09 September 2010

The Three Jewels Order of the Cloud-Water Sangha

"I am an ordained member of the Three Jewels Order of the Cloud-Water Sangha."

I realize that if I said that out loud, just about no one, not even most of the members of my local sangha, would have the vaguest idea what it meant. Funny thing is, I'm not so sure, either, but I think I have some clue.

The Cloud-Water Sangha is a loose affiliation of those centers that have as their teachers either Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede or someone whose sanctioning comes through him. The Rochester Zen Center web page (www.rzc.org) lists the centers with links to their web sites.

The Three Jewels Order is an order of priests and layfolk in the Cloud-Water Sangha who have made service to the Dharma the/a major trajectory in their life. The priests are priests, with everything that goes with that. The lay-ordained are layfolk who have upped their time and energy and practice level in such a way that they are recognized by the rest of the sangha as senior members, with whatever goes with that.

Today I received an email from Gerardo Gally Sensei in Mexico in response to one I sent him. I've never met him, but I heard an mp3 of a teisho he gave in Rochester this summer, and I had wanted to let him know I found it helpful in addressing a matter of common concern. His response was warm, engaging and genuine. When he said he hoped we would meet soon, I believed him.

When I was working in Germany I got to know Robert Goldmann Sensei and his wife, Gisela, and other members of the Berlin sangha. Any time I happened to be in Berlin, I sat with the group and socialized with Robbie and Gisela. Each time we would kind of pick up where we had left off, prompting the three of us to remark how apt Master Hakuin's line in the Zazen Wasan was to the situation: "In going and returning we never leave home."

Last fall I spent a week at the Rochester Zen Center, getting to know Roshi, the resident staff and many sangha members. I spent some time with Trueman, who had recently(ish) been ordained, and talked about becoming priests, our respective trajectories, etc. I never felt the least bit out of place.

In the day-to-day run of things, it's all too easy to think that the outer limit of the sangha is the roster of members of this particular temple. I'm finding it important to remember that my sangha includes Dharma brothers and sisters in New Zealand, Mexico, Sweden and Finland, Germany, Scotland, Ohio, Wisconsin and New York, as well as Illinois. I can go (and have gone) to them for refuge, and I hope that they would find here a place they can call home and people they can call kin, too. I hope to get to know more of them in the near future.

What an appropriate name for our motley band: cloud-water, unsui -- here, there, nowhere, everywhere!

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