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Lay Practice

Practicing Where We Are
Practicing Where We Are


By Michael

‘Can you hear the dharma on the wind?’

Tenshin Reb Anderson Gaia House 2006

In this issue of Mountain Silence we focus on lay practice which is the place where most of us following the Soto Zen tradition of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi find ourselves. Although over the last 50 years or so since Zen arrived in the west a number of monasteries have sprung up they are still uncommon.  Even if  there were more such places most practitioners would not be able to devote themselves to monastic practice due to other responsibilities in their lives. Because of the long monastic tradition in Zen there still exists to some degree a tension between lay and monastic practice. This partly exists because for long periods in its history there has been a substantial inference that lay practice did not have the same status as that which occurred in the monastic setting. In my experience this sense is still evident amongst western practitioners despite the stress laid by our own teacher and many others that we should practice where we are. Maybe, being human, it is well-nigh impossible to eradicate this desire or wishing to be in that ‘other place,’ where teachings and teachers are always available, where our deepest longings to receive the dharma might be fulfilled. Yet because of causes and conditions we are where we are. How then are we as committed practitioners ‘to hear the dharma on the wind,’ and in Thich Nhat Hanh’s words ‘to see the miracles that are all around us’? In our current newsletter we have thoughts on the subject from Reb in a transcription (by Angyu Devin Ashwood) of a talk given at Gaia House in 2006, whilst Francis Checkley (Anryu Chyu) muses on lay practice and its relationship to ‘beginners mind’. There is an original, only recently discovered story, about the ‘Buddha that Stayed at Home,’ and yet further thoughts on the experience of being a lay practitioner over many years of practice.  There is all this along with delightful yet deep poetry, accounts of retreats and regional reports from different sanghas.

The power of accepting that our practice lies within us and around us in domesticity and in our work is demonstrated by the heartening growth and strength of practice in the regional sanghas of  Dancing Mountains. For some time now DM has been blessed by the support of  Soto Zen Priest Ingen Breen who has been leading a number of weekend/day retreats and will lead a major  5 day retreat at Unstone Grange in Derbyshire from  3rd August  to 7th August 2012 for further info. see events diary. November will see the return of Soto Zen Priest Catherine Gammon to UK ( she offered great support and teaching s to DM in 2010) from Green Gulch. She will hold retreats and ‘Writing as A Wisdom Project,’ days (some of my writing students still talk about the one day workshop she held in Devon on her last visit) in different parts of the country as well as a longer traditional Rohatsu Sesshin in partnership with Ingen again at Unstone Manor from 1st to 8th December 2012 (again for more info. this is listed in the events diary). Despite deeply practicing where we are, we all, I think, need the special reassurance and inspiration that is offered by such events.

Please do not forget that if Dancing Mountains is to flourish we need a strong financial foundation. I recognise that in  these straitened times being able to offer such support may be far from easy but if you do have the ability to offer a one off donation or a more regular offering  please do so. A form for this purpose may be downloaded from this newsletter  (bottom of right hand column front page). Also holding an event or a raffle where any profit may be used to support us would be deeply appreciated.

Finally I apologise that this newsletter is being published a little later than previously stated this is due to the fact that as the new editor I am learning the trade and familiarising myself with the new Content Management System! I hope that over the next months I will enlist the help of two or three people who will form an editorial team that will develop the scope and depth of Mountain Silence in order to build on the accomplishments of its two former editors Chris Brown and Devin Ashwood to whom many thanks and deep bows. If there are any cartoonists out there I would like to hear from you!!! I do hope you enjoy and are inspired by this eighteenth edition of Mountain Silence.


Kogan Muju Michael

Dharma Talk

Finding Your Place Right Where You Are

By Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi

I wanted to mention that a number of people in this retreat, and usually in retreats, bring up the issue that they are enjoying the retreat, but they wonder about whet... Read more


Lay Practice and Beginner's Mind

By Francis Checkley Anryu Chiu

There comes a time in our life when we sense a change coming over us. Something we read, a casual remark, the birth of a sibling, the death of a loved parent or grandp... Read more

Creative Writing

The Buddha That Stayed at Home

By Angyu Devin Ashwood

Thus have I imagined.  Once the Lord was staying at Savatthi, in Anathapindikas monastery,in the Jeta grove. And among a number of monks who had gathered together... Read more


Twelve Gathas

By Angyu Devin Ashwood

Thich Nhat Hanh describes gathas as “short verses we can recite during the day to help us dwell in mindfulness and look more deeply ... Read more


Lay Practice My Experience

By Michael Elsmere Kogan Muju

Soto Zen Lay Practice; Experiences, Questions and No Answers!

Firstly to place the subject in perspective. Lay practitioners have always been an important part... Read more

Book Review

In This Very Life’

By Sayadaw U Pandita

Sayadaw U Pandita is one of the foremost living masters of Vipassana meditation. He trained in the Theravada tradition and is a successor to the late Mahasi Sayadaw. D... Read more


Hungry Goats

By Guido Montgomery

The land is lean from lack of rain,
My goats are hungry as hell.
I feed them rough hay and buckets of grain,
Striving vainly... Read more


Accomplishing the Way

By Angyu Devin Ashwood

Staying home, not going anywhere.
In the temple.
Precepts of compassion for walls,
and a heart of devotion for fire.

Children's cries, call m... Read more

Retreat Report

Totnes Sangha Up Date

By Francis Checkley Anryu Chiu

Recently our Sangha were happy to welcome Shundo David Haye, Ino at SFZC to lead a week-end (non-residential) retreat held at our local Natural Health Centre. Both day... Read more

Sangha Update

Skies Opening, Rain falling

By Rebecca

Hello everyone, a few pieces of Hebden Bridge, so you can get a feel of how we are up here. Yes lots of that wet stuff falling all around, leaving rivers seeping and b... Read more

Retreat Report

Warminster Weekend Retreat 20-22 April 2012

By Michael

This peer led retreat was held in Warminster Wiltshire at The Centre for Addiction Studies (an apt name for a place to sit zazen!! Read more

Previous issues are available here.

In this issue...

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Visit the Local Groups webpage for details of Dancing Mountains groups in your area, and the Diary for their regular meeting dates and times.



Next Issue
The Autumn edition will have a theme around "Form & Ritual in Zen". We welcome your articles, poetry, pictures, letters, retreat reflections and book reviews! Publication date: 21st September, deadline for submission of material 1st September.
Submissions to the Newsletter/Website:

Devin Ashwood
18 Westfield
Somerset BA10 0BT



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