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Grass Writing in the Sky

We watched as Reb called to Sobun Katherine Thanas, who took the great leap on June 24th, 2012. He said something like this:

For our great, abiding friend
. . .
Who is passing from this world to the next.
She is taking a great leap.
The light of this world has faded for her.
She has entered solitude with her karmic forces.
She has gone into a vast Silence.
She is borne away by the Great Ocean of birth and death;
May she, together with all beings, realize the end of suffering,
And the complete unfolding of Buddha’s Way.

We followed the procession of old teachers, lead by Reb in his gray okesa and gray koromo, the others draped in black and brown.   The shakujo, the six ringed monk's staff that sounds for all sentient beings, each ring representing one of the six realms, crashed, followed by two solemn bells until we reached the hill side where a tree would be planted. We all chanted while shovels were passed hand to hand and the roots of the Live Oak were covered. Family, dharma siblings, students and friends stepped forward to offer words. Zenkei Blanche Hartman was one of the first:

"Dharma sister, continue your practice wherever you are. I love you."

And others talked about her reign as Ino, how dedicated she was to teaching Buddhism, how she loved shopping, and burned baklava.

One person talked about her dharma name, Sobun, which means "Grass Writing." One day he was watching a hillside as the grass swayed in the wind, making brush strokes in the sky, and this was his teacher, Sobun, leaving no trace while making sincere effort. 

I hear her experience from my own teacher's words, who inspires me to just say yes:

"In a student teacher exchange with Suzuki Roshi, Katherine asked, "Inside me there is a yes and a no. Which should I follow?" Roshi responded, "Follow the yes.""

As we drank tea and ate vegan cookies in the dining hall, I watched the sangha, both of Green Gulch, City Center, and Santa Cruz Zen Center, support each other with tears and laughter. I only knew a handful of people, but I felt weaved into the fabric of this lineage, more comfortable than in a family reunion.

I cried a bit during all of this. Mostly because I'm a crier, but also because I was touched by everyone's generosity to show up. Selfishly, I also cried because I know someday we'll have to bury my teacher, too. I don't think there is anything that could prepare me for that, and all I can do is practice showing up.

You can read more about Katherine. You can visit her temple


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