HOW TO GROW A LOTUS BLOSSOM: REFLECTIONS

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Introduction

The Purpose of this Website

In the spring of 1976, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, a Zen Master in the Serene Reflection (Soto Zen) tradition of Buddhism, was drawn into an extended and very deep meditation retreat. How to Grow a Lotus Blossom or How a Zen Buddhist Prepares for Death was published in 1977. The book is a record of the events and experiences of that retreat.

I am a monastic disciple of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett. (I still think of her and refer to her as “Rev. Master” and will do so most of the time in writings and talks that I post on this website.) I was a young monk in 1976, and my master’s retreat was a great catalyst in my own spiritual life. Indeed, I can never adequately express my gratitude for the help that her example and teaching gave me during that momentous year. And now, thirty-eight years later, and nineteen years after Rev. Master’s death, I continue to find an inexhaustible double fountain of guidance and consolation in the teachings embodied in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom.

If a man has found something that has proved for him to be the most precious thing in all the world, something to which he attributes the saving of his own life, it is only natural that he would long to share this wonderful treasure with others. In a nutshell, this is why this website was created. So, onwards and upwards!

Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett

Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett was born in England in 1924. She was a gifted musician and composer, She received her formal education at Trinity College of Music, London, and held the degree of Bachelor of Music from Durham University. She was drawn to a religious vocation at an early age, though she was unable to fulfill her longing for the renunciate life until her mid-thirties. She studied Buddhism with the eminent Sri Lankan teacher, Venerable Professor Saddhatissa in London, and became a member of, and taught classes at, the Buddhist Society. She met the Very Reverend Keido Chisan Koho, Zenji, Chief Abbot of Soji Temple, Yokohoma (one of the two main monasteries of the Soto Zen Tradition of Buddhism in Japan) in London when he was on a visit to the West. He invited her to come to Japan to train as his monastic disciple. In 1961, she left England and travelled first to Malaysia, where she was ordained as a monk by the Venerable Seck Kim Seng, Abbot of Cheng Hoon Teng Temple in Malacca. She then went on to Japan where she became the monastic disciple of Koho Zenji. She received Dharma Transmission from Koho Zenji and was named by him as a Dharma Heir. She served as Foreign Guestmaster of Soji Temple. After her master's death, she returned to the West. She founded Shasta Abbey in Northern California in 1970. She also founded Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland, England, and is revered as the Founder of many other temples started by her disciples and grand-disciples, including North Cascades Buddhist Priory (the temple of which this writer is the abbot). Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett died in 1996. She left a profound legacy of Teaching.

When Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett arrived at Soji Temple as a new trainee, she was asked, "What do you seek?" She replied, "The Perfection of Zen!" Her training and teaching throughout the rest of her life demonstrated her commitment to living the Perfection of Zen. How to Grow a Lotus Blossom shows that Perfection in a unique and magnificent way.

Who was How to Grow a Lotus Blossom Written For?

How to Grow a Lotus Blossom is a book for anyone who is intuitively drawn to it and who finds, upon starting to read it, that it resonates deeply within their own heart.

How to Grow a Lotus Blossom describes a great spiritual journey. It is a personal story that exemplifies deep spiritual Truth that is universal. In publishing this book, Rev. Master was not only expressing a compassionate longing to share with suffering humankind the Way to the cessation of suffering, but also expressing her deep respect for, and faith in, the spiritual capacity of other people. As the subtitle, How a Zen Buddhist Prepares for Death, indicates, Rev. Master especially hoped that this book would prove to be of help to people coming face to face with death.

How to Get the Book

Howto Grow a Lotus Blossom was first published in 1977 by Shasta Abbey Press. A revised and expanded second edition was published in 1993.

As of current date (March, 2016), How to Grow a Lotus Blossom is out of print, but the plan is to republish it electronically.

Meanwhile, if you wish to read How to Grow a Lotus Blossom and have not been able to find a copy at a reasonable price (scarcity has driven up the price of both used copies and and the few remaining new copies), please contact us at the following email address:

tjsncbp@gmail.com

We have some copies of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom that we can loan out if the borrower is willing to put down a refundable deposit and pay the modest shipping cost both directions. (U.S. Postal Service media mail rates are very reasonable.)

Other Recommended Reading

How to Grow a Lotus Blossom was written by a monk who trained and taught in the Soto Zen (Serene Reflection) tradition of Buddhism. It should not be surprising, therefore, that this book is a thoroughly Buddhist— and thoroughly Soto Zen—document. I strongly recommend that anyone reading How to Grow a Lotus Blossom also read other books by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, especially Zen is Eternal Life and The Wild White Goose. These books, as well as some of Rev. Master’s recorded Dharma talks, are available as free downloads from Shasta Abbey. Just go to www.shastaabbey.org or google “Shasta Abbey”. At the top of the home page click on “Teachings”. This will take you to the Dharma page.   (“Dharma” means “Truth”, “the Teaching”.) In the "Teachings" list on the left side of this page, click on “Publications” (near the bottom of the list) in order to access the books.

How to Read How to Grow a Lotus Blossom

How to Grow a Lotus Blossom is not “light reading”. It is a pure and profound expression of religious experience and teaching. It has a powerful effect on anyone who reads it. Strong medicine is usually best taken in small, regular doses. I recommend reading just one or two of the many short chapters (called “Plates” because the text of each chapter is accompanied by, and explains the meaning of, an illustration) at each reading. Read the text; look at the illustrations that accompany each chapter; be still with it; let it sink in.

If the reader finds that, part way into the book, it is all just too much, it may be best to put the book aside for a while. That does not mean that there is something wrong with either the reader or the book: it may be that the timing is not quite right yet. I encourage people to trust their own spiritual instincts and to keep an open mind and heart.

Generosity of Spirit

In Buddhism it is said that the gift of the Dharma far surpasses all other gifts. Rev. Master spoke of her spiritual journey in 1976 and 1977, as "the greatest experience of my life". This experience made it possible for Rev. Master to train and teach at a deeper level and point the way for others to do the same. In the last paragraph of the Foreword to the second edition of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Rev. Master explains why she is publishing the book:

"Fear of being laughed at, fear of being regarded as a publicity-seeker or a crank, fear of what the world may think may stop a lot of people from writing down, and being willing to admit to and share, what they do experience. I personally feel this to be wrong. In a day and age when far too many people are terrified of death, perhaps far too few are willing to admit to what they, themselves, have experienced when brought back from the door of death and far too many are afraid of what the medical profession and others will say if they speak of their experiences. If those who have experienced these things speak out, much fear can be removed, much joy can be experienced and much grief prevented. For these reasons I wish to share with the reader this great experience.”

 

Click here to go on to Part I of the Reflections

Click here to return to the Table of Contents of Book One: How to Grow a Lotus Blossom: Reflections

 

 

Click here to go to Table of Contents of Book Two: How to Grow a Lotus Blossom: Reflections in a Disciple's Life

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