Letter from the Shuso

Dear Sangha,

Shugen Roshi asked me to serve as Chief Disciple for our Spring 2021 Ango training period.

I immediately asked myself, How can I do this? We are in the midst of a pandemic. We are trying to make our lives work while completely isolated from each other. But I calmed down, feeling the significance of this service position. I remembered that I have taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha over many years, and I can trust this precious dharma that nourishes each of us who arrive at the gate. The teachers, the monastics, and the lay and residential sangha give so much—I deeply want to give back in every way I can.

In order to be physically present for two sesshins, I will quarantine during the first two weeks of March and then spend the last two weeks of March at the Monastery; I’ll repeat this again in May. I am not alone in this decision. My partner will be on his own when I quarantine from him before each visit. And he will have to take care of our old and rambling farmhouse and farm while I am at the Monastery. I am grateful for his help. Whether lay practitioner or monastic our desire to train affects many people, those we support and those who support us.

During the next three months of Ango—on Zoom retreats with our teachers, in sangha practice groups, at the Monastery, and in our own homes—we are asked to commit to strengthen and enliven our practice in whatever way we can. Together, we will be studying the 6th century poem by Zen master, Seng Ts’an, Faith in Mind, that begins with the often-quoted words:

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.

But this year has been difficult. For many of us, it has been a year of intense personal challenge. We will explore how the Faith in Mind poem can be a guide to make our lives not only less difficult, but more loving, creative, and peaceful.

As the darkness of winter becomes the sweetness of spring, and as the light grows and tight buds open to blossoms, let our practice reflect gratitude for each moment. Let our practice express gratitude for each other. Together we can truly make this spring ango an offering to the world.

With deep appreciation for your practice,

Shinji (she/her)

Linda Shinji Hoffman has been practicing at Zen Mountain Monastery since 2004 and took Jukai in 2010. She currently serves on the Board of Directors. She is an artist (see top image) and an orchardist, and lives in Harvard, Massachusetts with her husband at Old Frog Pond Farm & Studio, named after the haiku by Matsuo Basho:

old pond
frog jumps