Friday, December 10, 2010

Passing the Torch

Tomorrow our teacher Darlene Cohen begins a week-long dharma transmission ceremony with priests Sarita Tamayo-Moraga and Cynthia Kear. For those of you unfamiliar with this, dharma transmission is the step which transforms a priest into a teacher, giving her the right to pass on the lineage, and to have her own students.

Darlene has been in the hospital for the past week with pneumonia, brought on by her weakened condition from chemo and blood transfusions. She has returned home knowing that her time is short, yet determined to go ahead with this last step in her own role as head teacher.

There is a large support team gathered at the house, to cook, give massages, provide comfort, and help with the ceremony. Tony, Darlene's husband and our teacher, is of course the main source of strength and stability. But there are many people from Darlene's past, old friends from her years of Zen practice, who have come now to be with her. The house is also filled with flowers and cards from all of us in sangha who are with her in spirit, even though we cannot be there in person.

When Darlene is gone, Sarita and Cynthia have the task of carrying on her work, of leading Russian River Zendo and the Healdsburg sangha and the other groups Darlene has formed, of continuing the ties of the family of practitioners she has created. Both are wonderful women, who will make wonderful teachers. I know that both wish that their dharma transmission was taking place under different circumstances...but life is what it is. And there is no more powerful example for all of us to follow than that of Darlene herself.

I wish I could be there, to watch the process. Instead, I must wait in the background, like many of my fellow sangha members, sending good thoughts, and continuing my own practice. Living upright - that is my task, the best way that I can help. I trust that my opportunity to do more will arise, and that I will recognize it when it comes.

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