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Mountain Source Sangha @ Udumbara Sangha

Zen Teacher, Taigen Dan Leighton, upon the invitation of Zen Teacher, Diane Martin, led the Spring sesshin at Udumbara Sangha in Evanston, Illinois. It was the third annual five-day sesshin led by Taigen at Udumbara Sangha. This event was momentous for it was the interweaving of two sanghas, the students and the teachers, creating the cloth of Buddha's robe. Tom Skomski's Lay Ordination, and Taigen Moon meeting Taigen encouraged and delighted those present.

"Suchness," was the sesshin theme and the "Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi," the daily chant. Dharma talks, punctuated with stories of our Ancestors, paid tribute to those gone before who willingly communicated, "Just this is it." Taigen recounted the story of Dongshan, founder of the Soto school in China, given in case #49 in the Book of Serenity. Presenting offerings before the image of Yunyan, Dongshan retold the story about depicting Yunyan's reality of "Just This is It" to a monk who asked, "When Yunyan said, 'Just this is it,' what did he mean?"

Dongshan said, "At that time I nearly misunderstood my late teacher's meaning."
The monk said, "Did Yunyan himself know it is or not?"
Dongshan said, "If he didn't know it is, how could he be able to say this? If he did know it is, how could he be willing to say this?"

Earlier in time, when Dongshan was thoroughly enlightened upon seeing his reflection in the river, he composed a verse:

Just don't seek from others, or you'll be far estranged from Self.
I now go on alone; everywhere I meet It:
It now is me; I now am not It.
One must understand in this way to merge with thusness.

"Just this is it," Taigen would say, repeatedly quoting Yunyan, "Now you have it, preserve it well." And so the mantras, "Just this is it," and "I am not It; It actually is me," filled minds and space, permeating our zazen. Bouyed by the silence of sesshin, I observed what came up, the interplay of Inclined (the phenomenal) and Upright (the ultimate), the coming forth of suchness into the myriad expressions. In the next instant, sounds of passing cars on the street outside the zendo.

Isn't life grand!

On the evening of the fourth day of the sesshin the Sangha quietly prepared for the 'Ceremony of Staying Home and Attaining the Way,' or lay ordination. Sangha members joined into this event, filling the zendo withcommunity. Tom Skomski, Udumbara Sangha member, a student of Taigen, and husband of Udumbara teacher Diane Martin, took the formal step in Buddhist practice of 'taking refuge' in the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

The ceremony began with Taigen leading a procession into the zendo followed by Jisha, Val Szymanski, member of both sanghas. Taigen's sesshin Jisha, Dean Williams, led Tom Skomski into the zendo to the ceremonial seating arrangement.

In this intimate setting of student and teacher facing one another an arms length apart, the intense energy shut out all other distractions. Questions about intention and commitment were asked and responded to. Bodhisattva vows were recited with a promise to live upholding the precepts. Rakusu, Serene Name Card, and Lineage Papers were presented to Tom. At the giving of his Buddhist name, Ryuzan Kozo, "Flowing Mountain- Vast Creation," first surprise then a smile conveyed Tom's emotions. Taigen's closing words of encouragement to Tom and the Sangha seemed to stitch Buddha's robe across the miles that lie between Illinois and California. And Tom's rakusu, started years ago by Tom under Katagiri Roshi, was indeed completed by Mountain Source Sangha member Rose Scarff, assisting Tom during his current recovery from his stroke.

In true ceremonial style, a reception and photo session followed with much light hearted spirits of grace and gratitude.Taigen Moon Irigoyen was there that evening, a baby born on January 1, 2002 to Christiane and Berneard, who are Udumbara Sangha members, and named after Taigen Dan Leighton. At the end of the sesshin Taigen Moon visited Udumbara again and we were able to observe Taigen chanting Japanese sayings and dharanis to Taigen; Two Zen monks in conversation. "Baba wawa" ----- is anything said or not?

Written by Val Szymanski, Mountain Source Sangha Vice-President and Board member, also a Board member of Udumbara Sangha.

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