Volume 4, Number 4                                                                                    Fall, 2019
The Shao Shan Holiday Gift Fair Is Here!

Thursday, November 21 through Tuesday, November 26
Weekend (11/23 & 24):  9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Weekdays (11/21, 22, 25, 26):  6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Shao Shan Temple Little Hall
The temple’s gardens, fruit trees, and blueberry bushes have produced a profusion of herbs, crabapples, and blueberries, among many other items. Shao Shan Temple wants to share the overflowing blessings of the land. For this year's Holiday Gift Fair, we will be offering 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. All delicious items were grown and prepared at Shao Shan. There will be gift box assortments as well as individually offered items -- ideal gifts for friends, neighbors, relatives, and others you may wish to thank. 
This year, Holiday Gift Fair items will also be available at the Maple Corner Community Center on December 7 from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm.
Proceeds to benefit Shao Shan Temple.
Welcome to the Fall edition of the newsletter. Fall always seems like a busy time of year as we try to include as many outdoor activities and chores as possible before the winter closes in. The same seems to be true at Shao Shan as evidenced by the number and variety of programs that are chronicled in this issue.

Our feature article, Shao Shan Temple Shinzanshiki Stupa-Pole, discusses the significance of the temple's Stupa-Pole and, for the first time, presents a translation of the Japanese calligraphy which is inscribed on the four sides of the pole. Taihaku's Dharma Talk considers the removal of the red pines to remind us how the shock of change can give us pause and an opportunity to be grateful and appreciate the moments that surround us. The Nature Pilgrimage, which was celebrated this past August, is the subject of the Fall Pictorial. In this issue Kenzan introduces a new feature entitled Soto Zen Order News. In it he reports on three initiatives which are being supported by the Association of Soto Zen Buddhism and the Soto Zen Order of Japan. The Heart of the Way returns in this issue, as Noah Weinstein writes about how his desire to live intimately with the natural world led him to Vermont and eventually to practice at Shao Shan.
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 November through February, 2020. You can review the temple's most recent programs in the Temple News feature. Ask the Priests returns in this issue with a discussion of the mantra, Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate Bodhisvaha, which is chanted frequently at the temple.
The Community Involvement: Programs and Ceremonies section highlights the temple's community participation efforts.The Development Committee Update focuses on an appeal for the Annual Alms Round which is currently underway. Your knowledge of temple objects will once again be challenged in the Temple Treasure Hunt. In the Financial Picture section, Kenzan presents a financial summary for the first three quarters of 2019. Opportunities for Giving Back provides an overview of opportunities to help support the temple with an emphasis on bequests.

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; Noah Weinstein for writing his "Heart of the Way" piece; Kenzan, Noah Weinstein, and Donna O'Malley, for their photos; and Nancy Schulz for her proofreading services.

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

 In the Dharma,

Max Schlueter, Editor
Scott Fields, Assistant 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.You can view the temple calendar at:

If you are interested in coming to Shao Shan Temple for the first time, please read about the Introduction Programs offered by the temple. 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. 
November  2019
23           Introduction to Zen
29-12/6   Rohatsu Sesshin (Retreat)

December 2019
14            Family Program
20            Winter Solstice Ceremony
21-30       No Public Programs
31            New Year's Eve Celebration

Click on an event for more information.
January  2020
4         First Saturday Work Practice
11       Family Program
17-19  Sesshin (Retreat)
19       Zazenkai (Day Retreat)
25       New:  Discussion Program:
           Practicing with Life's Challenges

31       Introduction to Shao Shan 

February 2020
1         Annual Meeting
8         Family Program
16       Teen/Youth Day
23       Zazenkai
28       Introduction to Shao Shan

Feature Article:
Shao Shan Temple Shinzanshiki Stupa-Pole

by Rev. Kenzan Seidenberg
One of the striking features of the Shao Shan Temple grounds is the tall stupa-pole with Japanese calligraphy on it. It is Soto Zen tradition to erect a stupa-pole when a priest is formally “seated” as abbot. This banner pole indicates “the dharma is being preached here!”  Accordingly, Shao Shan Temple’s pole was erected in 2013 as part of Rev.Taihaku’s Mountain Seat Ceremony (Shinzanshiki). The pole was consciously erected at the spot that Rev. Taihaku has selected for the Buddha’s seat in the future Zendo expansion. 

The calligraphy on this hemlock post was done by Zoshin, a monk that Rev. Shinjo Norara (a brother monk of Rev. Taihaku’s) recommended for his exceptional calligraphy skills. Rev. Shinjo is depicted at right with the Stupa-Pole during its installation in 2013.

Zoshin came for several weeks before the Shinzanskiki ceremony to do this and other calligraphy.  What is written on the pole is a poem specifically composed for
Rev. Taihaku and Shao Shan Temple on the occasion of her Mountain Seat Ceremony. The poem was composed by the abbot of Kannonji Temple with whom both Taihaku and Shinjo have a close connection.  Rev. Eitoku Kato, on his recent visit, gave us an approximate translation.  Read more...

Dharma Talk: Red Pine Muse

by Rev. Taihaku Priest

When I first arrived on this land the red pines were just a little bit taller than me. Tomorrow we are scheduled to remove all those that threaten the temple and the buildings. Because of the danger, it seems the only responsible action was to have them cut down.
I never saw them grow. Some things you notice one day and wonder when did it happen?  They got so big.  Many things are like this.  

We hear the teachings that the tree was the rain and earth and will become paper, lumber, and fuel, and that its shape changes. But there is something else, which is the life process. The trees are living and breathing out there all around us. There is a level of responsiveness to the wind and temperature. There is some level of feeling. It is not only wood.  Read more...

Pictorial:  The Nature Pilgrimage

On Sunday, August 25, 2019, we gathered at Shao Shan Temple to acknowledge and pay respect to the greater nature that supports our practice. This included a modified version of a ceremony done in Japan in gratitude to the protecting Spirits of the Land. This year, one group stayed at the temple sitting in meditation, while the other group hiked to various locations and the "power spots" on the land. The two groups stayed connected throughout the day using bells, chants, and conches.

The photos and blessings below are excerpted from a booklet that the temple will be publishing in 2020 to commemorate the 2019 Nature Pilgrimage.
The Temple

In deep dream Buddha and dragon agreed.  
A comet awoke the dream and the Buddha seat was consecrated.  
Double rainbows appeared in the East, a huge wind arose from the still seat.  
A temple appeared and the people came.   
This temple protects us and our practice.  
We are dry in the rains and warm in the snows.  
With gratitude to all the powers that created and support our practice and our temple.
-- Shao Shan Temple
The Cemetery

Here, the past is present, palpable, tangible
Those who have come and gone, whose ashes
Lie cradled in the dark earth on this hallowed hill,
Kept safe in Buddha’s embrace. 

The Temple Cabin

With bows to this Temple Cabin,
Restored milk house, providing overnight rest.
With gratitude to mysterious offerings born of good intentions.
White Jewel Mountain
White Jewel Mountain, home of coyote, deer, spruce, butterfly, mushroom, and raven,
Thank you for watching over our precious temple,
For reminding us of our lineage, of the mountain seat at Hokyoji.
Thank you for hosting our solitary journeys, so that we may remember our connectedness.
We thank you."

-- Noah

The Garden
Thank you for this land and soil.
This healing land, this healing soil.
 Thank you for the seeds and plants
These healing seeds, these healing plants....
Thank you for the hands that work.
The healing hands, the healing work.
Thank you for the garden’s food.
The healing food, this garden’s food.
Thank you for this garden.


Temple News

Nature Pilgrimage
On Sunday, August 25, 2019, we gathered at Shao Shan Temple for the annual Nature Pilgrimage. On this day we acknowledged and paid respect to the greater nature that supports our practice here at the temple.  
Anniversary Celebration
On Sunday, September 15, Shao Shan Temple celebrated its 19th Anniversary. This year's ceremony included meditation, chanting, formal question and answer time (Mondo), the opportunity to tie a ribbon to the golden pole symbolizing our highest intention, and refreshments. Thank you to all who joined in this celebration of re-dedication.
Peace Day & Autumn Equinox
On Friday evening, September 20, an intimate group gathered to commemorate Peace Day and the Autumn Equinox. With a ceremonial fire, incense purification, chanting, and dedications, we marked the occasion together.
Rev. Eitoku's Visit
Shao Shan Temple was honored to host visiting teacher Rev. Eitoku Kato on September 28 and 29. Rev. Eitoku is the Abbot of Ryougonji Temple in Japan and a Dharma brother of Rev. Taihaku. They spent several years practicing together at Hokyoji Monastery in Japan.
On Saturday, he and his wife joined the study group and then gave a demonstration of Baika - a type of melodic Buddhist hymn. On Sunday, Rev. Eitoku gave an inspiring Dharma talk on compassion and answered questions over tea.
Thank you to both Rev. Eitoku and his wife for making the long trip to be
part of Soto Zen Buddhism in America.

The Annual Remembrance Ceremony
The Annual Remembrance Ceremony took place Friday evening, October 4. The dark evening was magically lit with candles and firelight. There was time to honor deceased loved ones, the spiritual lineage, and those who are interred in the Shao Shan Temple Cemetery. The evening included a candlelight procession up to the cemetery and chanting.

Autumn Leaves Family Program
For the October 12 Family Program we celebrated autumn while exploring the life cycles of trees and leaves. We practiced meditating as trees, dug into the layers of earth to find decomposing leaves from various autumns past, made leaf rubbings, attempted to catch leaves as they fell from trees, raked leaves to care for the Pet Cemetery, and made a big leaf pile to jump in. Inside the temple we listened to the bell with our whole being. 

Removal of the Red Pines
The red pines which threatened the temple buildings were removed the week of October 28, 2019. The project was managed by a professional team which brought a level of precision and safety combined with respect for the temple to the job. This phase of the project has been completed successfully and we look forward to cleaning up, removing stumps, and settling in.  

NEW: Soto Zen Order News

by Rev. Kenzan Seidenberg
Shao Shan Temple is a registered temple of the Soto Zen Order of Japan (SotoShu) and Taihaku and Kenzan are participating members of several Zen organizations for Zen priests. In September, Kenzan attended the conference of the Association of Soto Zen Buddhism (ASZB) in Los Angeles. The following updates from these organizations may be of interest to our sangha:
  • While it is not possible to identify an exact date when Soto Zen Buddhism began in the United States, one possible date is the founding of the first Japanese temple in North America, Zenshuji  (Los Angeles) in 1922.  Accordingly, the ASZB is planning a 100-year-anniversary celebration and ceremony in 2022 which will include a  Jukai-e, a large “precept giving assembly” in which sangha members from around the country are invited to participate. This year’s conference focused on that ceremony.
  • The SotoShu supports the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015. The SDGs are a call for action by all to promote prosperity while protecting the environment.
  • “Tsuru for Solidarity” is an organization protesting the current inhumane treatment of immigrants on the southern border of the U.S. Specifically, there is a former concentration camp located at Fort Sill in Oklahoma that was used for internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II that is now being used to house immigrant children. We will have a time in spring of 2020 to fold paper cranes at Shao Shan in support of their efforts for humane treatment of immigrants.
Soto Zen Buddhist Association
Taihaku and Kenzan are registered teachers with this American-based organization.

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 Noah Weinstein is the fourth article in this series.                                                                                     

I came to Shao Shan Temple through the woods. My earliest childhood memories are of wandering outdoors beneath the evergreens surrounding our home in southern Massachusetts. I feel a great deal of gratitude towards my parents for allowing me the freedom to roam, and for instilling in me a love of nature and an ethic of care for all living things.

My parents also introduced me to my first books about Buddhism. As a teenager these books inspired me to experiment with meditation, sitting on a rock in the forest and practicing “being as Nature.” These teenage experiences motivated me to study Buddhism in college, live with a meditation teacher in the woods of India, and explore the possibility of ordaining as a Buddhist monk.

 When I eventually realized that the monastic path was not quite my path, my desire to live intimately with the natural world led me to Vermont, where I worked as an environmental and agricultural educator and eventually trained as a nature- and mindfulness-based psychotherapist. At some point I heard about a little Zen temple in the woods.        

My first visit to Shao Shan Temple felt like a confluence of various pieces of my life all coming together at once. As Taihaku and I conversed, the connections started falling into place. I was looking for a place where I could live and practice intensively in community, and yet also have a partner, garden, and do my work in the world. I wanted to teach mindfulness to children and their families, while Taihaku

had been eager to create programs for young people at the temple. I began to sense the feeling of “natural rightness” to which Taihaku often refers.

I feel deep gratitude for all of the ways in which Taihaku, Kenzan, and the Shao Shan Temple community continue to shape who I am in the world. I am now very fortunate to have a family of my own, and my wife and daughter are constantly challenging me to be ever more present, patient, responsive, and compassionate. Izzy, now 2 1/2 years old, loves going to

the Shao Shan Temple Family Program (“going to the ding-dong”). When asked what we do at the temple, her response is usually “eating” and “doing our breathing.” I am so appreciative to have Shao Shan Temple as a spiritual bedrock for myself and my family. Thank you.  

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:  What is the meaning of the following phrase that we chant at the end of the Heart Sutra and during Food Offering Walks: “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate Bodhisvaha?”
A:  “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate Bodhisvaha” is a mantra and like all mantras, one aspect of it is not the intellectual meaning but the sound – the energetic vibrations of this particular sound combination. For this reason, this phase is usually not translated even when chanting the Heart Sutra in English, but is instead kept in its original Sanskrit form. So in one sense, the meaning of the chant is to wholeheartedly chant.

But if we do talk about the meaning of it, the literal translation is: "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond. Awakening!!!" Although sometimes spoken of as “gone to the other shore” as in moving from samsara to nirvana, perhaps a more helpful image may be that of being in the womb of the mother wisdom (Prajna Paramita) and being encouraged to be born into awakening!  It is understood as an admonishment: “Go Go Go beyond. Go completely beyond!”
"Gate, Gate" being chanted during a food offering walk.

NEW: Dharma Online

With the expansion of online Buddhist resources, there has been some interest in the editors creating a list of "Top 10 Buddhist Websites and Blogs" for the benefit of our readers. It took about ten minutes of online browsing to realize the impossible nature of that task, for no other reason than the sheer volume and diversity of online Buddhist sites that are now available. An alternative strategy was quickly devised which relies on the online expertise of many of our sangha members.

We are inviting readers to send in a link(s) to their favorite Dharma online website or blog, plus one sentence about what the site is or why you find it helpful. For example, Kenzan has nominated as one of his favorite Dharma websites because it has an extensive online collection of translations of early Buddhist teachings and related Theravadin essays and commentaries. 
Please email your list of nominations by January 1, 2020 to

In an upcoming issue we will publish a listing of Dharma online websites and blogs based on the recommendations of our readers.  

Community Involvement

Taihaku and Kenzan at Norwich University
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.

Norwich University – On October 7, 2019, Taihaku and Kenzan were invited to speak about Buddhism and lead a class which included meditation for a Comparative Religion class at Norwich University in Northfield. 

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.

Temple Treasure Hunt
This object appears in the "Small Room" adjacent to the temple's zendo. There are three questions for the object depicted at right: 1) What is the name of the object?  2) When is it used at the temple? and 3) How did the temple come to have this object?

The answers appear at the end of the newsletter.
Development Committee News  

When you are making your annual holiday charitable donations
this year, please consider a donation to:

Shao Shan Temple

The temple continues to support its programs solely through the generosity of program participants and friends. The temple does not have a membership fee and all programs are offered on a donation basis. The Annual Alms Round is the temple's only solicitation for funds during the year.

The Annual Alms Round materials were mailed on November 1.  Alms Round materials are also available at the temple. The Committee asks that readers consider making a monthly and/or a one-time donation to support the temple and its programming for the upcoming year. If regular participants each donated between $75 - $100 a month, the temple would meet the 2020 operating and improvements budget of $30,000.


However, donations in any amount  will be gratefully accepted and are fully tax deductible. Please consider clicking on the "Donate Now" button below to make an online donation to the Alms Round using PayPal. Thank you for your generosity.

As part of the “Master Plan," the Development Committee continues to look at what kind of changes would be helpful to the organization's bylaws and policies. Now that the organization is more developed, there is a need to expand the original bylaws. A subcommittee has been created for this purpose. The subcommittee is currently revising its third draft of the new proposed bylaws and policy updates.
Make A Yearly Holiday Donation Today!

Sangha members have requested that each newsletter include a simplified year-to-date financial report. The report for the first three quarters of 2019 (January 1, 2019 thru September 30, 2019) is as follows:

The 2019 budget is $30,000. The funding goal for the first three-quarters (January – September) was $22,500 (75% of $30,000). As of September 30, 2019, contributions amounted to $21,780, which included “Private Ceremony” donations (Home blessing donations, Wedding donations, Doty School donation) and a “restricted” donation specifically made to help pay for property taxes. Donations did not quite cover our expenses for this time period ($23,510).  However, expenses for the first three quarters of the year included most of the costs associated with the Little Hall improvements, for which the Buildings and Grounds Improvements Fund can be applied.
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. 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.

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 bequests as an opportunity for giving back to Shao Shan Temple. A bequest is a financial term describing the act of giving assets such as stocks, bonds, property, and cash, to individuals or organizations, through the provisions of a will or an estate plan. By including Shao Shan Temple in your will, you can ensure that your generosity will continue into the future. Shao Shan Temple will put your gift to use in fulfilling our mission to make accessible and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, as determined by Shao Shan Temple’s spiritual leadership and our Board of Directors. 

There are several ways to make contributions through your will. You can:

Give a Percentage of Your Estate:
“I give, devise, and bequeath to Shao Shan Temple of Woodbury, Vermont (EIN #510580354) , ______% of my estate to be used for its general purposes.”

Give a Specific Dollar Amount:
“I give, devise, and bequeath to Shao Shan Temple of Woodbury, Vermont (EIN #510580354), $_______ to be used for its general purposes.”

Give a Residue:
A residue is what assets remain after other bequests have been granted.  “All the residue of my estate, including real and personal property, I give, devise, and bequeath to Shao Shan Temple of Woodbury, Vermont (EIN #510580354), to be used for its general purposes.”
         (Note: The above wording is only suggestive.
Please consult with your attorney when preparing any legal document.)

It is never too early to start thinking about a will. If you are interested in learning more about how to make a bequest to Shao Shan Temple in your will, please contact the priests or the Development Committee at or 802-456-7091.

If you have carpentry skills, there are numerous ways that you could be of assistance to Shao Shan Temple. One project that could be done at your own home with your own tools is to make a replacement for the large bookcase in the Little Hall. The current one is about to collapse!
Answers to the Temple Treasure Hunt

1.  The objects depicted in the pictures below are the temple's "Han." The Han is a wooden block which is struck with a mallet and used as a sound instrument to summon the sangha. It rests to the right of the sliding glass door in the Small Room which adjoins Shao Shan Temple's zendo.  

2. At Shao Shan the Han is used primarily to summon the sangha to meals. The Han is also used to summon the sangha to the zendo during special ceremonies such as Jukai. The pattern of strikes often includes three “roll downs,” a series of strikes gradually becoming faster and louder.  

3.  The Han was gifted to Shao Shan Temple at the time of the Opening Ceremony in 2000. The calligraphy on the back was done by Taihaku's teacher, Tanaka Shinkai Roshi (Docho-san). The approximate translation of the caligraphy is: 
                Great is the matter of birth and death. 
                Life is fleeting, gone, gone . . .
                Awake! Awake, each one!
                Do not waste this life!
                            Front of Han                                                                 Reverse of Han
Shao Shan Temple on a fall morning.
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