Monday, November 22, 2010


This long holiday weekend my youngest son Andy Byrd is coming home with his daughter, and Johnny Byrd’s birthday is Tuesday night, November 23rd, so I’ve decided to cancel our services for tomorrow night. Come next week, Tuesday November 30th, we’ll be ringing the bell again, bowing to our cushions—to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha—and sitting together in the big sanctuary of the Unitarian Center.

Light the candle on your altar and a stick of incense for peace in the city of Juárez.

Light the candle on your altar and a stick of incense for peace in our own hearts and minds.

I hope you are all well and that your practice is strong.

I bow to each of you.

Bobby Kankin

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Practicing the Dharma: Buddhist Chaplaincy Program

Thanks to Mike Dretsch for sending this link via his Facebook page. Mike is a member of our Sangha although he lives in Georgia. His practice is leading him into new places. He is busy sewing his black rakusu. I thank him for his practice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Altar for our Sangha

With many thanks to Hogaku Shozen McGuire Roshi (aka Roshi Ken), our sangha--Both Sides / No Sides Zen Community of El Paso / Juarez--now has a new altar for our practice. A few months ago when we first moved into our new digs at the Unitarian Community, Roshi Ken asked me if there a particular piece of furniture that we needed.

An altar, I said.
How do you like your altars? he said.

Ken is an accomplished wood-worker, as you can see from the photo of his workshop in Las Cruces. We talked back and forth. Since we must move stuff and set up every practice session, we needed an altar that is portable, but it also needs to be big enough to store all of our paraphernalia--the bells, the mukugyo (the fish), the incense bowls, all the odds and ends. Also I wanted the top to be hinged with handles on the sides for carrying the altar from one place to the next.

Yes, yes, I can do that, said Roshi Ken.

And besides, he added the extra ingredient--the stand and the altar are separate, which makes moving it from one place to another simple for a pair of zensters. Please join us on Tuesday nights, 7pm, at 4475 Byron in El Paso, and you can enjoy our altar with us.

Postscript: Some notes. Roshi Ken is in the business of wood-working (please visit his Zen Furnishings website) but he gave us this altar to us as Dana. "Dana" is the First Paramita, the first perfection, and it means generosity, the act of generosity. I have received it in that spirit. He didn't ask for anything in return, but I wrote him a personal check for $40 to cover his materials. We bowed to each other--giving and receiving, the act of reciprocity. He also gave us a beautiful hand-crafted incense bowl made of wood. It has two square containers, one for burning of incense and the other to hold the granules of incense that we offer during our incense ceremony. This was not a gift, but I took it along on $40 of credit which I hope the Sangha can pay in the near future. I write all this because we must remember as a Sangha our responsibilities in the everyday world, the marketplace. We pay $100 a month for the use of the wonderful sanctuary at the Unitarian Community. We did have a bit of a surplus, but that is no longer true. Please consider adding to our Dana Bowl, either when you sit with us or by mail. Johnny Byrd is our Sangha's treasurer. He can be reached @ (915) 861-9214. Or you can send a check to him at 701 Texas Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901.

Many thanks and a deep bow to all of you for your continuing practice.
Bobby Kankin