Furnace Mountain
Zen Retreat Center

Newsletter Spring/Summer 2012
In this issue:

Zen Master Dae Gak with his editors Dobree Adams and Jonathan Greene in April 2012 at Furnace Mountain.

Zen Master Dae Gak's new book
Potluck and book signing in July
Teacher Ceremony in February
Prison Dharma - Jigetsu Osho
What's new at Furnace Mountain?
Editor's note - the bigger picture

We are happy to announce that Zen Master Dae Gak's new book UPRIGHT WITH POISE AND GRACE is finally available and can be purchased both from Furnace Mountain and from Amazon. Our heartfelt thanks go to the many people who were willing to finance a paperback edition through purchasing a fairly expensive, handbound, signed and chopped copy of the book.
In the course of the books making we learned that having the edition split in a paperback and hand-bindable part would be way more expensive than having all the books done in hardcover right away.
A generous donation made it possible for us to change plans and we are actually very happy about this change. The book turned out beautiful, everyone seems to love it - we certainly do! Again we thank all the friends and Sangha members that were willing to generously support the making of a paperback edition! Without your commitment in the beginning this book would probably not be printed yet!

Upright with Poise and Grace is published by Gnomon Press, Frankfort for Furnace Mountain, it contains 208 pages;
editors are Jonathan Greene and Dobree Adams.
You can order from Amazon for $21.95 or directly from Furnace Mountain for $20.00
If you order through FM you will receive a copy that is signed and all calligraphies chopped by Zen Master Dae Gak.

By ordering directly through us your purchase supports Furnace Mountain 100%.
All income generated through the sale of the book will go toward the maintenance of our buildings and towards scholarships for students who could not otherwise afford studying with us. To order a copy, please send an email to Myozen, including your complete name, shipping address and the number of copies you'd like to purchase. Please also include your check adding an additional $5 for shipping and handling.)
We will ship your copy as soon as we have received your order and payment.



Potluck and book signing at Furnace Mountain on July 8th

Over 50 Sangha members joined the potluck on July 8th to celebrate Zen Master Dae Gaks new book and to spend some time outside of retreat together.
We shared delicious food and had a great time together. Thanks to everyone who contributed their time, efforts and cooking skills.



Teacher Ceremony at the end of the February month long retreat

With great joy welcome a new teacher and his wife into our Sangha family:
Dae Chong - Great Clarity - Antony Osler received Inka (Permission to teach) from Zen Master Dae Gak in February. Dae Chong and his wife Tae Ja - Great Compassion - Margie Osler came from South Africa and sat the February retreat with us. Antony is the author of Stoep Zen - a Zen life in South Africa. They are both long time students of the Dharma and have established and maintained a Zen Center on their farm for many years. Antony has been a student of Sazaki Roshi as well as the late Zen Master Su Bong.



Prison Dharma - Lee Adjustment Center

by Jigetsu Osho

Our eyes meet across the yard. Smiles flash all around. For a moment the eighteen foot high chain link and razor wire fence recedes into the background. It is good to see our friends once again. Jack McDowell and I have just arrived for our monthly sitting with the meditation group at Lee Adjustment Center, a men’s medium security prison in Eastern Kentucky. Eight to ten men join us each month in sitting together, inquiring into koans, encouraging each other in our practice. These members of our sangha cannot come to us, so we go to them.

Jack has been visiting the prison on a regular basis for many years and several years ago asked the Furnace Mountain sangha to assist him. Kosen accompanied Jack for about two years and it has been my privilege to continue the work after she left. Four of the men took precepts with Zen Master Dae Gak when he visited the prison last year.

Visiting the prison often causes me to reflect on how, even in ordinary life, we hold one another prisoner by defining each other by some act or words in the past, inhibiting our ability to meet one another fresh in each moment. Our penal system easily imprisons these men’s self-concept as well as their bodies. It constantly reinforces the message, “This is who you are; you are the one who committed such and such an act,” and holds them captive to this definition. When we visit the prison we try to convey to the men, “You are not that, although you may have committed such an act.” We encourage them to be truthful about what they have done and take responsibility for their life without blaming their parents or society. But, although they must wear their drab prison garb, they don’t need to constantly clothe themselves in the identity of criminal. This is not their true self.

Zen Master Man Gong taught a koan, “All of you sat in the Dharma Room for three months. That is very, very wonderful. As for me, I only stayed in my room making a net. This net is made from a special string. It is very strong and can catch Buddha, Dharma, Bodhisattvas, human beings – everything. How do you get out of this net?” For these men, sitting in prison for thirty years or a lifetime, what is the way out?

When Zen Master Dae Gak visited the prison, he spoke directly to the men about seeing everything in their environment as Buddha: the guards are Buddha, the razor wire fence is Buddha, the cold grey cement floor is Buddha. How compassionate to speak so boldly, so truthfully. The men have often remarked on how much that talk meant to them.

Recently one of the men said to me, “You know my life is not different from yours: I wake up in the morning, I eat my breakfast, I talk with my friends or read a magazine, just the same things you do. This is my life. It is ordinary, just like this.”

If you would like to support the Lee Adjustment Center meditation group, the men are allowed to have dharma books and many of them have made requests for copies of the Mumonkan and Blue Cliff record. You can also donate a copy of Zen Master Dae Gaks new book. If you would like to donate any of these items you could contact Jigetsu to learn how to do so.



What's new at Furnace Mountain?


Please celebrate and welcome with us a new resident into our small community. Mary Kamien from now on will be an integral part of Furnace Mountain. Mary has "tried us out" for the past three months and has decided to live here full time. This is a big commitment and we are deeply grateful to have her with us.



Zen Master Dae Gak's sister, Betsy Kosher, a teacher and artist from Ludlow, Massachusetts has recently painted a large and beautiful portrait of her brother. She donated it to Furnace Mountain, it is now hanging in the teahouse. Thank you Betsy!


Cal Carter, master carpenter and fotographer shot these pictures on a recent visit to Furnace Mountain. Cal is originally from Kentucky but since many years lives in New Jersey. He came to visit with his wife, Susan Knight. They arrived with a car full of herbs and plants and Susan spend an entire weekend planting them. We thank them both for their wonderful support!



"Taking Zazen into your daily activity is to remember whatever you are doing - that's it.
Not evaluating how mindful one is; or evaluating on the basis of beta endorphin surge or opinion of others; it takes a lot simply to not trust the mind of evaluation. First the heart aligns itself with things as they are; and then function is no longer deliberate. One takes up one’s whole life as the sincere irrefutable life of the Buddha." - Zen Master Dae Gak


Recently our dear Sangha member Ed Salerno donated a large hand-hammered japanese gong. It's sound is a marvelous addition to our morning and evening chanting. Thank you Ed!



Editor´s note - The bigger picture


Recently my coach suggested I imagine all my ancestors sitting behind me on bleachers – ten generations back into the past: Behind myself: On my right side my father, on my left side my mother. Behind my mother on her right side her father, on her left side her mother. Behind my father on his right side his father, on his left side his mother. Then my great-grandparents: On my mother’s grandmother’s right side her father, on her left side her mother.... pretty difficult to visualize the further I went back. At least I had trouble doing it.
But when I did, I was most astonished that after only 10 generations the people sitting behind me numbered over 2000 human beings! Each of these people, through their efforts, their undertakings, their life skills and life choices made it possible that I today sit here and type these thoughts into my laptop for you to read. The same is true for you. Each of us has countless ancestors who through their life, their efforts and their choices made it possible that we are here today.

When I connect this knowledge to our current environmental and economic challenges I get the shivers: I will be an imaginary ancestor to someone ten generations into the future. If I look into that future, what will my legacy be? What will our shared legacy be, the heritage we leave for our great grand-children and their children and their children again…..? What will be the blueprint of possibilities they will find themselves with?
When reading Jigetsu Osho’s article about the prison work I got a hit from one prisoner’s comment about how we are all alike. It’s true. We all share the same humanness, we all share the same hopes, desires, needs and values. We all smile and cry in the same language, we all come from one mother and one father and we all share the same earth.
And we are all caught in our own personal prison cycling around and engaging in our perceived suffering. As a book title suggests: "We are all doing time" in this prison of our own mind. And we all try to escape in one way or the other.
With the image of the ancestors in mind and the knowledge that each of us will be an ancestor to everyone who comes after us – can we leave the narrow prison of our own mind for a moment and courageously look at our current situation and the heritage we are leaving – day by day by day?

Each piece of plastic we consume takes between 600 and 1000 years to decompose. If I do the math that means that all the plastic I have ever consumed in my life reaches at least into the 20th generation after me, as currently a generation is determined to be about 30 years average.
Our rich lifestyle is ruining the very planet we live from. We take out way more than we give back. Scientists are saying that we have to reduce our CO2 footprint by over 80 % in order to live according to what everyone’s fair and sustainable share would be. I have to be sincere: I have no idea how to reduce my lifestyle in such a drastic way!
Just the mere thought of what life would look like with this 80% reduction frightens me: What about trips to Lexington in order to buy food? What about flights from A to B in order to teach or see family? What about computer and internet use? What about things I love: avocados, tomatoes, berries and other kind of fruit or vegetables available all year round at my convenience? What about electric heating and cooling? What about simply flushing the toilet or showering at my convenience? What about freezers to store food and ice cubes upon pressing a button? What about CD’s, DVD’s, books and (Buddhist) magazines? What about toilet paper? What about all the other little conveniences we so take for granted?
Would I be confined to Furnace Mountain, trying to grow my own vegetables and living from what the land offers? A frightening vision, especially as in the last 60 years since WWII we have unlearned everything our ancestors still knew: How to work the land, how to process and store food, how to be sustainable and self sufficient.

But nevertheless: We need to look! As Zen Master Dae Gak puts it: “You need to stick the acupuncture needle in the very center of the sore.”
It is crucial and our responsibility to open our eyes to the legacy we leave behind. It is our job as Zen practitioners to escape the prison of our own personal suffering and look at the bigger picture we are creating, the karma we are leaving for future generations. It is our vow to save all sentient beings. Not as a theoretical heroic commitment, but in very practical, down to earth every day actions: Every time we decide to not wash dishes under running water. Every time we bring reusable shopping bags with us. Every time we reduce, reuse and recycle. Every time we refrain from eating meat and milk products, every time we buy local, every time we decide to bring our own drink instead of buying a bottle of it at a supermarket or a gas station. Every time we…..……
I remember Zen Master Seung Sahn, heavily advocating a different kind of mind. He frequently used to say: “Human beings, number one bad animal! Always, ‘Not-enough mind!’ Very bad! Must change!” Our practice is to realize the fundamental essence of what we are that holds, sees through and lets go of the scarcity mind we all have grown up in and operate from.

Can we all do our best so that the mind we share when sitting together in silence ripples out into our everyday life and into the rest of the world?
Can we find the mind that is outside of time and space and realizes complete abundance and completion in the present moment?
Can we all do our best so that ten generations from now, people can still say: You know my life is not different from yours: I wake up in the morning, I eat my breakfast, I talk with my friends or read a magazine, just the same things you do. This is my life. It is ordinary, just like this”?

I bow to you, your ancestors and all the ones who come after you.
May all beings be free from suffering. - Myozen Osho