I have been to many events at Zen Center over the years which are more family gatherings than anything else, and last night was one of those, under the guise of a reading for Blanche’s new book.
It was lovely to see her back in the building again, among friends and students, people who have practised together over the decades in this community.
When I first came to Zen Center, Blanche was the Abbess; one of the things that encouraged me to continue the practice was the feeling that, if I kept at it, there was a possibility of growing old as gracefully and wisely as she was so manifestly doing. The first practice period I did at Tassajara, in 2002, was the last one she led as Abbess, and I appreciated her equal enthusiasm for zazen and for work days. As I learnt how it was to be a monk at Tassajara, one phrase she used stuck with me: ‘Everyone can see how you are – you might as well see it for yourself’.
Over the years of living at Zen Center I came to a deeper appreciation of how her teachings were not just in her words – though when they were being read last night, they all came across as so clear and kind – but in her day-to-day conduct in the temple, her dignified bearing and constant great expressions of love. It was fitting that the first section read was her echo of Suzuki Roshi’s admonition to treat chairs – and all other objects – with respect. I think of her instructions and reminders about this every time I am in the dining room, and can feel how her influence is missed now she does not live in the building.
An evening like this reminds me that even while living in community has its challenges, the rewards of being around such wonderful teachers, day in and day out, will resonate through my life and the lives of so many others she has touched with her teaching.