by AZG, posted 09/04/11 03:26:49
On May 10, 2001, after a brief illness, Maylie Scott, Roshi, died peacefully at her home in Arcata, California. She was the founding abbess of Rin Shin-ji, Forest Heart Soto Zen Temple, in Arcata, Humboldt County, California. Her family was with her during the last weeks of her illness.
Maylie was born March 29, 1935, grew up in New York City, and graduated from Harvard University in 1956. She married the same year, and after some travel, she and her family moved to Berkeley, California, where she received a Masters degree in Social Work from UC, Berkeley. Subsequently she worked for Alameda County Mental Health as a therapist and administrator.
She began her study and practice of Zen Buddhism with Sojun, Roshi, Mel Weitsman in 1971, was ordained a priest in 1988, and received full transmission from him during a seven-day ceremony at Tassajara in 1998. Alan Senauke, her dharma brother, received transmission at the same time. Maylie's dharma transmission name is Kushin Seisho, Vast Mind, Clearly Shining. Maylie called Sojun Roshi her "root" teacher, but another of her teachers was Maurine Stuart, Roshi. In the 1980âs Maurine came periodically from the East Coast to lead women-only sesshin. Maylie was one of the women who attended, and through those encounters, they became close friends.
In addition to her intense devotion to zazen, Maylie was a "devotedly do" activist. She was on the Board of Directors of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, involved in anti-nuclear issues, a founder of and mentor for BASE (Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement), and was active both in Berkeley and Arcata in prisoner advocacy work. She had toured Pelican Bay Prison north of Arcata and had developed a relationship with a prisoner there.
From 1990 until 1998, Maylie, was the visiting teacher for the Arcata Zen Group. She came up every other month from Berkeley to conduct sesshin, to begin a BASE group, and to encourage our practice as well as to give greater structure to our loosely knit group. In July of 1999, she moved permanently into her home in Arcata and directed the conversion of her garage into a zendo. Because she loved the Redwood forests and walked almost daily in Arcata's nearby Redwood Park, she named the zendo Rin Shin-ji, Forest Heart Temple.
In the month and weeks and days before her death, both while in the hospital and at home, Maylie was surrounded by family, friends, and students. After she was released from the hospital, she insisted on seeing anyone and everyone who wanted to see her. A schedule was set up for people to see her one by one for 10 or 15 minutes. More formally family, students, and friends were invited into her room four times a day to sit for 15 minutes and to chant the Heart Sutra. Rose B., an RN and close disciple of Maylie's, directed these gatherings. Family members always joined in. After Sojun Roshi, Alan Senauke, and Mary Mocine, priest at the Vallejo Zen Center, arrived, they too were present to support our sitting and chanting.
Early in the week that Maylie died, it was decided that these sittings and chanting should take place in the zendo. Some of Maylie's students as well as Alan and Mary were sitting together at 4:15 on the afternoon of May 10 when word came down from the house that Kushin Seisho, Maylie Scott, Roshi, had died. After the family had spent time with her, and Mel, Alan, and Mary had shaved her head and their own, the rest of us went to her room where she lay in her robes, covered with bright flowers. We crowded around her bed and stood quietly for a time before ceremonies began in the flower filled, candle-lit setting where so many of her students had had dokusan with her.
Her body was then carried downstairs from her bedroom and placed in an open, plain pine coffin, made by one of Maylie's longtime students, in the living room. The coffin was then carried down to the zendo. The ceremonies in the zendo, led by Sojun Roshi and assisted by Mary and Alan, then began. All present had a chance to ask questions of Sojun Roshi and to offer flowers and words to Maylie. After some three hours, the thirty-five to forty people present returned to Maylie's house for food and drink.
The following day at noon, Alan led the circumambulation of the coffin as we chanted the names of the Buddha's and bodhisattvas. People who had not been present the previous evening had a chance to speak to or about Maylie. On Monday morning May 14, there was a last gathering in the chapel in nearby Eureka where Maylie was cremated. Like all the other ceremonies, it combined Buddhist and Christian elements. It began with chanting of the Heart Sutra, certainly Maylie's favorite, followed by recitation of the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo. In the Soto Zen tradition, this is traditionally chanted 21 times for 49 days for the deceased. Maylie had told her students that she had done this for her and her sister's mother. We at Rin Shin-ji are doing the same for Maylie. After the chanting, Father Erik Duff of St. Albana's Episcopal Church opened comments with a tribute to Maylie. While Maylie was at home, he had administered the Eucharist to both her and Mother Mary John (Maylie's sister), as well as to other members of the family, who attended St. Alban's the three Sundays they were in Arcata. There followed a vocal solo by her son John and comments by members of the family and by some of Maylie's students and friends.
Near the end of the service, we read:
On the evening of Maylie's death, in response to a question, one of Sojun Roshi's teaching's was: