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New Years and Near Enemies

In the dark there is the smell of Kerosene. The paths are dimly lit. Hands carry lotus lanterns down to the pond, voices chant the Avatamsaka sutra, bodies sit upright in the Zendo, and mouths eat soba noodles in these last hours of the year.

At 4am this morning, Myogen Steve Stucky died. As we went into the Zendo, we thought, how compassionate for him to die this morning, on this day, leaving us in the warm embrace of warm robes and warm company with the looming warm new year, a fresh start tomorrow. The obonsho rung out. I think of his redwood tree planted in a shady grove; I think of his family.

I was actually on the road, doing the last town trip of the year. Over the hills and over the Golden Gate to places I've gone almost every week for the last two years, rolling in our trusty box truck, hearing about the world on the radio. Hearing a song that reminds me of my mother and using some alone time to drive and cry. Back to the farm, I led some guest retreatants to build a compost pile. It was huge- they squealed and hooted in delight. I told them, "No hooting on the farm!" Couldn't stop them as they flung rotting food, horse shit and pond weeds to build rich, alive soil.

Sympathetic joy- laughing for other's laughter-is such a gift. Compassion, maybe crying for other's tears- also such a gift. As I sat down today with our Tanto to practice tonglen, who's been leading us through the Bramiviharas these last four days, I heard the direction to channel that person who I suffer affliction with. No one came up. The impulse to dig someone up arose and I resisted- no, no, let's let it be like that for this second. Let's not invite the near enemies to they new year. It might not be true equanimity, but it taste good.

I haven't wrote anything since Rohatsu. Big blank spaces on this blog mean I'm struggling. Doesn't mean anything bad, but it means I can't actually say anything because I'm just trying to breath. Now I write on this new years eve, as a few monks sit an all night vigil with Abbot Myogen Steve Stucky and kerosene lamps burn in the dark. I guess that's what we do and I guess that's what he'd like; Sitting and compost, laughing and crying, keeping the lamps lit. I guess that's what I like.

Just like last year, I wrote a rohatsu poem. It still fits tonight as I eat a bowl of new years noodles:

One more bowl of rice
Chanting sad names of Buddha
Home left? Leave again! 


  1. Wonderful Kogen, thank you for letting us all be a part of this. My blog's got big blank spaces too. May you find ease amidst the struggle like laughter in the compost!

  2. So does mine. I don't know anything anymore.

  3. My goal is to write more in 2014! Join me in the endeavor! One story at a time! Happy New Year from Portland!

  4. HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY to you Kogen for 2014! May Peace and Harmony surround you and provide you with love in abundance... Here's sending you some of my Aloha Spirit from very cold and snowy New York.


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