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