December 16, 2011

The Rinzai Zen Community

For some time now we've been using the name "Rinzai Zen Community" for the network of practice groups and practitioners anchored by Korinji and Daiyuzenji.  Now RZC has its own site:  http://www.rinzaizen.org.

While the Daiyuzenji and Korinji sites will remain focused on the events and doings of each temple, the RZC site is evolving to be the main resource for our sangha's members.  A password-protected page provides access to various practice aids- instructional videos, downloadable docs, a "Contact a Teacher" function, and so on - for our members only.  Our first batch of videos, including clips instructing basic zazen and breathing, will be posted shortly.

If you currently donate regularly to Daiyuzenji, Korinji or one of our practice groups, congratulations:  you're already an RZC member.  Go to the RZC site, click on "Become a Member", fill out the information and RZC will register you.

If you're not currently a member please take a look at the RZC site.  We're excited to see our community grow and hope that RZC will serve to open our practice to many, many others...distant as well as near.

December 13, 2011

Korinji stove, doors

Two shots from our last work weekend in November.  Greg Dekker, Jim Mills and myself were on site at Korinji to accomplish several things:  high on our list were a final battening down of the work site before winter and some cleanup following a violent windstorm which had dropped some trees across the property.  But more exciting:  our zendo wood burning stove and our Amish-built main doors were all ready to install.

The stove is rated to heat up to 2500 square feet...more than enough for this space.  The latest wood burners are small and extremely efficient.  It barely fills one corner of the main space but puts out a surprising amount of heat.  With insulation and ceiling fans we'll be in good shape.

Our doors are 8' red oak, crafted by Abe Bontrager from LaValle, WI.  Finished locally, they came out beautifully.  Here is a view of the mounted doors from the inside.  It was too dark by the time we were finished to get many good outside shots, but we'll remedy that soon.

We're in the midst of setting next year's work schedule at Korinji and will announce it shortly.

December 5, 2011

Rohatsu lecture in Chicago

The Japanese word Rohatsu literally means the 8th day of the 12th month.  This day is the one traditionally viewed as marking the attainment of enlightenment by Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha.  Across the Zen world, practitioners are undertaking a period of particularly rigorous training this week to commemorate this event.  It culminates with the rising of the morning star on the 8th.

A public Zen lecture will be offered at Daiyuzenji temple in Chicago on the evening of the 8th (this Thursday) by So'zan Miller Roshi, the Daiyuzenji abbot.  Please join us!  Start time is 7:15pm, and the suggested donation is $10.  Tea will be served.

If you'd like to attend, please RSVP to:  info@daiyuzenji.org.

November 7, 2011

Zen practice group in Ann Arbor

The Rinzai Zen Community welcomes the practice group at Huron Valley Aikikai in Ann Arbor, Michigan under the leadership of Tozan (Rodger) Park Sensei.

Tozan is a long-time Zen practitioner and a good friend.  He's also been very supportive of our work at Korinji - you'll see him in quite a few of the work crew photos.  If you'd like a place to practice in Ann Arbor please check them out.   

October 25, 2011

An autumn week at Korinji

We've just returned from our end-of-year work week at Korinji.  In glorious autumn weather and with a whirlwind of activity the zendo exterior was essentially completed:  the walls are now clad with stucco siding trimmed with cedar, while the cupola is entirely finished in cedar.

Our professional crew managed by Jim Mills, and our volunteers managed by Greg Dekker, somehow accomplished everything we set out to do.  In addition to the progress on our building we also continued our development of the grounds:  the trail system has been expanded, the stone and earthen ramps bracketing our small bridge have settled nicely, and the rocks lining the paths are planting themselves more deeply and growing thick coats of green moss.  We harvested several thick hardwood trunks; though they were standing dead and dry, they're rock-solid and heavy as iron (we believe them to be hophornbeam).  These will be the pillars anchoring our future entrance gate.  And the process of clearing our future house site, overgrown with rose, buckthorn and burdock, has begun.

Some small but significant jobs were completed on the sidelines as well.  Two umpan (metal gongs), cut from 1/2" steel and donated to us, now serve to call work crews to lunch.  One of them has been hung temporarily from our zendo porch where it is forming a fine patina of red rust.  We'll let that one continue to age over the winter.  The second has been finished differently, with a hand-peened rim and dark bluing.  The striker was made from wood found on the land.

We expect to have one more work weekend at Korinji in November (dates TBA).  Our 8' tall red oak doors hand-crafted by Abe Bontrager, a woodworker from the local Amish community, are completed and now getting stained and sealed locally.  We also have our wood-burning stove on the way.  We hope in November to have both of these installed....and of course you will all be welcome to help.

To see some more photos from the week (including our 8' red oak doors) please go here.

October 3, 2011

Sesshin next week

Fall sesshin, hosted jointly with Daiyuzenji temple in Chicago, is next week (October 6-9)! This sesshin will be held at House-in-the-Wood, a retreat center on Lake Delavan in Wisconsin. It's a beautiful place and the site of many of our sesshin in the past.

For more information (including directions and an online donation link) please see Daiyuzenji's registration page: http://daiyuzenji.org/SesshinDelavanFall.html.

September 14, 2011

Upcoming events

Fall promises to be as busy as ever. The next Korinji work weekend is this coming Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17-18. Fall Sesshin is set for Oct. 6-9. Visits by Meido Roshi to various Chicago-area practice groups are scheduled through December. And the end-of-year work week at Korinji will be held Oct. 17-22 with our annual party on the 22nd.

Stay up to date and in touch! To join the Korinji email list go to http://www.korinji.org/

To see the Korinji general events calendar for USA and Europe go to http://www.korinji.org/Calendar.html

For specifically Chicago-area events and practice group meetings go to the Chicago Zen Community site here: http://www.chicagozencommunity.org/

Please help us spread the word about Korinji and the Rinzai Zen Community! Forward these links to your email lists, post them on your Facebook page and in general talk us up! Korinji is a community of practitioners, not just a place - and we welcome anyone to join us on the path of Zen...

September 6, 2011

August training and travels...

I'm happy to report to all our friends and to the members of Korinji's Rinzai Zen Community on the activities of the past month. Since the beginning of August, two sesshin and two important training seminars have taken place.

The beginning of August saw our annual long sesshin, jointly sponsored by Daiyuzenji in Chicago and Korinji. The group this time around consisted mostly of experienced students, and so the sesshin was smooth and marked by a quiet depth that was perhaps also reinforced by the warm, humid weather. Once again Daiyuzenji rented Camp Dewan in south-central Wisconsin as the sesshin venue...after so many sesshin there, the place seems to fit us like a glove (with the Korinji zendo nearing completion, however, it's wonderful that we can finally envision a day when renting such a place will be unnecessary).

Daiyuzenji Abbot So'zan Miller Roshi, Soen Linxweiler Roshi (who also served as tenzo) and myself were all present; James Traywick was shika and Alex Shakar lent his energy as jikijitsu.

Immediately following sesshin, I flew to Poland to instruct at an annual 8-day summer training camp there hosted by Tomasz Krzyzanowski Sensei's AAI-Polska, a large Aikido organization. I was pleased to instruct not only a number of martial art classes but also zazen each morning. It was encouraging to see 80-odd students - many of them first-time meditators - solidly sitting at the beginning of each day. Even when the exhaustion of the week's training schedule began to take its toll, zazen attendance did not drop off. It's my hope that this bodes well for future Zen training activities there.

This year and in past years the Poland event has drawn martial artists and teachers from Poland, Russia, Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Germany and Sweden. Of course this year I was excited to show pictures of our progress at Korinji to many of the students, and in general to spread the word about our community. I do anticipate that when Korinji is complete some of the first resident trainees may well come from among this group of international friends.

After that event I had a week free before the start of another sesshin in Germany. During this time a few of us toured by car from the Baltic Sea, south through Poland into Slovakia and Hungary, and then through Transylvania in Romania to the Black Sea at Constanta. It was an exhausting but fascinating journey through parts of Europe I'd never seen. Then in Bucharest, I tracked down an old training friend from many years ago named George Raicu. George had spent some time in 1990 in Chicago at the training hall of our late teacher, Toyoda Rokoji. Though it's been twenty years since we last met, the bonds of our time living and training together still held. He (and Romania) have been through a lot in the decades since his return from Chicago, and George has been instrumental in spreading traditional Japanese martial arts there. Toyoda Sensei would be pleased, I'm sure. We had a wonderful, nostalgic meeting together which may also blossom into further activity.

Finally, in the last week of August I flew from Romania to Salzburg, Austria, and was driven from there over the border into the town of Laufen. Our annual European sesshin is held in Bavaria in a renovated 16th-century Capuchin monastery which, though now hosting many kinds of events, still holds something of its originally rigorous, quiet atmosphere. The sesshin organizers are Anselm Stahl and Raymond Schroder, who both have many years of Zen, martial arts and bodywork training. The attendees are largely drawn from the community of bodyworkers they've worked to develop in Europe. It is certainly a pleasure to practice with such a focused and physically "present" group of trainees.

I was particularly impressed to see many of the students taking advantage of the free-sitting periods, not only in the zendo but on the grounds of the old monastery and even in the small cemetery where the simple stones of the monk's graves stand. One particular area a few of us used for for walking meditation, in the forested rear of the compound along an old wall into which are set faded paintings of the stations of the cross, remains strongly in my memory. I feel very good that our group's usage of this old monastery is, in some small way, in union with the spirit of those contemplative monks who lived, trained and died there over several centuries.

After a long journey back from Europe and a few days rest, we then held the second of this year's Internal Training seminars in Chicago. The event was scheduled for Labor Day weekend and so I didn't expect the type of attendance we'd had earlier in the year. But still, 14 enthusiastic trainees came, including a few from a Soto practice group in the Champaign/Urbana area of Illinois. After the events and travel of the previous weeks, it was wonderful to spend two days practicing tanden kokyuho, Hakuin's naikan and nanso exercises, and our Do-in Ho breathing, movement and self-massage practices. Physically and energetically it was a perfect way to end what's been a whirlwind month of travel, training and teaching.

I'm grateful to everyone who organized all of these events. And I'm especially grateful to Enmei Hunter and our other Korinji board members and friends whose work in my absence makes it possible for me to travel without worry. Greg Dekker and Jim Mills also have kept the ball rolling on construction at Korinji, and we're now set for our next work weekends. Before the end of October our zendo's exterior will be completed.

Everyone here in Chicago did such a wonderful job holding the fort, in fact, that I now feeel very comfortable leaving again when necessary!

- Meido

July 26, 2011

Heat and progress

The recent heat wave didn't spare Korinji: stagnant, humid air settled into our little valley, seeming to magnify and hold the sun's heat...just in time for our summer construction week!

The professional crew led by construction chief Jim Mills and project manager Greg Dekker spent last week completing the framing, soffit/fascia and window installation. Our cupola is no longer a purely ornamental feature: with 16 windows in place, it's become an enormous skylight admitting illumination sufficient to make electric lighting completely unnecessary during the day.

Likewise, the large windows on both the ravine and uphill sides of the building now afford breathtaking views of the surrounding foliage. Because the ravine side windows are level with the canopies of downhill trees, the sensation arises that one is floating high in the air. This has led to the new zendo nickname of "the treehouse".


Particularly beautiful is the tongue-in-groove cedar above the future front door. When the double entrance doors are installed along with the cedar decking, this will be a truly magnificent spot.

There's still much to be done this year: next up is the siding, and with that Korinji's first building will be finished on the exterior at least. Insulation and interior buildout will continue throughout the winter and into the spring...but at this point we can confirm that we're on schedule and even several thousand dollars under budget.

Tremendous thanks to "Monster Crew", the insanely talented and hardworking gang who braved the extreme heat and once again came through for us (seen here enjoying a celebratory end-of-week dinner).

We now take a break to focus on two sesshin in August (Wisconsin and Germany) but the next work weekend at Korinji is set for Sept. 17-18. Mark your calendars! Along with the building construction there are always exciting work projects around the grounds as well, and your energy continues to be needed up at Korinji.

July 22, 2011

Sept. 3-4 seminar: The Energy and Healing Practices of Zen

"The Energy and Healing Practices of Zen", a seminar instructing Korinji's Internal Training curriculum, will be offered in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4. This is the second of two seminars on this topic offered this year, teaching the major practices of the curriculum. Those who missed the first seminar will have the opportunity to make-up the foundational instruction during this second event.

The seminar is taught by Meido Roshi, and all proceeds benefit Korinji. Please see the seminar flyer for registration information, here. For more information on the curriculum itself, see the Internal Training page on Korinji's website here.

July 6, 2011

New practice group: Naperville, IL

A new practice group in the western Chicago suburb of Naperville has been officially formed as a branch of the Rinzai Zen Community, Korinji's network of Zen practice groups and practitioners. The Naperville group currently meets Saturday mornings and Meido Roshi will be visiting there once monthly.

Please see www.chicagozencommunity.org for more information on this new group as well as the six others in the Chicago area. Groups outside the Chicago area are also forming and will be announced shortly...the Korinji site maintains a full listing of the practice groups of the Rinzai Zen Community here which is updated regularly.

June 27, 2011

Upcoming events & Fall-a-thon results

First, two event reminders/updates:

1. This coming Friday, July 1st, the annual memorial service for Tenzan Toyoda Rokoji (1947-2001) will be conducted at 3717 N. Ravenswood, #113, Chicago. Toyoda Sensei, who immigrated from Japan to Chicago in 1974, was a dharma successor of the late Tenshin Tanouye Roshi in the line of Omori Sogen Roshi. A lay Zen master and teacher of Aikido, he spent his career working to transmit our Zen lineage, as well as traditional Japanese martial and cultural arts, to the West. This year marks the 10th anniversary of his death.

Aikido students will practice in Toyoda Sensei's honor from 5:45-6:45pm; the ceremony will start promptly at 7pm. Please dress appropriately (training uniform, or modest clothing). Following there will be internal training and meditation.

2. Update: the July 2-3 monastery work weekend at Korinji has been canceled. Again, a professional crew will be on site July 18-22 working to construct the soffit and fascia of our roof and to drop in our new windows. We'll be on hand to assist the crew, and welcome you to join us. Please contact Korinji to volunteer (info@korinji.org)!

Second, we're thrilled to announce the results of the recent Fall-a-thon fundraiser. This past Saturday, 11 Aikido students performed 1,958 falls and raised just under $10,000.00 in pledges for Korinji. There are still a few fallers needing to make-up their sessions so final numbers will change...but for now, thank you to these martial artists whose sweat and effort have helped fund Korinji. It is fitting, as we approach the 10th anniversary of Toyoda Sensei's death, to recognize that without these Aikidoists Korinji would not be taking form as it is today...

June 21, 2011

June 18-19 report, July plans and the Fall-a-thon

The most recent monastery work weekend has added a few new features to the Korinji grounds.

The area in front of the zendo is now graded to its final form, with a new path leading up from stone steps, skirting the building's perimeter and then ascending up to what will eventually be the site of our residential structure. At one point in this ascent another new path, nearly obscured by dense foliage, now winds off some 30 yards into a hidden, silent grove of old oaks which shelter a cluster of flat-topped boulders. These stones are ideal for yaza, the "free" periods of meditation concluding the monastic day, when it is customary for monks to sneak off outside to some solitary spot to sit. The image shows the largest of these.

Meanwhile below in the main ravine, our small footbridge has been nearly completed from recycled railroad ties and leftover zendo lumber. Drystone ramps will soon join to both ends of the wooden span.

Though our focus in the past two months has been grounds work like this, we're pleased to announce that the next major phase of building construction has been confirmed. July 18-22 a professional crew will be onsite to complete our wall framing, the roof soffit and fascia, and the installation of our windows. These windows and the lumber needed for this work have been ordered. We're on track now to complete the exterior entirely by this fall.

Though the actual work that week will be completed by pros, we still need assistants! If you'd like to come up to lend a hand, please contact Korinji: info@korinji.org.

Finally, please remember the annual fundraiser benefiting Korinji which Shinjinkai, the Japanese Martial Arts Society (http://www.shinjinkai.org/) is holding this coming Saturday the 25th in Chicago. During this event Aikido students demonstrate their martial art by being thrown as many times as they are able within 15 minutes. Similar to a walk-a-thon, they gather pledges for the number of falls they take. In years past as much at $16,000.00 has been raised by this event. Right now there are fallers who need sponsors: if you'd like to be matched up with one of these amazing volunteers to pledge a certain amount per fall (or just contribute a flat donation of any amount) please contact Shinjinkai: info@shinjinkai.org.

June 10, 2011

Memorial day weekend report

Another weekend of progress at Korinji. This time we'll use mostly images to tell the story (courtesy of JC Epong, our photographer):

Like all work weekends, zazen (meditation) begins and ends each day. We sit as a group in the unfinished interior of our building. Early or late in the day, however, you may catch glimpses of volunteers doing solo sitting on a flat rock in the woods, or perhaps on the future back engawa.

The samu (work) schedule for this weekend was mostly centered on the grounds: trail building, gardening and other such things. More than 40 plants - purple coneflowers, woodland poppies, ferns, lillies, phlox, yarrow, valerian, lamb's ear, pachysandra and scilla - were dug in along the trail. They join the maidenhair ferns, may apple, thimbleberry and blooming trillium which were everywhere in abundance. Many thanks to Karen Radtke, who began stockpiling many of these additions last fall and lovingly cared for them over the winter in anticipation of this day.

While this was going on, the chainsaw crew was hard at work felling dead wood and in general cleaning up the place. Trees don't always lean the way we'd like them to fall, and so the rope teams applied their skill and muscle. Other volunteer teams were also wandering the woods locating and digging up suitable stone to finish lining the main stretch of trail between our parking lot and the zendo. In the main ravine, it often makes sense to roll the stones down to where they're needed, rather than haul them. A slow but steady avalanche of these sandstone rocks allowed us to complete the trail and establish the foundation of the small footbridge that will span the muddy ravine bottom.

Let's return now to the work of our planters: this bit of trail, which is one of the switchbacks on the initial stretch below the parking area (and the point where future visitors might catch a first glimpse, far off and above the trees, of the monastery building roofs), has been dubbed "fern alley".

Some other minor jobs: raking the gravel of our new construction access drive, which is beginning to set nicely. This is the dreaded stretch of steep hill that tested our volunteers' endurance in the past, when construction materials were often hauled down to the work site by hand. Those of us who were there in those difficult days tend to wax poetic about this drive in a way that most folks can't understand. It's beautiful!

The end of a day: relaxing on the front porch. The special meal this time was okonomiyaki, a type of vegetable pancake which is a famous dish in Japan's Kansai region. Many thanks to Greg Dekker for his chef skills and generosity in feeding the hungry crew.

We hope these images give you a sense of a typical summer weekend at Korinji. Please join us! A listing of future work weekend dates may be found on the Korinji site, here. Our schedule now calls for the completion of the building's exterior (soffit/fascia, windows and siding with trim) before the fall, allowing us to continue interior buildout throughout the year in a fully-sealed building. We welcome you to be a part of this immensely rewarding project, and most important to practice with us.

May 25, 2011

New Zen practice groups: update

18 participants turned out for the Chicago Zen Community's introductory session at North Shore Yoga in Northfield, IL on May 21st. Strong interest has led to confirmation of our new practice group there, meeting monthly on Saturdays 11:15am-12:30pm. Sitting and a dharma talk will be offered. Please mark your calendar with the upcoming monthly dates: June 11th, July 30th and September 24th.

Here's another reminder also for the first monthly meeting of our new group in Roscoe, Illinois at Lazy Dog Yoga: June 6th, 7:15-9pm.

For more detailed location information and to RSVP to visit either group, please go to http://www.chicagozencommunity.org/. And please help us spread the word!

May 10, 2011

New Zen practice groups

The Chicago Zen Community, an association of Chicago-area practice groups which is part of the larger Rinzai Zen Community supported by Korinji, has announced the formation of a new practice group in Roscoe, Illinois (near Rockford), meeting at Lazy Dog Yoga. The group will meet monthly on Monday evenings at 7:45pm, with the first meeting scheduled for June 6. Meditation instruction and a dharma talk will be given. See the CZC site for more information.

Meanwhile in Northfield, Illinois an introduction to meditation class will be held on Saturday, May 21 at North Shore Yoga, 11:15am-12:30pm. This class is being held as a kick-off event for a possible ongoing practice group there. Please see North Shore Yoga's site here for location information.

Several additional practice groups are in the process of forming, and we'll keep you posted!

Trails and drives

Though rain was forecast this past weekend at Korinji our work crew was met with unexpected sunshine. They report that the last of the snow is finally gone, and flowers are blooming in the forest despite the slow start that the trees seem to have had this year

With dense foliage yet to arrive and the forest floor still clear, it was therefore a good time for work on the grounds. We're happy to announce that after a bit of hard labor the trail from our main parking area to the monastery now has steps in two locations: on the steep slope just below the lot, and on the slippery area below the second switchback (just before the footbridge location). Our steps, five in each spot, are made of railroad tie halves and stone. We expect to put another 9 in just below the zendo, above the future gate.

Most of the rest of the work this weekend involved the disposal of a huge brush pile, the construction of a bin for burnable wood scraps (with our future woodstove in mind), and a general continued cleaning up of the construction site. On Monday, however, a dramatic change came to the grounds: the final graveling of our main parking area, as well as the secondary drive and parking leading down to the monastery area. Gusty thunderstorms hit before noon, but by that time our skidsteer had done most of the difficult work. By 3pm it was done, and we now have a permanent and accessible large parking area for guests as well as construction and emergency access to the building site. And yes, we can finally announce that never again will any of our work crews need to carry building materials down to the monastery by hand. Veterans of the now-infamous groundbreaking weekend, in which more than 300 bags of concrete were hand carried through the woods, may justly now brag that "in the old days, we did things differently...".

With this completed, we're now poised to dive into more work on the building, depending on our fundraising situation. We've calculated that $60,000.00 is needed to finish the zendo completely, inside and out. Though our incoming donation stream has been wonderfully steady, it hasn't been large enough to allow for the several large purchases we now need to make quickly, like windows. Please see the Korinji site for ways in which you can donate or volunteer including supporting events like our annual Fall-a-thon on June 25th!

Many thanks as usual to our volunteer work crew this past weekend. The next work weekend is May 27-30...Memorial Day weekend here in the States. If you can come up to help for any or all of those days, you are indeed very welcome to contribute to Korinji's founding.

May 4, 2011

Internal training workbook available

A limited number of copies of the Internal Training Reference and Study Workbook are available. This is the same workbook distributed to participants in the recent internal training seminar. Contents include:

- Preface (by Meido Roshi)
- A Brief Background of Internal Training
- Points to be Observed in Practice
- The Posture of Internal Training
- The Practices (with blank pages for student notes):Tanden Kokyu-ho, Naikan no Ho, Nanso no Ho, Do-in Ho (24 self-massage forms, 15 small forms and 15 primary forms), and Hara Tanren.

Please note that this is a workbook for students actually studying the internal training curriculum; it does not instruct the curriculum, but rather serves as a convenient notebook and reference during actual class sessions. In other words: you can not learn the curriculum from this book, but the book is important if you are learning the curriculum.

Copies are $15.00, made payable to the Korinji foundation. Please email to info@korinji.org to inquire.

April 22, 2011

Summer Sesshin: USA and Germany

Mark your calendars: the next sesshin are set!

August 2-7 will be our local sesshin in Burlington, WI hosted jointly by Daiyuzenji and Korinji.

The dates are also set for our 2011 European sesshin, to be held once again in Laufen, Germany (just north of the Austrian border...fly into Salzburg): August 25-28. The venue for this event is the Kapuzinerhoff, a restored 17th century Capuchin monastery (shown in the photo).

For information on either event, please contact Korinji: info@korinji.org.

Spring activities

This week saw a flurry of activity as the Korinji Foundation's schedule of spring events clicked into gear.

This past weekend Shininkai in Chicago hosted the first of the Foundation's two 2011 Internal Training instructional seminars. 35 participants from Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Montana traveled in for the two-day training led by Moore Roshi, which focused on the foundational practices of Korinji's internal training curriculum: Tanden Kokyu-ho and the Naikan no Ho and Nanso no Ho exercises of Hakuin Zenji. The second day's practice was able to get through the Do-in Ho self-massage and energy circulation exercises in a cursory manner; a second seminar on Sept. 3-4 will focus on a more detailed examination of them as well as Hara Tanren.

Both seminars this year benefit Korinji of course. This first seminar raised approximately $2000.00 for our building fund. This will just about cover the cost of Korinji's crucial new driveway and parking areas which are being completed in a few weeks (work crew volunteers: this new graveled drive means no more hauling of building materials through the woods by hand!).

Yesterday, another event truly served to drive home the fact of spring's arrival. McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois has established a beautiful Zen garden in a courtyard on campus, and Korinji was invited through the Japanese Culture Institute to participate in its dedication. Moore Roshi briefly spoke on the significance of art from the Zen Buddhist standpoint and conducted a traditional blessing ceremony with assistance from Jim Mills Sensei (who instructs meditation at the Lake in the Hills practice group). A spring poem by the famous Zen master Ryokan was read by a college faculty member:

First days of spring - the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything's turning green.
Carrying my monks' bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
"Why are you acting like such a fool?"
I nod my head and don't answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what's in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! Just this!

Afterward additional cultural demonstrations were offered, including the making of ceramic tea bowls by Hironobu Nishitateno Sensei, a shodo (calligraphy) demonstration by Hekiun Oda Sensei, and Aikido and Iaido demonstrations by instructors and students from Aikido Shimboku Dojo led by Lisa Tomoleoni Sensei. A wonderful day!

Finally, our practice group in Highland Park, Illinois which began this past winter has now taken root well and seems to be growing in energy and vitality as the days lengthen. After only a few months we now have a solid core of a half-dozen meditators, with new members coming in frequently to receive introductory zazen instruction. And now that spring is here we're starting to truly enjoy the setting of the nature center where we meet: located within 17 acres of forest and restored prairie, it's an ideal place for practice. We look forward to seeing this new community grow through the rest of 2011.

We're focused now on our next work weekend at Korinji (May 7-8) and on planning the decisive progress we'll make at Korinji this year. More information shortly on this, as well as some other exciting developments that are in the works...

April 5, 2011

Another season

Our first monastery work weekend of the year kicked off in a winter mood. Fat, wet snowflakes fell a good portion of Friday. By evening the trees at Korinji were all white, making a scene that was more December storm than April thaw.

Saturday morning dawned bright and warm, however, with temperatures hitting the 50's. The trees shed their snow and our creek began gurgling with snowmelt. White patches gave way to mud. Perfect spring working weather. After zazen, we got to it.

With summer's dense foliage still several months away the timing is ideal now for land work since stones, dead trees, thorn bushes and vines are all exposed to view and easily accessible. The chainsaws started flying, and our crew cleared out one exceptionally thorny area that blocked our re-routed construction access road. A local gravel company came out to give us their quote on the completion of that as well as our parking area, and we hope to have that done shortly.

While this was going on up the hill, a few crew members worked inside to complete some remaining work on our roof substructure. 2x4s were added on top of the 2x12 spreaders below the cupola, beefing them up and giving them a more finished "i-beam" look. Other 2x4s which had been temporarily affixed to the bottom of our large structural beams to prevent twisting were cut and inserted into their permanent positions between the beams. The result is something that is starting to have the final look of our ceiling.

After a full day the entire crew (and dog) joined together in a future storage room (where we've installed our lunch table, portable stove and microwave) for Greg's now-famous Korinji camp tacos. Sore muscles were later soaked in the jacuzzi at the local hotel where most of us stayed, though one hardy crew member did sleep in the building...the first of the year.

A bit more work was finished Sunday morning, and Korinji is now officially open for the work season. The building weathered a severe winter admirably, including unusually heavy amounts of snowfall. We're now anxious to get up there again and make some real progress: May 7-8 is our next work weekend.

Here's a final shot from the porch. Usually we post shots taken from here looking downhill into the ravine, but this one looks uphill for once toward the site of Phase II: the future Korinji residential building.

It's not too early to plan.

March 29, 2011

Spring sesshin report

Spring sesshin, co-sponsored by Daiyuzenji and Korinji, was completed this past Sunday. It turned out to be a solid, strong training period with twenty-one participants. The beginning students in particular displayed tremendous effort.

The weather was cold at the camp we rent in Lake Delavan, Wisconsin; outside the building which served as our zendo the lake itself was still caked with ice upon which flocks of gulls huddled for warmth. There was even snowfall on Saturday. Though little of it stuck, it combined with a bitter cold wind coming off the lake to give us a truly wintry, rather than spring-like, feeling. The uphill hike from the zendo to the dining hall or sanzen room was often rather invigorating.

Tesshin Brand served as jikijitsu, and James Traywick performed the role of shika. Soen McCarthy Roshi served as tenzo (and the shojin riori meals were truly excellent as always). Teisho were given by So'zan Miller Roshi and Meido Moore Roshi. Sergey Petrov and Dionne Milton were our handaikan, with Nikolai Miczek and Alex Shakar serving as inji.

Thank you to everyone who participated in and supported this sesshin!

SAVE THE DATES for Daiyuzenji's and Korinji's summer sesshin. It will be held in Burlington, WI, on August 2-7 (~7pm Tuesday evening through ~8am Sunday morning). And if you'd like to join our European friends for practice, we'll again be conducting sesshin this year in Laufen, Germany: August 25-28. For more information on these events, email Korinji (info@korinji.org).

March 21, 2011

Japan benefit: results

About 30 people came out for Korinji's benefit event this past Sunday. After zazen, a traditional memorial ceremony was conducted by Meido Roshi. Following that, Aikido students gave us their energy with an hour-long training led by Enmei Hunter Sensei.

A few donations are still coming in, but the total amount raised at this point is over $700.00*...not bad for an impromptu event. Upon advice from contacts on the ground in Japan (as well as the Japanese consulate here in Chicago) Korinji will be donating the entire amount to the Red Cross' Japan earthquake/tsunami recovery fund. Many thanks to everyone!

Here's a recent photo from Korinji to get everyone geared up for the next event on our calendar: the first monastery work weekend of the year on April 2-3.

Don't worry, the snow should be gone by then...

*[UPDATE: the final total from Sunday stood at $715.00, but we've just received a matching donation: our total is now $1430! Thank you!]

March 14, 2011

Japan relief: memorial ceremony and benefit

We're relieved to report that, as far as we've been able to ascertain, our numerous friends in Japan are safe and personally uninjured by the disastrous earthquake and tsunami.

Especially because of our many connections to people and places in Japan, we're certain that Korinji community members share our desire to make some contribution to ease suffering there. For that reason we'll come together this Sunday, March 20, for a short meditation, memorial service and benefit event in Chicago. There will be a donation box there, and any funds received will be passed on to an appropriate relief organization.

Location:

Shinjinkai
3717 N. Ravenswood #113
Chicago, IL 60613

Schedule:

11:30am - 12:45pm: Zazen (Zen meditation). Non-meditators are welcome to come in and sit silently with us, on cushions or chairs, during this time.
1:00pm: Zen Buddhist memorial ceremony, for the many disaster victims who lost their lives.
1:30 - 2:30pm: Budo training: Shinjinkai Aikido students will train together.
Tea will be served afterward.

Even if you can't donate, please come participate to share your energy and good wishes. If you can't make it but would like to pitch in, feel free to drop off a contribution beforehand - or consider sending a donation to one of the reputable relief organizations which are easily found online, such as here.

March 10, 2011

Seminar: Energy and Healing Practices of Zen

Shinjinkai in Chicago is hosting a seminar on Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17 entitled The Energy and Healing Practices of Zen. Participants will learn internal training practices handed down within the Rinzai Zen lineage for cultivating ki (internal energy) in the body.

Some of these methods come from from the 18th century master Hakuin, and have been valued for their ability to improve health, increase longevity and deepen meditative attainment. Also taught will be self-massage, breathing and movement exercises for circulating energy and removing blockages to its flow. A more detailed description of these practices may be seen on the Shinjinkai site here.

The seminar will explore in depth the history and theory behind these various methods, as well as transmit the details of their practice. This April seminar will cover foundation practices and get through as much material as possible. A second seminar on September 3-4 will review the fundamentals and then complete the main block of instruction. A study manual will be distributed to participants in both seminars.

Donations for this seminar benefit the construction of Korinji monastery.

Please RSVP to info@korinji.org, or by phone as shown on the flyer.

March 7, 2011

Spring Sesshin: March 24-27

The 2011 Spring sesshin, jointly sponsored by Daiyuzenji and the Korinji Foundation, will be held starting on the evening of Thursday, March 24 and ending in the early morning of Sunday, March 27.

Sesshin is an intensive Zen retreat, and one of the most important training methods used in Zen practice. Beginning very early each morning and lasting until late in the evening, sesshin includes meditation, chanting practice, art practice and other activities.

The intention of sesshin is to completely focus and unify mind and body; the schedule facilitates concentration, and forces participants to face themselves clearly without distortion or distraction. Sesshin is a unique opportunity to see who and what you really are...and to emerge with new insight and the strength to change old patterns of thinking, doing and being.

We encourage everyone who is ready to take advantage of this precious practice opportunity. For more information about attending sesshin, eligibility, what to bring, suggested donation info, directions, etc. please visit Daiyuzenji's sesshin information page.

February 18, 2011

Winter quiet

Stillness and winter fog still cover Korinji, with snow clinging to north-facing slopes despite the warmer weather this week (it's common for patches of snow to remain well into spring). Winter is certainly not done with us by a long shot. But the days are slowly lengthening, and construction season is coming!

We've adjusted and tweaked our schedule of monastery work weekends for 2011, and here they are:

April 2-3: Opening weekend
May 7-8
May 27-30
June 18-19
July 2-3
August 20-21
Sept. 17-19
October 15-16
October 17-22: End-of-year wrapup, training and party at Korinji.
November 12-13 (as needed)

As usual the schedule is subject to change: please go here to join the Korinji mailing list and receive invitations and updates. In particular, we're working on a plan that may well allow us to finish this first building in one fell swoop in the first half of the year. That would, of course, lead to a radical re-scheduling of these dates which we'd be very pleased to announce.

Our first fund-raising event of the year is in fact approaching: an April 17th seminar at Shinjinkai in Chicago instructing internal (energetic) training used in Zen which is among the training methods to be practiced at Korinji in the future. For more information on this curriculum, check out Shinjinkai's Internal Training page.

January 19, 2011

Two Zen ancestors: happy birthday

Today is the anniversary of the birth in 1686 of Hakuin, the great Rinzai master and common ancestor of all surviving Japanese Rinzai lineages.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of his death in 1769.

Today also marks the anniversary of the birth of Dogen, transmitter of the Chinese Caodong (Jpn: Soto) lineage to Japan.

A self-portrait of Hakuin, painted not long before his death...

January 17, 2011

Upcoming retreats and events

The 2011 schedule of sesshin, or intensive meditation retreats, has been published on Korinji's Events Calendar page. These events, jointly sponsored by Daiyuzenji Zen temple in Chicago and the Korinji Foundation, are precious opportunities to deepen our practice in community with friends and teachers.

The first sesshin of the year is coming up: March 24-27 in Lake Delavan, WI. We look forward to seeing you there! Please contact us for more information: info@korinji.org.

Also shown on the calendar: some exciting seminars which benefit Korinji's monastery fund, the tentative 2011 monastery work weekend schedule, and this year's Fall-a-thon fundraiser conducted by Shinjinkai.

A busy year coming up! We started 2010 up at Korinji in March with nothing more than a platform on a hillside; by the end of the year, we had an enclosed building. This year will see even more dramatic progress, as our building's exterior nears completion and major landscape features are finished.

If you've donated or helped out in the past, thank you...and please continue! If you've followed Korinji's progress but never visited the land or lent a hand, now's the time we need you...welcome! And if you're a Zen practitioner, or interested in Zen Buddhism, by all means come to one of the Zen groups in the Chicago area, come to sesshin, and come to our other events. This Zen practice is what it's all about, after all, and providing access to it is the goal of all our hard work. Please join us!

January 6, 2011

First snow, and the Chicago Zen Community

We're in those few precious winter months now when our primary activity is planning rather than building. I visited Korinji a few weeks ago just after a heavy snowfall: in contrast to the frenetic scenes of the summer and autumn, the land there was silent and frozen under two feet of white. Tracks of deer, coyotes and various smaller creatures were everywhere in evidence, while our own muddy construction trails were neatly covered.

In addition I was pleased to see that our new roof has passed its first test well, holding the snow for more than a week; no movement or leaks were seen, validating our choices of both designers and builders.

The first 2011 events have been added to the Korinji site's events calendar, with more soon on the way including the first extended training events at Korinji itself. We're happy also to announce a new website specifically for the Korinji-associated Zen practice groups in the Chicago area: The Chicago Zen Community.

For now, Happy New Year from all of us. We'll be back shortly with more news, and with the schedule of 2011 work weekends at Korinji.