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.



Try Mind

Posted on Apr 20 , 2011 in Blog

Some years ago in Korea, there lived a very devout Buddhist family. In his home, the father had a small room set up for meditation. He also had two teenage daughters. The older one was very responsible and always did the right thing. However, the younger one was quite wild. Perhaps today that would not seem so odd, but back then it was unheard of. She’d sneak out at night, go dancing, drinking, sleeping around—the whole nine yards. The older sister was always on her case about it, but the father was very kind to the younger daughter. Finally the older daughter went to the father and complained, “She’s no good, she does all these bad things. Why are you so nice to her? Why don’t you correct her?”

“No, no, no, you don’t understand,” said the father. “I used to check her room and see that she was gone and then stay up and yell at her when she got home. But one day when I was waiting for her to come back, I fell asleep. When I awoke she had already come back and she was in our dharma room bowing and later sitting. So afterwards I asked her, ‘What were you doing?’ And she said, ‘I know I have this bad karma, I just can’t control it. But I try to bow to Buddha every day 108 times and sit and hope that I can change this karma.’ So then I said, ‘Oh, very good. You just continue that way’.”


Still the older daughter was angry, “That doesn’t matter! She still does all these bad things!” But the father remained very kind towards the younger daughter. Over time, the girl’s desire started to calm down. Before she would run out every chance she got, then only a couple times a week and then only once a week. Finally, going out wasn’t that interesting to her any more. She even enjoyed bowing, sitting, and doing things to help others.

At the same time, the older daughter started to think, “Our father’s always nice to my sister even though she’s so bad… I’m going to do that, too.” So she started to go out at night and dance, drink, and sleep with guys. Then the father started to talk to her. But she would always say, “No! I’ll do what I want! I like it!” The sister, too, couldn’t get anywhere with her. Finally, the sister had to go with some relatives, grab her, tie her up, and bring her home.

That’s a funny story about karma. Everybody has karma. Some of it we consider good, and some bad. But if we have a practicing mind, then we can change our karma. But if we have an “I like it!” mind and don’t develop a practicing mind, then we will really have a problem. Zen Master Seung Sahn has always been a good teacher because he understands that people have karma. If you want to, you can change even the strongest karma. However, you can’t always do that immediately. But if you keep trying, if you keep developing a practicing mind, then finally you can become stronger than your karma. Then your karma will follow your direction, rather than you following your karma.

Zen Master Seung Sahn said that our karma is like a dog. If you take a dog for a walk, sometimes you walk straight, but the dog runs all over the place. He smells something, then runs over there; he pees and looks for food—round and round. But if you are the master and you keep going straight, eventually the dog will end up at the same place you do. The dog’s not going to run off completely; it will always come back to where you are. So our practicing mind is like that. If we make our practicing mind strong, then our karma will run this way and that way, but eventually it will come back to where we are; it will follow us. Then we can use our karma to help other people.

By Zen Master Dae Bong



ZMSS Memorial

Posted on Apr 19 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

ZMSS Memorial

While on retreat this weekend, it was a lovely day and we were able to do our walking meditation outside on the porch of the Diamond Hill Monastery. The wind was brisk at times, but with the Willow tree starting to bloom and all the flowers popping out, it was fun to be outside. As I was walking, I noticed the hillside behind Zen Master Seung Sahn’s Memorial Stupa. We had weeded the hillside when installing the area in 2009, but Sunday I noticed it seemed very barren with only a few lone daffodils at the base of the hill.

Now, there is a house in Providence near Rhode Island College that I pass by quite frequently. Suddenly, last week, I noticed their entire front lawn is covered in flowers – quite a display of hyacinth, daffodils, tulips and crocus … so that is what I envisioned this Sunday … a wall of flowers for our Founding Teacher. Could we remember to plant more bulbs this Fall to see if we could get that to happen? Then, each Spring would come and not only the grass, but the whole hillside would grow and spring to life, all by itself!

What do you think?


Precepts Ceremony Talk

Posted on Apr 14 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

Zen Master Dae Kwangby Zen Master Dae Kwang on Apr 3, 2011


Big Suffering

Posted on Apr 13 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

Often Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “If the direction of your life is clear, then your whole life is clear. If your direction is not clear, then your life will always be a problem.” The reason we practice Zen is to understand ourselves completely, attain our original nature, and save all beings from suffering. This is our direction – the original job of all human beings. In this there is no “I, my, me.” If we have “I, my, me” then we will get suffering, guaranteed.

Several years ago at the end of the long winter retreat in Korea, Byoek Am Sunim, our precepts teacher, gave each of the participants a calligraphy It read: “You make, you get.” This is a very simple equation! At that time, someone asked him why it was that people suffer. He said, “Human beings continue to suffer because they do not see cause and effect clearly.” So, the question “Why do I suffer?” has a simple answer: “What do you want?”

Achaan Chah, a now-deceased meditation teacher in Thailand, would often walk around the monastery grounds and ask every monk that he met, “Are you suffering today?” If the monk answered “yes,” Achaan Chah would say, “Oh, then you must have a lot of desires today.” If we can clearly see the nature of desire and anger, then it is possible to let them go. This means seeing cause and effect clearly. However, one more step is necessary.

One time a monk came to Zen Master Seung Sahn and said that he wanted to stop being a monk because the monk’s life for him was a living hell. Zen Master Seung Sahn replied, “If your direction is clear, then even living in hell is not a problem.” This means if you want to help this world, then even suffering should not be a hindrance. Most important is direction. If your direction is clear, then the suffering you experience becomes “Big Suffering” and helps this whole world. So, what do you want?

(By Zen Master Dae Kwang)