News and Dharma form the Portland Buddhist Priory
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Dear Friends,

This morning in my meditation I was reflecting on the many things I have for which I am grateful.  It seems that there are so many things that come together in our lives that, by all rights, would not necessarily need to be there (there is no absolute reason for us to be born into a world where there is abundant — even if limited — air to breathe, or where we can make mistakes and learn from them). So, by way of mentioning some of the things going on at the Priory over the last month or so, here also are some of the things I am grateful for.

Running through this list is the simple fact of being able to be a monk. Although it is clear that I became a monk of my own choice and through my own effort, there is also a significant dimension of it that relies on the willing help and support of others and I am grateful to you all for your part in that.

(For an interesting take on why monasticism is significant for all of us, here is a link to an interview piece from the Lion's Roar featuring Robert Thurman and Chozen Bays among others.)
Priory News

Winter Closed Period

This January, in keeping with the practice of years past, the temple was closed in January and I wanted to let you know that I found this to be very helpful. Although there have been a few things going on this January (notably a private funeral ceremony and a weekend retreat, see below) I have really appreciated the opportunity to have some unstructured time for extra rest and reflection during which I could recharge. I was able to travel to Shasta Abbey for a week and found the time spent taking refuge there to be invaluable. 

I am a bit torn when closing the temple in this way since it means that you all will have fewer overt opportunities to participate in the life of the temple. I certainly do not take it for granted that we will always be closed in January; this year though, it was a big help and I am grateful for your support in being able to take this time.

Virtual Alms Round

In November the temple sent out an alms request letter and I am happy to report that we had a generous response. Although we did have a shortfall in meeting our yearly regular expenses (this year, $11,644.40) of around $300, given the generally turbulent nature of 2016, the changes at the temple and the changing circumstances of some of our donors, I was quite relieved to only have to cover such a small portion of our regular operating costs from our savings.

In 2017 we will continue to try to find ways to reduce our spending even while attending to some needed temple maintenance and mild improvements. (We hope to replace our 18 year old tank style water heater with a tankless water heater, for instance.) For a detailed look at our financial situation please contact me or Allison Coe, our treasurer.

Again, I and the temple are deeply grateful for your support and the support of those who have given, in many ways, to the temple in the past. 

Winter Shadow Retreat

Last fall I received an email from the Reed College alumni association inviting alumni to participate in a program sponsored by the college where current students are given the opportunity to "shadow", or spend a little time in a work context, with a Reed alum working in a field the student might be interested in pursuing as a potential career after college. While I completely understand that Buddhist monastic life is a pretty unusual career choice, it seems to have worked out pretty well for me so I decided to sign up and see if there was anyone who might be interested in spending a little time here at the temple learning about our practice.

I decided that a weekend retreat experience might be a good introduction and so created the Exploring Buddhist Monasticism Retreat. To my delight and mild surprise, five people signed up. (Five retreatants, plus myself and Rev. Allard from Shasta Abbey — many thanks to both Rev. Allard and Shasta Abbey for their help and support in this — meant that the house was pretty packed, so we were at about capacity.)

Our thanks also to Gary Fear, one of our lay ministers, who dropped by on the Saturday of the retreat to help with a work project and join in with the retreat. It is my hope to repeat this opportunity in the coming years and other temple members would be welcome to participate.

The retreat went from Thursday evening the 12th to Sunday morning the 15th and consisted of the usual meditation and ceremonial with instruction in the various elements of integrating practice into daily life. I have no expectation that any of the participants will actually pursue monastic life as a career, I only hope that we were able to give them an opportunity to see the possibility of practice and an occasion in their otherwise busy academic lives to have a bit of retreat time.

The retreat went very well from my point of view and I hope that the people attending had a positive experience (and feedback suggests that they did). My time spent as a student at Reed, even if brief, was very important to me and I am glad for the chance to give pack to the school that gave so much to me.

It Was A Little Snowy

In mid-January, Portland got a surprising amount of snow which coincided with our winter retreat.

Funeral for Herb Dye

On January 5th, long time lay minister and friend of the priory, Herb Dye, passed away peacefully in his home in Underwood WA. I traveled to Underwood that afternoon to perform the private funeral ceremony for Herb. There will be a public funeral for Herb at Shasta Abbey on February 28th.

Herb and his wife Ruth have been good friends of the Priory and we offer them both merit during this difficult transition.
Alms Bowl

Your kind offerings of practice, work, money, food and other things keep the Priory open for the benefit of all beings. We are deeply grateful for your support.

Recently, in addition to your kind and essential financial support, we received:

Help with cleaning and other work around the temple at the retreat, black beans, 2 kinds of lentil soup, fresh vegetables, quinoa, eggs, frozen vegetables, fruit, potatoes, onions and other groceries.

For more information on the Priory needs, visit the website: Supporting The Priory.
Upcoming Events

Schedule Changes

We have made a few changes to our weekly schedule: we moved meditation instruction to once a month on the third Saturday morning and we changed our Friday evening to simple meditation and vespers. For other upcoming events and details of the Priory schedule, please go to our calendar page..

You are invited to come and lend your voice in offering spiritual merit to a troubled world at the following ceremonies:

February 19th

Transfer of Merit Ceremony. When we do a positive action in our lives we create good, or merit, and, having created merit, we have the opportunity to share that merit with the world. The transfer of Merit ceremony is an opportunity to both generate merit and to give it back to the world.

February 26th

Festival of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. Samantabhadra, or Fugen in Japanese, Pu Hsien in Chinese, is the Celestial Bodhisattva known as the Universally Worthy one. He rides a six tusked white elephant which represent his patient determination to do good in the world and his ability to remove all obstacles. He represents the activity of Buddha Nature and is an embodiment of the selfless love of the Unborn. This ceremony gives the opportunity to reflect on the qualities of this important Bodhisattva and to pass on the merit of our practice.

A Bit Of Dharma

Making and Backsliding On Resolutions

At this time of year it is traditional, in Chinese temples and at many OBC temples, to celebrate the Festival of Maitreya Bodhisattva (on the Lunar New Year in Chinese temples and at the secular New Year in OBC temples). Maitreya, who's name means something like "the friendly one who possesses loving-kindness" is venerated as the Bodhisattva who is said to be in line to be the next Buddha of this world. Maitreya appears in many places throughout the Buddhist canon, and there is an interesting story about him in the beginning of the Lotus Sutra.

It is said that Maitreya, in a former existence, was a bodhisattva in training named Fame Seeker who was "...greedily attached to the development of gain, and though he read and recited many sutras repeatedly, none of them penetrated and stuck, for he forgot and lost almost all. So he was named Fame Seeker. This man also, because he had planted many roots of goodness, was able to meet innumerable hundred thousand myriad kotis of Buddhas, whom he worshiped, revered, honored, and extolled".

I suppose he was called Fame Seeker because he was all caught up in his concerns about what others thought of him and, like many of us, let those thoughts get in the way of doing something a bit more substantial in his life. I always quite appreciate this aspect of Maitreya's story and find it encouraging. Here is the great Maitreya, living out his life as a mostly perfected Celestial Bodhisattva there in the Tushita heaven and he once was a regular human being who I can relate to. 

It is, of course, excellent to make and follow through on our various intentions to help ourselves and those around us and one thing a story like this helps me to work on, is letting go of the self-judgement and recrimination that arises in my mind when I backslide. 

Sometimes, because of that judgement, a kind of despairing voice arises asking "what is the point in making vows and resolutions that I will most likely fail at?" But the thing is, like Maitreya, we are also doing other things which have merit and those things will eventually lend their help in overcoming our obstacles, helping us follow through on our resolve. Making a resolve, even if we fall down, generates its own merit which will bear fruit in our future success if we do not give up. 

As Dogen says, our eventual success is built upon a thousand failures. 
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