Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Travels of a Tenzo


Plum Mountain preceptors and OBW members- Jeff Miles, Lenny Reed and Jean-Luc Devis with Kobai Scott Whitney at Open Gate
Jean-Luc (Jisen Seido) Devis, a long time practitioner at Open Gate Zendo is preparing to move to New Zealand. His evolving profession has opened unexpected doors and in true Zen fashion, he has chosen to enter where the opportunity shows the most challenges.  Jean-Luc has been acting as the back-up Tenzo (cook) for Open Gate for many years and more recently has been the Tenzo for the Plum Mountain Buddhist Community's Retreats.  Jean-Luc’s Dharma path has lead him to study the Buddhist precepts under the guidance of Kobai Scott Whitney, the guiding teacher of Plum Mountain and long time mentor and Dharma Brother to the OBW community.

Below, Jean-Luc shares with us the highlights of his precepts practice and precepts ceremony, and reminds us that taking the precepts is not just an academic exercise, but a way of life to be used as a compass to help guide us through life’s challenges.

My Path to Deeper Understanding

Trout Lake Abbey is a 23 acre certified organic farm, located in Trout Lake, Washington.   The Abbey was the location of a recent retreat for the Plum Mountain sangha. The farm is located in a highland valley at the base of Mount Adams - not far from the mid-section of the Columbia Gorge.  Our host was Kozen, abbot at Trout Lake and Kobai conducted our weekend retreat.  During the retreat, there was a ceremony marking my study completion of the precepts.

The taking of the precepts this spring at Trout Lake Abbey has resulted in a deeper and more refined perspective on their meaning. It offered an opportunity to carefully rewrite them as proactive actions instead of “thou shalt not” statements. This enhancement felt empowering and in line with my pursuit of “Right Intention”.

 As an example I was able to dig deeper into several of the precepts. Instead of focusing on “refraining from killing” I realized I must be keenly aware that all life is interconnected and that to support life one must take life. Knowing that my life on earth must cause some death and suffering of other creatures I must resolve to relieve what cruelty and suffering I can. As a Tenzo I must be mindful of this at all times.

With regards to “taking what is not freely given” I must ask myself: Do I use the world’s resources unnecessarily? Could I walk instead of drive? Do I need all this food? Have I left the lights on unnecessarily? Can I lower the heat and conserve? How can my daily actions support this precept?

At the taking of the precepts ceremony Kobai presented me with a Wagessa. I took the dharma name of Ikusei Kando (nourishing life in a simple way) because of my love of meal preparation and serving. In the past I prepared complex intricate showpiece meals that embraced my growing ego. I now find that the preparation of simple whole foods with seasonings that enhance the foods natural taste to be my preferred style. Perfecting the practice of simplicity is an honorable and worthy approach to the dining experience.

Saturday evening a Vietnamese family of 8 arrived unexpectedly and I was asked if we could accommodate them for dinner at the last moment. The answer is always yes when it comes to feeding the hungry so I set about adjusting the menu and quantities accordingly. It did require some internal adjustment as I had painstakingly planned the meal a week in advance so it was “just so” but I reflected upon the precepts I just took and welcomed the challenge.

The peaceful nature of the Trout Lake Abbey can be summed up by the nightly visits to the chicken coop with 140 organically raised chickens. We joined Kozen to sing several choruses of “Amitaba” to chase the nightmares away and give the chickens a restful night of slumber.

Jean-Luc Devis
June 18, 2012

1 comment:

  1. I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.
    Flights to Windhoek
    Cheap Flights to Windhoek
    Cheap Air Tickets to Windhoek