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EkiZen - Newsletter by the Shinnyoji Sangha

Summer 2015 - n. 23 year VI (PDF)

Jizō Statue

EVENTS

TRIP TO TAIWAN

Our Teacher Rev. Iten Shinnyo Roshi, along with Piergiorgio Masi, went to Taiwan May 9th to 17th May following her Teacher, Rev. Ryushin Azuma Roshi, and Abbot of the Tōkōzan Daijōji Monastery.

On May 12th, Rev. Ryushin Azuma Roshi held two Conferences at Taipei as the Founder of the Sekai Zen Senta – WZC World Zen Center. The objective of this Association is to unite Zen Teachings and Practice into a Universal Center, where each one, independent from religion, sex, age, and political view may study and practice Zen.

During their stay on the island of Taiwan, Shinnyo Roshi and Piergiorgio were able to visit the Lungshan, Ryuuzanji and Chikurizan Temples of Taipei and the National Palace Museum, the national museum of the Republic of China, with a permanent collection of over 696,112 Chinese manufactured items and works of art, making it one of the largest in the world.

The collection is comprised of over 8,000 years of Chinese history from the Neolithic age to the Late Qing Dynasty. Most of the museum is composed of high quality articles from the ancient emperors of China.

The Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre, found in the city of Kaohsiung in the south of the island holds the largest Buddha statue in the world: 108 meters in height (354.3 feet). The total surface area is 250 hectares (617.7 acres) and is surrounded by the Fo Guang Shan Mountains. At the entrance of the main gate are two great sculptures: a dragon and an elephant that symbolize the origin of Buddhism from India. Within the structure are eight pagodas, four on each side, framing the path leading to the big Buddha statue which has four Stupas at the base, one at each angle.

YAKATA JIZŌ

On Saturday, March 28th, 2015, the Ceremony for the inauguration for the small Temple, Yakata Jizō, donated by Matsuura Kanshu from the Mibudera Temple in Kyoto, was celebrated in the Shinnyoji Temple.

Message from the Rev. Matsuura Kanshu sent March 28th, 2015.

アンナマリア真如 マッラディ 老師
真如寺とアンナマリア真如 マッラディ 老師に 今朝の地蔵屋形のお披露目に際して
お喜びを申し上げます。おめでとうございます。 京都 壬生寺貫主 松浦俊海 九拝

“Reverend Annamaria Shinnyo Marradi Roshi,
Congratulations to Shinnyoji and to Rev. Annamaria Shinnyo Marradi Roshi for displaying the Yakata Jizō small temple the morning!

Regards,
Kyoto Mibudera MATSUURA Shunkai
In Kyuhai”

THE SHINNYOJI GARDEN

Il giardino di Shinnyoji

Inaugurated on April 25th, 2009 along with the opening of the permanent Location of the Temple, the Shinnyoji garden is a space designed for contemplation and meditation.

Amongst the hydrangeas, roses, chamomile, fruit trees, a Japanese loquat tree and a maple from the Japanese temple Tōchiku-in 東竹院, donated by Yumiko Kishi, it is framed by the adjacent urban architecture as if it were a picture.

Along the borders inside the garden are six stone Jizō Bosatsu from the Edo period (1603-1868) donated to Shinnyoji by Rev. Matsuura Shunkai, Abbot of the Mibudera Temple in Kyoto and 85th Abbot of Tōshōdaiji in Nara. They were given as a symbol of friendship between Italy and Japan and in testimony of the encounter between the two Buddhist schools Sōtō Zen and Risshū.

Pictures of the Shinnyoji garden

VISIT TO SHINNYOJI

The Mayor of the Japanese city of Kadokawa Sama and his official delegates visited Shinnyoji o celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Twin city agreement between Florence and Kyoto, Rev. Matsuura Kanshu, Abbot of the Mibudera Temple in Kyoto and the Abbot of the Zen Rinzai Temple Tōfukuji in Kyoto.

The Rev. Shinnyo Roshi wanted to send everyone who contributed to the success of the event the following message:

Dear Sangha of Shinnyoji,
I tribute to you my deepest thanks for your rigorous, attentive, excellent service attended to yesterday, dedicated to the visit of our Temple Shinnyoji the Mayor of Kyoto Kadokawa sama and the official delegation, in the presence of Rev. Matsuura Kanshu, Abbot of the Temple Mibudera Kyoto and the Rev. Sono Eikō, Abbot of the Zen Rinzai Temple Tōfukuji of Kyoto as part of the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the twinning between the cities of Florence and Kyoto.
I extend my gratitude to all those who contributed to the preparation but who, for work commitments, could not be present at yesterday.
Everyone feel so intensely present and united in contributing to the success of the event and before that to the Witness of the reality of our Practice, was a light seal of the path of our Sangha in the Way of Dōgen Zenji. Like a handful of monks hardworking and respectful of Tradition, each of you has worked well for contributing to the success of the Ceremony.

When, as in the preparation, I looked in the Zendo and I saw all of you standing arrayed in a circle listening to the instructions of our monk Yūshin on the conduct of the Rite, the strength of Shinnyoji came my way and I joined, One with You, my Master Rev. Azuma Docho Roshi and the whole of Lineage of Daijōji.

Shinnyoji is a Zen temple, is a beating heart, is a reality of Sangha moving and growing with harmony.
In Dharma
Rev. Iten Shinnyo
Gasshō

Dear Rev. Anna Maria Marradi Roshi

We deeply thank you for your warm welcoming. Thank you to everyone for this visit to Shinnyoji, it was a particularly successful event.

I am very happy to see the Jizō Bosatsu splendidly placed in the Temple’s garden.
Last year Jizō Bon was officially recognized by the city of Kyoto as immaterial cultural patrimony.
Every August the Jizō Bon rite is celebrated all over the city of Kyoto. I hope that this tradition is also transmitted at Shinnyoji.

Heartfelt thanks.

Matsuura Shunkai

Sun and Kyoto at Shinnyoji

The weather is uncertain these days in Florence, yesterday afternoon the wind bent over the trees and broke off some branches, a June-like downpour beat the asphalt. But the trees in the Shinnyoji garden are intact and bright this morning. Upon the young pear tree next to the Yakata Jizō – donated by Matsuura Kanshu, Abbot of the Mibudera Temple in Kyoto – the white flowers, that in March, upon its arrival, framed the little temple, that the Reverend observed today with a curious smile while the cameras were being set up to take photos.
The Teacher Shinnyo welcomed the delegation from Kyoto in Via Vittorio Emanuele less than a half hour ago, with the Sangha awaiting at 9:00 am– like the white fan of one of the guests in kimono – on the sidewalk in front of the Temple door, ready to welcome those who arrived from the bus parked at the side of the street, amongst the impatient and blaring traffic (typical Italian scene, as a foreigner would say).
Then the small ceremony in the Zendo: sounding the splendid Keisu bell, another donation from the Abbot Matsuura Kanshu, participants sitting in seiza position, many at the center of the room, facing the altar, others along the wall seated on pillows, reciting Hannya Shingyo. A subdued, quick and looming chant like a sonorous thought, empowered by the many voices and the focus of each person. Guttural sounds predominated from the Japanese vowels, momentarily expressing a choral breath, an undertone amplifying the depth of the recital. Later in the garden, we begin the Juzu-kuri rite which the Mayor of Kyoto, Kadokawa Sama, explained was declared an immaterial patrimony of humanity one year ago. He told was that he was struck by the fact that the Shinnyoji dedication mentioned world peace, and not only with words, but with each wrinkle in his face, he said that he felt a deep connection with our everyday being from afar. The Jizō-bon rite is dedicated to the hope that children will grow up in peaceful conditions all over the world. Then the giant wooden Juzu is unrolled, at the center the officiant strikes what to the Western eye looks like a pedal stool, but rather, is a metal percussion instrument, then in a circle, us former-children hand each other the beads of a sacred chord. It took me a moment to understand the gestures: when we get the bead with a tassel, we must touch it upon our foreheads, some of us raise our knuckles, other the palms, holding the Juzu from below.
At the end, the participants step away. The officials have a tea in the open air, prepared by a lovely woman in traditional Japanese attire – one notices an exotic spiral with pearls in the bun of her hair -, accompanied by the background music of our Hymn of Shinnyoji. A discrete woman from the building in front of ours finishes hanging her clothes on the terrace. The interpreters, a kind Italian man and a charming Japanese woman, exchange their professional experiences. We all continue to breathe, with simplicity, and tomorrow, live another day, ordinary and therefore extraordinary, in Practice.
Gasshō,
Cecilia

Dear Shinnyo san,
Congratulations!
You did so well!
I can tell from the photos that you sent.
I agree with what the Mayor of Kyoto said about the inter-religious spirit because I practice Nichiren Shonin Buddhism, I am very interested in Zen thought, I also study Christianity, praying for world peace.
Your garden was like an open-air welcoming of the Emperor of Japan!
A big hug,

Yukihiro Nomura

Master Iten Shinnyo,
We’d like to take this occasion to express our happiness to have shared this special moment at the Shinnyoji Temple and this marvelous experience. We will continuously thank you for offering us the opportunity to intervene in the restyling project in the Zen Temple’s garden that you managed.
We would like to send our greetings, with wishes that we continue to meet and work together in our great friendship and collaboration.
Paola e Paolo Billi
Kachina

If I look back to recent years, I see many events happening that shaped our small reality of practice in a Temple whose name acquires a greater and greater meaning every year. Every year in our everyday lives we get wrapped up in organizing some important event that is more and more complex and rigorous, that is testimony of our position upon the Way and the awareness of our practice. This the big event was the visit of the Honorable Mayor Kodokawa sama to commemorate 50 years of the twin city agreement between Florence and Kyoto. I must recognize that the time dedicated to the preparation was in some way deeper and more intense, and to tell the truth, more tiring, but perhaps this is why it was so significant. From Monday the 8th to Friday the 12th, with more or less long breaks, I was involved in a meticulous preparation along with the Teacher and other Practitioners for this important event.
Leaving my ordinary life at first was especially more difficult than previous times. My academic commitments are more urgent and stressful than other times, writing my thesis has taken a lot of my energy and I have slowly let myself fall into a restricted world where nothing exists except books or notes regarding some text with an abstruse title. The more days that passed, the more my mind was freed from the worries of everyday life, opening itself up to a breath that, despite the hustle of organization, was calm and almost relax. Everything somehow went into place, as long as I didn’t worry: the important thing was to keep working. Doing this, in the end I felt a strong dignity of committing to service. I thought about the advice from the Teacher on the Shikantaza: the body may fall, tiredness, limits of what is possible are placed in the background, and the mind is abandoned in a way that only allows focus on what is necessary according to the nature of the project. It’s like letting yourself go into the hands of someone who you trust. By identifying the action, you pay attention to the details, you pay attention to details such table settings, a towel hanging in the sun, to the layout of the altars and the rituals.
In the end, the most important thing was done by the Sangha: a harmony of intentions and a collaboration that makes you realize what it feels like to be a part of something big. The feeling of communion that the Teacher illustrates in her Teishos, feeling one with everything, it was palpable in this case, an embodied experience that is more valuable than a thousand words. The very morning of the visit, united, in order, we carried out what needed to be done like a harmonious organism, in this way completing the many remaining tasks in a small amount of time. This success a greater testimony, greater than my words, no matter how hard I try to communicate it.
Gasshō
Yūshin

I was invited to photo-document the visit of the Mayor of Kyoto on Friday, June 12th, 2015 at the Shinnyoji Temple. In the occasion of a preceding visit, I interpreted, from a guest’s perspective, the preparation for the welcoming that went on for days (or should I say years?), these days held a tender care (calm, but dutiful) in the organization and implementation of each detail. Many little things, that I now realize, nurture the soul of the Temple.
On Friday morning, in this atmosphere – this attention – one by one the monks entered, some from other sects – invited for this occasion – the last to enter was the Mayor of Kyoto alongside his staff. I imagine that it wasn’t at all easy to manage all of the different energies that suddenly invaded the Temple, I still felt a great harmony in all of the rituals and ceremonies, both inside the Temple and in the garden. I distinctly perceived the power of this event, alongside organization, balance and reciprocal respect. Watching the ritual in the garden was interesting, simple and aligned with time itself. During the ceremony, a giant rosary ran through their hands and the monks recited in front of the small temple. It was a precious testimony of inter-religiosity in which many beliefs were expressed at the same time, naturally, setting a beautiful example for anyone.
I am grateful for my chance to “peek” within this great reality, during an important and powerful event. As always, there is so much to reflect upon!
Linda

DHARANI SEMINAR

March 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am to 6:30 pm at the Florence Zen Center – Shinnyo-ji, the Rev. Aigo Seiga Castro held a seminar entitled:
“DHĀRANĪ – MANTRIC SCRIPTURES OF THE SŌTŌ ZEN BUDDHIST TRADITION”
The seminar was open to anyone interested in learning about the esoteric language of the Buddhist Zen Tradition and whoever is interest in eastern religious studies and the sacred languages of Asia.
The Rev. Aigo Seiga Castro is a Zen Teacher recognized by the Japanese Sōtō Zen School and founder of the religious community “Tradición Buddahdharma Zen Sōtō” in Spain. He completed a Masters with Honors in Buddhist Studies at the University of Sunderland in Great Britain, and is the docent of Buddhism at the University of Valencia in Spain.

25 APRIL 2015 - anniversary

On Saturday, April 25th, we celebrated the 6th Anniversary of the permanent seat of Shinnyoji. We celebrated the event with a Temple Open house Day that was open to the public. The doors of Shinnyoji were open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and during the open house one could visit the Temple and garden, request a talk with the teacher or receive a lesson on the Form and sit in Zazen.

Along with the Temple Open house for the 6th Anniversary of the permanent location, the official Shinnyoji Hymn was inserted to the website. You can find the music and words under “Temple”, on our homepage.

For us it is an emotional lyrical source to correctly celebrate this event, we invite everyone, by listening, a message of the life of our Practice in our Community.

Message received for April 25th and for the Hymn:

Dear Reverend, the creation of the Hymn seems absolutely great. The Teacher Carlo Ippolito created a beautiful arrangement. If it is possible, I would like to thank him in the future. The beginning of this happy musical theme was inspired the day after your December holiday. I got up from the table, I went to the piano and in a short time, the tune was born...
Thank you for the chance that you have given me and I hope that the hymn brings you lots of joy and fortune at the Temple, to you and to everyone...
A warm hug
Teacher Volfango Dami

I am moved and happy by the message and words of this hymn, I wish everyone at Shinnyoji a day full of Happy Harmony.
With affectionate and loving respect,
Gasshō
Valentina

Dear Teacher and dear Sanga,
I am happy that you wrote and compose the spiritual hymn for Shinnyoji. Unfortunately I will not be able to join you. I wish you a pleasant and dedicated day.
The best,
I will be with you, through our connection,
Riccardo Guercio

All of my best wishes for your anniversary.
In the name of the Dharma,
Emanuela Dōsan Losi

Thank you for welcoming me! It was a very intense visit and I spoke about it for a long time with Cesare. The Temple’s energy was strong and almost subjected to anyone who enters (what unfortunately happened to me) with a “distracted” soul by the outside chaos. But when we went to the garden, I found synthesis and could enjoy the harmony that I found there: that garden is truly powerful!
It’s like entering a parallel world...
Linda

SPRING IN JAPAN

Photos by Shinobu Nakajiima

Sesshin 27-28 March.

Zazenkai 30 May.

POETRY

Written in 1818 and published for the first time in 1820, by the poet John Keats (London 31 October 1795 - Rome 23 February 1821).

Although he became the symbol of English Romanticism, he struck everyone who knew him for this extraordinary energy, his vigorous humor, and great desire to live.
He was buried in the Protestant cemetery, behind the Testaccio Pyramid when he was 25 years old. Upon his grave is written: “This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a Young English Poet, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraved on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.” Upon his gravestone is also written a Greek song with 8 broken chords “to show his Classic Genius broken by premature death”.

Ode to Psyche

(…)

Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my mind,
Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
Far, far around shall those dark-cluster'd trees
Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;
And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,
The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull'd to sleep;
And in the midst of this wide quietness
A rosy sanctuary will I dress
With the wreath'd trellis of a working brain,
With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,
Who breeding glowers, will never breed the same:
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!

TESTIMONIES

A piano in the central train station in Milan and another in the station Porta Nuova in Turin... perhaps another “free” space to dream and play celestial music upon which we go toward the divine within each one of us.
Gasshō
Rev. Iten Shinnyo Roshi

Dear Teacher,

I know that you have already left for Taiwan and many days will pass before you will be able to reply. I hope that your trip begins peacefully and energetically. Yesterday I found out that a close friend from my childhood died, when you can, please remember Ned Diers and his family in your Dedications. Ned loved nature, so today I loved my altar outside to the garden where I sat in Zazen for a long time, dedicated to him. I put on your Raksu, the gold and green one that your gave me, this is only the second time that I wear it. My heart feels heavy and I am crying a lot, I got a ticket to go back to Ohio so that I can attend the funeral. I’m sending you a picture of the altar in nature, where I sat in Zazen today, the garden is covered in cherry blossom petals. Let’s talk once you return. I’m thinking about you and Rev. Azuma Roshi.
Thanks for everything.
Gasshō
Tenshin

A thought about something I read in the newspaper, I don’t remember who wrote it, but it made me reflect: “One does not teach what one knows, but what one is”. This means that we bring ourselves, we give ourselves in the transmission of the teaching. But also in the learning, one learns what the other is, not what the other knows.

Thanks,
Piergiorgio

Dear Teacher,
I love you too! Last Saturday I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn. I’m sending you some photos.
Gasshō
Tenshin

For some time now it has been possible to say that beyond personal choices, and therefore if you continue or not to Practice, themes altogether negligible from the universal point of view concerning the travails of single human individuality, you can record the fact that yes, we have arrived to the awareness needed to be totally and completely destined to journey into a Practice and culture so very “different” from the time and space that we now live in the western world today: there are no loopholes or adaptations.

If carefully walked and conducted, it is a Way that we “don’t” choose, but one in which we called and are called from far away worlds, way ahead of us, above and preceding us, in which the presence of a single fraction of time that we occupy with our single existence is an invisible platitude in the Cosmos.

The innumerable lives, the destinies that have chosen, like a sprout shooting from same trunk, even if it gets cut off every time, in the end, it germinates for the next true Satori, if fates wants rebirth for us to burn previous ones, eternalizing us beyond the dimensions of space and time.

Beginning this path with this life, from practicing awareness from this life, it is impossible from everyday conditions: you need to be chosen from previous lives, distant epochs, being then and not now making this possible, starting from zero. Whoever is illuminated today surely must have done something for their internal self, but beginning in more favorable epoch with a different spiritual climate, one with a simpler society for example.

Beginning from nothing today, even for a predestined person, is much rarer and nearly impossible, you much feel a calling from above, beyond the relaxing moments that are a getaway from the anxiety of the day or the family… Egoist hedonists masked by compassionate humanitarianism, weak and sluggish solidarity even if in good intentions. Democratic illusions.

This does not cancel out our regret and bitterness, if anything it individualizes a task and at the same time, the only necessary decision: to defend living beings or risk extinguishing them. As that are there are beings like Docho Roshi and His disciples, the torch will not be extinguished. It is absolutely necessary that one practices, and this is what Shinnyo Rosh has done and is doing.

As long as there are examples such as these, we can confirm that the human spirit is not dead. There are contrasting ways to demonstrate the human experience, our fleeting transition can be more than biology.

All of this isn’t possible if we accept an epoch that poisons the mind, in the enemy become the adversary, ideas become theories, example becomes propaganda, conflict becomes competition, faith becomes opinion, other the other becomes a simile: we can’t claim anything else.

Gasshō
Gregorio Galardi

A small group of friends.

I love climbing.

Some love the ice, others love skiing in the Alps, but they all love the rocks. Climbing is for them like a form of meditation, involved in the here and now, tied onto the same cord. Two of them, Mauro and Cesare, are close friends, often together, I would say that they are simple people, frank, modest and innocent. Suddenly, Mauro, after a winter of intense sports activities, was diagnosed with a cerebral lesion and needed immediate surgery. He still has to receive health information. He encounters with a smile, abandonment and simplicity his own fragility and impermanence, without ever leaving positivity and a good mood.

Cesare surrounds Mauro, in this delicate moment, with his presence, dedication and everlasting friendship. Truly and simply being there. Cesare, with his captivating and sincere smile, was not there yesterday, at the Corno alle Scale, for the occasion of moving a large compact snow sheet in the big frozen canal where a friend of ours used to ski. His last act of generosity was when injured and covered in snow, he was able to contact the Alpine emergency personnel before succumbing, with a only a small amount of residual energy, and allow the recovery of his friend.

Life is tremendous and marvelous in the weaving and articulation of our existence, even more so alongside those karmically close. Two creatures, two Friends, that surround each other and dance along this time line of transfiguration between ourselves and great Emptiness of which we are the echo. Everything is Buddha, everything acts like a mirror, the images that we encounter and others. Mirrors that “evoke” connections, resonances, like this one...

Today, with my brother-like friend Carlo, I left a small offering of flowers, fruit and tobacco upon a strange formation in the rock. One mirror, one protective Form of the Monsummano shamman, in the Red Cave, the sear of our uncovered training, “recognized” by chance last year upon a rock wall freshly cleaned from invasive plants.

A peculiar and sinister presage, just a few steps from the path dedicated to Cesare by my friend Carlo, a path that they nailed and climb together next year.

The Cesare Path. Close to others dedicated to other friends... Doctor Fabio, Davide, Maurino Ciao, Bar Bruno, also You Matteo, and Marco Pass and so on. Footprints of relationships. Courses of life. Actually, it’s best and necessary to be happy and aware, in the mind’s innocence, outside every judgement or preference, moment by moment, here and now. White clouds, dragging from the wind of the deep blue sky today....

Gasshō
Daishin

Many months have passed since the last time I was at Shinnyoji.
My life is complicated and I had to make some decisions.
The Zen Way is a part of myself even if I don’t go to the Temple, I never feel “far away”. This is certainly because of Teacher Shinnyo who throughout the years, never miss the chance to teach the concept of Shinnyoji into our hearts both at our homes and every time we return, also after a few months or years, it is as if we had never left.
Gasshō
Shinkai

Dear Teacher,
I hope that you are having a lovely weekend. As I have told you, I am taking a training class to volunteer at the hospice. This morning a Japanese man came to the lesson, he was a part of spiritual counseling at the hospice. He gave a beautiful lecture but had to leave the lesson early because he had another appointment. I happened to see him in the hallway while he waited for the elevator and I asked him where he came from in Japan- we was from Kanazawa! I mentioned my Zen practice and he knew about Daijoji! The elevator quickly arrived and he had to leave. This brief encounter was a joyous moment and a testimony of the support from the universe.
Thanks so much
Gasshō
Tenshin

Once again the bite of the ego returns and holds on, generating suffering, the Universal Way of the Spirit is always calling, let’s help it help us.
Gasshō
Michele Gerbasi

Every day, in Dharma training, I light a candle, a stick of incense and refresh the offerings; sitting in Zazen and reciting the Sutra.
In the strength of Practice, a dedication with the Shoten Zenjin to Roshi, to the Temple and all entire Sangha.
Gasshō.
Michele Novellini

Staying Fresh

I have been living in New York for over 4 months now, they aren’t kidding when they say that it is a difficult city: crowded with people, high prices, the fight for a job, taking the subway... But I’m having fun, I encounter interesting people from all over the world, I eat well and there are many breathtaking parks and streets.

I have been paying close attention to “staying fresh”. I’m always surrounded by strangers, noises and unexpected happenings that come between myself and what I need/want to do, it is easy for me to harden up and be indifferent towards the world around me. It is easy to only think about myself, my time, and my goals and see the external world as something in the way. Thanks to our practice, I see when these feelings arise and I try not to react upon them. I can’t afford to live alone in New York, I share an apartment with some friends, and I have to remind myself everyday not to take out any stress or annoyance upon them. I know that this battle between strong emotions and how I should treat others is not fluid to my life as a Bodhisattva. However, I never get swept away by the turmoil of interior conflict, but instead, I become stronger, thanks to our Practice’s art of catharsis. I purge the negativity and apathy reminding myself of my solemn vow to live in service for the good of all beings and things: I do volunteer work at the hospice, I cook for my friends, and I admire the spring flowers with gratitude. When the muscles in my face are tense, I smile. I pay attention to my dark side, I don’t hide and I don’t deny it, I try to shed light upon it and understand it. Sitting in Zazen and reciting the Heart Sutra every morning refreshes me, speaking with the Teacher on Skype supports me, thinking about the Patriarchs ensures me.

I left Italy in November 2012, but I always feel closer the Shinnyoji. Now I feel a great need to sit alongside our Teacher, in the Zendo along with my Sangha, and so I made a big sacrifice and I got a ticket to Italy and will participate in the Sesshin this June! I can’t wait to enter the Temple and hug the Teacher and each one of you! Thank you to our Teacher who lovingly welcomes me and lets me stay in the guest room. Thanks again to the Teacher who always remembers me, I and deeply grateful of the gift of I Shin den Shin between us.

Gasshō
Tenshin

April

Here are, a day in April. The weather is nice, even if cloudy, I am at a corner of the garden: the one with the gravel and statue of the Buddha. I have a fulfilling job: whiten the stones on the ground, take out the sticks, fallen leaves, mire and dirt. I begin the job, I understand, without even noticing, the pieces of myself that make a whole: my right hand first explores with the fingertips, then searching, picks out with small touches, the left hand is a bowl and nest, it has a limited capacity, that every now and then I must get up to dump what I have collected. I mostly find transparent flower petals, minuscule wings, made soft by the recent rain; I don’t even need to look up, smelling is enough: it’s from the wisteria. I think about Kyogen who burned his Sutra books and at the same time about Alejandra Pizarnik who wrote “this lilac loses its flowers/they fall from itself, and hides what was its shadow” hinting that things can die like this. I don’t think that this is the only way, and not the most functional way to clean this corner of earth. What is the point in which a street forks, that in which a gesture is born or not, a face? Curled up, I gather: today the street is right here, between the wisteria still hanging and that which will bloom.

Gasshō
Cecilia

Where can I and where will be able to be at my best?

I haven’t been completely present at the Temple for a few months now, but of course I still move forward with my responsibilities and commitments that I have taken or do things that are our Practice.
I apologize firstly to the Teacher Rev. Shinnyo Roshi and also to the Sangha for this, it is due to events with friends and family. In this not short period I have been beside and have taken care of people who are not well, I supported a friend afflicted by great pain, I went to places where there is a lot of pain every day. And unfortunately this has not happened only recently, it has been a long time in my life that I find myself in these situations...
I have been extremely tired this days, it now feels normal. I never considered abandoning my “duties”, those of hard work, collaborate, support and organize... I can confirm with all modesty in this case, that I reacted without any special effort or angst, I was immersed in what I was doing, and when thinking about it, maybe it was the manifestation of “Practice is everywhere” and of “dedicating ourselves to others” but without rationally realizing it.
I am happy about this because I believe that is the first great Teaching of my Teacher Rev. Shinnyo Roshi, “becoming” the Practice, to truthfully do it with your own life and I thank her for this with all of my heart, because it would have been terrible for me to feel obliged and therefore “false” due to a spiritual and religious following, at least for this aspect I feel sincere and I know that it is a part of the Buddha Path that is within me.

This living with pain, the discomfort of some people has in a certain way forced me to ponder and reflect, beyond the pain itself that people feel, it is heightened by the pain provoked by other people, some relatives, friends or others. A twisted chain of pain.

In some moments, in order for me to understand, or to attempt to help, I found myself needing to see others as they “truly” were, in an empathetic way without bringing in external convictions or judgements, I found myself understanding and being understood, receiving before expressing myself...

This whole long experience, without going into detail, makes me reflect upon many things, including my Practice, my honesty, on what I ‘resist’ and on my fears, because I now know more as a human being, a Zen practitioner, monk, it is the person that I’m interested in, his/her freedom, love, sincerity, helping and sharing, beyond false good acts, with sincere altruism and healthy empathetic spirit.

Therefore, for my Way, my character, I return to even harder work of cultivating and deepening these values in a simple and modest way, shy, almost “in a solitary heart” with honesty and truth, which are the diamonds of life.

And to begin cultivating to understand and share a search and Zen walk for Freedom, I believe that one must try to deepen and search more and more an originality of the Way, without certain factors. This seems to me, perhaps incorrectly, like going far from what I deeply feel; I can’t fully live some spiritual and religious expressions, but also some cultural, rigid, scattered, very formal ones, perhaps these expressions take you far from a crux that is connected to Humanity and the human in all of its manifestations. At least it is this way for me. I certainly do not want to show off strict traditionalism in any way...

I am wary of excessive ‘religious’ enthusiasm, actions and words that express the totality of a thought through phrases of ritual, I’m afraid of religious extremism disguised as faith in Scriptures, every Scripture, is an extremism that negatively judges spirituality and the full and joyous religiosity with accents and lay behaviors...

The “Italian Zen” at Shinnyoji can and could be a path even in this sense, but this is not up to me to discuss at least not here. It is a deep feeling and hope to be able to find an anchoring and above all, I do not want to judge anyone or anything, I only know where I can and will be able to stay at my best, which is life.

Gasshō
Shinden


PRACTICE RETREATS

Sesshin: 27-28 . The Unveiling Ceremony for the small Yakata Jizō temple.

Zazenkai: 25 April – Celebration of the Sixth Anniversary of the permanent seat of Shinnyoji.

Zazenkai: 30 May

During each Retreat, our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi holds a Teisho about the Precepts

Photos by Fabio Daishin, Ambra Balzani, Daniel Wickwire, Shinobu Nakajima, Lisa Tenshin, Linda Cocchi, Michele Novellini
Editing by Ivano EiShin

Translation into English by Lisa Tenshin

Calendar of events for Practice:

Zazen – every Monday from 8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Zazen – every Friday from 8:00-9:30 p.m.
Zazenkai – One Sunday per month from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sesshin – One weekend per month from Friday at 8:00 p.m. to Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

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