Volume 5, Number 1                                                                                    Winter, 2020
Welcome to the 2020 Winter edition of the newsletter. As you will learn in our lead article summarizing the 2020 Annual Meeting, the temple's finances are stable and program participation remains steady. What a hopeful way for Shao Shan Temple to enter its 20th year of spiritual education and programming.

In her Dharma Talk Taihaku uses the annual New Year's Blessing as a vehicle to encourage us, even in the face of loss and suffering, to be open to the precious possibilities that life presents. Our popular feature, The Heart of the Way, returns again in this issue, as Cho-Getsu writes about how her fundamental spiritual rootedness lead her down many paths until she arrived at Shao Shan, a place "where everything encountered becomes a teaching and a gift, and where effort can relax because what I need is right here."  In Words from DochoRoshi, Taihaku's teacher reveals to us what was the most significant experience in his life. In this issue we have included an In Memoriam piece which marks the passing of sangha members Connie French and Eric Ginette, two Dharma friends who will be greatly missed.
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 February through May. You can catch up on the temple's most recent programs in the Temple News feature.
In the Cemetery Report Kenzan updates us on the number of lots which have been purchased/reserved and looks ahead to upcoming projects.  The Community Involvement: Programs and Ceremonies section highlights the temple's community participation efforts. Your knowledge of temple objects will once again be challenged in the Temple Treasure Hunt. In the Financial Picture section, Kenzan presents an encouraging financial summary for 2019. Opportunities for Giving Back provides an overview of opportunities to help support the temple with an emphasis on Charitable Gift Annuities.

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; Cho-Getsu for writing her "Heart of the Way" piece; Kenzan, Noah Weinstein, Donna O'Malley, NK Bruce, and Susan Calza for their photos; Scott Fields for his copyediting efforts, and Nancy Schulz for her proofreading services.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?  We would very much appreciate hearing your suggestions on how we can improve our quarterly newsletter. You can email us at:

 In the Dharma,

Max Schlueter, Editor
Monica DiGiovanni, Design Editor

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. If you are interested in coming to Shao Shan Temple for the first time, please read about the Introduction Programs offered by the temple.

You can view the temple calendar at: Some events require an advance RSVP and event details may have changed since the newsletter publication, so please contact the temple ( or 802-456-7091) before coming to special events. 
February 2020
16       Teen/Youth Program
23       Zazenkai (Day Retreat)
29       New:  Discussion Program:
           Practicing with Life's Challenges

March  2020
7          First Saturday Work Practice 
14        Family Program
20-22  Sesshin (Retreat)
22        Zazenkai 
27        Introduction to Shao Shan
April  2020
4         First Saturday Work Practice
11       Family Program
19       Zazenkai 
24       Introduction to Shao Shan

May 2020
2         First Saturday Work Practice
17       Buddha's Birthday Celebration
29       Introduction to Shao Shan

Click on an event for more information.
Annual Meeting
Opening prayer during the 2020 Annual Meeting. 

On February 1 members of the Shao Shan Temple sangha gathered in the Little Hall to attend the 2020 Annual Meeting. Present were Development Committee members Taihaku, Kenzan, Noah, Judy, and Max (Stella was ill). Fourteen other members of the sangha were also present.  

The 2019 Temple Reports were distributed by email prior to the meeting and were also available at the meeting. The Development Committee took questions on the Sangha Report, Program Report, Buildings & Grounds Report, Cemetery Report, and Financial Report. There were approximately 103 first-time visitors to the temple in 2019. Approximately 55 people consider Shao Shan their spiritual home. Participation at temple programs remains steady and has even increased at the Tuesday and Friday evening programs. Participation at Saturday Work Practice has also increased since the last Annual Meeting. Sangha members were invited to let the priests know if they would like to volunteer at times other than scheduled work practice times. Sangha members suggested ways to expand publicity regarding the Introduction to Shao Shan and Open House programs.   Read more...

Dharma Talk: New Year's Blessing

by Rev. Taihaku Priest
Every year Shao Shan Temple, in the tradition of Buddhist monasteries, creates and sends New Year’s Blessings. Each year, Shao Shan Temple selects a different message for the upcoming year. This year the message is KI-KAI or Insight-Open. This message for 2020 revealed itself as the red pines were falling. This past November, over 150 red pine trees within falling distance of the temple buildings were removed for safety reasons. There was a sense of loss with seeing these magnificent life forms being felled. In the midst of that, space opened up and in that space, possibilities that were not evident before began to arise. We may think of insight as being a positive, bright lights, wonderful experience, but insight can also
appear in the midst of loss and crisis. In the midst of loss and crisis, it can be like a roiling sea with waves of sadness, grief, anger, or confusion. In Buddhism we sometimes use this metaphor with the turmoil of circumstances being like the surface of the ocean and connecting with our center as the calm depths, our feet on the ocean floor. However, it is important to realize: it is all water. There can be the tendency to view the deeper layer as valuable and to want to discard or deny the waves, which include feelings, as superficial. Truly being with and penetrating the tears and the feelings is insight.  The surface and the depths are all sacred water.   Read more...
Soto Zen Buddhist Association
Taihaku and Kenzan are registered teachers with this American-based organization.

Temple News

Family Program
On November 9, we explored the theme of gratitude. We practiced "hot chocolate meditation," pretending to smell delicious hot chocolate on the breath in through the nose, then imagining cooling the drink down with the breath out. We then read a story about things that make us happy and created our own gratitude journals to bring home. After enjoying a scrumptious snack, we joined the adults in wood-stacking work practice as a way to express our gratitude to the temple by participating in its care.
Introduction to Zen
On Saturday, November 23, Shao Shan Temple presented the "Introduction to Zen" program. This program is an opportunity for people new to Shao Shan Temple to get an overview of the temple, its programs, the practice here, and an opportunity to ask questions. The time also included meditation instruction and a brief tour of the grounds. Beginning in January 2020, we will be offering an "Introduction" program at 6:20 PM on the last Friday of every month, to give more opportunities for people to learn about Shao Shan Temple.
Shao Shan Temple Holiday Fair
The temple held its annual Holiday Gift Fair from November 21 through November 26 in the Little Hall and on December 7 at the Maple Corner Community Center.  Applesauce, dried apples, apple vinegar, blueberry jam, bread & butter pickles, calendula salve. comfrey salve, crabapple bites, crabapple jelly, dried herbs, gomasio (sesame salt), and pickled beets were offered. All of these delicious items were grown and prepared at Shao Shan. 
Rohatsu Sesshin:  Buddha's Enlightenment Retreat
The Rohatsu Sesshin is a meditation retreat held annually at Shao Shan Temple the first week in December. This is a time of concentrated practice to commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment upon seeing the morning star.
This year, Rohatsu Sesshin was from November 29 to December 6 with each day focused on sitting and walking meditation. In addition, there were delicious garden vegetable meals and Oryoki breakfasts.  Each afternoon included a Dharma talk. This year the series of talks was based on the Seven Factors of Awakening.

High School Class Visit
A World Religions class from Montpelier High School came to visit Shao Shan Temple on Thursday, December 19. The group of 30+ students crowded into the Zendo for an introduction to Buddhism and a guided meditation experience. We were happy to welcome this group of respectful, curious, and intelligent young people.

Winter Solstice Ceremony
On December 20, at this time of the longest night of the year, we gathered together at Shao Shan Temple for a Winter Solstice Ceremony. With times of silence and chanting, candlelight and darkness, we touched the depths of connection and blessing in this time of transition from dark to light.


New Year's Eve Ceremony 2020
This year's New Year's Eve Ceremony at Shao Shan Temple was a contemplation on the passage of time and the preciousness of our human life. The evening included meditation, a time for personal year-in-review reflection, chanting, and ceremony.  The evening culminated with the natural beauty of fire and snow to ring in the New Year 2020.

Warm wishes to all in the New Year!

Shao Shan Temple's 2020 Annual Meeting 
On Saturday, February 1 in the Temple's Little Hall, the temple convened its 2020 Annual Meeting.  Meeting participants had the opportunity to review the Sangha Report, Program Report, Cemetery Report, the Financial Report, and ask questions or offer feedback.  The Development Committee presented the progress on the "Master Plan" and Fundraising/Donations. Participants thought the meeting was engaging and informative.

A summary of the meeting is included above.

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 Cho-Getsu is the fifth article in this series.                                                                                

No matter where I shine a light in on my life, I see something fundamental, a spiritual rootedness. For periods I have forgotten this goodness — this Buddha Nature — but something always takes me back. Early spiritual training came being raised Catholic in a big family. It was fortunate for me that family life was infused with the sacred. The early loss of my father oriented my attention outward,

greatly affecting how I continued to be in the world, and I did often need something true to come back to. 

When I was (or did) good, I was noticed and felt good, gaining some illusion that I could control outcomes by acting a certain way and trying hard. Once on my own, free from religious and parental guideposts, a new independence allowed me to succeed or to fall, get up, reroute and keep going. Learning on my own didn’t always pan out so well.

Without searching, I found Quakers. “That of God within” fit better and grounded me again. I was married there, nestled in arms of the rocky Downeast coast, family who supported despite reservations, and a spiritual community I never expected to leave. Sunday morning’s quiet contemplation until one is “moved to speak” resonated better than an authoritative God-figure. I quickly fell into “true” and blossomed there, enhanced by the raising of two children and a simple life. Discovering the good inside was a boost I’d need before marital struggles led us to Vermont, where I’d again try navigating on my own. Comfort was found in a small Methodist church community, but it felt more like Linus’s blanket, and I’d eventually give it up for something to carry inside me.  Read more...

Words from DochoRoshi

This feature offers quotes or messages from Taihaku’s teacher, Shinkai Yoitsu Daiosho (DochoRoshi).
As most of you know, DochoRoshi, experienced a severe stroke in November, 2018. This past fall, Taihaku went to visit him again in Japan at the rehabilitation facility. When asked about what was the most significant experience in his life, DochoRoshi responded:
                                      The most significant experience in my life was
                                    meeting my teacher. If I had not met my teacher, 
                             this would not have happened (indicating Taihaku & himself).

Implicit in this answer was his appreciation for Taihaku being there at that moment, and for Shao Shan being a thriving Soto Zen Temple in the United States.

DochoRoshi at Shao Shan Temple in 2013
at the Shinzanshiki Ceremony

CONNIE FRENCH – January 8, 2020 at age 103
Taihaku’s mother, Connie, lived next door to Shao Shan Temple for the past 13 years. She often came to the temple major ceremonies, such as Buddha’s Birthday and the Anniversary (she always loved a party!). Connie participated in work practice – often decorating the Buddha Birthday pagoda, she helped with sewing the Mountain Seat Robe and sometimes
shined candlesticks or sorted crabapples. She was beloved by many sangha members for her sparkling enthusiasm and vigor. Prior to moving to Vermont, Connie spent much of her life on Cape Cod and was a watercolor painter. She will be interred in Shao Shan Temple Cemetery and, per her request, the memorial stone will use her earlier name: Connie Priest.
ERIC GINETTE – December 31, 2019 at age 73
Eric was a frequent participant in Saturday morning programs during the past several years. When his health permitted, he also attended Zazenkais and other special ceremonies and programs. His presence and contributions to the study group discussions will be missed.  He was a dedicated practitioner who frequently brought to the discussion the essentials of the
Buddha’s teachings and drew on knowledge of a wide range of traditions. He generously shared his knowledge of the teachings and meditation techniques with others. Eric was awarded the 33rd degree in Scottish Rite Masonry and was also a skilled woodworker.  He and his wife lived in a house in Cabot, VT that they built together by hand.

Cemetery Report

by Rev. Kenzan Seidenberg

The Shao Shan Temple Cemetery continues to mature as the landscaping settles in.  As of February 2020, a total of 19 lots have been purchased or reserved with a down payment. 

Upcoming Projects: With the removal of many red pines from around the temple, it will be necessary to construct a new path up to the cemetery. 

Community Involvement

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.

Montpelier High School – On December 19, 2019 and January 2, 2020, World Religions classes came to visit Shao Shan Temple for an immersive experience.  Over 50 students had the opportunity to hear about Buddhism, Zen, Shao Shan Temple, and to experience a brief guided meditation. 

Vermont State Senate - Shao Shan Temple priests have now been invited for a number of years to give a three-minute devotional exercise to begin one of the Vermont State Senate's daily sessions. Kenzan led one on January 22, focusing on the repercussions of our actions.
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.

Private Ceremonies - As a community temple, it is an important function of Shao Shan to make available private and public ceremonies for landmark occasions such as birth, coming of age, marriage, divorce, and death. Taihaku and Kenzan perform these ceremonies at the temple and at other locations. Please contact the priests if you are interested in additional information regarding landmark ceremonies.
Montpelier High School bus arrives at the temple.
Temple Treasure Hunt

What is the ceremonial item pictured at right?

When is it used?

The answers appear at the end of the newsletter.

The Financial Picture:
January - December, 2019

Sangha members have requested that each newsletter include a simplified year-to-date financial report. The report for the full four quarters of 2019 (January 1, 2019 thru December 31, 2019) is as follows:

We are very pleased and grateful to report that income from sangha contributions more than met this year’s expenses, as you can see in the chart below.

In addition to the general contributions, there was a generous response to the Alms Round annual appeal and a successful Holiday Fair.

General Sangha donations:                                                   $21,546
Fund Raisers:    
                Alms Round Annual Appeal         $12,486
                Holiday Fair*                                  $2,770  
Sub-Total:                                                                             $15,256

Cemetery-related Temple Support                                        $     200
Private Ceremonies                                                              $  2,115
Restricted Donations (e.g. Endowment fund)                       $  2,300
TOTAL                                                                                 $41,417
*The Holiday Fair amount is the gross proceeds. The associated costs are difficult to assess exactly, but estimated at $500. 

Alms Round Report
2019’s Annual Alms round letter was sent in the beginning of November. Through December 31, 2019, there were 40 donations explicitly associated with the Annual Alms Round totaling $12,486.  This is a 74% increase over 2018.  Thank you!  Of this income, there were 18 donations (totaling $10,216) from people that participate regularly and 22 donations (totaling $2,270) from people who care about Shao Shan Temple, but come seldom or live at a distance.  There is now a reliable base of pledged monthly financial support, including one new pledge as a result of this year’s alms round.

The expenses for Shao Shan Temple in 2019 were $37,051, excluding priest paid expenses. The Shao Shan priests currently pay the expenses associated with vehicles and fresh produce for temple programs, which is estimated at $5,000 annually. At this time, it poses no problem for the priests. Beginning this past year, Shao Shan Temple began paying a portion of the property tax for the temple (Taihaku had paid it all prior to 2019).  The two major expenses this past year were the red pine removal ($6,500) and the Little Hall winterization ($6,943). There was also the expense of renovation materials (polyurethane, sandpaper, new sander & multi-tool) for the temple kitchen.


A major expense in 2020 will be the landscaping from the removal of the red pine trees. We have a quote for $6850 for removal of the stumps and contouring the land. This does not include seeds, trees, and bushes for new plantings.  Additional major projects which are planned for 2020 include: 1) continuing the land transfer project; and 2) continuing the interior and exterior maintenance of the temple building.

The initial estimate for the 2020 budget is $40,000, which includes buildings and grounds maintenance, repair, and improvements.  (This figure does not include the estimated $5,000 contribution from the Shao Shan priests for vehicles and fresh produce for temple programs.)  Shao Shan Temple will be paying the full property tax associated with the temple land and buildings beginning in 2020.

Please contact Shao Shan Temple at  if you have any questions or would like additional information regarding the 2019 annual report. 

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. For those who can afford it, a weekly or monthly donation placed in the offering bowl, sent as a check, direct deposited, or paid through PayPal, is a wonderful way to help support the services and programs provided by Shao Shan Temple.

There are also several funds at Shao Shan Temple to which people can designate their contributions including: 
  • Endowment Fund -- supporting the temple and priests into the future,
  • Improvements Fund -- underwriting major buildings and grounds improvements and repair,
  • Cemetery Perpetual Care Fund – providing for Shao Shan Temple Cemetery maintenance and operation into the future, and
  • Land Transfer Fund -- helping to fund the costs of transferring Taihaku's property to the Shao Shan Temple organization.

The focus of this article is upon Charitable Gift Annuities as an opportunity for giving back to Shao Shan Temple. A Charitable Gift Annuity is an arrangement between a donor and a non-profit organization in which the donor receives a regular payment for life based on the value of assets transferred to the organization. After the donor's death, the assets are retained by the organization.  

Shao Shan Temple's Charitable Gift Annuity is managed by the Vermont Community Foundation. Establishing a Charitable Gift Annuity with the Vermont Community Foundation allows you and/or your beneficiaries to receive guaranteed income for life beginning at age 60, benefit from an immediate income tax deduction, and leave a legacy that will support Shao Shan Temple in perpetuity. Income payments to you are based on your age and the size of the investment. After your death the remainder will be transferred to the Shao Shan Temple Endowment Fund which provides for the future needs of the temple and priests.

If you are interested in learning more about how to invest in a Charitable Gift Annuity for Shao Shan Temple, please contact the Vermont Community Foundation, the priests, or the Development Committee at or 802-456-7091.

As soon as the ground firms up, a massive effort to landscape the temple property will begin as a result of removing more than 150 red pines this past fall. What if everyone could commit to putting in a day's worth of work on this project?  Perhaps on a weekend or a holiday, or maybe even taking a vacation or personal day from work? Some of this work will be done by professional landscapers, but there will still be many projects which can be undertaken by volunteers regardless of their skill level.  If you don't feel you are up to landscaping work, there will be plenty of light chores around the temple which will need to be back-filled by volunteers during the project. 

So please watch for announcements for scheduled work practice events.  If you are interested in helping out but can't make it to the temple for scheduled work,  please contact  the priests and they will work to accommodate your schedule.  

Working together we can create a new landscape portrait 
for  Shao Shan Temple.
Answers to the Temple Treasure Hunt

1. The items depicted in the pictures below are the temple's ceremonial CYMBALS. The cymbals were given to Shao Shan Temple as a gift in 2013 and were first used in the Obon Ceremony that summer. 

2.  At Shao Shan Temple, the cymbals are primarily used in the cemetery for the annual Remembrance Ceremony in October and Buddha’s Parinirvana Ceremony.  Traditionally, they are used at funerals in Japan.
                    Ceremonial Cymbals                                        Buddha’s Parinirvana Ceremony 2018
The temple bell on the morning after a snow storm. 
The cemetery gate is visible in the top right corner.
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East Calais, VT 05650

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