Maylie Scott — Kushin Seisho/Vast Mind Clear Shining — passed away ten years ago on May 10, 2001 at the age of 68. At Rin Shinji (Forest Heart Temple), the Zen center she had created and led for too brief a time in Arcata, California, a circle of close friends and family sat with Maylie as her life slipped away. Her cancer had come on with terrible swiftness. Maylie worked toward her death for a solid week, without noticeable distress. But those of us with her surely had our own distress and grief. At the end, Maylie’s breath got quieter, tapering off. Her breath came slowly, with several long pauses, then our good friend moved into the great mystery beyond this world.
It is hard to realize a full decade has gone by. My dharma sister Maylie is still alive in my practice and memory. She and I shared a passion for a better world and an end to suffering. We worked together at Buddhist Peace Fellowship, at the Federal prison in Dublin, and in the endlessly frustrating struggle against American militarism. Maylie led the way. She was arrested again and again blocking railway tracks at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. She worked with AIDS patients and fed homeless people. She was the first mentor for Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s BASE programs and served tirelessly on the BPF board. There are whole worlds of bodhisattva practice in any of these activities.
Her Zen practice was seamless, sitting every day (often twice a day) at Berkeley Zen Center, then up in Arcata for the last few years of her life, pulling together the strands of a wonderful anarchistic community up there. She and I shared a seat at BZC as tanto, or head of practice. And we received dharma transmission together from Sojun Weitsman Roshi at Tassajara Zen Monastery in the autumn of 1998. I remember the moment, immediately after our transmission was complete, when Maylie realized that she was ready to move to Arcata and take up life as a Zen teacher on her own terms. She seemed illuminated by this decision.
Maylie worked with AIDS patients and fed homeless people. She went into prisons and jails to teach men and women behind bars. She was the first mentor for Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s BASE programs and served tirelessly on the BPF board. At home on Ashby Avenue she raised her children Cassie, John, and Mika. In the years before moving to Arcata, she lovingly and patiently saw her own aging mother through her last years.
Maylie was like a tree—feet firmly on the ground, graying head and smile reaching towards the sky. At Berkeley Zen Center, at BPF, and in other circles of life, I relied on Maylie for unsentimental clarity and heart. As a dharma sister she was always willing to listen fully, to challenge assumptions—even her own—and to point again and again to the strength of zazen. She was an exemplar for women practitioners coming into their own Zen strength. In life and death she showed us how to bear the unbearable.
In the years since her death, I find myself doing some of the things that she began. Along with other dedicated souls, I have been teaching the women prisoners at FCI Dublin. From time to time I have been arrested at anti-nuclear actions. I regularly visit Arcata to work with the Zen community there. (Much as I love these folks, I have only a fraction of the skill she manifested in that wild and wooly place.) I try to remember to meet each being as a Buddha and to “devotedly do” as she did. Maylie reworked the Metta Sutta, the Buddhas discourse on lovingkindness into a prayer, blending her own words with the Buddha’s. We chant this verse at BZC, at prisons where I teach, and wherever travels may take me. I have included her Metta Prayer below in English. It pleases me to say it has been translated and recited in Spanish and Hindi.
The unique point of this prayer emerges in the next to last line: “…our peace in the world is a result of our work for justice.” The notion of “justice” is not commonly found in the Buddha’s teachings, and some people are uncomfortable with it. The Buddha often spoke of “just” or correct, in balance. The Western image of Justice is a blindfolded woman, impartial even to her own preferences, holding a scale. Justice is about balance, finding the proper balance in our lives and in our society. Maylie was passionate about social justice without turning away from her adversaries, without seeing them as less than fully human. And in her steady everyday devotion to zazen, she was again and again finding balance, finding what was just in her own life.
I miss Maylie keenly. It is a little lonelier for me here on this planet without her. Maylie Scott’s teaching continues; our own work continues. Her voice and actions lead us on.
— Hozan Alan Senauke
May I be well, loving, and peaceful. May all beings be well, loving, and peaceful.
May I be at ease in my body, feeling the ground beneath my seat and feet, letting my back be long and straight, enjoying breath as it rises and falls and rises.
May I know and be intimate with body mind, whatever its feeling or mood, calm or agitated, tired or energetic, irritated or friendly.
Breathing in and out, in and out, aware, moment by moment, of the risings and passings.
May I be attentive and gentle towards my own discomfort and suffering.
May I be attentive and grateful for my own joy and well-being.
May I move towards others freely and with openness.
May I receive others with sympathy and understanding.
May I move towards the suffering of others with peaceful and attentive confidence.
May I recall the Bodhisattva of compassion; her 1,000 hands, her instant readiness for action, each hand with an eye in it, the instinctive knowing what to do.
May I continually cultivate the ground of peace for myself and others and persist, mindful and dedicated to this work, independent of results.
May I know that my peace and the world’s peace are not separate; that our peace in the world is a result of our work for justice.
May all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.
— Maylie Scott, 1994