Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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A Turn for the Worse

September 05, 2013 by Yugen

Jim Lakey Rev. Jim Yugen Lakey
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

A Turn for the Worse

Following yesterday's storm, Apple Canyon Road is closed. The whole valley is full of debris flow, the paved road only navigatable after some thick mud and fallen trees were cleared by Caltrans. The mile long road to the center was barely accessible this morning and after this afternoons storm, we don't know if it will be at all accessible tomorrow. All the drainage ditches are full of mud, the road is marked with channels and debris flow. Yokoji was hit harder than ever.

This week, there has been a storm every day and the forecast for the foreseeable future (which in meteorological terms is this time next week) shows that the pattern is going to continue. We had prepared for the weather, digging channels and pits and building defenses in the hope of mitigating any further damage. Yesterday morning it looked like most of our defenses had worked and the damage was minimal, as we prepared for the storm that was predicted to hit in the afternoon. After yesterday's storm, the story is painfully different.

The parking lot is full of mud and rock. Maybe 2 feet in places, maybe 4 or 5 in others. It is hard to gauge. The workshop is again awash with mud, the debris flow having crested the defenses we previously put in. As of now, none of the buildings have suffered major damage. However, the Buddha Hall and Zendo are both at serious risk if more weather comes through as predicted, and many of the other buildings are also threatened. The practice house and Jisha cabin were both surrounded by mud, having escaped unscathed in previous storms. The Jisha cabin has about 3-4 feet of mud piled up against the rear of the building, and unfortunately I forgot to close the sliding glass door fully on that wall (I live in the cabin) and an inch of mud has filled the bedroom and front room of the cabin. Tenshin Roshi's house further up on the hill is also surrounded by mud and debris.

The wells were connected together with provisional plumbing which was staked into the ground. The ground washed away, leaving the pipes exposed and they broke off and washed away.

Following this storm it is clear that we cannot stay at the center at this time. The storm yesterday was seemingly no more intense or prolonged than the prior storms, but the cumulative effect of the storms this week seems to be the major desctructive force. The residents have all been evacuated, and will return in the mornings before the storms hit over the next few days (they always come in the afternoon) in order to administer triage to the increasingly defenseless center.

The September sesshin is now canceled as is the October sesshin. The training period entrance and Sunday program is also canceled. The center is closed to visitors until further notice. The long term plan for the center is being discussed as we try and figure out what to do. For now, please do not attempt to come up.

We will post more news as events unfold.

Apple Canyon Road closed as of yesterday Apple Canyon Road closed as of yesterday

All the trash cans washed away. Again. All the trash cans washed away. Again.

The Zendo The Zendo

Behind the Jisha Cabin Behind the Jisha Cabin

the whole area from the Buddha Hall down is buried in deep mud and rock the whole area from the Buddha Hall down is buried in deep mud and rock

The mud is right up to the window. The drain for this area is about 5 feet below the level of the mud The mud is right up to the window. The drain for this area is about 5 feet below the level of the mud.

The broken plumbing at the well site. The broken plumbing at the well site

Leaving today before the storm moved in Leaving today before the storm moved in

The residents met at Lake Hemet during todays evacuation The residents met at Lake Hemet during todays evacuation


  • Stefan:

    05 Sep 2013 20:52:14

    A true tragedy. It is heartbreaking to see such beauty devastated. My heart goes out to the whole sangha.

  • Mary Morse:

    05 Sep 2013 20:55:15

    Blessings to all of you during this difficult time! You are very important to our mountain and we love you!


    05 Sep 2013 21:21:51

    All of you at the Center are in my heart and thoughts.
    Thanks for keeping us updated with the change of events.
    Pictures speak by themselves.
    Best regards under these circumstances.

  • Karen Zee:

    05 Sep 2013 21:32:20

    This makes me terribly sad. I’m following your updates closely, and wishing all of you the very best of luck. I was there in June, and love the facility. Thank you for the update. The residents are very, very special people. My sincerest wish is that you can somehow reopen.

  • Francois:

    05 Sep 2013 21:34:34

    I have memories going back to 1996, had some of the most deep experiences in my life, I think of it most everyday, this is really painful, I am really sad, but hope for the very best, and know that you will come back stronger and more splendid, and send you my very best thoughts.

  • Taido:

    05 Sep 2013 21:49:47

    This is unbelievable! Attempting to sit and practice so a space can open up in me to realize this is just what is. No pithy sayings can cover this.

  • Hiroko Momii:

    05 Sep 2013 22:37:57

    It is hard to see such devastating damage. It is heart breaking.
    I am sending prayer for residents and Zen Center.

  • Bill Butler:

    05 Sep 2013 22:44:37

    Deep sadness. Love and gratitude to all who have done so much.

  • Christine:

    05 Sep 2013 23:16:29

    Please let us know when you have a plan and need volunteers to come help dig away the mud and start repairs again. We would like to come lend a hand.

  • Ellen:

    05 Sep 2013 23:18:54

    I’m so sorry.

  • Tony Shinro Doubleday:

    05 Sep 2013 23:22:54

    Thanks for these updates which from the distant UK we follow with painful and helpless disbelief. It’s a shocking predicament but I know you make the best of it that you can. Very best wishes to you all.

  • Josu:

    06 Sep 2013 00:14:06

    If you need help digging out let me know and I will do my best to get out there to help out.

  • Michael Daigu O'Keefe:

    06 Sep 2013 00:25:41

    This is horrible news. You’re all in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Ken Parsons:

    06 Sep 2013 00:44:40

    My heart is with you. I’m sure you have been looking at all possibilities, but the Center may be eligible for disaster relief assistance, as the area was declared a disaster zone due to the fire, and these floods are a direct consequence of the fire. I look forward to seeing you again, back at the Center, when this situation has been stabilized.

  • Graeme Stewart:

    06 Sep 2013 02:32:29

    My Dear old Pal Chas Tenshin Fletcher Roshi, I think you would have been safer on The Sea-Front (despite the weather) at St-Annes than on that Canadian Mountain.
    It is a mistake I see Humans make often; namely the associating of isolation on a mountain or hilltop with safety, though perhaps not always careless aloofness accompanies their retreat. I’m not saying that applies to ZMC at all, I just think it’s very precarious in the long-game to live on a mountain in California of all places. There are malicious firestarters around.
    It’s as you say in your Dharma talks Chas, (which I appreciate very much and needs be, listen to all attentively, as a careful student would) when you suggest to the effect of ‘You can not tell what’s coming tomorrow’.
    Well; on the Sea-Front at Lytham the storms are reliably predictable, at least. They generally leave the town intact anyways!
    Hope you and your friends get sorted chum.

  • Jon Rosenthal:

    06 Sep 2013 04:42:03

    Alas alas. I am so sad for all of us.

  • Ken Erickson:

    06 Sep 2013 05:08:19

    So difficult to read; than you, Yugen.

  • Ken Erickson:

    06 Sep 2013 05:37:48

    Looks like the Zendo is seriously at risk, there. If I’d have been there you can bet there would have been more than a sliding door left open; I’d have left crap plugged in and the whole place would be ashes. You guys are so frigging brave. This sucks. Its hard to know what to do, just now, isin’t it.

  • Junpo:

    06 Sep 2013 05:39:33

    Love to you all. Gratitude to you all. Be safe.

  • Karen Patterson:

    06 Sep 2013 06:02:42

    After all this weather is over, I have a shovel, a tracker, 4×4, and a desire to help. I know others would be happy to help too. Let us know.
    Thoughts are with all of you.

  • Jerry Griswold:

    06 Sep 2013 06:08:04

    So sorry for your trouble.

  • Kakuzen Mountain:

    06 Sep 2013 06:58:31

    Very sad. I was hopeful that things were turning the other way.

  • Nicolee Jikyo McMahon:

    06 Sep 2013 06:58:58

    It is shocking to see the devastation, and how nature is transforming this beloved place. I am deeply saddened and also filled with so many wonderful memories. Thank you for this blog and pictures and please keep us informed about your needs.

  • Jim:

    06 Sep 2013 07:52:34

    My heart goes out to everyone. A very disheartening lesson in the impermanence of it all. Jim if there is anything You think I can do please ask. I have a pretty well equipped workshop and am able to do most non strenuous physical tasks.

  • Patty Hanenberg:

    06 Sep 2013 09:12:15

    My heart is sad :( I’ve been following very close and was hopeful we’d overcome . Just not yet! Sending love out to the Sanga . When your ready to dig , I ready to help . Thank you for the updates .
    Sadness :(

  • Louis D.:

    06 Sep 2013 09:51:22

    Please let me know if there is absolutely anything I can do.

  • Koko:

    06 Sep 2013 11:41:27

    Heartbreaking news! It’s so frustrating- I’m just one hill over and we would happily welcome the rain and we’re barely getting any tiny sprinkles in the area, zero at my house. Instead it’s all dumping right where it’s most destructive! It’s so frustrating to sit helplessly on the sidelines watching you suffer through this! I’m available to dig when needed.

  • Galen:

    06 Sep 2013 11:55:49

    Can’t help but think of Roshi’s talk a couple of weeks ago: “Oh you found a horse…how wonderful”. “Oh, it broke your son’s leg…how tragic”. “Oh he didn’t have to join the army…how wonderful”. “Oh, the horse ran away…how tragic”.

    looks like a bunch of work. Let us know where you are and what you need. We got you.

  • Genshô Monk:

    06 Sep 2013 13:05:10

    Oh… so great memories I have from that place of my first angô…

  • Robin:

    06 Sep 2013 13:11:31

    Thank you for holding the space.
    May your rebuilding be filled with a new sense of purpose and love!

  • Marybeth Carter for Insight Community of the Desert:

    06 Sep 2013 13:53:19

    Glad to hear you are going to a safe place as yet another storm approaches this afternoon. We are ready to help once you determine next steps.

  • Sandeep:

    06 Sep 2013 14:45:30

    sending prayers your way…

  • Maggie Freed:

    06 Sep 2013 15:39:53

    So sorry to see and hear about this, Tenshin. Fond regards, and hope there will be some way to save the mtn. center after all the years of work there.

  • Ron Issho Wilkinson:

    06 Sep 2013 15:41:17

    Sorry to see this. Let me know when I’m needed. I hope you get a break.

  • Cheryl:

    06 Sep 2013 17:05:41

    We are a family here on this hill as far as pine cove to idyllwild and so on whe it’s time to go back and safe please post something a d we can pull togther as a family and help

  • Elizabeth Jenkins:

    06 Sep 2013 18:47:24

    I have been following your situation since I visited in July. I have been wondering about some of the bigger sangas in Northern Ca. What I have been wondering is can they raise money for you? Are you connected with Jack Kornfeild, Gill, Joseph and all those guys in Redwood city and San Franciso?
    I hope you pull out safely.
    Love to all of you.

  • Andrea T:

    06 Sep 2013 19:17:37

    I’m so terribly sorry and saddened by what’s happening to you all up there! And to that beautiful place you’ve poured so much heart and soul into. We spent many retreats up there enjoying it all! I will forward this onto my former students, as I no longer own FreeSpirit Yoga. Peace and Blessings to you all.

  • Scott Steinbrinck:

    06 Sep 2013 20:29:11

    Tragedy, indeed. Yet, also a hard lesson in non-attachment to things, places, and times. A diaspora can lead to growth in the long run; may this path continue stronger in future times with added support. Spread the word! Namaste.

  • Soun Douki:

    06 Sep 2013 20:38:49

    This is intensely sad. My heart goes out to you.

  • Sumi Ryoko:

    07 Sep 2013 20:04:06

    Love and prayers always. It is hard to see this beloved place of so much beauty and practice being transformed into devastation….by the forces of nature.

    We all have so many memories, of practice and chanting and ceremonies. and …the incredible dedication of Tenshin Roshi and the residents over these last few months.

    May all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time renew and give forth a new place of dedicated practice….for us all.

    Reverend Sumi Ryoko Egan

  • Two Arrows Zen:

    08 Sep 2013 05:34:11

    The implacability of natural forces. Hard to watch their effects on all that effort ing. Our thoughts are with all of you.

  • Myo-O Habermas-Scher;Dharma Dance Sangha:

    08 Sep 2013 08:55:41

    It’s heart breaking to see the devastation. Sending prayers for strength and muy metta.

  • Greg:

    08 Sep 2013 12:48:17

    The devastation is disheartening and a great teacher in impermanence. Nature has begun the flow by setting a blaze and flushing out the old to make space for new growth and Yokoji ZMC happened to be in the middle of it.

    This is so unfortunate and I grieve the losses. Love and light to all. May all be safe and secure. May all be at peace and ease. May all forces come together to assist in recovery and future uplifting this beautiful sangha and all it residents for the merit and wondrous work done there.

  • Musai Walter:

    11 Sep 2013 06:46:41

    Impermanence—damn!—so hard to practice with. I am so sad to hear of this devastation and the suffering it has brought all of you there.

  • Kennin:

    11 Sep 2013 17:09:57

    Deep Gassho!

  • Kennin:

    18 Sep 2013 15:57:36

    Deep Gassho!

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