Zen River Business Meeting Notes

Notes from the November 3rd Sangha meeting: Zen River Sangha Business Meeting Thank you to all who participated, and to Lask for taking notes.

Sangha Expressions: YouTube Stories by Franklin Chen

Researched, created and narrated by Franklin Chen, Zen River Sangha member, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter   Hiroshima, is a history account on the decision of dropping the atomic bomb to Japan and the aftermath. A lesson that all humanity needs to learn about. […]

Sangha Expressions: Knowing our Call of this Incarnation by Franklin Chen

By Franklin Chen, Zen River Sangha member, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter


There are two important days in our lives.
The day we are born, and
the day we know why we are born.
—Mark Twain

Back in 2008 when I was in Taiwan for sabbatical leave, I read a newspaper story of a dumpling lady in Taiwan. She sold the best dumpling in a small village in southern Taiwan. She was in the news for two reasons. The first reason was that her dumpling was the best at the time in Ping-tong, a small village in southern Taiwan where she lived. The second reason was that she had a stage-3 ovarian cancer and was told only had 3 years to live. Despite that, every morning, she got up at 3:30 AM and began to work, making dumpling. No one helped her because she was a widow, and her children were working outside of Ping-Tong. Reporters were puzzled why she was working so hard and did not take rest.

“Taking a rest? “, she said, “Did I just sit there and waiting to die?”

“When I make the best dumpling and my happy customers complimented and smiled at me, that is my best medicine.” She said.

The day she was interviewed by the reporter, she had already outlived the dreadful pronouncement of death by two years. I do not know if she is still alive today. Either way, she is a good role model for us because she knew her purpose of life. She knew why she was born.

There is another example. I met an old time friend (a Kimberly-Clark colleague) at a concert in July of 2018. He was an engineer, and got laid off in 2003. I asked him what he is doing now. He said that he is building

organ. Building organ requires engineering skills, metal and wood crafting, and music ears. He had learned the craft as an apprentice from a master 25 years ago before he worked for Kimberly-Clark. After working at Kimberly-Clark, he made good money as an engineer in a corporation, but was never be happy. Once he got laid off, he knew his calling was to continue to build organs for churches. My old friend knows his calling and is very happy for his life.

The dharma teachers in our Sangha ask us to be joyful even at unlikely circumstances. Many studies have shown that if we know why we are here and know why we are given this life to experience our impermanent body, and emotions, we can be joyful at most of the circumstances.

Sangha Expressions: Three Poems by Jian Zhi Peter

By Jian Zhi Peter Tolly, ZRS Board Secretary, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter   Rumination A sheer torrent my need for story: I can dredge for days but was dead in the flow from the start   *          *    […]

Sangha Expressions: Consciousness Uniting by Christian Peterson

By Christian Peterson, Zen River Sangha member, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter   “The world presents itself to us as ​real.​ It is, by accounts, a very convincing presentation.” How many forms of stimuli are there that present themselves to our consciousness, and how […]

Sangha Expressions: Be Hollow by Scott Wanless

By Scott Wanless, Zen River Sangha member, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter


An everyday experience in Zen practice

For me, the best advice to quiet the normal chatter during a sit is to breathe and repeat the word “listen.” This advice also has practical application.

For example, the results of my most recent health check showed slightly elevated risk factors due to sloppy habits. The doctor suggested a set of unnamed prescriptions, and I bristled at this. I favor meditation first and home remedy second where possible, and so far, take no prescription medications. I respect Western medicine. I just steer clear of it if possible.

I sat with this challenge and was fully ready to listen for any advice from Intuition. On my next Thursday night sit, the phrase “Be Hollow” exploded into my entire being. Very compelling, but I needed a little more specific instruction.

The next Thursday, the word “subtract” arrived. This is better, as I now had an action verb. But still not specific enough.

Next sit, a still more specific suggestion with the phrase “subtract sugars in three forms.” After a little web surfing, I found those three forms. Fortunately, they all start with the letter “s,” making them easy to remember. They are sugar (i.e. processed), stealth sugars (sugar that goes by an alternate name such as sucrose, fructose, maltodextrin, nectar, etc.), and syrups (e.g. corn syrup, rice syrup, barley syrup, cane syrup, etc.).

Now I had something to work with. My directive was to be hollow by subtracting sugar, stealth sugars and syrups. In 15 weeks, I have lost 30 pounds. And I continue to lose approximately two pounds per week. My guess is in six months I should be down roughly 50 pounds.

I thought this was all the instruction I needed, but on my next sit I received the phrase “subtract sludge.” Once again, not specific enough. This was followed the next morning by a coughing spell that worked free a great deal of mucous. This must have been the “sludge.” I am currently sitting with this and listening for more specifics. I suspect it may be subtracting more sloppy habits. And if the instructions stay true to form, they should all start with the letter “s.”

I do feel great and more “hollow” at least physically. Each breath is deeper than ever before, which improves my focus as well as a feeling of “true freedom and joy beyond comprehension.” I intend to keep listening for more directives, which may extend to not just body, but mind and spirit as well. Wonderful!

By Scott Wanless

About our Sangha and Place of Practice

By Taiso Hannya Byran Bartwo Roshi, ZRS Head Priest, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter   In this article, I want to briefly explore the meaning of Sangha, with a perspective which departs a little from the usual. Ultimately, the place of practice is “no-where” […]

Manju’s Sabbatical

By Myoshin Rene Taylor, Zen River Sangha member, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter   After many years of dedicated service, Manju has chosen to take a much deserved sabbatical from his priestly duties. He will continue to be an active member of our sangha. […]

Fall President Greeting

By Liaoran Bo Re Tess Grey, ZRS Priest and Board President, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter


Sangha-wide meeting on ZRS financial future
Saturday, November 3, 2018, following practice
You are invited to bring a dish to share


Dear sangha family and friends,

The solstice has passed and the days are getting shorter now; soon the evenings will be chilly again, and not so very long after that, the snow will begin to fall and another year will have come and gone. Time and life do not wait for us; our observation of reality shows us the truths of sickness, old age, and death. This is the “great matter” of birth and death, and our matriarchs and patriarchs exhort us to take heed and to attend to our practice so we can wake up, be liberated, and share this liberation with all sentient beings.

Our lives are busy and full–and we often feel acutely that they are stressful, difficult, confusing. We are all deeply blessed, though–we have a strong sangha, an excellent facility to practice in, multiple opportunities to fit service and practice into our schedules so that we can return to our contemplation of the great matter. I have seen in my experience how this practice enables me to engage with the aspects of my life that seem overwhelming or uncertain, as I think many of us have. There is a strength and capacity for presence and curious, sincere engagement that grows out of meditation.

The sangha will be calling on this curiosity and sincere engagement from all of us this season. On November 3rd, we will be holding a potluck and meeting after our regular sit, in order to discuss the sangha’s desires,

capacity, and ideas for our financial goals and the continuation of our community and practice. We have the fortune of material support for our activities due to the great generosity of many, but we as a community also have the responsibility to determine what we feel is sustainable and necessary in the long-term. Please do all that you can to hold this date on your calendar and to attend this sit and meeting, and watch for more information to be released on the email list as the date approaches.

Liaoran Tess Grey

ZRS Board Minutes – July 28, 2018

20180728 ZR Board Minutes Attendees: Jian Zhi, Kai Hiu, Liaoran, Taiso Convened at 9:55 a.m.   Topics: Financials Review of expenses handout provided by Kai Hui Discussion of building purchase feasibility Reishin hoping ZRS can purchase the building by June 2020; would like to know […]