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Sunday, February 7, 2010

AZH Update by Steve Kanji Ruhl


Appalachian Zen House (www.appalachianzenhouse.org) is enjoying a busy and productive season.

As part of our "Green Appalachia" program, we're involved with the Garden Starters project (please see Bill Sharp's report in this AVC newsletter), which is receiving enthusiastic interest from two other Centre County organizations that we're involved with through our "Many Paths, One Heart" multi-faith outreach -- the Interfaith Mission and Interfaith Power and Light.

Through our work with the Interfaith Mission, the Appalachian Zen House is participating in a blanket drive to help low-income people keep warm this winter; we also provide emergency fuel assistance, overnight shelter for homeless people in Centre County, recycled furniture, and other assistance. We're the first Buddhist congregation in the Interfaith Mission's 40-year history, and we've been warmly welcomed by the Christian and Jewish congregations. Kanji serves on the board, and he and Jiko regularly attend meetings. Member congregations of the Interfaith Mission have expressed interest in possibly doing Garden Starter projects at their churches.

Through our work with Interfaith Power and Light, a national organization focused on religious responses to global warming and climate change, Appalachian Zen House has helped to organize the first Pennsylvania chapter, and we are currently developing local environmental projects at Penn State and in the State College area. Kanji and Jiko serve on the steering committee and represent Buddhists in the otherwise Christian and Jewish membership. Again, our participation has been met with warm hospitality. Our Interfaith Power and Light group has expressed interest in endorsing and supporting the Garden Starters initiative.

Also, we soon will begin advertising nationally on the website of the Zen Peacemakers Order for a person to coordinate our Bald Eagle Bio-Fuels program, and also for a farm manager to run the No Harm Farm community-sustained agriculture initiative at Ahimsa Village.

We also have been in contact recently with our supportive friends and neighbors, the Mount Equity Zendo in Pennsdale, PA. The resident monk there, Daishin, is interested in our Bald Eage Bio-Fuels project. Also, the abbess, Dai-En Bennage roshi -- one of the first American women ever ordained as a Zen monastic in Japan, a major figure in international Soto Zen Buddhism, the only authorized Zen teacher in central Pennsylvania, and one of Kanji's teachers -- is featured in the current issue of our Zen Peacemakers Order electronic newsletter, "Socially Engaged Buddhism," speaking of her work in the federal prison at Lewisburg. The Appalachian Zen House is grateful for the friendship of our dharma brothers and sisters at Mt. Equity Zendo.

Jiko is currently working on projects in New Zealand and will return at the beginning of April; she'll assume directorship of Appalachian Zen House in June. Kanji, meanwhile, is training intensively for preceptorship in the Zen Peacemakers Order, assisting his girlfriend Myoki in her studies as head trainee during the Montague Farm Zendo ango period in Massachusetts, and preparing for his new job there as director of the seminary training program and the residence program, which commences in early summer.

Floating Lotus Zendo continues to offer authentic and formally authorized Zen training at Ahimsa Village each Saturday morning; all are welcome.