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.