Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Name of Freedom - The Closing of the Winter of Plenty

Today, we bring the Winter of Plenty to a close. I cannot thank all of you who participated enough - not just for the donations, but for the sense of community you have created that is allowing our temporary 'Winter of Plenty" to transform into a new form of community.

In Buddhism, it is believed that when you pass from your current life - before you are reincarnated into the next, you descend into the hells to suffer to heal the karma you could not or did not heal within the most recent lifetime. It is believed that only within the living life do we have the opportunity to make choices that lead to actions that heal both our individual and common karma. The hells are not the same as the Christian Hell, a state of permanent punishment, but rather a truing ground in which karmic healing is speeded  up so you are not always beginning a new life where you left off, but are reborn one step closer to achieving Heaven.

While all are destined to pass through these places, there is a way to lift someone out of this suffering. By calling on the Ksitigarbha boddhisattva and performing charitable acts in the deceased's name they are freed from suffering and ascend to Heaven until it is time for them to be reborn again. 

Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva primarily revered in East Asian Buddhism, usually depicted as a Buddhist monk in the Orient. The name may be translated as "Earth Treasury", "Earth Store", "Earth Matrix", or "Earth Womb". Ksitigarbha is known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six worlds between the death of Gautama (Sakyamuni) Buddha and the rise of Maitreya Buddha, as well as his vow not to achieve Buddhahood until all hells are emptied. He is therefore often regarded as the bodhisattva of hell beings, as well as the guardian of children and patron deity of deceased children. Usually depicted as a monk with a halo around his shaved head, he carries a staff to force open the gates of hell and a wish-fulfilling jewel to light up the darkness.

The story of Ksitigarbha was first described in the Sutra of The Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, one of the most popular Mahayana Buddhist sutras. This sutra is said to have been spoken by the Buddha towards the end of his life to the beings of the Trayastrimsa Heaven as a mark of gratitude and remembrance for his beloved mother, Māyādevī. But most scholars believe the sutra was compiled in China. It stated that Ksitigarbha practised filial piety as a mortal, which eventually led to making great vows to save all sentient beings.

In the Ksitigarbha Sutra, the Buddha states that in the distant past eons, Ksitigarbha was a Brahmin maiden by the name of Sacred Girl. She was deeply troubled when her mother died, because she had often been slanderous towards the Triple Gem. To save her from the great tortures of hell, the girl sold whatever she had and used the money to buy offerings that she offered daily to the Buddha of her time, known as the Buddha of the Flower of Meditation and Enlightenment. She prayed fervently that her mother be spared the pains of hell and appealed to the Buddha for help.

While she was pleading for help at the temple, she heard the Buddha telling her to go home, sit down, and recite his name if she wanted to know where her mother was. She did as she was told and her consciousness was transported to a Hell realm, where she met a guardian who informed her that through her fervent prayers and pious offerings, her mother had accumulated much merit and had already ascended to heaven. Sacred Girl was greatly relieved and would have been extremely happy, but the sight of the suffering she had seen in Hell touched her heart. She vowed to do her best to relieve beings of their suffering in her future lives of kalpas.

Today, at 8pm EST. I will be reciting the short form of the Ksitigarbha mantra for all the people in whose name donations were given to the Winter of Plenty. You are welcome to join me, wherever you are. I will repeat the mantra 1,000 times. Originally the plan was for 800 recitations, but there are so many children on the list - a thousand it is.

The mantra is - Om Pra Ma Ni Da Ni So Ha
and here is an MP3 of Tibetan Monks chanting the mantra  so you can hear how this is pronounced.

You don't have to repeat it a thousand times to participate, simply sit for a few minutes and quiet your mind. Read the list of names and hold them in your mind, then listen to the mantra or chant along with it for two or three repetitions.

Be well and many blessings for your support.



Dorothy Kowal
Patrick Brito
Jim Sullivan
Jeffrey DeVito
Ingrid Liiv
Andrew Patton
Steven Dowgiala
Kenneth MacKinnon
Susan MacKinnon
Margaret Ross
Joel Noonan
Wallace Ross
JW Harrington
Jane Harrington
Karl Antosh
David St. Germaine
Rebecca Poland
Charlotte Bacon
Daniel Barden
Rachel Davino
Olivia Engel
Josephine Gay
Ana M. Marquez-Greene
Dylan Hockley
Dawn Hochsprung
Madeleine F. Hsu
Catherine V. Hubbard
Chase Kowalski
Jesse Lewis
James Mattioli
Grace McDonnell
Anne Marie Murphy
Emilie Parker
Jack Pinto
Noah Pozner
Caroline Previdi
Jessica Rekos
Avielle Richman
Lauren Rousseau
Mary Sherlach
Victoria Soto
Benjamin Wheeler
Allison N. Wyatt

*text/mp3 source -  Wikipedia and

Monday, March 25, 2013

Winter of Plenty Update - Warrant Issued for Groundhog

Poor Punxsutawney Phil , it would seem the Pennsylvania State Prosecutor has indicted him and is going for the death penalty for a faulty forecast about the start of spring. Rumor has it the town gathered for a beheading ceremony yesterday.

As darkly funny, ridiculous, ironic and slightly sad it is to read about this in the news, this nonsense also serves to remind us all of something important - in the midst of our struggles, there is room and necessity for humor. Without it, we are in danger of forgetting that all things are temporary in the long run. Times and situations do change, but only with diligent effort to be ready for opportunity.

I am pleased to report, in this last week of the Winter of Plenty drive, that because of all your help our families have all taken steps forward to better circumstances and the communities we have been have been working with have also grown. Two now have work, another is finally receiving the medical and legal assistance they need to be able to pursue work, three now have homes, we've expanded what we do with MCHA/OASIS to include Shao Lin Qi Gong and meditation (and more communities are asking for us to come in) and the rest of us have discovered a way to give that makes us better.

In this last week we do have a strong need for fresh vegetables, fruits and non-perishables. Gift cards for food/gas and Riptiks are also needed. You can drop the donations off on Weds Main Street Martial Arts (MSMA) at 1282 North Main Street in Providence (anytime after 2), or at the Zen Community Center (ZCC) 50 Dunnell Lane in Pawtucket on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 5 and 5:30.
On Weds night @ 730pm you are welcome to join us for a small dinner and meditation at MSMA (just RSVP by email to On Sunday, March 31st at 8pm @ the ZCC (50 Dunnel Lane, Pawtucket) we will commence the Ksitigarbha Mantra in memory of all the names donations were given in. The mantra is 45 minutes long and the entire event is in silence (but for the chanting). Please feel free to join, RSVP to as space is limited. The list of memorial names will also be posted to this blog.

What next? Dealing with the fallout from the sequester. Cuts have already radically impacted services and more will be felt in April. What does this mean for you and me?  It means we just keep on doing what we have learned this winter we can do. The ZCC will continue providing relief and assistance with your help. We are also committed to providing a small community dinner before our 5:30pm meditations at Dunnell. There are plans for some specific drives that I will post about later as we coordinate with other relief and service agencies. The goal is not so much to generate a response to the sequester, but to continue expanding our ability to support each other in community. I will be posting soon about the expanded ZCC services and offerings for all - it is going to be a stellar Spring, groundhog or not.

I want to thank you all so very much. You have moved me with your spirit, generosity and compassion; may the grace of your actions bring you and your generations much blessings.



The First Community Dinner at the ZCC Evening Meditation in Pawtucket, Rhode Island