Purpose of Buddhism

Posted on May 17 , 2011 in Blog

Many centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Socrates used to walk through the streets and marketplaces of Athens, teaching his students. He would say to them, “You must understand yourself! You must understand yourself! You must understand yourself.” Then one day a student said, “Sir, you always say we must understand ourselves. But do you understand yourself?”

“No, I don’t know myself,” Socrates replied. “But I understand this ‘don’t know.’” This is very interesting teaching. Buddhist practice points at the same experience, because most human beings pass through their lives without the slightest sense of what they are.

We understand many things about this world, but we don’t understand ourselves. So why do human beings come into this world? Why do we live in this world? For love? For money? For respect or fame? Do you live for your wife, husband, or children? Why do you live in this world? If someone asked you these question, you might very well answer, “I live for my children. I live to earn enough money for them, or maybe just to have a good life.” Most people think like this. They live only for their family, for some fleeting social respectability, perhaps to enjoy art or to get some powerful position. Everyone wants to have a good situation for themselves. If you look at this world very closely, it is easy to see that most people eat and sleep and live merely for their own personal happiness. Yet these things are not the real purpose of human beings’ life. They are just temporary means for living in the world. If human beings cannot find who they are, how can they ever be truly happy?

From the Comapss of Zen


Runty Has Died

Posted on May 13 , 2011 in Blog

Ji Jang Bosal

The Center had ten, day-old chicks which will provide eggs for the kitchen in the late summer.  One of the chicks was smaller than the others, pale in color and standoffish.  The other chicks would slam past her and sometimes climb right over her to get to the food.  We decided to keep her in a separate box so that she would not have to compete with her more  robust sisters for food and water.  We also focused the heating lamp on her in the hope that she would catch up with the other chicks.  While Hye Soeng was visiting she would hand feed the chick.  Darlene took a special interest in the chick, began to nurse her and named her “Runty.”   Darlene speculated, probably accurately, that the chick’s lungs were not fully developed when she hatched as she seemed to be struggling to breathe and became exhausted from even the simple task of eating.    While I was away at work this weekend, and despite Darlene’s careful ministrations, Runty died.  Darlene took the little chick’s body and placed it under a tree in a quiet part of the woods.  Runty has returned to the universe and we are grateful for the opportunity to ease her passing.  Kwan Seum Bosal.

-Diana Starr Daniels PZC Resident



Correct Life

Posted on May 10 , 2011 in Blog

One, two, three. Where do these numbers come from? You already understand. Children want candy; business people want money; scholars want to become famous. There are many kinds of people and many directions. Where do they finally go? If you attain this point, you attain human nature and universal substance. If you attain universal substance, you can see and hear clearly, and your emotions, will, and wisdom can function correctly. Then your life is correct and you can help all beings. This is called the Great Bodhisattva Way.


From the Whole World is a Single Flower by Zen Master Seung Sahn



Why Did the Chickens Cross the Road?

Posted on May 03 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

To come to the Providence Zen Center where they can live in a humane, cage-free environment.  PZC has purchased chicks, affectionately dubbed the Dharma Chicks, which will be raised on the grounds and eventually provide eggs to supplement our food budget.  They will be joined shortly by pullets (young laying hens) which will provide eggs immediately for the kitchen.  The chickens are hybrids, a cross between Rhode Island Reds and White Leggins.  They are laying hens bred to produce eggs rather than supply meat.  George will be building a predator-safe Chicken Coop and Darlene Demers will lend her artistic talents to paint and decorate the coop.  Kimball  has volunteered to be the Center’s official egg collector.  Part of the day the chickens will be free-range.  Studies have show that free-range hen eggs are more nutritious and, I would guess, due to the natural and varied diet.  These eggs are a little harder to crack because of the higher level of calcium than store-bought eggs.  The eggs will be washed just before cooking.  Mother hens leave an invisible coating on their eggs that protect them from bacteria.  When the coating is left on, the eggs keep much longer than commercial eggs.  The Center also purchases eggs from a neighbor whose chickens are raised in the same humane, environment.  Stop by and see the Dharma Chicks.  They love visitors!  One more step toward sustainability and living gently on our earth.

-Diana Starr Daniels PZC Resident




Posted on May 02 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter


The Providence Zen Center recently purchased two Honeybee packages from a local bee keeper. Bee packages are 30 pounds of bees and a queen which were installed in hives from Nancy Hedgpeth’s apiary. The hives are located in the far end of the orchard, near the stone wall and away from human traffic. The Center provides an ideal environment for bees with fruit trees, a vegetable and flower garden, water and lots of land on which to forage. The Center’s primary intention is pollination of the orchard and garden and also to help support bees which have become threatened due to loss of habitat and the use of pesticides. Bees are highly sensitive to pesticides and could be viewed as the canaries in the mines. Any honey that is harvested in the Fall is secondary, but also welcome. I wore a recently-purchased bee suit to install the bees which had a complicated way of attaching the veil to the suit. I finally gave up in frustration and just let the veil hang loosely. However, a bee found its way under the veil and began buzzing around my face. I made an undignified exit by sprinting across the orchard, flinging the hat and veil into the wind and smacking at the air. Fortunately no one was around with a video camera to capture this unskilled moment. The bee survived.


-Diana Starr Daniels, PZC Resident


Colin Beavan | Kwan Seum Bosal

Posted on Apr 30 , 2011 in Blog

Colin Beavan in Times Square on November 2, 2010. He is the author featured in the film “No Impact Man” and a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen. He will be leading workshops at Providence Zen Center July 23-24!



Life is a Kongan

Posted on Apr 27 , 2011 in Blog

Q: Can you talk a little bit about life kong-an’s?
Zen Master Bon Haeng: What is your life?
Q: Just to be here right now.
ZMBH: No thank you. That’s your explanation, not your life kong-an. The fact of the matter is that the real life kong-ans are oftentimes too intense. So we start small, we start with an interview. We start with a situation where we can let our spontaneous nature appear; then we can see if there is a connection – see if a mind to- mind connection takes place. Working with life kongans can be like getting dropped into the NFL- we get banged around pretty hard! Interview is like pee-wee football. It’s just a chance to get a sense for letting go, a sense for opening up to an experience. Some of the kong-ans are 1000 – 1500 years old. For example, Joju was asked about a bridge: “What is the meaning of this bridge?” He answered, “Horses pass, asses pass.” That’s an old kong-an. We might say, “Mercedes pass, Volkswagons pass.” But the quality of the teaching is the same, and the human mind is very similar. Can we open up to the kong-an, and in so doing, can we loosen up a little bit to the experience of now and have that be okay? Can we be comfortable in our skin-bag – comfortable in our not-knowing? The kong-ans are simply a tool for that. Some people get frustrated with them. I can assure you, if you get frustrated with kong-ans, you also get frustrated with your life. Some people are afraid to go into the interview room. The fact of the matter is, if you have fear going into the interview room, you also have fear in your everyday life. So why not address it? Why not experience it, so that it can dissipate. As long as we’re chasing what we like and trying to avoid what we don’t like, then in fact the things that we’re chasing and avoiding are controlling our life. So we sit without pushing away or clinging to. That’s our practice.

When we practice, we sit – we sit still, and we accept. Accepting without judgment means that the energy is here, in our abdomen. We’re not trying to control the universe with our head. There’s a simple reason for that: we can’t. It’s like saying, “I’m never going to die.” Well, we are. We cannot control the universe. We can’t control the universe because –and this is really intriguing- we can’t be separate from the universe. It’s not like we’re sitting here going, “Oh yeah, there’s the universe going on over there, I’m just going to fix this and adjust that.” We are the universe! We can’t be separate. Zen Master Seung Sahn was asked about death and said, “This body, this human existence, is life and death!” It’s not something that is out there. It is it. And each one of us is living it, moment by moment. That’s incredibly beautiful! Dying time comes, die! Eating time comes, eat! Shitting time comes, shit! The point is, for each one of us, what are we doing with our life? How are we going to address it, what are we going to do with it? It’s funny, it’s ridiculous, it’s sad, it’s absurd, it’s terrifying- if we get hooked by it with our thinking. But when we really address the question: “What am I??? Don’t know…” then we return to before thinking. Then our situation is clear, our function is clear, our job is clear.
That’s all we can do.

By Zen Master Bon Haeng (Mark Houghton)
From Providence Zen Center Newsletter April 2011


Zen Master Bon Haeng’s Birthday Celebration

Posted on Apr 27 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter & Upcoming Events

Dear Sangha and Friends,

Cambridge Zen Center, Providence Zen Center, and Open Meadow Zen Group invite you to a special celebration in honor of the 60th birthday of our beloved Zen Master and Guiding Teacher Bon Haeng (Mark Houghton). Please click the image below to view the original pdf.

Please join us for this special event!  For more info, call 617-576-3229 or email director@cambridgezen.com.

RSVP please and invitation is also posted through a link on the home page of www.cambridgezen.com.




Mushroom Workshop Sustainability & Zen

Posted on Apr 25 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

On Sunday, April 17, Providence Zen Center hosted a mushroom inoculation workshop presented by Steve Gabriel, director of the Fingerlakes Permaculture institute.  We spent the day learning to inoculate shitake, oyster and winecap mushrooms, and Steve walked the grounds with George and Troy after the workshop and gave us some pointers on sustainably managing our forest.  Providence Zen Center now has nearly 100 logs inoculated with shitake, which will begin fruiting next year.  In addition, we inoculated the flower beds near the main entrance with winecap mushrooms, and we have 3 bags of coffee grounds inoculated with oyster mushrooms which should be ready for fruiting in a couple months.  Thanks to Steve for teaching this workshop and sharing his knowledge of edible mushroom cultivation with us, and for helping us get started growing our own mushrooms for the Zen Center!  Our hope is to continue to expand the number of inoculated logs we have in coming years (logs will fruit for up to 5 years, sometimes even longer) and begin to grow enough shitake to provide some supplementary income for the Zen Center.  Another possibility is for the shitake logs to become a cottage industry which one or more residents could use to support themselves while living at the Zen Center.

- Troy Rapp, PZC Housemaster



Vesak 2011

Posted on Apr 21 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter & Upcoming Events

Please join us Saturday May, 14th 2011 for Vesak Celebration! Here is a link to the flyer so you can print it out / save an e-copy that you can share with all your friends, family or other Buddhists you might know. Vesak_Poster_2011 We invited as many Buddhist groups as we could find in Rhode Island and we encourage you to do the same. If you are not familiar with Vesak, it is considered one of the most important days in all Buddhist traditions and is the day we celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of the historical Buddha who lived over 2500 years ago.