A New Beginning

Since before coming to Halifax in 2013, it's been my dream to build a temple here, something with walls and a roof and a daily practice. So when I went to Japan a few years ago and visited one of my teachers, Daiken Yoshitani-roshi (abbot of Myōhonji in Isayaha, Nagasaki), I asked him to help with a temple name. After we talked about our community and Nova Scotia for a while, he offered up Sensōji (千湊寺): the sen means a thousand, or infinite; sō means harbour, but it also means "to gather"; and ji is temple. So it's a thousand harbours, an infinite gathering. I've carried this around ever since, wondering if we might one day have that sign on the door.

A few months ago, after we'd been practicing online for a while, the board started asking if there might be an argument for expanding our sense of who we are. Our sangha now includes people from all over the world; on any given morning, we might be sitting with people in England, Scotland, Indiana, and New Brunswick, and on a Tuesday, we stretch even beyond that, to people on the west coast and in Alaska. Without meaning to, we've expanded our borders far beyond the edges of Nova Scotia.

It means a lot to me that we are based where we are. Just before moving here, I read an article commenting on how so many Zen centres in Canada were actually branches of centres in the US; I wanted to plant this community, and myself, firmly in Canadian soil. I still feel that way, and I look forward to seeing how we grow again once we can once again explore in-person practice. But it's clear that when that time comes, we will need to maintain the connections we've formed this year, to continue to be responsive to what this community has become, which is a haven without borders.

In that spirit, last Tuesday we received overwhelming support for starting to shift away from identifying as Zen Nova Scotia and toward becoming Thousand Harbours Zen. The temple part isn't in place yet—that discussion is still taking shape—but Thousand Harbours feels like a true description of what we've become and who we want to be.

This will be a process, but slowly, over the next weeks and months, you'll see the name changing: on the podcast, on Facebook, on our site. I hope it will feel, as it does for me, like a creative opportunity, a chance for us to look at how we got here, what we're doing, and what we most want to offer going forward.

I listened to a talk a few months ago by Joan Amaral, in which she was encouraging her sangha to be creative and adaptable. She said big organizations can't change so easily—it's too hard to turn a big ship. A "scrappy little sangha" like theirs, though—that can change shape and direction as needed. We, too, are a scrappy little sangha. But we're also vast beyond measure, without boundary. Whatever we call ourselves, I feel incredibly that all of you are a part of who we are, of what we're making. Thank you.

Gassho, -koun

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