The great Asian tales of Zen often portray temples and the resident priests as very dour places and individuals. Zen, after all, is serious business, nor is it something for the faint of heart. Poor Huike had to cut off his arm before Bodhidharma would even take notice of him standing in the snow. But the feeling one gets upon entering the Boundless Way Temple in Worcester, Massachusetts, and meeting the resident priests Melissa Blacker and her husband, David Rynick, is quite simply joy. One immediately thinks, “What a delightful couple!"
Melissa has a natural exuberance. And it is significant that her path to Zen did not follow the standard route of angst and despair—although, to a certain extent, David’s did—that one so often hears about after asking, “What brought you to practice?” In her case, she was trying to make sense of a mystical experience—a spontaneous kensho—she had while a fourteen year old girl attending summer camp. One morning, she went down to the beach by herself, sat cross-legged in the sand, and, as the sun came up, had a profound sense of the interconnectedness of all Being. “This,” she thought, “must be what adults feel all the time!”
The next day when her mother came to fetch her, Melissa confided to her, “Mom, I saw the sunrise.”
“That’s nice, dear. Sunrises can be very pretty.”
And with that, Melissa realized her mother had no idea what she was talking about. But she also knew that what she’d experienced had been real and revealed something genuine.
I’m struck by the story which so closely resembles my own. So I go out on a limb. “I’ve described it as wonder, awe, gratitude, and reverence,” I tell her. I'm curious to see if the formula resonates with her. It appears to do so.
One has, at times, a sense of things coming together almost as if by providence. That has also been my experience. The same forces are at work here. For example, there is a granite Buddha at the entrance to the house. It is seated in front of a flowering cherry tree whose blossoms are just past their prime. The cherry tree had been rescued fortuitously as they cleared the growth from the front of the house in order to build a wheelchair ramp. It had almost been uprooted with all the other unwanted vegetation, but David recognized the small plant as a cherry seedling and protected it. Then a man helping set up a waterline at the temple asked if they’d like a Buddha for their entrance. They had several Buddhas, thank you. But this is a Buddha for outdoors. They had some of those as well. But this one is over five feet high and weighs about three tons! It had been carved in China and shipped to Worcester for a Vietnamese family who had wanted a garden Buddha but had no idea how big the statue they’d commissioned was; when they refused delivery, it was offered to two ethnic Buddhist groups in the city, neither of which had a place for it. It seemed big even for the Boundless Way Temple, although it now clearly belongs here. Jung might have used the term “synchronicity” to describe the series of events which led to the statue finding its present home under the cherry tree; Buddhists call it “karma.”
When we arrive, the Temple is preparing for “Buddhas Over Worcester,” a sculpture exhibit which opens tomorrow. Joan and I get a sneak peak at the pieces. They range from the traditional to the playful—a red trolley bearing three Buddhas painted brilliant blue. Or a Buddha made from what seems to be an old CB radio set. The playfulness seems appropriate at a Zen Temple which has, in addition to the traditional altar, a Beanie-Buddha in its Zendo.
Both Melissa and David trained with one of Philip Kapleau’s students for many years. David then went on to study with and received transmission from George Bowman in the lineage of Korean Rinzai teacher, Seung Sahn. Melissa received transmission from James Ford, John Tarrant’s student, in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Yasutani Roshi and Robert Aitken. Perhaps one of the things, intentionally or not, that the name “Boundless Way” refers to is the manner in which they have brought together elements from several lineages and teaching styles.
But it is also “boundless” in the way a certain concept has been brought to life here. David describes one of the things which convinced them to buy the present property: “We came up with this vision of a place of beauty and practice, and somehow that crystallized for us what we hoped to do. So, for example, the grounds have been my great labor of love which creates this place that you feel when you come into it.”
And one does feel it. It is very real.
Cypress Trees in the Garden:
Cypress Trees in the Garden:
Blacker, Melissa Myozen – 200, 201, 207-215, 216, 217, 218, 220, 221, 222, 228, 229, 418
Rynick, David Dae An – 200-01, 207-08, 209, 210, 211, 212, 214, 215-222, 228, 418