In 1996 I attended a 4 day retreat with the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh – avery intense and opening experience for me. I began to look for a Buddhist center, knowing full well that if left to my own devices I would not continue to meditate.
My search led me to the recently established Karuna Tendai Dharma Center and Monshin and Shumon Naamon . I began attending Wed. evening services, dharma talks, and potluck , courses and retreats, and took Refuge in 1997 with Shoshin Jacon and Onyo Bues, We recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of taking Refuge.
Monshin and Shumon began conducting 2 week Gyo session each summer. I saw this as ”advanced training ” in Tendai – realizing this was actually a ‘priest training’ program fashioned after the 60 day Gyo on Mt. Hiei. This training was very difficult and confronting for me , and on one occasion the trainers asked for my car keys so that I wouldn’t flee. I also had profound and moving experiences in the intense gyos, developed lasting camaraderie and bonds with fellow participants, and developed much gratitude for Monshin, Shumon, and the various Japanese teachers who came to the Betsuin to train us. I attended 10 Gyos in all and received Soryo Tokudo with several other participants.
For the last 16 + years I have co-led services weekly at Nishi Tendai Sangha in Albany with Shoshin Jacon and Monko Spang, I have regularly attended Wednesday Evening Meditation Service at Tendai Buddhist Institute led by Monshin Sensei. For many years, attended the monthly Sutra Class where we have read and discussed many great Buddhist Sutra – The Dhammapada, The Lotus Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Mo-ho chih-kuan by Chih-i, Mahayana Buddhist Ethics, The Heart Sutra, books on meditation, Survey of Buddhism to name a few.
Participating in the building of our Temple – Jiunzan Tendaiji and the wonderful consecration ceremony in 2005 attended by many Tendai-shu dignitaries was a spectacular experience. Several Sangha members visited Japan with Monshin and Shumon to thank Tendai-shu Japan for the support for building our Temple. On that trip we were privileged to perform the Daily Service at Konpon Chudo in English for the first time.
Going forward, I plan to continue co-leading Nishi Tendai Sangha, participate in Wed. evening service at TBI, attend Sutra Class, and assist in fund raising for the Dharma Center.
I want to express my deepest heartfelt gratitude to Monshin and Shumon for their unwavering and tireless commitment and dedication to the Sangha, TBI, and for making available the magnificent Tendai Tradition to the west.