Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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Tibetans in Technicolor

September 25, 2010 by Yugen

Jim Lakey Rev. Jim Yugen Lakey
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Tibetans in Technicolor

We are now in the height of guest season and things are busy. Like any other business involved in the hospitality industry (obviously not our raison d'être, but an actuality nonetheless), there are times of the year when it is busier than others and for us it is Spring and Fall. The main reason for this is that in the past, the Training Periods were in Winter and Summer and the guest groups were only allowed to rent the facility during the interim - Spring and Fall. A few years back the Training and Interim Periods were switched, and guest groups were invited all year round as they are our main source of revenue and we were not in a position financially to do anything but try and increase all sources of income available to us. The legacy of this restructuring is that in the Spring and Fall we have a guest group booked in almost every weekend, and then in the Summer and Winter it is more like one or two a month. This weekend we have the Vajrarupini Buddhist Center from San Diego renting the facility and there are 43 people, which takes up all the accommodation and creates a lot of work for us. There is the cleaning and setting up before hand, the menu planning and shopping, the hosting of the group as they arrive on the Friday and then the ongoing work of cleaning, cooking and hosting while they are here. And then there is the tidy up. It is a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun and a great practice for the residents and volunteers.

Today we ran out of power mid-morning. This is the first time I have ever seen this happen. When there is full sun on the solar panels, we normally cover all useage and then there is some left over to charge the batteries. I fully charged the batteries the day before the group arrived, but 24 hours and a bunch of sunshine later and it was all gone. We were running power tools, kitchen implements, computers and so on, but this is normal for us. The addition of the group running a sound system in the zendo seemed to be enough to tip the balance. Thankfully, the generator was powered up and we were soon back in business, but it is a reminder for us of the finite resources we have at our command up here and how precious they are.

The group seem to be enjoying their retreat. It is the first time they have chosen Yokoji to host one of their events, and if they like it they may be back again next year, which would be great for us. The group are part of the New Kadampa School which is a Tibetan Buddhist off-shoot of sorts. The organization started out with a Tibetan monk in England where the heart of the group still is. It was through this group that I received my initial exposure to Buddhism, attending their classes for a month or two. It wasn't for me, however, and shortly after I discovered the Liverpool Zen Group. It seems to be just the ticket for a number of people, though, as they are a very popular movement. Horses for courses. The teachers and organizers arrived early on Friday to set up and they are a great bunch, and it is fun to observe all the differences and similarities between the two traditions. In the third sitting period of the evening I had to leave to go over to the Zendo to do the usual introduction for the group, covering such information as what to do when you come face-to-face with a mountain lion (don't run) and where you put used tea bags (in the compost). It was like walking out of an old black and white movie into the wonderful world of technicolor. Zen can be a bit, well, black. These guys are all maroon and saffron with funky Buddha statues all over the place, food offerings galore,  music, singing and although I didn't see it, my guess is that they aren't adverse to a bit of dancing. I can certainly see why it appeals to so many people. Although, returning to the Yokoji residents in the Buddha Hall for the Four Vows at the end of the night, I walked in and felt a flush of pride: these are my people, and well, I love 'em.

A big thank you to the volunteers for this weekend: Christ Hogyo, Cyle Chosui, Dianne Shinzan, Bill and Felipe. I can't say what a relief it is to have sangha members who chose to come up and help out when we need them. It makes such a big difference for us and creates a sense of sangha which keeps Yokoji going. Thank you also to Ilene Van Gossen who did a full day on Thursday by herself in the kitchen while Jishin was shopping. Ilene will try and do every Thursday from now on when she is able to and again, this is a huge help for Jishin and consequently every one else at the Center.


  • Bill Wheelock:

    27 Sep 2010 17:11:40

    It was a pleasure to feel so welcome into your community. I found a used copy of the fine Three Bowl Cooking Cookbook so that I can bring more than just my practice down the mountain. My legs are a bit sore from sitting, but I am looking forward to coming back. Hopefully I can schedule time for the introduction class. Best to you and all the residents.

  • Ilene Van Gossen:

    27 Sep 2010 20:12:05

    Well, Jim, we love ya too! I like seeing the Dharma in all its manifestations and look forward to seeing how it adapts to the Western world. The interesting thing is how many different versions of the Dharma are taking root here in the West. Whereas in Japan only the Chinese version (Chan) arrived, we have several versions developing here. But then we Westerners have always loved having lots of choices! ;^)

    Bill Wheelock, I’d love to take a look at your copy of Three Bowl Cooking Cookbook. I’ve heard many good things about it.

    Jim, I really enjoyed cooking for all of you and look forward to doing it again. I may need a little refresher course though on the rituals. I should write them all down.

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