KAIHAN                                                             Spring 2001
North Carolina Zen Center                                      919-542-7411
283 Quartz Hill Road                                               NCZENCENTER@prodigy.net
Pittsboro, NC 27312-6592                                      http://www2.emji.net/~nczen
Regular Practice at Brooks Branch Zendo on Ironwood Road
Thursday from 7 to 9 PM    Sunday from 10 to noon followed by tea until one.
Tuesday from 6 to 6:45 AM
Opportunities for Formal Practice
May 24
6:00 PM - May 28 12:00, Flattop, VA, Contact Bill Stephens : 804-973-5435, 4425 Advance Mills Rd, Earlysville, VA, 22936 or pinetree@adelphia.net
June 28 - July 2, Southern Dharma Retreat Center, 828-622-7112, 1661 West Rd., Hot Springs, NC 28743; sdharma@main.nc.us SDRC has asked us to encourage people to attend this get together if we wish to schedule a full 7 days for 2002.
Work Weekend and Buddha¹s Birthday
 We appreciate Sandy & Susanna Stewart, Joe Kenlan, John Iler, Jennifer Armstrong,  Catherine Boston , Bill Stephens, Jerry Humphreys, Zingo Munger,  Barbara Gordon, Linda Campany and Be Gardiner who were able to build a pump house, continue various painting projects, plant numerous bulbs donated by the Stewarts, begin a living bamboo screen transplanted from a house just down the road, reclaim the mud clogged ditch line in the lower road, install tiles, clear brush in anticipation of landscaping, and begin a handicap access ramp. During the Spring sitting work on all projects was continued and the Zendo received a major cleaning and window washing. Additional thanks go to Roxanne Henderson, Jason Dowdle, Robert Walker, and Terry Elrod.
On Sunday, April eighth, the final day of the Spring Formal Practice, we celebrated Buddha¹s birthday with a ceremony that included not only a meal for the baby but a bath as well.  As we walked in gyodo chanting the Heart Sutra we, in turn, paused at a bowl with a small Buddha in it  to ladle a sweetened tea over the figure. He extinguished his 2550 candles with one breath, and the wish for the benefit of all beings and his cake was delicious.
Memberships
The Center now has begun incurring major ongoing expenses. Our estimates are that yearly there will be a thousand dollar electricity bill which includes heat and air conditioning and five hundred dollars each for gas, phone, and insurance. The total of twenty-five hundred will also, we hope, cover less expensive incidentals such as toilet paper, tea, and incense.  This is a request for another form of support: fifty dollar annual memberships. If fifty people decide  to support the ongoing center by joining this year it will not only pay those expenses but also provide evidence to grant dispensing organizations that there is a base of support for and interest in the activities of the Center.
Thanks to the 18 pioneers who have become members. Chronologically they are: Jim Barefoot, Be Gardiner, Barbara Gordon, Woody Setzer, Robin Green, Jerry Humphreys, John Iler, Zingo Munger, Bill Stephens, Linda Campany, Jim Whiteside, David Dyer, Cliff Mansfield, Ed Ryan, Jim Cameron, Kathleen Jardine, Allen and Mary Whitman.
The Bath house
 A contract has been signed with Jim Cameron to do the initial phase of construction of the bath house. The foundation and rough in plumbing are complete and the walls will go up this week.
Unfortunately the costs of construction have out paced our building fund and in order to meet our contractual obligation we need to raise $1,400 by June and then, in order to continue with windows and doors, interior walls, and fixtures, more funds will be needed.
Thank you to Roxanne Henderson, a professional fund raiser who sits with us and is sending us packets to assist and encourage our own efforts to be more effective in helping the building project reach completion.
Landscaping
Susanna Stewart has volunteered to oversee the landscaping and some clearing has begun to change the woods from eleagnus and honeysuckle clogged and impassable to a more park like openness.   Thank you.  
Contributions
 We are very pleased to have received a $3000 anonymous donation to the building fund ³matching² the financial and labor contributions of one of our members. All the parties wish to remain anonymous, but we are appropriately grateful.
Thanks for other contributions to this fund to B. J. and Dina O'Brien, David Dyer, Roxanne Henderson and Michael Brown, Judith Ferster, Jennifer and Mike Armstrong, Woody Setzer and Carol Prokop, Caroline Gardiner, Keye McColluch, Zingo Munger, John Iler, Karen Hershman, Lisa Richey and Stefano Ponte, Linda Campany, Susan Lindsay, Joseph Kenlan Stone Masonry, Joan Berman, Nora Safran, Drew Dunn, and Bill Stephens.
Dharma practice; nothing special. (from Sandy)
 Recently a student gave me Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record, containing comments on the original text by the 17th - 18th century Japanese Zen masters Hakuin and Tenkei. I opened to the first case that shows us the meeting of Bodhidharma and the emperor of southern China. The emperor asks, "What is the highest meaning of the holy truths?" Bodhidharma answers, "Empty, without holiness."
Personally, I prefer the more energetic translation, "Vast emptiness! Nothing holy!"
A lot of people mistakenly think that the Buddhist "Empty" means void of everything. As in "My gas tank is empty!" and "I got rid of all my possessions² or ³all my thoughts!" Hui-neng in the Platform Sutra makes a clear statement of this: "Emptiness includes the sun, the moon, the stars, and planets, the great earth, mountains and rivers, all trees and grasses, bad persons and good persons, bad things and good things, heaven and hell; they all are in the midst of emptiness. The emptiness of human nature is also like this."
Here's an exercise: sit for a moment with your eyes closed. Take a slow inhalation, then exhale slowly. Now open your eyes. This is "Empty" and "Vast emptiness!" After a time, the "words mind" will become active, and you may focus on one object among the millions of possible focuses in front of you. Repeated practice of exercises like this will clarify the meaning of vast emptiness and strengthen the ability to relate to others in an "empty" way. Persons who are plagued by an over-active judgmental self can nurture their self that doesn't need to judge!
Another misunderstanding that I find particularly troublesome is the idea that Dharma practice makes a person holier. More frequently this takes the guise of the practitioner using practice to become someone special in contrast to the rest of the less aware, less mindful persons in the world. Even famous Buddhist masters brag, "I am the 99th patriarch!" They too should follow Bodhidharma's example in answering the Emperor's next question, "Who is facing me?" He replied, "Don't know!" He didn¹t say ³I¹m a Buddhist!²


The attached photo of a sample work crew (left to right, Sandy Stewart, Bill Stephens, Barbara Gordon, John Iler, Linda Campany, and Be Gardiner) is by Susanna Stewart.

 

 

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