A Message from Matt Yowonske

Dear Sangha,

Last year was difficult. Nearly a year has passed since the United States has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. By now, most of us have adapted to the situation the best we can. The Zen Center of Pittsburgh continues to weather this turbulent time. With most of our services going virtual, I have been surprised and actually encouraged to see that we continue to grow. In my four years of attending services at the Zen Center, I have never seen more people gather weekly (online) than before I did in person. I hope to see all of these new faces in person once the pandemic passes.

In addition to being Treasurer, I lead the Introduction to Buddhism/Soto Zen class monthly. Again, I have never before seen the number of new students as we have now. In times like these, many are questioning what is important to them, learning new coping strategies, and challenging the status quo. In Buddha’s time, this was no different. Buddha began his quest to solve the riddle of dukkha after pondering the four signs of existence: birth, aging, sickness and death. The pandemic has driven many others to ponder the same questions as Buddha did.

Spiritual practice is not easy. We are all learning that lesson now. Personally, I have struggled on that cushion before the pandemic and of course I struggle now. But I still practice. I find the most difficult times to be the most influential and the most illuminating. Most of us don’t want to be with our pain. We’re afraid of being overwhelmed by it, so we try to run away from our pain. But this never works.

When we get in touch with suffering, understanding will arise. Understanding suffering will bring about compassion. It’s understanding, compassion and generosity that will heal us. I welcome everyone to be brave enough to get in touch with their suffering as I am trying to do through this time.

We have been fortunate enough to make the Sangha stronger through your support. If you are able to, please consider contributing either financially or through your time. Even your simple presence is enough if money is scarce.

We will get through this. Remember — no mud, no lotus.

In Gassho,

Matthew Yowonske

Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Zen Center of Pittsburgh