Thursday, May 21, 2009

May announcements

Dear everyone,

Sesshin starts on Sunday (May 24th). If you are planning to come for 7 days, we need to arrive before 8 pm and if you are coming for 5 days on Tuesday, please come around 7 pm because sitting will start at 8 pm on Tuesday. If this is your first sesshin, you could also read this. For details about regular weekly sits during the sesshin week and the final picnic date .....

There will be no sitting at Kendall Park (Monday mornings (May 25th and June 1st), Thursday evening and Friday morning) during this week.

There will be Tuesday evening sit at the regular Vincentian centre venue -- this is the last time we can sit at Vincentian centre - so come to say goodbye to it if you are not at sesshin. After Tuesday (May 26th), we will likely sit at Masonic Temple but Kurt hasn't made a final decision.

There will be no sitting at Cranford on May 24th and May 30th.

There will be no morning or evening sits at Rutgers during the entire week.

Ans lastly, there will be Sunday morning sits at Blairstown as usual.

Picnic date: It is not 4th July but 27th June! More details to come soon!

Gassho! See some of you at sesshin!

Read more!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Early Buddhist caves

Dear all,

I came across a few fascinating articles on Buddhist monasteries that were housed in man-made caves in the western ghats of India. Most of them are located in the vicinity of the hill station city of Lonavala, "- a name that is a derivation from Lenauli (place of many caves - Lena meaning cave)", around 100 km from Mumbai (Bombay).

Most of the structural stone architecture in these caves has been very well preserved over the years and the caves seem habitable even today. This image is of a main meditation hall within a cave that is more than 2000 years old! There are more than 1000 such caves in the western ghats that were built at different periods over many centuries.
"A single Early Buddhist monastery in the Deccan region of western India might consist of several hundred separate caves which were often decorated with sculpture and finished in plaster that is carved and painted. Individual caves fell into two basic types: the cailya or chapel for congregational worship and the vihara or residential hall." "The earliest rock-cut garbhagriha, similar to free-standing ones later, had an inner circular chamber with pillars to create a circumambulatory path (pradakshina) around the stupa and an outer rectangular hall for the congregation of the devotees."

Quite possibly, work on some of these caves began during the reign of the Indian monarch, Ashoka, who embraced Buddhism and was prominent in spreading it to different parts on India and the world. Most of these caves are not as well known as the ones at Ajanta and Ellora but have beautiful intricate carvings adorning their walls. You can look at images of these caves and read a lot more about their history in the links below. Interestingly, one set of caves, called Kanheri, are located inside what today forms the national park of Mumbai.

Eary Buddhist caves of the Western Deccan

Karla and Bhaja caves

Bedse caves

Indian rock cut architecture

Kanheri caves

Hope you enjoy the grandeur of these residences for sanghas!
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bring to sesshin

To everyone coming to sesshin for the first time,

There are no formal instructions answering "What should I bring to sesshin?" and "How can I prepare for my first sesshin?" Big Joe recently asked some of us what should he know before coming to sesshin. He also asked, "Should I sleep more?" (May be he meant because I'm going to be sleep deprived during sesshin?). Well....even though we do get up (much) earlier... it is actually not true that sesshin deprives us of sleep. If we add up 6 hours of sleep at night (10:30 PM- 4:30 AM, see full schedule at the bottom of this page) and three half an hour long naps after each meal, we get atleast 7.5 hours everyday. When we come to sesshin for the first few times, we can even longer naps after meals because no one minds if we need to head straight to our dorm rooms! The truth is, however, as we keep going to more and more sesshins and the need to sleep goes down as the days pass. Some of you might have seen May's post two months ago -- in an email to me she had said, "it is much easier to get up at 3 during sesshins than outside of sesshins". It helps to not come to sesshin totally wiped out but we don't really need to sleep more before sesshin! :)

Bring along: In terms of what we do need to bring, here is what I can think of: Change of clothes (we try to choose modest non-distracting clothing), a pair of slip on sandals or slippers, personal items such as toothbrush and soaps etc, alarm clock to get up at the right times after breaks. Murray Grove management gives plenty of sheets and towels.

Our group might be the one to offer the cheapest sesshins in the country! The cost (including meals and stay) is $20 per day for college students, $30 per day for students who have graduated recently and might not have full time jobs or financial difficulties and $40 per day for people with full-time jobs. By the way, if you are in financial crunch but want to come to sesshin, please discuss it with Kurt.

Food: We prepare delicious fresh meals every day - so we don't need to worry about bringing any food items from home. We eat from what are called 'Oryoki bowls' (with chopsticks if you like; pictured on top). It might seem weird at first but it is rather beautiful and simple way to eat meals. Usually Gary explains the meal rituals to newcomers. Tea is officially served only twice a day but
You can bring your favorite herbal tea bags if you like -- there are some common flavors available. There is also some instant coffee and honey around!

Room: We share room with one other person of the same gender in the dorms and the bathrooms are common.

What to do when not sitting or sleeping: Help in the kitchen if you like (there is always something that needs to be done) or take a walk! Kurt has often said that it is not a good idea to bring books or music. There are some trails in the woods surrounding the Murray Grove area and you could bring sneakers to walk in the evenings.

Also, it is good to know that the area can get quite a high density of Deer-ticks that can carry the bug that causes Lyme disease. So please cover your body when you walk outside and check yourself for ticks if you have stayed out for long. No one in our group has gotten sick from this before -- but it is good to know!

So, if May 2009 is your first sesshin - welcome to the adventurous journey breath at a time!

If anyone else would like to add to the list fo things to bring -- please do!

Read more!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Princeton venue

Dear all,

Vincentian Centre, the venue of our princeton sits will be closing for public use end of this month and Brian Tucker has been working hard to find alternative venue for meditating in the Princeton area for all of us. The venue for next week's sit (May 12th) in Princeton Area will be the Red barn behind Kingston Wellness centre (4591 Route 27, Kingston, NJ 08528). On May 19th, we will try sitting at Masonic Temple. For details and directions....

For May 19th : Central Jersey Masonic Center, 345 River Road (Route 605). Princeton, NJ 08540


From North East Jersey, NJ Turnpike, New Brunswick -

New Jersey Turnpike, Exit 9, North onto Rt. 18. Immediately get into the 2nd to the left lane and exit onto Rt. 1 South. Travel Rt. 1 South for 11.5 miles (after about 9 miles, you will be at the top of a hill at a light with a McDonald’s and Burger King – from that light, you will travel another 2 miles, 3 lights). Make a Right onto Raymond Road. Go 1 mile on Raymond until it dead-ends at the first light. Make a Left at light onto Rt. 27 South. Go 3 lights (through the town of Kingston). At the 3rd light, make a Right onto River Road, Rt. 605 (you cannot make a left). Go exactly 1 mile. The Masonic Center is on the Right.

From South Jersey, Philadelphia, Trenton –

Interstate 295 North; exit onto Rt. 1 North. Take Route 1 North, about 5 miles, to Harrison Street. Use the jug-handle to cross Route 1 and thereby, make a Left onto Harrison Street. At the 3rd light (1.4 miles), make a Right onto Rt. 27 North, Nassau Street. At 2nd light (1.9 miles) (after you see Carnegie Lake on your right), make a Left onto River Road, Rt. 605 (you cannot make a right). Go exactly 1 mile. The Masonic Center is on the Right.

From Northwest Jersey, Route 287, Somerville, Morristown -

Interstate 287 South, Exit Rt. 206 South (Somerville), Continue on Rt. 206 South through Hillsborough, until you reach the light for Route 518 (just past Montgomery Shopping Center). Make a Left onto Rt. 518 East. Go ½ mile and make a Right onto Route 605 (River Road). Go 1 mile on River Road. The Masonic Center is on the Left.

From West Jersey, Lambertville, New Hope -

Take Rt. 518 East out of Lambertville. After crossing Rt. 206, Go ½ mile and make a Right onto Route 605 (River Road). Go 1 mile on River Road. The Masonic Center is on the Left.

Also, there will be no three hour sit at Rutgers this week because the venue will be used by Rutgers English department.

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