HOW TO GROW A LOTUS BLOSSOM: Reflections in a Disciple's Life

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section XX
The Guardian

There is nothing separate: what is "other"? What is "I"?

--Great Master Keizan
Denkoroku ("The Transmission of the Light")

A Benign Presence

In late winter of 1987, I moved onto the property that would become the home of North Cascades Buddhist Priory. During the first year or so of living on this undeveloped land, I became aware of the presence of a non-human, non-animal being that seemed to "come with the place." That is, the being seemed to be attached to this particular locale.

Rev. Master had sometimes mentioned such beings. And I had read about encounters between monks and beings that were neither human nor animal in one or two books that Rev. Master recommended for our reading. Rev. Master always emphasized the importance of keeping our focus on our own training, and it never would have occured to me to go out looking for such beings. Nor have I ever had any interest in "occult" beliefs and practices: life is complicated enough without sticking my nose in places where every instinct within me says it does not belong.

It was when I was meditating alone on the temple property that I sometimes sensed the presence of this being. I cannot adequately describe the goodness, benevolence and dignity that it radiated.

I told Rev. Master about this being. She listened and then made it clear that this was all completely normal.

A Sincere Wish

A few years after I moved onto the property, I sensed that the being was asking for something. Again, I spoke with Rev. Master about this. She encouraged me to continue to meditate until the nature of the wish became clear.

Some months passed, and greater clarity did come. The being was asking to receive the Precepts.

In our newly-constructed meditation hall, and with a number of lay trainees and one other senior monk present, and when all conditions were right for doing the ceremony, I formally gave the Precepts to a being who I had come to think of as our temple's Guardian.

During this ceremony, I knew beyond any possibility of doubt that this being was fully present in front of me, and was truly becoming a disciple of the Buddhas.

A Trainee

I have never seen our temple's Guardian. Two senior monks have told me that they have experienced visions of the Guardian. They described it as majestic and beautiful.

We built a Guardian shrine close to a spring, the waters of which feed a little waterfall that swells in the winter and then diminishes to a trickle during the summer and early autumn. I have always thought that there might be some special connection between the Guardian and this spring and its surrounding area.


The Guardian Shrine
--The inscription on the brass plate reads:
Whenever we pray, we receive without fail a sympathetic response.


For many years the Guardian's benign presence was an important part of the life of our monastic community. I have always viewed this being as a form in which the Compassion of the Eternal has been extended to me personally and to our temple. And I have always believed that the Guardian does its training in the way that is appropriate for it given the conditions of its existence--conditions of which I am almost completely ignorant. These things have not changed.--But something did change.


I visit the Guardian shrine every morning. Perhaps two years ago, I began to sense that the Guardian was not here in the way that it had been here for many years. It seemed to be more distant.

Last fall (2014), one of the lay trainees told me that the Guardian was asking to leave. This rang true. After meditating with the question of what, if anything, we needed to do, and after discussing the matter with the monastic community, we did a ceremony at the Guardian shrine in which I told the Guardian that it was free to leave, and that, if it did so, it would leave with our gratitude and our blessing. During this ceremony, it seemed as if the Guardian expanded into something greater. Since we did the ceremony, I have felt that this being who has been such an important part of the life of this temple, and of my life, is no longer here. Yet still I go to the Guardian shrine every morning and bow in gratitude.

I do not know exactly what has happened to this magnanimous and kind being, but I believe that what I sensed during the ceremony was a deeply significant and wonderful transformation. As I have said, the Guardian does not seem to be here now. I keep thinking there is a vacancy in the Guardian position in this monastery at the present time. Yet I continue to feel the same connection to this being at a deeper spiritual level than that of separation: within the Buddha Nature, there is neither coming nor going.


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