Obon August 19-20 2017

Obon or “Ullambana” (S) is a Buddhist festival which invites us to celebrate our connectedness to our ancestors. Obon reminds us that we have a great responsibility to repay our deceased family/friends for the love and sacrifice they offered us. The Buddha said, “The gravity of the debt we owe to our parents is as boundless as the heavens.” The celebration of Obon symbolically repays some of this debt, by reaffirming our responsibility to honor our families and loved-ones. It also reminds us to treat all sentient beings with compassion, understanding and patience. During Obon, we celebrate the lives of our ancestors/friends, by inviting them to enjoy an evening of live music, food and drink with us. Through our being, our ancestors once again visit with us, reminding us of their presence within our lives; within every breath we take, they sit in shadow, hidden by our linear mind, awaiting for their names to once again be called.

Obon is celebrated in mid-August, this year it will be celebrated on August 19 2017, and has been celebrated since the 7th Century. Obon finds its roots within the Urabon Sutra, and it is based on the teachings of Gotama Buddha. The Urabon Sutra contains the story of a monk called Mokuren Sonja who through his meditative practice sees that his deceased mother has become entangled within the realm of hungry ghost. Mokuren Sonja, soon after, asks the Buddha for his guidance on the matter. The Buddha instructs Mokuren to be compassionate to the young monks who were just returning from a retreat and offer alms. In return, Mokuren’s efforts frees his mother from her torment, and allows her to ascend to the pure land/heaven. Today’s Obon celebration keeps this spirit of giving alive. Through the celebration of Obon we give our love, respect and remembrance to those who have come before us. We open ourselves to an unseen interconnected web which bonds us all together. Obon is a time for deep reflection; however, it is also a time of great celebration.

Obon at Blue Mountain Zendo is open to the public and you do not need to be Buddhist to attend. The ceremony begins with the lighting of the temple lanterns and the bonfire which guide our ancestors back home. Pictures of our ancestors are then placed on the main alter while lanterns are offered to individuals to decorated. This decoration time is a fun time for the kids, they get to color and decorate while they are reminded of family they may have never met, or who they only knew for a short time. Family is something that is too often forgotten in this culture, and without their efforts, we would not have the honor of this life. A vegetarian meal is then served in an atmosphere of live classical music. After dinner, a special service and Dharma talk are offered outside under the stars. During this service, the names of the deceased are recited by the temple priest, while the lanterns are lit and placed in rows along the alter. Rice and water are then offered to the hungry ghosts. After the completion of the ceremony, thanks are offered during a period of silent contemplation; when ready, participants say goodbye to their loved one by extinguishing their lantern’s flame. To conclude, the community turns and faces the bonfire while it is extinguished and the spirits are sent home.

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Temple In Need

Gassho friends, Blue Mountain Zendo was making plans to do our annual fund raiser for Obon, however, as Lennon stated, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. Our 15-year-old riding mower has made its last cut. The engine and electrical system have been damaged beyond repair, and it is time to acquire a new (used mower). The temple sits on two acres of grass lands, and on average it takes 3 hours to complete the bulk of the grounds with the riding mower. In other words, it is a necessity. We humbly ask for your dana (charity) as Blue Mountain is a 501c3 and relies on the generosity of people just like you.

Nine bows,

Blue Mountain Zendo, Koryu-ji

https://www.gofundme.com/lawn-tractor-for-temple

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Private Zen Instruction

Wednesdays 2:00-7:00 pm Only

For those seeking private Zen Instruction or spiritual dialog (mondo), Rev. Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho offers private sessions on Wednesday afternoon and evenings. Private sessions are 60 minutes long and include 30 minutes of Zen dialectic therapy, followed by 20 minutes of meditation instructions. This balance of Zen Dialog and meditation creates a spiritual platform which addresses the core internal factors that either manifest a consciousness of suffering and separation, or peace and unity.

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Day Sesshin (retreat) April 23 2017

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of one to ten days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but collecting the scattered energies of the mind, so they may realize their place within the universe, as the universe. Much of the times, this “place” feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that we perceive we are lacking. Deep insight into our core nature occurs when we least expect it. These seemingly random experiences stir within us something systemic to our very being. Something which consumes us without a trace. This nature, our nature, is the root of the universe itself. This nature is always present, however, we are blinded by the habitual ego projection, and we just miss it! When we do experience these subtle insights, these quick flashes of light and sparks, they stoke the flames of our core, and we burn brighter and brighter. Although sadly, for most, these flames grow cold once again; they are left unattended and un-nurtured. However, for those few men and women who tend to this burning ember, it grows stronger and stronger until a flame rises up and illuminates the darkness of ignorance. For centuries, philosophy and theology have tried to explain this process, their attempts intrinsically shallow and hollow at best. The awakened mind is beyond word and letter. The path is straightforward, and honest in approach. It reveals itself fully in each unfolding moment. This honest and straightforward readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and attachments, is the catalyst from which the restorative process begins. Sesshin is a time to dedicate ourselves to the exploration of this great matter, and a time to heal the scars which have long limited our true freedom and happiness. We hope you will come and explore with us, this most noblest of endeavors.

Donation: $50.00

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Just go straight ahead!

I am writing this to create a clearer picture of who I am, and my struggles with chronic pain since a surfing injury damaged my spine in Santa Cruz, California. I am also coming out to the Buddhist community as someone who has suffered from chronic pain for 25 years, and currently has an Intrathecal Pump.  This pump pushes a small amount of opioids into the space around my spinal cord, called the intrathecal space.  It has also aided greatly in the quality of my life. I have  now been married for 23 years, I have two grown children, I am the abbot of a small temple, and I was recently recognized as a teacher. My medical care, as well as my Zen Practice, have been vital in giving me the strength to march on through times of trial and tribulation.

I grew up in California, and would often take trips to Santa Cruz. One day I was surfing, when a rogue wave bent me in the wrong direction on the sea floor. If anyone reading this surfs, they understand how much force waves truly have. It knocked the wind out of me, and immediately I felt severe pain in my lower back; it was like nothing I had ever felt as a 14 year old. Luckily I had a dry suit on, and it helped me float to shore.  I remember clearly the fear of not being able to swim, luckily the waves aided in getting me back to shore. I laid on the beach in denial, trying to deal with the pain. After a week or so, the pain subsided, and I forgot all about it.  Approximately six years later, I decided to join a gym. I studied under a power lifter who worked with the local youth in Allentown. One day, soon after I started, I bent down to grab a bar off the floor (45 pounds), when I was racked with pain in my lower back. I could not straighten up, and I limped out to my car. I remember that vividly, as I knew something was not right. It took me a month or so to heal. Everything went fine for about another two years, until it happened again. I bent over to grab my car keys, and when I tried to straighten back up, I fell to the ground in pain. I made my way into my work, however, I collapsed soon after. I told my frantic co-manager to call an ambulance, I knew something was really wrong. I end up being admitted in the hospital for a week. I am still in pain months later, so I start going to: chiropractors, herbalists, physical therapists, acupressure, and healing touch practitioners, nothing is working. At this time in my life, I have my own business, I am married, have a house, two young kids, I am enrolled in continuing education, and I had everything a guy could ever want. After the failure of all of those alternative approaches, I moved to western medicine. I ended up going to a neurosurgeon who did various tests on my spine, they come back, I have severe facet/disc disease from L-2 to S-1.  In return, at 26, I underwent a multiple level fusion with pedicle screws and rods. This totally rids me of the shooting pain, and the instability in my back.  I go back to work after a few months of rehab, however, I start feeling a new sensation. It feels as though my foot is on fire, literally. My foot begins to turn red, it swells up and it starts to feel as though the skin is being burned off by a blowtorch. After a couple of months of this, I am referred to a pain management doctor, as there is nothing more the surgeon can do. My pain management doctor looks at my foot and says “I think I know what this is, I think it is RSD”. He takes pictures, does several blocks, as well as other tests to check for sympathetic changes in my leg, and soon confirms it is – RSD. RSD is considered more painful than terminal cancer pain. It is one of the worst nerve diseases you can acquire. It seems the damage in my lumber spine had damaged the sympathetic nerves into my leg. These are the nerves that control sensation (pain) and circulation. My nerves are now lying to my brain. They are now telling my brain my foot is on fire; my nerves are malfunctioning.  We try injections, anti-inflammatorys, anti seizure medication, antidepressants, and when they fail, fentanyl patches. I hated the way fentanyl made me feel, I felt stoned all the time. In return, my doctor told me about something new. It was called an intrathecal pump. He said the IT pump deliverers medication only  the affected area of the spine, and it  only uses 1/300th of the oral dose. So no stoned feeling; I said, “sign me up”! I remember the trial was exciting. When they injected the morphine into my IT space, the pain almost totally went away, it was a miracle. I went through the normal vetting process, MMPI, counseling, substance abuse education, and finally the permanent implant. The implant changed my life, it was as though I was given another chance. Soon after, I worked once again, was ordained as zen monk, raised my children, started a temple, and found gratitude and love for life once again

Lets move ahead 12 years on my timeline, the next incident occurs. After being in and out of the hospital 8 times, over a two year period, I was rushed into emergency surgery for severe thoracic stenosis; I had cauda equana. This is one of the most pressing neurological emergencies, and it can lead to permanent paralysis. Due to the severity of the stenosis, laser surgery was not an option, and I was given a new seven inch scar. This is par for the course for people who have long term multilevel fusions. The rest of the spine wears faster, and it becomes a cascading effect that damages the whole spine. Currently I only have five levels that are not damaged or diseased. The pump still works on the RSD, and lumbar pain, however, it struggles to compensate for the stenosis induced leg myotonia.

Over the years I have watched pain management go from extremely liberal opioid policies , to the current fear of prescribing anything opioid. Things really started to change about eight years ago when the issue of opioid overuse really came to light. Doctors started changing, and mine began educating his patients on the responsible use of pain medication. It became “Use less, and be wiser about that use”. This meant, no more increasing amounts but, the better use of what you have. I personally experienced these changes and learned a different way of approaching opioid use. I think doctors and patients learned together how to reduce the amount prescribed. This has been changing for some time, however, granted, not everyone has changed with the times. Certain doctors continue to follow the old opioid philosophy and have damaged their communities. The truth is the damage has been done. Those addicts who found their way into pain clinics are now being cut off. They are resorting to heroin and other drugs. This is also not to say there are not true chronic pain patients out there who were cut off, and have now turned to heroin for pain management, they are out there too. However, research shows this is an extremely low percentage of chronic pain patients. Research also shows that the percentage of pain patients who become addicts is also very low, studies suggest 2%-7%. Addiction and dependence are also two different things. Anyone who takes an opioid for an extended period of time, will become dependent. This means if that person stops taking the medication, they will go through withdrawal. Addiction is when the pain is truly suffering, and the medication is used to escape that suffering. Sometimes the two are interconnected, which really complicates the issue.  I said the damage is done, yes it is, and now the chickens come home to roost. The addicts have been discharged, and must  find their fix in the streets. This leads to an increase in the demand for drugs like heroin and black-market fentanyl. Truth be told, the diverted legal prescriptions are a small part of the opioids found on the streets. Mostly these drugs now come from Mexico and China. Do a search for “Buy Fentanyl” online, and you will find a menu of places oversees willing to send it right to your door. Yes, it is that easy to get black market opioids 50x stronger than heroin. Much easier than trying to convince your doctor you need a few Vicodin. Since the chickens have come home, there is a public outcry for action. Instead of explaining this crises will take some time to deal with,  they are gas lighting the public and telling them this issue is being caused by the pain doctors. Once again, not that they are not out there, they are just much fewer than the government is leading you to believe. What an easy scapegoat! Now all doctors who prescribe opioids are dealers, and all chronic pain patients are addicts. The crusade begins, another war, the war on opioids! Politicians are now clamoring to demonstrate they are tough on drugs, especially in NJ. These politicians are not taking a balanced or an informed approach when creating these new  drug initiatives, they are being reactive, and they are promoting hysteria. In reality, they are harassing, cherry picking, and closing down legitimate pain clinics. They are disregarding the damage that is being done to the men and women who suffer from chronic pain. They are deeming pain patient as addicts by lumping them in the same category as black market  opioids users. The FDA has refused to weigh research that was contradictory to their agenda, and did not invite the testimonies of pain management doctors, nor their patients, when forming many of these new opioid  initiatives.

Many people will say, “well I have back pain, and I just take a couple of Motrin”. Well, this is akin to saying that all back pain is the same, or better yet, all pain is the same. Is childbirth like a pulled muscle, or is a tooth ache like cancer pain? Moreover, people have various genetics which make some great at dealing with severe pain, while others not so much so, this is chemistry, not willpower. Acute pain is easier to get through, you are still strong, and you know it is not forever. Maybe we have kidney stones, break our arm, have knee issues, these are not the same as chronic pain. Imagine your acute severe pain lasting days, weeks, months or years. You cant sleep, you cant work, your energy is all wasted on compensating for the pain, your demeaner begins to change, and then it robs you of all your joy and love. You become a shell of what you were. Your world becomes small, and soon there is just the pain and you, as you lose everything. Am I exaggerating? I am not, I have been through it. I am just lucky to have found a good pain management doctor early, and have a loving wife. Many of my peers have not been so lucky.

When I decided to make my story public, I knew I may be labeled, and abandoned by some of my friends and student. How can a zen monk not control severe pain? Well, I am one of them, and the human mind and body can defy only so much pain. I am certainly skilled with going through suffering! One thing I have learned a great deal about in my zen practice, is me. For a long time I had issue with the stares and sneers the other monks and nuns gave me as I sat in a sway back chair during session. I felt so shamed, and so unsure that I was “good enough” to be a zen monk. I tried to explain to whomever would listen my story but, I learned the reality is, people just could not relate. There are very few people in Zen with severe spinal disease, and even fewer who suffer from severe chronic pain. However, I believe there should be much much more. At my zendo, I have even gone as far as stopping correcting people with physical issues during zazen. I don’t care if they lay down, sit in a chair, get up to complete the round in the other room, or take a nap to settle their bodies and minds. It takes a lot to deal with chronic pain, and then the normal peppering of sesshin pain and suffering, and it can be overwhelming easily. As long as I think they are trying, that is enough for me, as it was good enough for my teacher. Now those who have monkey mind, well, that’s a different story.

I invite you to further educate yourself on the current politics which are impacting chronic pain patients. The current attempt to rectify the actions of the past have created a hysteria around pain management. This hysteria is greatly impacting the lives of those who suffer from chronic pain, and the physicians who treat them. Let’s work towards a balanced approach, which addresses opioid addiction and abuse, while also protecting those who truly need it.

 

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Harvest Sesshin October 18-23 16

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of five days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but collecting the scattered energies of the mind, so they may realize their place within the universe, as the universe. Much of the times, this “place” feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that we perceive we are lacking. Deep insight into our core nature occurs when we least expect it. 20150815_201133These seemingly random experiences stir within us something systemic to our very being. Something which consumes us without a trace. This nature, our nature, is the root of the universe itself. This nature is always present, however, we are blinded by the habitual ego projection, and we just miss it! When we do experience these subtle insights, these quick flashes of light and sparks, they stoke the flames of our core, and we burn brighter and brighter. Although sadly, for most, these flames grow cold once again; they are left unattended and un-nurtured. However, for those few men and women who tend to this burning ember, it grows stronger and stronger until a flame rises up and illuminates the darkness of ignorance. For centuries, philosophy and theology have tried to explain this process, their attempts intrinsically shallow and hollow at best. The awakened mind is beyond word and letter. The path is straightforward, and honest in approach. It reveals itself fully in each unfolding moment. This honest and straightforward readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and attachments, is the catalyst from which the restorative process begins. Sesshin is a time to dedicate ourselves to the exploration of this great matter, and a time to heal the scars which have long limited our true freedom and happiness. We hope you will come and explore with us, this most noblest of endeavors.

Partial attendance accepted.

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Obon Celebration 2016

20150815_204436Obon is Saturday August 13 2016 and we are preparing for a wondrous evening of family and fun. Obon is an opportunity to celebrate our family and friends both living and deceased. With the rush of daily life and the pursuit of the grasping and consuming self we loose our connection and grounding with those whose who have given our lives its shape. There appears to be a forward only direction when perceiving time in the west, and what is viewed as in the past, is forgotten and given little significance other than a passing cue and ensuing memory. Time is not so linear, within the present is both the past and future working within a beautiful synergy to create what is now. They reside in one another, and although we separate them, and draw clear lines between them, this is of no significance to anything but, ourselves. The mind can resurrect worlds of ash and summon things to come at the turning of word or the sway of a willow. During Obon we suspend linear time and invite the spirits to once again walk within our world and partake of food and drink through our being. We light the bonfire and call their names to help the spirits find us. We also offer those stray spirits who have no one to call their names rice and water to honor and feed them. Our ancestors then visit with us and enjoy the food, drink and music that is offered in their honor. 20150815_201133Through us, they once again return and remind us of their presence; in our lives, guiding our hand, in every exhalation and inhalation they sit in shadow, hidden by our linear mind. At the close of Obon, it is time for the spirits to return to their place and they are sent off with silence and deep gratitude. In their rightful place, our ancestors are now content and live on as a part of us, our family and our lives.

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Full Day Zazenkai July 24 2016 6:00am-6:00pm

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of 1-14 days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but, rotation 2collecting the scattered energy of mind, so that they may realize their rightful place within the universe, as the universe. This “boundless mind”, many times, feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that which we perceive we are lacking. Deep insights into our core nature occurs when we stop grasping outwardly for insight and wisdom. Many times these experiences occur when we least expect them. They reveal themselves in our daily activities, in times of heartache and despair, love and joy, death and birth, or simply “being”. These seemingly random, and powerful experiences, stir within us something systemic to our very being, something which consumes the ego self without a trace. This nature, our core nature, is the essence of universe itself. It is always present, and we unknowingly swim in it at all times, however, we are blinded by the strong currents of the habitual ego and we are tricked into limiting our perception of reality and our subjective grounding. When we awaken to the truth, and experience the lightning strike of insight, these flashes and sparks, stoke the flames of our true nature, and burn away the ignorance and darkness which imprisons us. As our Zen Practice matures, our inner light burns brighter and brighter. Without continued practice via zazen (meditation), these flames will grow cold once again, and we will slowly be swept away by the habitual currents once again. However, there will be those few men and women who will tend to this burning ember, their hearts and minds will glow brighter and brighter, and in the most subtle and ordinary way, they will realize their rightful seat among the countless Buddhas. The awakened mind of the Buddha is beyond word and letter, it is beyond even the Buddhas themselves. This one true dynamic mind is simple, loving, and selfless, yet unattainable and inexhaustible.
Our journey to realize this mind begins with the readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and desires; sesshin is a container of tools that are designed to help us identify and breakthrough the briars which entangle us. Our efforts during sesshin fan the internal fire which temper our insights, and reveals the truth of who and what all “this” is. Sesshin is the catalyst from which this process begins, and true healing and liberation are realized. We hope you will come and explore with this great matter with us!

FMI Call – 484-268-0724

Email – Jisha@BlueMountainZendo.org

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“Charity Bike Run” Palmerton, Pa.

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Weekend Sesshin May 13-15 2016

 

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of 3-14 days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but, rotation 2collecting the scattered energy of mind, so that they may realize their rightful place within the universe, as the universe. This “boundless mind”, many times, feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that which we perceive we are lacking. Deep insights into our core nature occurs when we stop grasping outwardly for insight and wisdom. Many times these experiences occur when we least expect them. They reveal themselves in our daily activities, in times of heartache and despair, love and joy, death and birth, or simply “being”. These seemingly random, and powerful experiences, stir within us something systemic to our very being, something which consumes the ego self without a trace. This nature, our core nature, is the essence of universe itself. It is always present, and we unknowingly swim in it at all times, however, we are blinded by the strong currents of the habitual ego and we are tricked into limiting our perception of reality and our subjective grounding. When we awaken to the truth, and experience the lightning strike of insight, these flashes and sparks, stoke the flames of our true nature, and burn away the ignorance and darkness which imprisons us. As our Zen Practice matures, our inner light burns brighter and brighter. Without continued practice via zazen (meditation), these flames will grow cold once again, and we will slowly be swept away by the habitual currents once again. However, there will be those few men and women who will tend to this burning ember, their hearts and minds will glow brighter and brighter, and in the most subtle and ordinary way, they will realize their rightful seat among the countless Buddhas. The awakened mind of the Buddha is beyond word and letter, it is beyond even the Buddhas themselves. This one true dynamic mind is simple, loving, and selfless, yet unattainable and inexhaustible.
Our journey to realize this mind begins with the readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and desires; sesshin is a container of tools that are designed to help us identify and breakthrough the briars which entangle us. Our efforts during sesshin fan the internal fire which temper our insights, and reveals the truth of who and what all “this” is. Sesshin is the catalyst from which this process begins, and true healing and liberation are realized. We hope you will come and explore with this great matter with us!

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