The Summer Breeze resounds through Great Vow Monastery as the Summer Training Period turns over another month.
Hogen Roshi ‘s voice permeated throughout the Dharma Hall as we opened the July Period this Tuesday evening—
“What we put our life energy into matters,…for our lives are shaped by the way we continue to direct our attention.”
Reflecting on his recent trip to the Zen Center of Rochester, for their 50th Anniversary, he continued…Hundreds of thousands of people will flow through our lives, most of our relationships will be casual—but there will be a handful or so that are intimate and close, and a smaller number still who will powerfully transform us because for whatever reason we are able to receive one another.
He encouraged us, as we enter this new month of training, to cultivate an open and receptive heart and mind, so that we are able to learn from all the myriad experiences that flow through our lives—to be willing to be transformed.
On the Toreii gate of the Soto Training monastery in Japan, Toshoji—the calligraphic script reads, “to enter these gates, one must be willing to give up his body and her life.”
Traditionally monastics would walk to the training monastery from their hometown. Each step, an active commitment, to put aside ideas of identity and purpose in the worldly sense—and become most intimate with what IS.
In our more modern times, instead of walking—residents get on airplanes, then buses or car pools, making their way through the country towns of Oregon before arriving at long driveway leading up to the front doors of the monastery.
The vow is the same now, as it was 1000 years ago in Japan, or 2500 years ago under the Bodhi Tree, the timeless vow—to awaken the Heart, to free the Mind, to live Truth.
Chozen Roshi says to really live out our authentic life’s vows we must put our spiritual vows on the top. And while many people who arrive for the Summer Training Program find that their vows are inchoate or unspoken—still they feel a call to undertake the monastic discipline in service of the Heart’s deepest aspiration.
Chozen Roshi whose vows are clear and directed after decades of refinement and spiritual practice greeted the new July residents on Wednesday at their first oryoki breakfast—
“Welcome to the monastery, all of the residents who live here, have vows…you can ask them about their vows…One of my vows is to found Great Vow Zen Monastery as a place of beauty, peace and deep practice in the world for generations to come.”
So here we are, with our common spiritual vow and our unique individual intentions. Practicing awakening, breathing life into ancient forms passed onto to us from our teachers’ teachers in Japan. Some of us may spend the rest of our lives of practice here enacting the vow of our teachers, others may leave at the end of the week. Some of us will become teachers of the dharma and continue to pass on this lineage’s methods and teachings; others will work for peace and justice in the world.
And that’s the other purpose of the monastery—to help us all clarify how we will manifest our spiritual aspirations, in this life.
May our hearts be open to possibility and may we be willing to be transformed.