Our History. In 2017, a small group of interested individuals started practicing Zen together at Tam Bao Temple in east Tulsa, at area parks, and in coffee shops. We read, sat zazen, and talked about the impact of our Zen practice on every aspect of our lives. Zen Buddhism became a container for our engagement with a living, shifting reality, always in transition.
Starting in 2019, we functioned as the Tulsa practice group for the Boundless Way Zen (BOWZ) sangha, meeting Monday nights for services and at other times to reflect on our lives and practice and to support our study and each other. We received financial support from BOWZ for equipment and cabin rental, and after the pandemic forced us to transition to Zoom in March of 2020 we have had visits from many BOWZ members across the country, including guiding teachers, priests, and other sangha members.
In June 2022 we made another transition. Two BOWZ guiding teachers, Mike Fieleke and Bob Waldinger, received the blessing of the BOWZ Leadership Council and Guiding Teachers Council to establish Living Vow Zen (LVZ), a new Zen collective. (BOWZ and LVZ will continue to invite and welcome participants from both schools to services, sesshins, and other events.)
On June 1, along with the Morning Star Zen and Henry David Thoreau (Hank) Zen sanghas, our sangha shifted our organizational home to the Living Vow Zen collective. We are also made a temporary, covid-related situation permanent — with one scheduling change. To maintain connection to and support of our whole sangha, which includes participants across the U.S., our services will remain on Zoom. (Click here for that zoom link.) Meanwhile, we shifted our service schedule from Monday nights to Tuesday nights at 6:30 central, which allows our senior teachers, Mike and Bob, to join us regularly for private meetings (dokusan).
Finally, we took a new name.
Our Name. As service leaders, we have reflected on how we’ve come together, the texts that have been important, and the experiences of covid that have impacted our sangha. The text to which we often return is “Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage” by Shitou Xiqian. (You can read the whole text below.) We sang Shitou’s 8th-century song together in our very first service, on a Saturday morning sitting in the darkened main temple at Chua Tam Bao. We sang it again when we dedicated our space at Hope Unitarian Church’s hillside cabin in fall of 2019. Now on zoom, we often turn to it as we sit in our own home zendos.
There’s one phrase in the song that evokes all of those things: “A shining window below the green pines: jade palaces or vermilion towers can’t compare with it.” It connotes the simple, humble way that our sangha came together, with deep commitment but without a lot of pretense. And it captures our experiences in all of the spaces that our practice makes sacred, shining light from within and without.
We welcome you to join us in our Shining Window Zen sangha. May we each and all continue to serve the numberless beings.
Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage
I’ve built a grass hut where there’s nothing of value.
After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
When it was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
Now it’s been lived in—covered by weeds.
The person in the hut lives here calmly,
Not stuck to inside, outside, or in between.
Places worldly people live, he doesn’t live.
Realms worldly people love, she doesn’t love.
Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world.
In just this place, an old man illumines forms and their nature.
A Mahayana bodhisattva trusts without doubt.
The middling or lowly can’t help wondering:
Will this hut perish or not?
Perishable or not, the original master is present,
Not dwelling south or north, east or west.
Firmly based on steadiness, it can’t be surpassed.
A shining window below the green pines—
Jade palaces or vermilion towers can’t compare with it.
Just sitting with head covered, all things are at rest.
Thus, this mountain monk doesn’t understand at all.
Living here she no longer works to get free.
Who would proudly arrange seats, trying to entice guests?
Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.
The vast inconceivable source can’t be faced or turned away from.
Meet the ancestral teachers, be familiar with their instruction,
Bind grasses to build a hut, and don’t give up.
Let go of hundreds of years and relax completely.
Open your hands and walk, innocent.
Thousands of words, myriad interpretations
Are only to free you from obstructions.
If you want to know the undying person in the hut,
Don’t separate from this skinbag here and now.