“I have been holding my deep aspiration to establish a practice temple. Although I kept this intention in my heart for many years, I did not have a way to support the practice. Finally, now, we have attained a good place. We have a location to practice together – Great Tree Temple — in Alexander, North Carolina. We wish to establish this temple of Great Tree where practitioners can participate in the practice and deepen their understanding…”
Teijo’s Vow: Zendo Anniversary September 2, 2012, Rev. Teijo Munnich
Great Tree’s Story
Rev. Teijo Munnich began to envision a residential center for women and a community practice center in 1983. After a long search for a site, Great Tree Zen Women’s Temple opened its doors in September of 2005. The name, Great Tree or Dai-juji means a tree that reaches in many directions and nourishes all beings beneath the canopy and among the branches.
Our mission is to create community, a sangha, based on teachings of Dogen Zenji in the Soto Zen tradition of Buddhism, and which serves all whose path brings them to Great Tree. Great Tree Zen Temple offers Sesshin, Dharma study, Zazen instruction, family and youth programs, retreats and workshops. While long and short term residencies are available only to women, all other programs are open to all. Our schedule includes ongoing weekly, monthly and annual special events and ceremonies. We are a 501C-3 religious organization.
Planning for Growth
In 2011 the Board of Directors conducted a thorough survey of our site, 6.6 acres facing southwest along Dry Ridge, outside Alexander, NC. Our aim was to provide an overview for mapping the future of Great Tree to include residential & retreat lodging, improve access, mindful land management, including meditation trails, gardens, fruit bearing trees and native plants. Working together, the committee developed a site plan with the intention of improvement of our existing facility, then expanding in the near future.
In preparation, we raised funds in 2013 to pay down our mortgage to reduce our overhead. With the help of the sangha, by the end of 2014, we reduced our debt load significantly half-way through its term. Currently, through we have two years left on a modest private loan to become debt free.
We are now faced with critical four challenges in order to lay a path for our future:
- Develop sustainable and stable support for monthly expenses and residents
- Renovation and repair of our 34 plus year old buildings
- Practice of Good Stewardship of our 6.6 acres of woody former farmland
- To make Practice, Dharma Study & Zazen accessible for a broader community
Grow Great Tree – Capital Campaign
For Great Tree to flourish and flower, we need to be able to become more accessible and cultivate a community of practice and joyful calm on our beautiful ridge-top site here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. This practice includes study, meditation, mindful walks and outdoor work.
With focus on growing Zen practice, here, the pressing problem of inadequate facilities must be addressed. The current buildings, the residency and practice hall were originally built as housing for a family of four. These structures, built are in serious need of repair and upkeep. The one-lane gravel road requires monthly grading and regular maintenance of drainage ditches and over-growth vision blocking shrubbery. The retreat cabin is dangerously listing and cannot be used until repaired — without it we have fewer beds for retreat guests and students. We have a pressing challenge to provide simple lodging during retreats; the living room serves as a dining hall. We must take mindful care of the land and buildings that sustain us, even more so in an age of uncertainty and change.
After 12 years here, we need to expand our offering so we are not limited by the building capacity. How important is it that Great Tree be for all people, to have a place of practice and retreat, a place of quiet away from the busy world. Great Tree is growing, but needs tending and nurturing.
A capital campaign is not so much about buildings or raising money, it is about preservation of the future, one we may not even be able to imagine. Where each one who arrives here might find a way to help cultivate in themselves a place of practice and renewal through meditation, practice and day to day mindfulness.
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