by Ven. Shih Ying-Fa
2016 was a very traumatic year in many respects. Violence, uncertainty, deeply partisan politics, an unprecedented presidential election, and the loss of a number of beloved figures have created a great deal of fear, anger and trepidation in the hearts of many. Recent events seemed to have deepened these emotions.
As the year 2017 dawned, I was deeply moved by the sheer volume of people whose lives had been so acutely affected by all these things. As a practitioner of the Bodhisattva Path, I asked myself, “What can we do as a Buddhist temple, as a Sangha, to help to ease all of this suffering?”
The answer to my question went like this: we need to assist people to strengthen themselves spiritually. Only when people are spiritually strong can appropriate, effective action be manifested, both internally and externally. My thoughts immediately turned to a part of nature that we would do well to emulate: bamboo.
The bamboo plant begins as a small shoot, and as it grows it gets taller and taller, its roots go deeper and deeper. Eventually, a full-grown stalk of bamboo manifests deep, firm roots, a unique flexibility, and a physical form that is strong enough to be used as the material from which houses, bridges, scaffolding, and much more can be made. If, I felt, we can help people to grow spiritually stronger and more confident, a great deal of healing can be done and a great deal of change can be effected.
And so we are introducing The Bamboo Grove, an initiative which includes training in various forms of meditative practice, opportunities for learning and reflection, and instruction in intensified forms of internal energy practice. With meditation serving as the roots, learning and reflection as the stalk, and dynamic qi (chi) practice as the energy-giving leaves, it is possible to create a grove of tall, flexible bamboo, a community of people whose spirituality is strong enough to endure whatever life presents and to drive the change which is so desperately needed in this age.
We are most fortunate to have the resources which can make The Bamboo Grove a living reality. We have a centrally located center, dynamic spiritual and energetic traditions from which to draw, and a diverse, talented community of people, monastic and lay, both here and abroad, who are committed to making The Bamboo Grove a resource which can benefit a great many people.
Once the Lunar Year of the Rooster has commenced, Bamboo Grove programming will begin. The programs will include workshops dealing with the psychological aspects of perception, how to benefit from various meditative forms aside from (but not excluding) Zen, and how to maximize our internal energy, or qi, for greater vitality and inner strength. There will also be workshops involving the creation of various art forms.
Our first workshop takes place on Thursday, February 9th at 7:00 p.m. It is entitled, “Who Is The ‘Other?’” and will be conducted by Shih Ming-Xing, Shih Yun-Shan and Shih Qin-Hao. I will conduct a workshop entitled, “Qigong For Vitality” at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 11th following our weekly qigong class.
Upcoming programs for February and March include “Yoga To Energize the Brain” with teacher Sheryl Grant Billman and “My Breath, Myself,” with psychologist Danette Conklin. The theme of our first Meditation Week (March 6th through 10th) will be “Our Inner Feng-Shui” with myself and Shih Zhong-Xin. Three out of our four Meditation Weeks in 2017 are dedicated to Bamboo Grove topics. Other elements will include Reiki, Taiji (Tai Chi) and working with the healing power of sound.
And of course, our regular Zen Meditation sessions and Buddhist services will provide a firm foundation, a field if you will, in which our Bamboo Grove can thrive. All we need to do is to cultivate that field so that everyone can become spiritually stronger together, and in doing so, become the change we wish to see in our world.
Looking forward to cultivating with all of you,
Ven. Shih Ying-Fa, Abbot