It is already past six, the dinner hour, when the last group’s presenter, a lay student raising a teenage daughter in Connecticut, comes forward. His group explored the Zen Teens and Kids programs at the Monastery. The question was, how can we help young people to grow up in the dharma if they don’t have the kind of support at home that we lay practitioners receive from the Monastery? There’s a desire for a tangible transition from Zen Kid to Zen Teen, marked either by a ceremony or liturgy. We also see a need for some way for parents to talk to each other, as well as to the residents who run the programs. And what about some kind of interactive communication for the children? “The web the web the web” has become our newest chant.
Another concern is childcare. “Every church in America has childcare on Sundays,” the presenter comments. That of course requires space. It’s mentioned that no programs or space exist yet for kids at the Temple, the MRO’s lay practice center.
“The older sangha wants and needs to be of use,” the presenter muses. “Is there a way to get our Silver Dragons involved with the Green Sprouts?”
∗ ∗ ∗
There is more to say, more future to dream, but there’s so much to process. When Daido began, there were only a few people practicing with him. In time, more came and together they created the sangha that is sitting here today. That sangha is getting both younger and older. We dream of schools and hospices. Together we have experienced the death of a transformative teacher and the ongoing transition to a new generation of teachers and senior students. In one afternoon we have spanned past and future by just dreaming in the present.
In closing, Shugen Sensei reflects on the fact that, while there are definitely new ideas in the mix now, there is also a confirmation of certain long-range possibilities already being pursued. The school for instance. “That’s been bumping around for years,” he reminds us. “There are a number of people very actively working on that.”
So how do we choose which projects to take up? In our thirty-year history there have been moments when the Monastery has consciously pulled away from important dreaming—dreams that might have been beneficial to certain sangha members but that came with an imperative of their own. Daido chose one possibility over another, Shugen Sensei explains, even when it meant “sometime stepping away from very noble causes. Because he was concerned that in taking that up, we would be threatening or compromising our ability to stay true to what we all originally gathered here to do.”
Ryushin Sensei points us to a map hanging on a nearby wall. It was created by Daido Roshi and a few graphic artists around 1980- 81 in the first years of the Monastery’s existence. “Essentially everything we’ve touched on [today] is on that map. The school is there. The hospice. The sangha house.”
When we envision, we set ourselves up for frustration and disappointment since it’s impossible to fulfill every dream. “I don’t think that’s the point,” Ryushin Sensei says. “There is no problem here. Given the virtues of the bodhisattva of patience, of effort, of recognition of community and the values and resources available to us, this is precisely the thing to do… So when I feel the energy, when I feel the vision, when I see people take the courageous act of seeing this world be [realized in its perfection] within our small community, and then the larger effect of that—it is heartening.”
He smiles. “And I think all of this is possible.”
Sybil Seisui Thomas has been an MRO student since 1997. She took jukai in April 2000.