Shakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday: What It Means For Us

MattAndJojang's Blog

The real Buddha sits within.

ZEN MASTER JOSHU

Today, April 8, we celebrate the birthday of Shakyamuni Buddha. Sharing this short reflection about what his birthday means for us.

We could celebrate the birth of the Buddha thinking that we are having a birthday party for a somewhat mythological guy who lived several thousands of years ago. And that would be okay, but, it would really be missing the point. Because the point of Buddha’s birthday is to take a day out to celebrate a buddha being born, but to do that, really, we have to understand what “buddha” really is.

Now, scholars agree that there probably was a man who lived in this region of this world, around this time, and was a great person and a great teacher. And today is as good a day as any to deeply thank this person for what he brought to the…

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No Beginning, No End

MattAndJojang's Blog

Painting: Enso (Artist: Soen Mugaku)

No beginning,
No end.
Our True Self
Is unborn and deathless;
It is empty,
Yet boundless.

–Matt

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A Glimpse of Oneness: A Zen Practitioner’s Experience of our True Self

MattAndJojang's Blog

ICM House of Prayer (Photo: Baguio Zen Center)

When a flower blooms, the world springs forth.

THE BLUE CLIFF RECORD

Sometime in March of 1999, I attended a one-week Zen retreat. Up to that time, I was practicing Zen meditation on-and-off, mostly by myself, for a little more than 20 years. I attended the retreat to simply jump start my Zen practice. Never did I expect that something wondrous was going to happen to me.

The retreat started uneventfully. Sr. Sonia Punzalan Roshi, our Zen teacher, was late. She explained that the traffic was terrible. It started with an orientation talk.

For a day or two, we were asked to count our breaths, after which we were assigned the koan Mu. We were asked to synchronize the koan Mu with our breath. Sitting with an erect back in the meditation hall, we were asked to say Mu mentally with each…

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2020 Christmas Letter

Lord, help me to live this day quietly, peacefully. To lean upon Thy great strength trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will patiently, serenely. To meet others peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow confidently, courageously. Amen.

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

2020 has been a year of unexpected events that none of us has ever asked for.

A lingering pandemic, devastating floods, wild forest fires, volcano eruption, not to mention the economic impact all this has wrought to us and the world.

I guess, none of us can truly understand why all these are happening, but I surmise that Someone is telling us something … I saw an FB post from a friend’s wall:

“I thought 2020 would be the year I get everything I want. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have. “

The year started with a visit from Susan, Martha, and company who came all the way from Canada. Matthew was so happy to see them after a very long time! It was such a joyful reunion.

Time spent with Jun is always a delightful experience. Jun and Matthew, who’ve been friends for almost 43 years, were brought together by their love for Zen and meditation. Hope to see you again soon!

By the end of January, we were overjoyed to see our dear, dear friends – Dave and Wawi – who came all the way from Manila. They had to come up to Baguio to attend a convention, and we appreciate it that they took time out to visit us!

Weng and Babes — Jojang’s friends from Manila – also dropped by our house. Our pleasant exchange of light-hearted conversations, lifted up our spirits.

Jojang had a chance to blow her birthday cake that Tita Teri and Tita Lety brought on their visit to celebrate her 60th birthday! Oh my! What a delightful and enjoyable time we spent together.

Come mid-March the country – and the world – was put on lockdown. It took us all by surprise but  I’m still blessed. Why?  Because I don’t mind being stuck at home with Matthew. #cheesy!

Last July, our dearest Tita Dory passed away. Matthew and I were deeply saddened by this news. We wanted to pay our last respects to her and dropped by for a short visit to the wake.

We are deeply grateful for the love and concern of our doctor and friend, Dr. Chona. She volunteered to give our flu shots at home to spare Matthew the risk of going out during the pandemic…. Thank you so much, Dr. Chona!

With most of us at home, most meet ups are virtual through Zoom or Google Meet. This has proved to be a big blessing especially for Matthew:

What turned to be a global crisis during this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic; turned out, for Matthew, to be a time of grace and blessing as Matthew reconnected with our Zen community – Bahay Dalangin Zen Community.

The weekly Zen meditation meetings, the bi-monthly zazenkais (one-day Zen meditation meetings) and sesshins (Zen retreats) has significantly deepened Matthew’s  spiritual practice.

Matthew is profoundly grateful to our sangha (Zen community), especially to our teachers — Sr. Sonia, Fr. Efren and Lydia…

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its twelfth year, we have grown to have 384 followers and have surpassed the half a million hits at 531,439 .  As our cyber community continues to grow, we never expected this blog to touch so many people. Thank you for allowing us to share our lives with you.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and may you have abundant blessings for the coming New Year.

— Matthew and Jojang

The Dance of Life

MattAndJojang's Blog

Photo: Israr Syed/Flickr

At the still point of the turning world…

There the dance is.

T.S. ELIOT

When the boundaries between self and other blurs,
The ego dissolves.
When I and you interpenetrate each other,
The self disappears.
There is just the dance of life–
Dancing itself!
Where is the self?
Gone!
Where is the other?
Gone!

Gate, Gate, Parasmamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
(Gone, gone, gone all the way over,
everyone gone to the other shore.
Enlightenment!)

–Matt

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The Matter of Life and Death

MattAndJojang's Blog

When you have attained your self-nature, you can free yourself from life-and-death. How will you free yourself from life-and-death when the light of your eyes is falling to the ground?

The Gateless Gate

When we start to work on and reflect on koans, certain koans stand out and resonate with us more than the others. One such koan for me is this koan from the Gateless Gate, which partly reads, “How will you free yourself from life-and-death when the light of your eyes is falling to the ground?”

At first glance, some of you may wonder why such a koan which deals with death is something that is close to my heart.

As some of you know, the Dalai Lama meditates 5 hours every day. And one of the things he meditates on is death. A journalist once asked him why he meditates on such a morbid subject matter…

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2019 Christmas Letter

bamboos

In the garden
The tall bamboos are dancing
The sound of the wind.

 

ZenRetreat Collage.jpg

The year started with a joyful note for us when we were invited to join a retreat by the Bahay Dalangin Zen Community. There, we met with Sr. Sonia Punzalan (Matthew’s Zen Teacher),  Fr. Momoy Borromeo, and the rest of the sangha. Matthew was given the chance to share with the group his Zen journey which was well received. During Mass, Fr. Momoy had a healing session and prayed over us… What a beautiful moment, indeed! Thank you Bahay Dalangin Zen Community for your warm welcome.

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The next few months were challenging. We are grateful to the Holy Spirit Sisters who offered their place for us to live in. Thank you Sr. Linda, Sr. Marijo, Sr. Mahil and the rest of the community of Sisters and the staff!

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We are deeply grateful to our dear, dear friends – Ricky and Corito – who were an answered prayer at the time that we so desperately needed it.

Your home, The Cabana, is so beautiful with a lush garden that makes it conducive for prayer and meditation. By the way, the Haiku posted at the beginning of this letter was composed by Matthew in a moment of inspiration in this marvelous home.

We would like to also thank Ronnie and Jimmy who took the time and effort to help us fix up the place.

NotreDame-Oct2019.jpg

Last October, I rushed Matthew to the hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. The sun-less and continuous stormy weather during the months before that took its toll on his health. Thank God he was brought just in time and recovered quite well. Thank you so much Dra. Chona for always taking care of us.

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Sometime November, I was able to visit Manila to see family and friends. It was a short but hectic trip. My love tank is full !  Thank you everyone for taking time for me.

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During the year, Matthew and I had visitors.  Thank you for cheering us up and brightening our lives!

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its eleventh year, we have grown to have 368 followers and have surpassed the half a million hits at 520,269 views. As our cyber community continues to grow, we never expected this blog to touch so many people. Thank you for allowing us to share our lives with you.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and May you have abundant blessings for the coming New Year.”

~ Matthew and Jojang

 

2018 Christmas Letter

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

2018 is a surprisingly busy year for Matthew and myself.

We are grateful to Sr. Sonia, who encourages and inspires us in our spiritual journey. Through her,  we met two wonderful people, Ricky and Corito, who have become endeared friends. We are grateful for their love and friendship. In the words of Matthew, “I am always energized by the visits of Ricky and Corito.”

We are also thankful to Sr. Marijo who, in spite of her busy schedule, makes it a point to visit us at least once a month for fellowship, prayer and sharing. Her constant presence in our lives has been always a source of support and joy. We are always happy to see her.

Through the efforts of Sr. Marijo, our parish priest, Fr. Edgar Lumanlang, visited us on Matthew’s birthday when he turned 60! He prayed for us and gave communion to Matthew. The best gift ever is to receive Jesus through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist!

The year began with Matthew’s delightful and unexpected reunion with Jun who came with Sr. Marijo. It has been 40 years since they last saw each other. Sr. Marijo introduced Jun and Matthew and a small group of students to Zen meditation. They had a wonderful time of catching up with each others’  almost a lifetime of spiritual journey.

After Jun left my sister Cristy went up to Baguio. We had fun sharing stories and taking photos of each other.  After Cristy’s visit, Luth, who is based in the US and whom I have not seen in decades, went up to Baguio for an overnight trip just to see me. I am deeply touched by her gesture of taking time to be with me. We spent a full day catching up on our lives.

As soon as Luth left, I met up with my dear friend Wawi and her family who also went up to Baguio for a visit.  We enjoyed our time together during breakfast at Chocolate de Batirol in Camp John Hay and bought some pasalubongs in Good Shepherd. Not to be missed is Wawi’s favorite, the raisin bread from Palaganas Bakery!

We were happy to see members of the Sacred Heart Community, who dropped by on April 1 to celebrate Bro. Paul Aguas’ – Matthew’s Dad – birthday! This enjoyable bunch of happy brothers and sisters is so much fun to be with.

Still in April, I went down to Manila to be with my best friend, Natalie and her family, because of the passing of her Dad. It was also an opportune time to meet up with my siblings whom I have not seen in a while.

Matthew was delighted to reunite with members of Sacred Heart Community in the 1970’s – Pia, Jean, Flor, and Helen. Everyone had fun reminiscing the good old days! Since then, we have now reconnected through Facebook.

June was a special month for us. Besides celebrating Matthew’s 60th birthday and our 16th year wedding anniversary, we were happy to meet up with Binky’s parents. I have happy memories of them when Binky and I were still office mates and I would go up to Baguio for a visit. They have big hearts and have always made me feel loved and welcome. It was sad though, because that was the last time we were going to see Tita Rose.  A month after, she passed on.

September was a stressful month for us because I had to rush Matthew to the hospital where he was confined. He had an allergic reaction to a diabetes medicine that was prescribed to him. But we thank God, he was able to recover albeit slowly. We were happy to see Gie and Mel, who also dropped by the house.

Come October, I had breakfast with Candy and Riley who went up to Baguio for a quick visit. After they left, my cousin from the US, Ate Ely came to the house with Ate Genie and Bobbie Malay (Ate Ely’s good friend). I was excited to spend time with her since I have not seen her in more than 10 years. Her company brought happy memories of my childhood.

Beth was a high school chum whom I have not seen since 1977 when we both graduated from High School. We met up because she was vacationing in Baguio.  It was so much fun and it seemed like we didn’t run out of stories.  She had to postpone an appointment two times because we could not seem to get enough of each other!

At the same time that Beth and I were together, Matthew was spending time with Leo at home. We always look forward to Leo’s visits because his pleasing personality makes him great company!

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its tenth year, we have grown to have 350+  followers and have reached an astonishing 497,000+ hits! We are amazed and delighted because people from around the world are visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year.”

~ Matthew and Jojang

 

2017 Christmas Letter

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

–Henri Nouwen

It was a delightful year of rekindling friendships for both Matthew and myself.

I was able to attend our 40th high school reunion to celebrate our 40th Ruby Year Anniversary. With lots of laughter and sometimes sentimental moments, I had a great time reminiscing about our wonderful high school years and meeting my high school chums.

When I got home from my short stint in Manila, it was Matthew’s turn to have his own wonderful reunion experience. Sr. Sonia came to the house for a visit. He was overjoyed to meet her, having not seen her for almost 20 years! Sr. Sonia is Matthew’s Zen meditation teacher, who played a major and transformative role in his life. Her guidance and encouragement has opened up new vistas, making him realize that there are possibilities in the spiritual life he never dreamed of.

Sometime middle of the year, we met up with Mel and Gie whom we’ve not seen in almost 10 years! We enjoyed catching up with what was happening in our own lives.

Another happy reunion for me was meeting up with Lolit, whom I have not seen in more than 15 years. After spending hours together having dinner and dessert, we both felt that time was not enough. How we both wish we had more time together!

Matthew had a celebration of sorts when he was again able to sit in meditation with a group of old friends after more than 15 years — something he loved to do. For many years, he was only able to meditate by himself. Thanks to the encouragement of endeared friends – Sr. Marijo, Flor, Nena and John, who made all this possible! Looking forward to more “sits in meditation” with you in 2018!

We capped off the year with an 80th-year birthday celebration of our godfather and dearest Tito Peter in a beautiful resort in Asin. It’s the first time I ever saw Matthew get sun burned. Needless, to say we enjoyed ourselves and the food was delish!

Of course, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its ninth year, we have grown to have 333 followers and have reached an exciting 450,800+ hits! We are happy because people are visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

May this holiday season sparkle and shine. May all of your wishes and dreams come true. And may you feel God’s presence in your life all year round.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

–Matthew & Jojang

2016 Christmas Letter

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I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude—to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.

~ Thomas Merton

“Matthew, can I visit you?” Sr. Marijo was on the other end of the line.

“Sure, Sister! I would love that.”

A flood of wonderful memories crossed through Matthew’s mind as he told me that we were going to have a visitor. He remembered this verse from Thomas Merton who has largely influenced his life.

Sr. Marijo introduced Zen to Matthew almost 40 years ago. With a small group of friends, they would regularly visit her and sit in meditation together. Needless to say, it was a life changing experience for them. Since then, Matthew shares to me how Zen has helped him deepen his Christian faith and how it has helped him cope with the challenges of life.

I really enjoyed listening to their animated conversation and as Matthew describes it, “It’s as if the conversation just stopped for a while and we took off from where we left off.”  I guess these are just the stuff that real friendships are made of.

This year, Matthew and I were quite busy.  We became godparents to the highly energetic and lovable  son of Alex and Robe Ann.  We were also able to attend the 50th Golden Anniversary of our godparents, Tito Peter and Tita Dory. It was so much fun to meet and catch up with many people we’ve not seen in a long time.

Also, this year, our endeared godparent Tito Tony passed away. We are saddened by the loss of one of the most generous persons that we have ever known. Thank you, Tito Tony for everything.

Of course, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its eighth year, we have grown to have 319 followers and have reached a whooping 404,265+ hits! We are happy because people are  visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

May the Blessings of Christmas be with you, May the Christ Child light your way, May God’s holy angels guide you, and keep you safe each day.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Matthew and Jojang