September 2018 Newsletter

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September 2018 Newsletter

We did it!
The Confluence Zen Center had a successful food booth at the Japanese Festival. Thanks to all of you that gave your time, energy and holiday weekend to volunteer! We are so very grateful! Click here to view our photographs from the Labor Day Weekend Festival.

A few thoughts from some of our volunteers:

The Collaborative Power of the Sangha
According to the Confluence Zen Center’s mission statement: “[We] aspire to be a welcoming, collaborative community dedicated to Soto Zen practice, awakening, and outreach based on the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, Dogen Zenji, and Keizan Zenji.” The CZC Sangha was clearly able to demonstrate the meaning of this statement during the recent Japanese Festival, when we ran our first food booth. Congratulations to all twenty- five of you who volunteered your time and energy, and to all of those of you who kept us in mind over Labor Day weekend. It is no easy thing to organize and carry out a relatively complex task such as a food booth. And yet, not only was it successful (we were able to make a profit), it went smoothly, and it was enjoyable.
There is an expression, “the collaborative power of the Sangha”, which I often heard when I lived in a Japanese monastery. This refers specifically to the support we get from others to carry out tasks that would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to do by ourselves. Several people mentioned that they were not looking forward to working at the food booth (some of them had, in fact, worked at another similar type of food booth), but they were surprised that not only did they enjoy working at the booth this year, they would gladly do it again. Another wonderful part of this venture was the way in which so many people took on the responsibility of some part of the project, something that was needed to do the food booth: one person took care of ordering and designing the aprons, another took care of getting all of the things we needed to take orders (including taking credit card payments), another took care of recruiting volunteers, another person made the tablecloths, and several others took on the responsibility of getting the necessary gear and produce that we needed to cook the various items, and so on. These people took on these responsibilities without being asked to do them. This was impressive, indeed.
Although there were several contributing factors that helped to make this year’s food booth successful, I can’t help but think that the CZC Sangha’s dedication to zazen – whether in stillness or in activity – is the biggest contributing factor. The goal of Zen practice is, by letting go of the small self, to discover a self that encompasses all things. By sitting together and by working together, we aspire to awaken to our inherently free and harmonious nature. This food booth project was a great way to put our collective commitment to Zen practice into effect.
Sincere thanks to all of you helped with the food booth this year. Please continue to keep CZC in mind, and please don’t forget to come sit with us.

Gassho, Daigaku Rummé
CZC Resident Priest

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Although my involvement with the Festival was limited, I enjoyed my small part. I helped with the event set-up on Thursday and take-down on Tuesday. Working with Meiku and Ed was great and we accomplished what was needed. Just being in the garden early in the morning was worth the effort. While helping with prep on Saturday, I was very impressed with how everyone chipped in as needed and worked so hard to get the booth ready and the food prepared. Even the early crowd seemed interested in what we had to offer.

Brad Griffith

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Japanese Fest. – Practice in Action

I am new to the Confluence community and had been uncomfortable and feeling somewhat discombobulated by not understanding when and what to do or say, bemused by my own fear of exposing my own practice, leery of meeting new people, yet knowing/believing the essence of the teaching is always the answer – in this too – do/be – Practice!
I was only able to commit to one day of work at the J.F. and was recovering from illness, but determined to honor my commitment and curious what it would be like to work as Sangha. I have worked with many other religious, spiritual groups on large, stressful tasks before and have often been left feeling heartbroken and weary at the end of the tasks by the lack of sincere effort to Be the expression of the faith/beliefs/practices professed by the various groups and often left holding a bucket of disillusion and judgement to empty/clear/process in my own practice. Working with members of the Confluence Sangha was different.
Since I only worked the last day of the event, lots of organizing and hard work had already been done by others. Everything was well organized, with no expression of chaos, with all honoring sincere effort to practice ‘the Way’ in action. There was something definitely different working within Sangha when each person is practicing to be present. Understanding and expressing that this too is practice. It was heartwarming to experience a group working together in harmony.
It was a joy to meet and interact with more of the members of the Sangha. My efforts paled in scope to the work and commitment others in the community made, but my practice was blessed in my time working with the Confluence Sangha at J.F. as we shared a day of satisfying, meaningful work with endurance, kindness and peace with each other and the greater community. I was grateful to be able to go home feeling honored to be a part of this Sangha’s effort and not questioning the path. Thank you.
I look forward to participating again next year, perhaps providing an example of the meaning of Sangha in action to another. It was a beautiful, fulfilling day. The effort that was put forth was truly amazing and beneficial in more ways than we will ever know.

Sherry Lovett

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From the get-go, I truly believed that CZC volunteers could pull off the big fundraiser at the 2018 Japanese Festival. It had nothing — well, very little — to do with naivety. I know the good people of CZC and their willingness to go the extra mile. Yes, it would be tough and intense, but we had the skills and drive needed.

Months of planning, meetings, supply-shopping, and dress rehearsals brought us to the big Labor Day weekend at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Things were a little hectic on that first day, but by 11:00 am our booth was in full swing, selling delicious traditional Japanese dishes and teas. We even took the plunge into high-tech with the Square device for credit cards and Apple Pay. With joy, and at least a smidgeon of surprise, we saw it work without a hiccup. The remainder of the weekend went smoothly, almost as if we’d operated a food vending booth every weekend.

My greatest joy was working alongside CZC folks. There was an almost palpable atmosphere of cooperation and camaraderie. We were all similarly motivated to present CZC to the public in the best possible light, and to serve fine products that our customers would enjoy. Witnessing our success was rewarding to me on both a personal level and as a member of CZC.

Did we make mistakes? A few, of course; to be expected. But we have learned so much. The next time CZC operates a food vending booth, we will put that hard-earned knowledge and experience into action. I hope that, in the future, others at CZC will step forward to become part of the team, and experience the same joy and satisfaction I did. While it required a good bit of time and effort, it was also fun and exhilarating. I look forward to our next fundraising adventure!

Elaine Pontious

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Reflections on a Sangha

While it is certainly true that one’s practice is grounded in deep and personal ways, our individual practice and the dharma is grounded and supported by the Triple Basket or Triple Gem, namely, The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It is here, basking in the radiant light of these three gems that Buddhist principles may illuminate wisdom and support one’s transformation from a place of delusion and ignorance into a realm of awareness, and ultimately, a luminescent mind. Bright and clear, unhindered but collectively supported through the participation and cooperation of others.

While the third gem of the Triple Gem is the Sangha, its place cannot be mistaken as third rate. Buddha, after all was a teacher and teachers do not work well in isolation. After his complete awakening, he no longer existed in isolation but eagerly went out to share his wisdom in order to end the suffering of the world community. As such, he welcomed one and all, ordaining monks (the original Sangha) and freely sharing his wisdom, creating great communities of followers dedicated to the principles of loving kindness, compassion, and universal fellowship. None of his teachings would have had much an impact if this did not occur, that is to say, if there wasn’t a community of willing participants.

When preparing a meal, there must be those that while washing the rice, are able to recognize the difference (or sameness) between what is sand and what are grains. There must be those who are willing to then prepare the rice, one grain for every grain necessary. There must also be those who are willing to mindfully wash, slice and prepare the vegetables. After everything is prepared, there must also be those who are willing to stand and serve it to those in need. To those who are hungry. It is only through this manner that a community can be sustained. Through our Sangha, we create a living sustainable dharma, a vibrant and vital expression of the Buddha’s intention that is joyfully shared and supported by one another, and by extension, we help bring an end to the pervading suffering that surrounds all of us. Without it, everyone goes hungry.

William Reyland