“Rosemary Cottage” in Aberdeen, Washington, new home of Plum Mountain Buddhist Community.
The Plum Mountain Buddhist Community in Aberdeen, Washington has moved into new quarters, which will serve as a Buddhist practice center on the Twin Harbors, as well as provide lodging for spiritual director, Kobai Scott Whitney, and office and library space for Plum Mountain Refuge.
“Plum Mountain has been in the trunk of my car for too long,” says Whitney. “Now we have a lease with option to buy on a lovely, quirky old house right on bus lines and within easy walking distance of downtown Aberdeen.”
Where did the name Rosemary Cottage come from? It’s from an old movie says its former occupant, Mary Louise Millner, who has practiced with Kobai. “The house was built in 1923 and was first owned by the Magees. He was the Aberdeen postmaster and a City Council member and his wife was a piano teacher who taught generations of Harbor kids to play. They lived here almost 50 years. My husband and I bought it in 2003 and we called it Rosemary Cottage. It’s from a 1934 movie called ‘Dark Angel’, which starred Merle Oberon and Frederick Marsh. The cottage in the movie was in Kent.”
Plum Mountain's spiritual director, Kobai Scott Whitney.
Whitney says he sees positives as well as cautions when a sangha begins to own property. “Sometimes all the energy of the sangha goes into the property. There are committees for long-term planning, for landscaping, for maintenance, etc. … and of course fund-raising campaigns to meet the costs of mortgage, utilities, upkeep and insurance. Pretty soon the sangha IS the property.”
Plum Mountain Buddhist Community is about finding peace for individuals in their lives, according to Whitney, but also about peace and social justice within the broader community. “People who just want to meditate are certainly welcome here, but our broader mission is to bring the benefits of ethical behavior and mindfulness to those at the margins of our society: the mentally ill, elders, people in recovery from addictions or trauma, as well as those in prison or people without shelter.”
Whitney says that the Buddhadasa tradition of Thai Buddhism, in which his sangha practices, emphasizes working together with other faith communities for the greater good. “Even the sociology of religion research shows us that this is the best way to achieve interfaith trust and appreciation.”
“The quickest way to sabotage our understanding of each other,” Whitney adds, “is to put us in a room together to talk about theology or metaphysics. It’s hopeless! But get us together with the Muslims and the Presbyterians and the Wiccans to cook lunch for the unsheltered or to rehab low-income housing for migrant families and we begin to appreciate each other, at the same time that we are making our various faiths active in the world and witness to its suffering.”
A sangha can treat its place of practice as a club house, Whitney suggests, or as a country club or as what the historical Buddha envisioned: a simple refuge (vihara) from our manic daily lives where people can learn the skills they need to be happy. “I know it sounds dopey,” Whitney acknowledges, “but happiness in this lifetime is what the Buddha taught.”
So whether Rosemary Cottage becomes a club house, a vihara or just the house down the block, Plum Mountain Buddhist Community now begins a new era of its history. A formal dedication will occur in late April or early May.
For more information on Plum Mountain Buddhist Community and its events and practice schedules, please visit: www.plummountain.org.
Contributor: Kobai Scott Whitney.
Photos: Lenny Reed.