grappling with this ancient and difficult discipline under the guidance of calligraphy teacher Nicola Piccioli.
Calligraphy, or Shodō, in Zen monasteries embodies a fundamental role of Practice, deep meditation, equal to Zazen itself.
The course consists of 12 lessons until June 15th. Participation is open to everyone.

Zen Calligraphy
Starting January 2015
Twelve lessons in exclusively for Italy
With Teacher Nicola Huoyun Piccioli
FeiMo Contemporary Calligraphy

The ordinary mind is the Way
Course Schedule
12 January, 26 January, 09 February, 23 February
09 March, 23 March, 13 April, 27 April
11 May, 25 May, 08 June, and 15 June
From 6:00 to 7:30 pm

HYMN OF SHINNYOJI

On Saturday February 14th, Teacher Volfgango Dami spent an intense day working at the Temple creating the musical composition for the Hymn of Shinnyoji. The Hymn, along with the Seal give an identity to Shinnyoji, combining the distant and deep roots of our Practice’s reality intertwined in Florence and Western society.

Hymm of Shinnyoji

1. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
Flying on the wings of Zazen, of the Lineage Daijōji.
From the heart of Japan, Azuma Docho Roshi.
In Dante’s home town.
All is One, all is here.

2. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
Founded by Tettsu Gikai, by Keizan Zenji continued forth.
Upon their Path we place our steps.
All is One, all is here.

3. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
Buddha’s footsteps are before us, of the Lineage Daijōji.
The Path of Dōgen Zenji flourishes brightly.
All is One, all is here.

4. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
The silent space welcomes the heart, of the Lineage Daijōji.
Intense Practice lavishes harmony.
All is One, all is here.

5. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
I Ten, the Sky of Italy will open on the purple Fleur-de-lis.
Buddha’s compassion spreads in our hearts.
All is One, all is here.

6. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
The Sangha in graceful movement, a passion’s sacred forge.
Constant Practice, made true by serving
All is One, all is here

7. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
Zazen reigns supreme at Shinnyoji, the Dharma manifested.
A candle always burning, scented by incense.
All is One, all is here.

8. A Zen Temple in Florence: Shinnyoji.
From the valley echoes the sound of the Path that leads to Shinnyoji.
The door opens to the wanderer’s knock.
The Dharma reveals itself.
All is One, all is here. Gedatsumon hiraku.

Lyrics – Rev. Shinnyo Marradi
Musica del M. Volfango Dami
Arrangements - M° Carlo Ippolito

Sesshin 23-24 January. Rev. Shinnyo Roshi could not attend the Sesshin.

Sesshin 27-28 February.

TESTIMONIES OF OUR PRACTICE

The more I love life, the Zen Path.

I can confirm that the more I practice Zen, the more I love life, it is a sort of simplification that is roughly what I try to express.
In faith in the Buddha Way, meaning faith as expressing the search for “Buddhahood” in each person, for yourself and for the good of all beings, but I don’t want to use sayings or dogma... What is the Buddha Way? I think you can call it His feeling and His wanting, at the origin, without intellectual and dogmatic postulations... A beautiful challenge, you could say, it really is, it is also a search that is hard for me to carry out, it is a search that for many aspects is facilitated by our Teacher Rev. Shinnyo Roshi thanks to the Zen that she expresses and teaches.
What I get up or when I go to bed, and see the zafuton, when I walk through the hallway at home and see the small altar with the ‘ancestors’ and loved ones, I know that the Way is there. Its Being comforts me every day, I accept this comfort-protection given to me, sometimes egotistically but thankfully, sometimes I share it and in a certain I contribute to the strength that is expressed by Zazen.
But is never a constriction or a ‘chore’ for me, it is a part of my life, without judgement or without a weary spirit trying to get something. I would say, if I may, happiness.
The ‘feeling of life’ is very strong for me, this means taking part of life and not ‘watching it from afar’, it means living what life is in this moment and what it expresses. The Zen path is present in itself (Life) without separation, It Is, but not divided. In fact, I have a natural and instant non-sharing toward everything that it expresses or seems to express in a sort of excessive formality and dogmatic religiosity. This aspect can be a limit or a gift, it depends... Because perhaps my nature or personality helps me better express myself in simple ways, or at least it seems to go this way without pretention, which for is synonymous to non-truth, and the True-Honesty in a spiritual path is the base on which to build upon, it is the root that grows fruit... And I can’t imagine what fruit would be produced without this quality...
This is my current path, situated upon a search for a Truthfulness that the Buddha preached (if I may say it like this) and many that Sutra exist, in strongly feeling Zen like a life force and liberation and an acceptance of the way that is ingrained into Zen. In an expression of the Zen that respect and transmits the Ancients and our Japanese tradition and a more Italian Path...
As I know where my nature is, I also know that Form is essential because it itself is meditation, or better, it is a ‘losing yourself’ in that beloved emptiness-existence with another, also for many poets and artists, I now that perfecting yourself should be cold and dry but done with the heart. I know that for myself and the entire Sangha, I would like to help and support more and more as we already do.
Through all of this, I receive the primary importance of Rev. Shinnyo Roshi’s teachings. They are an example and that I am always more and more grateful for, for everything she has done and is doing for Italian and European Zen.
Gasshō

Shinden

I believe that every Practitioner has his or her own way to access Zen. In these years of Practice at the Temple, I discovered my affinity with ritual and the Form. Crossing the threshold of the Temple, coming from the everyday world always requires a new way of centralizing yourself, a constant call from the deep root of one true self. This is how the Form has always helped me, from wearing the robes to giving the offering, little by little life outside the Temple lightens its load. I have always for this respect very eloquent, the sound of the bell that begins Zazen. In fact, it is the “story” of this everyday effort of centralizing yourself of constant personal practice. The sound that before Zazen, can be strained and acute but then transforms during the meditation becoming more wide and round by the end of the sitting. Sometimes I notice this change, an even though years have passed, and I am always amazed.
This year I learned that cultivating the Form mean respecting the little things, caring about small gestures. The elegance of movements show respect toward what one does and the clarity of their intentions. This is way I would like to share a passage that I heard in the past few days:
One more the Ekido teacher was in Zazen, the bell was sounded. At the end of the mediation sitting, the teach called the attendant and asked him who has climbed Shourou, the tower.
- A newcomer who recently arrived.
The Abbot search for him.
- What was your state of mind while ringing the bell?
Fearing that he did not properly follow directions properly, the young monk stuttered:
- I don’t know, Teacher... it was the first time...
- Do not be afraid, you didn’t ring poorly. Rather, I have rarely hear a ring so full and round, such a penetrating vibration.
- The fact is that in my monastery I have always heard that the ringing of the bell is like the voice of the Buddha. Before every ring I bowed trying to focus, then I struck the bell with all of my heart to make it worthy of hearing.
- This is how it seemed to me. Your spirit was pure, you were entirely present and completely involved in your action. He continued this way in his everyday activity. The Buddha is everywhere. Little by little you will enter in resonance with the voice of the Brahma, the Primordial Sound symbolized they the bell. All of your being and actions will be in tune and with it, every word will be in tune with the Way.
The newcomer later became the great teacher Morita Goyou.
Gasshō

Yūshin

Zen in the City

I have had a great opportunity to live Zen with my entire mind and heart since moving to New York City. I left behind a comfortable life in Seattle in search of personal growth and to be closer to my family in Ohio. I also followed a lover, our relationship fell apart just a few days before my departure. After saving up money and establishing a place to stay with a friend, I shipped everything that I own and I dove into the Big Apple, a huge unfamiliar world. I have now been here for almost 2 months, I found a long term contractual job while I look for something permanent. This time of uncertainty has scared me, but has also brought me a lot of joy- every moment brings me a new opportunity to learn something, to welcome what comes, to not judge between progress and failure. I search for Mushin, I search for emptiness, to move with emptiness, to be present but empty, in a constant state of vulnerability, freshness and human warmth. I notice certain things, perhaps due to my practice- New Yorkers, so infamous for being cold and brusque, they talk to me, approach me. I often speak to a fellow passenger on the subway, in line at the supermarket, or someone asks me for directions, this makes me smile.

I miss our Teacher and Shinnyoji, I am always looking for an opportunity to visit more often. I think about you, I often see something that makes me think of you and our practice. New York has its particular way of expressing Zen- in the flow of hundreds of people walking along the sidewalks, entering and exiting the subway, the crowd of people moving like the stroke of a calligraphy brush (which I would like to practice with you), so improvised, but programmed at the same time.

You are always in my dedications. I feel happy and peace when translating Ekizen, this is my connection with you, it is a precious and deep thread between us, I protect it with love and respect. I Shin den Shin between us is fundamental for my Path, it is difficult to practice alone in America, and I sit alone every day. I ask for solidarity, your testimonies give me strength, nurture my heartbeat, and refresh my breathing while I sit in Zazen. Please do not take your opportunity to be at Shinnyoji in person: lesson on the Form, hearing the bells and moppan, hearing the swish of the Teacher’s robes while she walks behind you. I can’t wait to hear words about your practice. I love you.
Gasshō

Tenshin

Mother

I smoothie that he can drink, a smile, a couple words, squeezing a warm hand, a baby in a stroller waves hello while coming into the bus, smiling along with his little hand. I can finally turn everything off and sleep.

Michele N.

Silence and the Ego.

Silence the Ego; they are two words that have been keeping me busy lately. I look back at my past, I look at other people speaking and fuming and they struggle and I watch my own - sometimes excessive – silence.
The experience of silence is the experience of the desert; I venture, I hear noises and feel a windy breeze. In the experience of silence I also like to hear other people’s words; they are often sweet, they reveal their complex state of mind, they uncover the nature of things. During the last Rohatsu vigil I spoke about truth and courage: and here, silence is a way to be true; courage is the silence of their nature.
Symmetrically, my ego. One speaks a lot about new idols: money, success, power. In the religious realm faith is lived like a ghost, an apparition, the pharisaic faith (who know why, these for Pharisees carry so much weight...).
A friend of mine recently made me reflect upon the idol of the Ego. The Ego is exactly where we expect it to be, and – he told me- “you will see 5 minutes before dying, our Ego will still be there will tell us: no! You are not like this, you are better than this, there is another way!” I liked this example and I brought this example to my practice. I have discovered, in small pieces, the presence of my ego everywhere. What should I do? I let it go, I like to watch what it does and doesn’t do in the external world. I like to notice it, perhaps this is a beautiful practice. I don’t compare (the fight would be in vain), but rather, by noticing it, I channel it into the flow of my everyday practice.
What is in silence other than the Ego? Perhaps the true nature of things. Or perhaps this is pure illusion: it is another small, sweet trap that holds our Egos. But we know well that there is no goal to achieve. There is a search and exercise and an everyday practice in everything that we do.
Gasshō

Piergiorgio Masi

Kites

I read somewhere that we spend our lives chasing a kite.

Personally, I do not think that we chase a kite, rather I believe we spend great efforts pulling on the kite’s rope trying to bring it closer to us. We try to gain control, tame it, even hoping we could hop on it and ride it at will. Instead of allowing it to carry us off in to the sky, we desperately try to bring it to the ground.
Somewhere, up there in the infinite sky, there must be a place where all kites whirl with no apparent aim or direction, twisting and turning, constantly jerked from the earth’s surface where we struggle to gain control over something which should not be controlled. This picture evokes in my mind a game we played when we were children. We would catch a dragonfly (in those days you would still see many of them around), tie a string to its tail and then we would let it fly off and watch amused as it drew strange trajectories, desperately trying to escape.

I think that our kites are just like those poor dragonflies forced to fly in a limited space held back by the string in the hand of a cruel child. If, instead, we had freed the dragonflies and we had followed them, I wonder to what wonderful places they would have led us.

Sometimes the ropes that link us to our kites cross each other. They become entangled and force us “ballast” to come closer to each other in a common effort. In these moments we feel elated by the fact that someone is sharing this undertaking with us – it almost feels as if the two kites are now one, moving together towards a common destination.
The ropes cross and join but with the same ease they become free again from that temporary embrace and we are now back with two wild kites each one riding its own wind. We, on the ground, grasp on in the vain attempt to subdue them to our will but at the end with much regret we break off. If we tried instead to follow our kite, we could truly learn to fly.

Unfortunately we have no idea of which wind is carrying off our kite – where it comes from and where it’s leading to, and this scares us. We dig-in our feet and resist the kite which drags us along with furious jerks on the rope.

At the end of the day all the dragonflies lay dead, strangled by the tight leash or with their tails ripped off. If our rope breaks, the kite will simply abandon us here where no wind blows and where we would soon lie in lonely anguish as the others are dragged away, one by one.

It may sound strange but it is the apparent disorderly flight of our kites that makes us meet, brings us together and allow us to evolve together. We must learn to follow them without too much expectation and want of control - let us learn how to fly! Let us keep our heads up and enjoy the view. Our kites are up there and in the apparent chaos they chase each other, they find each other and they join up – even if just for a fleeting moment.
Gasshō

Ei-shin

I have not written anything for a while, right now as I press the keys I’m thinking about my writing compositions during elementary school: “Good, but off topic”. Today I spent the day taking inventory of my closet and bookshelves in my room. I filled up over twenty bags of trash, and don’t like I ever learned what off topic means.
Last Spring I bought myself two identical dresses, black and simple, with a button at the neck, I wore them every day, one lost a button, I sewed on a different one, and this dress was my favorite of the two. It is what I brought to the Temple in my purse the first time I came in July.
I remember the sound of my footsteps in Via Vittorio Emanuele and my name tag that welcomed me by my cushion.
After a couple of hours sitting in Zazen at the Temple, during the meeting held after the sitting, the Teacher called my name and told me to simply sit up straight.
During that summer I continued to practice alone, in an undisciplined way, I sat and breathed. In a corner, with my back straight, I noticed the space that I took up, I realized that I was hungry. For the first time I gained weight: twenty-three kilos by December. How did I nourish myself to not feel hungry? I never thought about the illusions that a stomach had. The first time I meditated at home, my cat put her paws on my knees and sniffed around me, I gave her a cushion too and we sit together, after a bit she falls asleep. I think she dreams about meditation.
Gasshō

Cecilia

Two points made think during this time of practice. Sitting in Zazen is not just about myself exclusively. When I sit in Zazen, we all sit in Zazen, even those who do not believe in it at all. Everyone: those who are happy, unhappy, aware, unaware. I research what is happening in the world. If I didn’t want to sit in Zazen, due to feeling lazy or because “I have something else to do”, I would love the opportunity for myself to participate or another to participate in this walk.
The other reflex ion is about my errors, my many errors, my failures, everyday issues. I often did everything I could to not mistake, but what drove me was the intention of not reconciling with my conscious or judgement or those of others. I learned to love my mistakes, take advantage of them. It’s impossible to not err, it is a part of the game. Why not accept it? Even errors are a treasure, they go under observation, understood, you can discover or search for their source. Put into use, they can be a rich treasure that accompanies us. My most recurring thought is a feeling of thankfulness that is always getting stronger. Thankfulness for having the possibility to approach this Way, difficult to follow, by constantly returning to me in abundance.
Gasshō

Kei-shin

Dear Teacher Shinnyo,

It was lovely sitting with you. To feel our uniqueness and unity. Thank you for allowing me to come as I am, to practice together, play mokuguy and sing with you. There is a small picture that my wife took of my altar, right after we returned home, with beautiful memories and gifts from our trip.

I am writing to you from Finland, listening to music from Roberto Murolo, Renato Rascel and other Italian artists from the 1950s, therapy for my desire for Florence.
Hugs to everyone,

Gasshō,

Ismo Puhakka


PRACTICE RETREATS

Sesshin 23-24 January.

Sesshin: 27 February – 1 March

Hōyō Ceremony for Mrs. Renata, our practitioners Michele N.’s mother: 27 February

Hōyō Ceremony to commemorate the 4th anniversary since the earthquake in Japan: 11 March

Zazenkai to celebrate the Nehan-e di Shakyamuni Buddha: 16 March

Our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi will hold a Teisho on the Precepts at every Retreat.

Photography by Fabio Daishin
Translated to English by Lisa Tenshin
Redazione a cura di Ivano EiShin

Practice Calendar:

Zazen – every Monday evening from 8:00-10:00 pm.
Zazen – every Friday evening from 8:00-9:30 pm.
Zazenkai – One Sunday per month from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Sesshin – One weekend per month from Friday at 8:00 pm until Sunday at 2:00 pm.

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