Friday, December 21, 2012

Meet Trey Grubbs


My name is Trey Grubbs.  I was born in the Ohio River Valley in 1991 and have lived in the Maritime Northwest since 2010.  A horse lover, avid walker, bird watcher and recent dabbler in the way of tea.

Early first encounters with Zen came as a teenager through the writings of Alan Watts.  I was inspired by the example of Japhy Ryder when a friend loaned me her copy of Kerouac's "Dharma Bums".  This led me to the poetry of Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, Han Shan and Stonehouse (in translation).  Once I discovered sumi-e ink painting, I immediately signed up for local classes.  I was amazed at how much they were "like" nature!

I stick with Zen for its practical way in dealing with everyday life. Most of our suffering arises from not paying attention to what we have right in front of us, the three mysteries: body, speech and mind.  Zen allows me to bring awareness to mind through zazen; awareness to speech through poetry and song; awareness to body, whether riding my bike or cleaning horse stalls.  And back to zazen.

I began practice at Open Gate around a year ago.  I plan to continue to develop my practice of awareness on the present moment.  I hope to become a member of the Order, for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them.
Consuming desires are endless; I vow to stop them.
Bio-relations are intricate; I vow to honor them.
Nature's way is beautiful; I vow to become it.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Akiko’s Way of Zen

Welcome to Akiko's Full Service Dhama Station

As many of you know, Jean-Luc and Valerie left Olympia, Washington earlier this year. Since July 2012, Jean-Luc has lived and worked in Christchurch New Zealand, at the University of Canterbury. He is also an active member of the local Diamond Sangha and the hiking club. Valerie moved to Corvallis, Oregon in September, 2012, works for the Department of Transportation and is sitting with the Corvallis Zen Circle. In November, the two were reunited for a visit in Hawaii. During that time they spent three days at a retreat known as "Akiko's Buddhist bed and breakfast"

Wailea Village Hawaii

Wailea Village is a village of 7 houses that once was central to the sugarcane industry. Now bypassed by the highway, there are more pedestrians and cats in the street than cars.  The “Buddhist B & B” is located in an old service station.  The garage bays serve as an art gallery and also accommodate the weekly Wailea Farmers Market if it rains.  It's new function reflects the motto posted on the front of the garage gallery: "Rooted to the source, Be of service to humankind."  On the patio, a cat lounges on drying coffee beans that Akiko has collected from the neighbor’s yard. The beans will be roasted and served to guests. The garden and grounds are simple, artful and eclectic. The zendo is located upstairs from the service bay. 

Zendo Upstairs
We are shown to a one-room open air screened structure, surrounded by a jungle of exotic trees, flowers and vines - the "Mango Tree". There is a footpath used by local wild pigs. Solar power allows the use of two lamps at a time; It’s simple and sustainable. The bathroom facility is partially open-air with an "on demand" hot water system.
As darkness falls, we notice mosquitoes lurking nearby. Having failed to heed the advice to "bring a good mosquito repellent" we start to panic. Truth be told, Jean-Luc would prefer to face a bear than a swarm of mosquitoes. Our retreat suddenly looks like a serious mistake… What are we doing HERE?  It doesn't help that our first week on the Big Island was spent at a timeshare with all the resort amenities on the sunny Kona Coast. 
The rain falls on the tin roof as we take a hasty "on demand" shower.  We dash off to the service station for the 5:30 PM sitting. Akiko sits beside an altar complimented by simple statuary, photographs and art.  The service includes zazen, interspersed with "standing qi gong” and kinhin.  We both relax into the familiarity of traditional zen form and enjoy "just sitting" after so many days of overactive vacationing. The sounds of frogs and crickets chorus while the occasional rain shower passes. To close, we chant the heart Sutra in Japanese, followed by three bows. Akiko provides clear instructions for how to complete each bow. We stand and say the closing gatha of Akiko's zendo in unison:
"Every moment is an opportunity
to deepen our practice and ourselves
to be better human beings
and to be of service."

Akiko makes mochi

Each morning we watch Akiko prepare breakfast. She answers questions with stories, tells stories to teach, and if you listen carefully she teaches each of us about living a full life. This is a Dharma breakfast.  She tells us about a friend who has a gift for Japanese cooking and serves "old-style" foods to the elders of local villages. Akiko now contributes her monthly Social Security check so that these meals can be offered at a local temple. She describes with joyous enthusiasm how the elders are revitalized with social interaction around the family table. We are overjoyed that we stayed, have grown from the experience, and now reflect on how we almost missed a powerful lifetime experience because of some pesky mosquitoes.

Akiko began her zen practice at Chozen-Ji International Zen Dojo near Honolulu, Hawaii.  She received intensive Rinzai training for more than 10 years.  By her own account, the Roshi spoke no more than 18 words to her.  She eventually left – somewhat frustrated by the apparent lack of interest by her teacher.  Rather than giving in to discouragement, Akiko has crafted her own path. Within the walls of the zendo above the service station, she borrows from tradition, adding her own touches. Wearing her characteristic head scarfs and aprons, she serves her community with grace, energy and unique zen spirit grounded in the strength of her daily practice. The results speak for themselves, no “transmission” (or oil change) required. We deeply bow to the zen spirit of our dharma friend Akiko!

Valerie captures the elements of Akiko's in water color

Submitted by Valerie and Jean-Luc Devis

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Open Gate Rohatsu Zazenkai

In the Japanese Zen tradition, Rohatsu is the day celebrated in recognition of the Buddha’s enlightenment. The word Rohatsu means the eighth day of the twelfth month and was originally tied to the Chinese lunar calendar. Due to the misalignment of lunar months with the solar year, this typically places Rohatsu in early to mid January. However, due to the adoption of the western calendar by the Japanese, the day of Rohatsu is most typically celebrated on December 8th as the eighth day of the twelfth solar month.

Nevertheless, many traditional temples, monasteries and modern Zen Centers still observe (or have returned to observing) Rohatsu in January, according to the original lunar tradition. Sometimes this is done because of tradition, while at other times it is a return to the original time frame based more on modern calendar conflicts. For those of us living in the West (or heavily influenced by the Western culture), December is a very busy month with the eighth day of the twelfth month landing smack in the middle of the Holiday Season.

For the last few years, this clashing of cultural traditions has led to the reconfiguration of Rohatsu recognition at Open Gate Zendo. In order to allow those of us who have friends and family who are fundamentally “not Buddhists” to participate fully in the Holiday Season, we have moved our Rohatsu Sesshin to mid January. Typically, this Winter Sesshin coincides with the Martin Luther King three day weekend and the Sunday afternoon silent peace walk around Olympia’s Capitol Lake (as it will again this year).

However, in observance of the December tradition, we continue to recognize “the eighth day of the twelfth month” with a full day practice session (Zazenkai) on Saturday December eighth. Those wishing to come Friday evening are welcome to stay overnight in the Zendo, as well as, Saturday night if needed. There will be no scheduled practice on Sunday.

If you plan to attend, please contact us at:

Below is the practice schedule for this year’s Rohatsu Zazenkai:

Saturday December 8th

7:00-7:15 Arrive for Zazenkai
7:15-Call to Zazen (Plank drum (Han) roll)
7:30-8:00 One period of Zazen
8:00-8:05 Incense Ceremony
8:05-9:00 Informal Breakfast in Hojo
9:00-9:30 Break and kitchen cleanup
9:15- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
9:30-10:45 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
9:30-10:45 Dokusan (one on one meeting with the teacher) by rotation.
10:45-12:30 Samu (work period- clean up, yard work, meal preparation)
12:30- Call to Lunch (Han roll)
12:45-1:45 Lunch ceremony (Oryoki)
1:45-2:15 Break and kitchen cleanup
2:00- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
2:15-3:30 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
3:30-4:30 Angya practice. (monk procession walk)
4:30- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
4:45-5:15 One period Zazen
5:15-6:15 Dinner ceremony (Oryoki)
6:15-6:45 Break and kitchen cleanup
6:30- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
6:45-8:00 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
8:00 -8:50 Tea ceremony & Teisho (teaching)
8:50- Closing ceremony
9:00- Prepare for bed or leave for the night.
9:00 Konsho (striking the evening bell)

The Open Gate  Rohatsu/Winter Sesshin will be held on the Martin Luther King Weekend, January 19th21st 2013.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

A long time in coming . . .

Photo by Gansho Lenny Reed

Many of you know (or know of) Kobai Scott Whitney, a long-time Buddhist teacher, author, and extended OBW sangha member.  For those of you who don’t know him, Kobai is the guiding teacher of Plum Mountain Buddhist Community in Aberdeen, Washington, just an hour west of Open Gate Zendo in Olympia, Washington.  That sangha works “especially with the marginalized and the recovering–from trauma, homelessness, divorce, domestic violence and losses of various sorts.”  Plum Mountain members are active in the community, working to “partner with the 12-Step communities, jails, prisons and services for the hungry and the mentally ill.” Kobai is especially well-known for his Prison Dharma work, having spent many years teaching Buddhism to incarcerated men and women.  He has even written a book, “Sitting Inside: Buddhist Practice in America’s Prisons”, which is a very interesting and informative guide for those interested in and involved with Prison Dharma work.

Kobai’s Buddhist path has been a long and fruitful one. He practiced Zen for many years with Issan Dorsey at San Francisco Zen Center and Robert Aitken Roshi at Honolulu Diamond Sangha (it was Aitken who gave him the Dharma name “Kobai”, or “Old Plum Tree”).  Since moving to Washington State, he has practiced with the Olympia Zen Center and Cloud Mountain Retreat Center, and has in recent years been exploring Buddhism’s roots by practicing and studying in the Theravadin tradition.  In the years since he came to Aberdeen, he and Plum Mountain have become a good friend and brother Sangha to the Open Gate community. Kobai attends all of the OBW’s ordination ceremonies, and several members of the Order of the Boundless Way, namely Jisen Seido Jean-Luc Devis, Gansho Lenny Reed, and Hadashi Jeff Miles, have also studied and ordained under Kobai.

Moving further along his well-traveled path, Kobai recently began working with Kozen Sampson (Thich Minh Tinh), a monk and teacher in the Vietnamese Zen tradition.  Last Monday, October 15th, Kobai underwent ordination to join this newfound Buddhist family. He was ordained as a novice monk in the Linchi (Rinzai) line of Vietnamese Zen, or Thien.  Due to his extensive life experience as a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, he will spend only a year as a novice before being ordained a full monk.  In the meantime, he’ll be run through a crash course of koan study, instruction in ceremony, services, and forms, and possibly an occasional beating with a Zen stick. :-)

The ceremony was performed at Chua Lien Hoa, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Olympia, Washington.  Presiding over the ceremony were Thich Minh Tinh Kozen Sampson of Mt. Adams Zen Center in Trout Lake, Washington, Master Nguyen Kim of Co Lam Pagoda in Seattle, Washington, Phra Ratsamee Chutintharo and his associate, both of Buddhangkura Thai Buddhist temple in Lacey, Washington, as well as the abbot of Chua Lien Hoa, a visiting grandmaster from Vietnam. Also present were Kobai’s son, Stanley, and a half dozen or so of Kobai’s peers and associates from the Christian ministry.  There as well were our own Gansho Lenny Reed, Hadashi Jeff Miles, and Koro Kaisan Miles, on hand to witness Kobai’s initiation into his newest family.

Please join us in congratulating Kobai!

Photo by Gansho Lenny Reed

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Meet Stuart Tennis


I have been a Buddhist for six years with several of those years as a student at a Tibetan Sangha in Seattle. I have also done many years of independent Buddhist study with meditation at the core of my practice. While a Buddhist I am also a Christian; in my spiritual journey through these years I came to realize that these two worlds deeply enrich and clarify my life. Continuing my Buddhist journey at the Open Gate Zendo, I am drawn toward doing bodhisattva work as I deepen my Zen Buddhist practice. Further I hope to have the opportunity to join the Order and one day be ordained. I was lead to the Order of the Boundless Way through the chance meeting of a soon-to-be ordained member of the Order. Our afternoon discussing dharma and the Boundless Way over tea inspired me to send a letter of introduction to Koro Kaisan Miles.

Having explored many Sanghas and spoken with many Buddhist practitioners over the years I had been seeking a Buddhist tradition which would allow me to maintain my Christian roots while affording me the space and guidance to deepen my Buddhist practice and meditation. In the beginning of this journey I decisively knew that I could not be a Buddhist for the sake of myself alone. Rather as a Buddhist I desired, and still do, to engage with the world and want to help those in it instead of cloistering myself from that world.

One of the many blessings in my life for the past 16 years is my full-time work as an American Sign Language interpreter. As an interpreter I have seen all of the joys, sufferings and seasons of the lives of others and in part all that I have seen has drawn me toward bodhisattva work and to deepen my Christian and Buddhist practice. I am also an artist, photographer, keyboard musician and lover of the arts and all things creative. Be it spiritual or "foot to the path" I am a traveler at heart. Born in England, I was raised in the States and I visit my family in England twice yearly as well as exploring Europe and having time with my friends there.

Sending a letter of introduction to Koro Kaisan Miles and our following correspondence gave me a good sense that the Order of the Boundless Way might become the sangha and Buddhist tradition I'd long been seeking. After my first meeting with Koro Kaisan Miles and first time at the Open Gate Zendo I saw that the Boundless Way answered my search.

Stuart Tennis

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rosslyn Zendo

Anjin Jimon 

The Rosslyn Zendo, in Arlington Virginia, is officially open.  Led by sangha member Anjin Jimon (Alex Yuan), the group meets in the Arlington Methodist Church.  Anjin has been attending the church for two years now, and approached the pastor a year ago about the idea of using the prayer room for meditation.  The pastor, a big supporter of meditation for Christians and Buddhists alike, was very receptive to the idea, so after a year of preparation, making the website, and posting flyers in the neighborhood, the Zendo is officially open.

Situated on top of the Rosslyn Metro Station, which is the main metro connection in Virginia for commuters going to Washington, D.C., Rosslyn Zendo is ideally located for people to stop in for a morning meditation on their way to work.  Anjin says:

“Today we have a solid group of about 2-3 people that show up every morning (including me) for 25 minutes of silent meditation. Although I meditate in the Zen tradition, others use chairs and meditate on bible verses. The impact on my daily routine has been amazing. I wake up much earlier and my mind seems less impulsive. It also helps me to be consistent – I get up early and unlock the church doors every morning, since I never know who might show up!”

Check out their website at

Also, check out the following video to see Alex interviewed at a Buddhist event in Arlington:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

August 23rd – an Auspicious Day of Celebration

Celebrants: Marc Paine,  Gansho Lenny Reed, Kobai Scott Whitney, Hadashi Jeff Miles, 
Chuan Zhi Shakya, and Koro Kaisan Miles at Mountain Way Zendo. Photo by Tina Miles.

August 23rd was an auspicious date for Hadashi Jeff Miles. Jeff is the resident teacher of Mountain Way Zendo, a founding member of the Order of the Boundless Way and Plum Mountain Refuge, and a Zen Priest in the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun (ZBOHY).  He has been steadily transmitting the dharma through his ever-growing prison work, which now includes regularly scheduled practice sessions in five Western Washington prisons. 

On August 23rd, culminating events and prime conditions gave Jeff and fellow sangha members cause for celebration. Jeff had been working diligently on preparing his newly remodeled Zendo space in anticipation of ZBOHY abbot Chuan Zhi’s visit to Washington State. Since Chuan Zhi was already coming to attend the dedication of Clouds and Water Hermitage, he felt that it was the perfect opportunity to have an official dedication for Mountain Way Zendo as well. With the Zendo complete and the chance to have all three of his ordaining teachers in one place, he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

As timing would have it, the best available day was Thursday the 23rd – all other dates had been determined by flight schedules and OBW tenth anniversary events – and by happenstance, it was also Jeff’s birthday!  So partly by plan and partly by coincidence the date was set for Mountain Way Zendo’s dedication and Jeff’s birthday celebration.  However, this was not to be the end of the convergence that would make this such an auspicious day; in addition to coming to Washington for the tenth anniversary celebration, Chuan Zhi was also coming to recognize Jeff as a Senior Dharma Teacher in the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun.

With a watchful eye on Jeff’s dedication to the nurturing and development of the Order of the Boundless Way and Plum Mountain Refuge, as well as his ever-growing commitment as a prison sangha leader, Chuan Zhi came to recognize Jeff as a genuine Bodhisattva and true transmitter of the Dharma. Like Jeff, he had been waiting for the perfect opportunity and here it was – on August 23rd.  

So, as causes and conditions would have it, recognition would come to Hadashi Jeff Miles and to Mountain Way Zendo as a triple blessing. With all three of his ordaining teachers present, Jeff was awarded the nine panel robe of the ZBOHY Senior Dharma Teacher and Mountain Way Zendo was officially dedicated as a practice center for sangha members in all three traditions.

Happy Birthday Jeff!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Open Gate Ordination Weekend

On Saturday September 29th, we will be welcoming three new members into the Order of the Boundless Way.  Three long standing sangha members; HernĂ¡n Massau, Sean Harrington and Maitri Sojourner will each receive the “Robe and Bowl” along with their official recognition and Dharma names. In addition to the Ordination ceremony, Saturday’s events will include a morning precepts ceremony, potluck lunch and a Zazenkai.

Sunday’s plans include a trip to Clouds and Water Hermitage and some “fun time” on the island. Many of the volunteers who have worked on the island have never had a chance to go hiking or walking on the beach, so this trip is intended to be more casual than our volunteer work days. However, for those who might rather work, there is certainly plenty to do.

Food stuffs will mostly be up to individuals both days, with the potluck lunch on Saturday and “pack your own” lunch for the island trip on Sunday. Remember, the island is primitive so be prepared accordingly. We do have a shiny new “privy” but otherwise there are no services or utilities available. Ferry fees are $21 for each car and driver and $6 for each passenger.

Ordination Zazenkai Schedule

7:15-Arrive for morning practice.
7:30-8:00 One period of Zazen
8:00-8:05 Incense Ceremony
8:05-9:00 Casual Breakfast
9:00-9:30 Samu- Clean Kitchen & Zendo
9:15- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
9:30-10:00 One period of Zazen.
10:00-10:45 Precepts Ceremony.
10:45-11:00 Short Break
11:00-12:00 Ordination Ceremony
12:00- 1:00 Potluck Lunch
1:00-1:15 Kitchen cleanup
1:15- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
1:30-2:45 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
2:45-3:00 Short Break
3:00-3:55 Tea Ceremony, Teisho/Group Discussion
3:55-Closing ceremony
4:00-Konsho (striking the evening bell)

Sunday Trip Schedule

9:00- Leave Open Gate for ferry dock.
10:00- Board Ferry
10:30- Arrive at Clouds and Water Hermitage.
10:30-12:30 Tour of Hermitage and neighboring properties.
12:30- 1:30 Brown Bag Lunch
1:30- 5:00 Free time to explore island.
5:30- Depart Clouds and Water and return to Ferry dock
6:00- Board Ferry
7:00- Return to Open Gate