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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Zen Updates

I made it back to the Atlanta Soto Zen Center last weekend for the first time since last October; what used to be the monthy sesshin is now the zazenkai, to differentiate it from the longer events that happen now three times a year and has, counterintuitively, gotten longer; aspiring zazen-sters can now sit from Thursday evening through Sunday. This time the emphasis was on the minute details of Soto Zen ritual, which can be a bit much if you don't do them all the time, but which were interesting to me since most of the ritual is pretty much blown off here at the Nashville Zen Center.

The down side of the weekend was that the ASZC isn't heated properly, so the sleeping accomodations stayed right at 58 degrees, which if memory serves is the constant temperature of a cave, until Nat, who accompanied me, broke down and bought a $9.99 space heater at Eckert's the night before we left. The upside for me is that a record number of Nashvillians went with me: new NZC president Nat, who'd gone with me to my initiation in September, 2006, and Ana. Ana is probably the story of the retreat for me; she's a 19-year-old Zen student who's been sitting by herself or friends for a few years and who finally came to sit with us at the Barn the weekend before the zazenkai. To watch someone handle their first extended sitting, with minimal attendance and at adverse temperatures, as well as she did was inspiring, and a reassurance that you don't have to middle-aged to appreciate Zen. After listening to Nat whine all weekend, her fortitude was impressive. Here's hoping Ana stays in the practice; we need her.

Next on the menu: ASZC Abbot Taiun Michael Elliston returns to Nashville for a one-day zazenkai (no one else here is calling it that, but I like the term) on Feb. 24 at Jennye's mom's beautiful lake house north of Mount Juliet. Meanwhile, I've just joined the Board of the Nashville Buddhist Festival, a cooperative event put on by various schools of Nashville Buddhism set for Sept. 15. The event is supposed to be annual (this will be the fourth), though it was cancelled last year for various reasons. The Tibetan Buddhists who had been a mainstay of the event have pulled out, allegedly on the instruction of their teachers (?), so the event is apparently being hosted by us at the Barn as usual (a recent tidbit of knowledge which came to us a couple of weeks ago from an outside source, prompting our inquiry and my concommitent participation), being put on this time by the remaining Buddhist groups, including the Vipassana group, One Dharma (a non-sectarian group with Zen tendencies organized by previous NZC president Lisa Ernst), a Thich Nat Hanh group of which I had no prior knowledge, and us. I think there may be a Shambala-related Tibetan group in there somewhere, too. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how it comes off without the Tibetans, who always supplied the crowds.

A side note: There is an ongoing project involving some Theravadans (Southeast Asian Buddhists, I believe) who have acquired and have been working on renovating an old house near the Hood in downtown Nashville into what is being projected as a non-sectarian abode for the use of all Buddhists in the area. They have never been involved in a Buddhist Festival before, but now I am thinking.

Also, as of this date I am scheduled to host a "panel" on Zen at the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention on April 15, a seeming dubious venture, but I did it last year and met Ana, so if I have to unearth one Zen student at a time, it's worth it; hopefully Ana is helping me with the presentation. It's currently scheduled at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning, prime time to be sure.

Also, I blithely write along in these posts without ever referring to my Links sections, which are just over there to the right, thinking that the additions would be pretty obvious, but I may be over-assuming the attention of my readers to these things; so I would just point out that I have re-organized the things a bit in the last few months, and also added some more Buddhist links and some personal sites of my friends: note particularly the blog of Shiho Gareth Young, a senior disciple at the ASZC, as well as that of Shokai, another ASZC student/teacher, and Ana's MySpace page, which has an ongoing blog as well. Check out the links; there are a few surprises there as well.

I'll be back with another thematic rant in due time. For those of you checking out the hyperlinks, which was half the point of this entry, some of the above have no web page. If I have missed anything, let me know.

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