Volume 4, Number 2                                                                                    Spring, 2019
Welcome to the Spring edition of the newsletter. In keeping with the dynamic exuberance of the season, Taihaku has written an inspirational Dharma talk, entitled simply, "Hope." 

Our feature article, The Story of the Buddha on Shao Shan Temple's Altar, is the first in a series of articles which will highlight various sacred objects on the temple altar. The Heart of the Way returns in this issue, as Judy Harden tells the story of how she decided to establish her practice at Shao Shan Temple.  
Our regular features lead off with the Upcoming Events Calendar, where you can learn about all of the special temple programs that have been scheduled from May through August, 2019. You can review the temple's most recent programs in the Temple News feature. In Ask the Priests Taihaku and Kenzan write about tools for dealing with discursive thoughts during meditation.
The Community Involvement: Programs and Ceremonies section highlights the temple's community participation efforts. The Development Committee Report extends an invitation to the Annual Meeting on June 8 at 10:00 am. Your powers of observation regarding temple objects will once again be challenged in the Temple Treasure Hunt. In the Financial Picture section, Kenzan presents a financial summary of the 1st Quarter of 2019.  Opportunities for Giving Back provides an overview of the Improvements Fund and other opportunities to help support the temple.

Many people in our sangha have worked hard to bring you this edition of the newsletter. We would like to thank: Taihaku and Kenzan for writing features and reviewing drafts; Judy Harden for writing her "Heart of the Way" piece;  Kenzan, Raven NK Bruce, and Noah Weinstein for their photos; Scott Fields for his copyediting and "Altar Series" suggestion; and Nancy Schulz for her proofreading services.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?  We would appreciate hearing your suggestions on how we can improve the newsletter.  You can email us as at

 In the Dharma,

Monica DiGiovanni and Max Schlueter

Upcoming Events Calendar

The Shao Shan Temple website is a great way to check on the dates and times of the temple's regular schedule of zazen, study groups, work practice, oryoki, and services.You can view the temple calendar at:

Before coming to a Shao Shan program, please be sure to check the temple website calendar or call 802-456-7091 to make sure event details have not changed. An RSVP is appreciated for special events. You can email the temple at:

Beginning June 5th at 6:10 am, the Wednesday early am program will resume for the summer months. The program includes meditation, followed by morning service, followed by oryoki breakfast (formal monastic eating bowls). Every Wednesday, 6:10-8:30 am, June-August.
May  2019
19          Buddha's Birthday
25          Introduction to Zen

June  2019
8            Annual Meeting

15         Animal/Pet Blessing
16          Zazenkai (All Day Retreat)
30          Jukai

Click on an event for more information.
July  2019
1-6          No Public Programs

13           Family Program
25-28      Mini Summer Practice Period
28           Zazenkai 

August  2019
Family Program
18          Open House
25          Nature Spirits Pilgrimage

Feature Article:  The Story of the Buddha on Shao Shan Temple's Altar  

When entering the temple, the first impression is the altar directly in front of you. It is bright, impressive, and energetic. High in the center is a woodcarving of Buddha sitting in zazen posture. It is a common misunderstanding that we worship the altar and the Buddha. This statue is not to be worshiped but to remind us that by practicing zazen, we too can cultivate a full flowering of spirit.  

Our Buddha was gifted to Shao Shan Temple for the Opening Ceremony in the year 2000. It was gifted by my teacher, Shinkai Tanaka Roshi (Dochosan). At that time,
he had a temple in the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan. There was a temple member from the small hamlet which was clustered below on the terraced hillside who heard that my teacher would be leading the opening ceremony in America for Shao Shan Temple. This person was deeply affected by the significance of Buddhism being transmitted to America and wished to make an offering to Shao Shan. It was suggested that he could sponsor the commission to have a Buddha statue carved. And so it happened.   Read more ...

Dharma Talk: Hope

by Rev.Taihaku Priest
At this moment the mountains are a haze of subtle pale rose; the red maple buds are plumping up in this evening rain. The beauty of life springing forth brings us a glimpse of pure hope and promise. New beginnings full of hope brim up in our hearts like the rivers full to overflowing with the melted snow. There is rejoicing as we see the crocuses push up and bloom as the crystal snows recede. Hope arises naturally when we hear the honking geese excited in the wetland. We are surrounded by the dynamic force of life in the roar of the waterfall echoing in the valley, the swelling of the buds, the chirping and calls of birds, the peeping in the wetland, and general racket of nature.

A hope and rejoicing arises naturally that wishes for nothing. It is enough to breathe in all of this life with all its sweetness and pulse of living. Nothing to wish for -- a heart full and present. The majesty of being present in this wholehearted living earth with all its beginnings fills our hearts with hope. 
I think we may sometimes misunderstand or misuse hope. Hope is often attached to something we may want, that we may wish for, or pray for. We hope for something. We hope that something will happen or hope that we will get something, or maybe get rid of something. We hope for it to be different from what it is now.

Small hopes born of self-orientation often lead to disappointments or short-lived satisfactions. If you hope for something, let it be big, very big, vast and boundless.
Let your hope be great, without limits, extending in all directions. Let it be a hope for all goodness, for all beings, in all times. Let this huge hope carry you down the path to the bodhisattva heart in the center of our pulsing universe. Let your every breath be a new beginning and like the season of spring, may each new breath bring with it your boundless hope that all beings be free from suffering. 
Soto Zen Buddhist Association
Taihaku and Kenzan are registered teachers with this American-based organization.

Temple News

2019 Rakusu Sewing

As is part of Shao Shan Temple tradition, Rakusu sewing takes place weekly from January to June for those who will be participating in this year's Jukai Ceremony. Once a week, the Little Hall is transformed into the "Sewing Room" and the quiet atmosphere of sewing-meditation permeates the space. The Rakusu is an "abbreviated Buddha's Robe" that is created while chanting a prayer/intention/mantra with each stitch. This year Kathleen, Heather, and Monica are working on sewing Rakusus and will be becoming Taihaku's formal students. Thanks to Donna, Judy, and Kathleen for their on-going dedication as sewing leaders.
Introduction to Zen
January 26 was Shao Shan Temple's second "Introduction to Zen" program. This recently added program is an opportunity for people new to Shao Shan Temple to get an overview of the temple and its programs, practice opportunities, and a time to ask questions. The time also included meditation instruction and a brief tour of the grounds.  The next Introduction to Zen program has been scheduled for May 25, 2019.
Family Program:  Lovingkindness
During the February Family Program, we explored the force of lovingkindness. In honor of the very windy weather of the day, we considered how even though we can't see the wind, we can feel its power and see its effects. Similarly with lovingkindness, we can't quite see it, yet we can feel its strength and witness its effects in the world. We mimicked the power of the wind by blowing forcefully on pinwheels, and then practiced lovingkindness meditation, wishing happiness, safety, and peace to ourselves, our families, our friends, people we don't know very well, and to everyone and everything everywhere. We made lovingkindness cards to give to others and blessed the cards in the temple by ringing the bell and passing the cards over incense.
Family Program:  Balance and "Mind Jars"
For the children's portion of the Family Program in March, we explored the theme of balance in honor of the Spring Equinox. We shared things that help bring us back to balance when we feel off balance: we experimented with our balance in the sitting posture; we read a book called "Moody Cow Meditates;" and then we made our own "Mind Jars" with glitter, water, and soap to use as tools to help settle down the mind and body. The adults discussed the "four faces of love" -- loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity-- focusing specifically on appreciative joy as related to parenting.
Teen Program: Drawing Your Life
On Sunday, February 17th, a group of young people came together for an exciting new Shao Shan Temple program specifically designed for the pre-teen and teenage group. The theme was "Drawing Your Life: An Exploration of Cause and Effect" and included a Japanese calligraphy activity. The teens had the opportunity to write the character "FUKU" meaning "blessing/good fortune" on a wooden plaque to take home.  The day also included meditation instruction, fun mindfulness activities, lunch, and brownies.

Wagesa Sewing Day 2019 
Those who will be receiving the Five Precepts in the Jukai Ceremony on June 30, 2019 came together on March 16 to sew their Wagesas (an abbreviated Buddha's Robe). Putting their intention in each stitch, the group spent the day in sewing meditation. This year Susan S, Clara, and Amy are sewing a Wagesa.  

Taihaku's March Trip to Japan
Taihaku recently returned from a brief trip to Japan in order to visit her teacher, Shinkai Tanaka Roshi (Dochosan), who has been in the hospital since November following a serious stroke. In the photo to the left taken in 2017, Dochosan is flanked by Rev. Shinjo Norhara on the left and Taihaku on the right. Upon her return, Taihaku gave a Dharma Talk based on the experiences of the trip. She spoke of the poignancy of being fully in the present by wholeheartedly greeting the incoming moment and simultaneously bowing in farewell to the departing moment. 

2019 Home Blessings Visits
This year we continued the Shao Shan Temple tradition of offering Home Blessing Visits during January through March. Taihaku and Kenzan traveled to the homes of interested sangha members and friends of Shao Shan Temple and joined together with them in generating a blessing and protection for their homes. The home blessing visits generally included a short time of chanting and/or sitting at people's home place of practice.

Spring Equinox Ceremony
On March 21, in wet early, early spring weather, a small group gathered to commemorate the Spring Equinox. Chanting together, we gathered barely budding pussywillow branches and snow and offered them at a special altar facing out towards the temple's open doors. 

      May our practice in this new season 
    flower into big, joyful and compassionate
                 mind for all beings!

Introduction to Zen 
On March 30 Shao Shan Temple hosted its third "Introduction to Zen" program. This recently-added program is an occasion for people new to Shao Shan to get an overview of the temple and its programs, to learn about the practice opportunities here, and to ask questions. The time also included meditation instruction and a brief tour of the grounds. The next Introduction to Zen program has been scheduled for May 25, 2019.

Family Program:  Spring Awakening Animals
For the Family Program on April 13, we celebrated the arrival of spring. We were greeted with a beautiful, warm, sunny morning and multitudes of cheery bird songs. For our meditation time we welcomed spring with our various senses, and also pretended to be bears waking up from their long winter slumber. We read a book about the arrival of spring and played a game pretending to be animals romping in the forest and pausing whenever a human looked in the animals' direction. We then built homes for a variety of animals and enjoyed a delicious chocolate mud pudding for a snack.

Baby Welcoming Ceremony
On Saturday April 27, 2019 a supportive group of family and friends came together to welcome Matteo Don Hunt. He was born to parents Heidi Eames and Mitchell Hunt on July 25, 2018. Matteo seemed to delight in the loving attention of the gathering.

As a community temple, it is an important function of Shao Shan to make available private and public ceremonies where we can join together for landmark occasions such as birth, coming of age, marriage, divorce, and death.  Please contact the priests if you are interested in additional information regarding landmark ceremonies at the temple.    


The Heart of the Way

Every one of us has some pull towards what is true, a pull to wake up. Sometimes this can feel like a search for “something more.” In Japanese this is expressed as “do-shin,” literally “Way – Heart/Mind.” Looking back over our life to see how The Way, The Dharma ,The Bodhisattva Mind arose and got cultivated in our life can be a helpful new way to review our own life story. It can also help us to read someone else’s story. Sometimes there is an event or burning question that sparks this deeper aspiration or inquiry in our life.  The following piece by Judy Harden is the 2nd article in this series.
I was an only child, and my parents were estranged from their families. I sought connections beyond those available at school, which led to an early involvement with a church in Alabama. My parents took me and dropped me off. At that church, I had a family of friends my own age and all other ages. I became more and more involved in church activities and saw Jesus as my savior (which startled my parents no end). This involvement began to come apart during my college years, and no other spiritual path emerged for me for many years. I was quite lonely and confused during these years.
I became interested in meditation sometime in my 30’s, partly through my interest and profession in clinical psychology. This eventually led me to Buddhism, and eventually to Joko Beck, one of Maizumi Roshi’s heirs, but a renegade. I practiced with her for many years, going to four sesshins a year from Vermont, and having Dokusan with her by phone every other week. When her health failed, I studied a couple of years with Myotai Treace, another renegade, from Zen Mountain Monastery. She was based in New York, so this was another relationship from a distance, with periodic sesshins at the Garrison Institute. I received the precepts from her and made my first Rakusu.   Read more ...

Ask the Priests

Readers are invited to submit a question to the "Ask the Priests" feature which will become part of a “pool” of questions. For each issue a question will be selected and answered. (If you have an urgent question, it is best to ask the priests directly.) 

Q:  When I meditate, I tend to think more about future and past events than I do about the present moment.  What can I do to make my meditation more effective?

A: (Make your meditation more effective for what?) This type of past/future discursive thinking is happening all the time during our waking hours. We are usually just not aware of it. This is the nature of the mind. Actually, the thoughts about the future and the past are occurring in the present moment. When you notice that you are thinking, it can be helpful to return the attention to a present
moment physical sensation – to feel your breathing, the air coming in, the air going out. This act of returning the attention is a natural part of meditation. There is also a tendency of the mind to compare, judge, and evaluate, asking questions like: “is my meditation good or bad?”, “is my meditation effective or not?” It may be more helpful to leave these evaluative questions unanswered.

Have a question for the priests?  Please submit it to:
Community Involvement: Programs & Ceremonies

In addition to conducting services, planning programs, and tending to the needs of the sangha,Taihaku and Kenzan are also actively involved with local communities. Here are a few examples of recent community participation programs. 

Vermont State Senate
For a number of years Shao Shan Temple priests have been invited to give a three minute devotional exercise to begin one of the Vermont State Senate's daily sessions.  On March 22, Taihaku led a devotional on “remembering and valuing your original inspiration to be of benefit in your chosen career of service.”  On April 2, Kenzan led a devotional on “the underlying support which is always present.”  On April 30, Taihaku again led a devotional entitled “Spring Hope.”

Norwich University
On February 20, 2019, Taihaku and Kenzan were invited to speak about

Buddhism and lead a meditation for a Comparative Religion class at Norwich University in Northfield. This was followed by a forum on “Peace and Buddhism” sponsored by a campus interfaith group and open to the entire university.  

Doty School 
Noah Weinstein, a member of the Shao Shan sangha, is offering a series on mindfulness for the teachers of Doty School in Worcester. He has invited Taihaku and Kenzan to serve as guest Meditation Instructors.

Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC)
Kenzan continues offering a weekly meditation in the CVMC chapel midday on Tuesdays. This is primarily for hospital staff, patients, and their families/friends, but is open to all.

Taihaku and Kenzan at Norwich University

Please come to the Shao Shan Temple Annual Meeting! This year the Annual Meeting will be Saturday, June 8 at 10 am. The Annual Meeting is open to anyone who cares about the health and direction of Shao Shan Temple. Formal students are strongly encouraged to attend.  There will be reports on the status

and direction of the temple and an opportunity for feedback.

As part of the “Master Plan”, the Development Committee is currently looking at what kind of changes would be helpful to the organization by-laws, policies and guidelines.

Temple Treasure Hunt
This object from the Temple building is one of the few wooden items that is painted. There are three questions for the object depicted at right: 1) which object in the temple is depicted?  2) where is this object displayed? and 3) how did this object find its way to Shao Shan?

The answers appear at the end of the newsletter.
Sangha members have requested that each newsletter include a simplified year-to-date financial report. The report for the first quarter of 2019 (January 1, 2019 thru March 31, 2019) is as follows: 

The 2019 budget is $30,000. The first quarter funding goal was $7,500 (25% of $30,000). As of March 31, 2019, contributions amounted to $5,980, which included Home-Blessing donations. Though donations did cover our first quarter’s expenses ($5,370), we were not able to put monies aside towards anticipated buildings and grounds improvements.

Thank you for your generosity and continued financial support!
Each issue of the newsletter includes a list of suggestions for ways that sangha members and friends can give back to Shao Shan to ensure a stable future for the temple. There are several funds at Shao Shan Temple to which people can designate their contributions. In each issue, one fund is specifically featured with additional information.
Featured Fund:  Improvements Fund
The designated Improvements Fund includes donations set aside for buildings and grounds improvements and maintenance. A portion of general donations is placed into this fund on an ongoing basis to help ensure that resources are available in case unexpected buildings and grounds expenses arise. This year, we plan to use money from this account for Little Hall winterization and for the red pine removal.  The Little Hall winterization is adding electric wiring and insulation to the shed/bunk area to make this area more usable year-round.
Currently the bunk room is only available for overnights in the summer. The red pines that fell on and around the temple this past fall have made it imperative that we remove the trees that are within striking distance of the temple. This is a necessary project.

Sangha members and friends of the temple may also specifically donate funds to the Improvements Fund to support the infrastructure that supports our practice. 
In addition to the Land Transfer Fund, there are also the following funds:
  • Endowment Fund -- supporting the temple and priests into the future,
  • Land Transfer Fund -- helping to fund the legal costs of transferring Taihaku's property to the Shao Shan Temple organization,
  • Cemetery Perpetual Care Fund – providing for Shao Shan Temple Cemetery maintenance and operation into the future.
For those who can afford it, a weekly or monthly donation placed in the offering bowl, sent as a check, or paid through PayPal is a wonderful way to help support the services and programs provided by Shao Shan Temple.

Sangha members often ask, "How much should I be giving?"  The Development Committee suggests that if 30 active sangha members each contributed about $70 per month, the sangha would be able to fund a substantial portion of the annual temple operations budget. So please give what you can, but remember that everyone is always welcome at Shao Shan, regardless of whether or not you can afford to give a financial offering.

It takes many hands and much time and effort to maintain the temple's buildings, grounds, and gardens. Shao Shan hosts regular opportunities for "work practice" when sangha members can assist the priests with this work. If you feel you have special skills or time to volunteer, please let the priests know. You can email them at:

Answers to the Temple Treasure Hunt

1.  The image depicted in the picture at right is the carved wing of a wooden dragon from Bali.  

2. The dragon is displayed on a table in the temple kitchen. Its playfully fierce expression often attracts children who want to clean, care for, and feed it.

3. Taihaku discovered the dragon in the dusty second floor of an antique shop in New York City back in the 1980s. This was before artifacts from Bali had become popular in the US. The dragon statue was actually previously used as a protector at some exterior entrance way in Bali.
Shao Shan in Spring
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