Flowers of Compassion

AZC Sangha member Rich Graf has continued his labor of love & devotion to making offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas amidst the Coronavirus shut-downs, despite the fact that only the residents can been able to enjoy them, until now.
A few words from Rich:
This arrangement is symbolic of my compassionate wish for our particular sangha and the universal Sangha.
This particular arrangement uses a number of different elements, first of which are pussy willow branches. Pussy willow is a traditional March element in Japan. It sprouts in late winter and is a sign for the arrival of spring. Furthermore, appropriate to our current time of disease, pussy willows symbolize “recovery from illness.”
The second element is calendula. Calendula are a hardy, cold weather flower that also presages the arrival of spring. Calendula symbolize “sadness of separation, broken heart and heartache,” which is how many feel in this time of social distancing, illness and death.
The third element is daisy flowers, which represent innocence and purity. 
This arrangement is a reflection of the conditions right now. It is an expression of compassion for the current suffering and a wish for it to cease. I hope this offering is of some benefit to our sangha in these difficult times.
– Rich Graf

September 9th, 2020 – Memorial for René vanZanten

September 23rd, 2020 – Memorial for Fred Shoemaker

Here is the altar for tonight’s memorial ceremony for Fred Shoemaker, Onryu’s father. The flower offering is made up of verbena, chrysanthemums, dahlias and chamomile. The symbolism: 1. white verbena (top)-“pray for me”, 2. chrysanthemums-“condolence, love and devotion”, 3. white dahlias-“gratitude to a parent” and 4. chamomile-“strength in adversity, healing”.

September 2nd, 2020 – Full Moon Altar

Here is how the main altar looked tonight before the Full Moon Ceremony. The flower offering is composed of Texas Gayfeather (Liatris punctata var. mucronata), dry grass and dry Lemon Beebalm. Texas Gayfeather are a native species and don’t have a Japanese symbolism. I associate them with the coming of fall and the Monarchs. Every year at this time, I’m amazed to see these flowers shooting up amid all the dead prairie grass. The Gayfeather blooms in September before the Monarchs migrate south in October. The Monarchs rely on the Gayfeather to make their journey. Today I read this about the Monarch butterfly: “In specific parts of Mexico, the Dia de los Muertos holiday is signaled by the autumn arrival of the mariposa- Monarch butterflies- which are believed to usher in the spirits of the departed. The mariposa magically remind all that life and death are cyclical, one forms the other.”

August 5th, 2020 – Full Moon Altar


In Japan peonies are called “king of flowers”. They symbolize good fortune, wealth, nobility, strength and courage. May we all have good fortune, strength and courage in these hard times.

July 14th, 2020 – AZC Main Altar

Here’s what the main altar looks like now. The flower offering is composed of nandina, marigolds and daisies. The main element, Nandina Domestica, symbolizes “domestics assistance”. Nandina in Japan is also called “sacred bamboo”. It is said to have purifying power and wards off misfortune. In Japan it’s commonly planted around homes. Marigold, In Japan called “thousand happiness chrysanthemums”, symbolizes health and happiness. Daisies symbolize innocence and fond memories. My intention for this offering is to send a wish for the safety, health and happiness of all who are sheltering at home.    — Rich Graf

A Few Gathas, from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Breath:
Picking a Flower
May I pick you, little flower,
gift of Earth and sky?
Thank you, dear bodhisattva,
for making life beautiful.

June 20th, 2020

Here’s the altar set up for the memorial service for Lisa Gunn, Sarah’s ex-wife. May she rest in peace.

June 13th, 2020

Here’s the altar now. The flower offering is Queen Annes Lace (Daucus carota) and Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea). Queen Annes Lace symbolizes haven or sanctuary. Purple coneflowers represent health and strength.

May 30th, 2020

Here’s the main altar now. This flower offering is sunflowers and grass. Sunflowers, the main element, symbolize respect. The grass symbolizes the 10K things or myriad dharmas.

May 26th, 2020

Here’s what’s on the altar now. It is an arrangement of Standing Cypress and Bee Balm from the garden. Sherry planted them next to each other outside. When I saw them, I realized Sherry had made a nice combination and I wanted to recreate this beauty. Thank you, Sherry!
Here’s the Women Ancestor altar. I moved Zenkei Hartman’s picture from the altar to here. It seemed appropriate. This arrangement is using Purple Coneflowers and fennel. Fennel, the main element, symbolizes “worthy of praise”.

March 20th, 2020