The Flourishing of Suzuki Roshi’s Way
Profile: Santa Cruz Zen Center
Profile: Open Zen Community
Mountain Seat Ceremony

The Flourishing of Suzuki Roshi’s Way – Branching Streams Affiliate Sanghas

by Steve Weintraub

The following article by Steve Weintraub was recently published in San Francisco Zen Center’s Sangha News. Here is the complete article, which gives some history and news about Branching Streams.

Suzuki Roshi’s Way is flourishing.

San Francisco Zen Center’s “Branching Streams” Network of Affiliate Sanghas is now comprised of 75 Dharma centers, ranging in size from meeting-once-a-week small sitting groups to established centers with their own Abbesses/Abbots, Boards of Directors, dedicated property, and numerous weekly Dharma offerings.

There are now 65 Affiliates in the United States and another 10 in Europe and Central and South America. Branching Streams—the name comes from a line in a poem by eighth century Zen Master Sekito Kisen—grew out of a recognition, in the mid-80s, that sanghas affiliated with San Francisco Zen Center, around the country and around the globe, were burgeoning, and that they both wanted and would benefit from a closer connection to SFZC and to each other. The mission of the Branching Streams programs is to encourage and support the development of these Affiliate sanghas.

Every other year we hold a large “Gathering of the Branching Streams.” We completed such a conference in early September 2017 in Chicago, hosted by the thriving affiliate, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate.

Branching Streams Gathering, September 2017 (click for larger image)

Forty Branching Streams Leaders were in attendance; we practiced zazen together, had meals together, and informal time. Our two main topics for this particular gathering were the “right use of power” and “Zen practice and social engagement.” There were intense discussions in group sessions both large and small, on these and related topics. People left the Conference feeling more connected to the Dharma and to each other; energized and encouraged.

In addition to the biennial conference, other programs that have been developed in recent years as part of the Branching Streams initiative include:

  • A Fellowship Program that allows senior SFZC-trained practitioners to spend up to six months at a given affiliate, for the mutual benefit of both the senior practitioner and the affiliate.
  • A Tassajara Program that allows a Branching Streams teacher to visit Tassajara during the Summer Guest Season with members of their own sangha, participate in Tassajara practice life and have time as well to meet and study with each other.

    Members of Dharma Vow Zen Sangha (Santa Monica, CA) at Tassajara, Summer 2017

  • A Program that provides lineage documents to Teachers in Branching Streams, for lay and priest ordinations they perform.
  • Branching Streams website to promote communication to and among the Branching Streams Affiliates.

Over the past few years various Affiliates have submitted Profiles of their groups for publication in Sangha News and on the Branching Streams websites. To give a sense of what the Affiliate groups are like, see these three profiles:


Compassionate Presence in Each Moment

Profile: Santa Cruz Zen Center

Buddha’s Birthday, 2006

In 1967 Kobun Chino Roshi, a Japanese Zen priest, came to San Francisco in response to an invitation from Suzuki Roshi to serve as his assistant at Tassajara for three years. Shortly after leaving Tassajara in 1970, Kobun moved to Los Altos and began teaching there at the Haiku Zendo. Also at this time he began a weekly zazen group in Santa Cruz. In 1972 the current Santa Cruz Zen Center at 113 and 115 School Street was offered as a practice place for Kobun Chino and his students. For many years he gave a weekly evening Dharma talk there, until leaving to teach in New Mexico, Colorado, and overseas. (continues)

eZendo and Micro Zendo Practice

Profile: Open Zen Community

eZendo, service

Open Zen Community is a small and dedicated Sangha of lay practitioners in the San Francisco Bay Area. All of us work full-time as part of our Zen practice. We meet online each evening to chant the refuges together at 8:25 p.m. and meet online for zazen and service at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. We sit together body-to-body for one-half day every second Sunday and hold zazen, kinhin and a Dharma talk on the fourth Sunday of each month at 3 p.m. Our particular emphasis is awakening where you are, as you are, and we examine the question of awakening in lay American life often. All are welcome to join in this dynamic practice of everyday life. Please visit our website at

Micro-zendo (seats 7, with dog and Manushri, 9)

Mountain Seat Ceremony

A new Abbess in Diablo, California

On November 11, 2017, Myosho Baika Andrea Pratt-Heaton ascended the Mountain Seat at Mt. Diablo Zendo in Pleasant Hill, California, in a ceremony to mark her new position as Abbess. Both Myoan Grace Schireson, her Honshi (root teacher), and Sojun Mel Weitsman attended this heartwarming and intimate ceremony. Baika has worked very closely with these two teachers since 1987 when she began her practice at the Berkeley Zen Center.

Three generations in the Suzuki-roshi lineage: Sojun Mel Weitsman, Myosho Baika Andrea Pratt-Heaton, and Myoan Grace Schireson

Gratitude to Hozan Alan Senauke of the Berkeley Zen Center, who held a significant role as instructor and who helped create a customized ceremony for this small temple and its sangha. Gratitude to Sekibu Alice Tulloch, who organized sewing of a nine-panel robe for the new Abbess. And gratitude to the nearly forty sangha members, family and friends who attended and participated and who left for home with feeling of warm connection. Great congratulations to Myosho Baika and Mt. Diablo Zen Group!

Question-and-answer ceremony

The new Abbess making a statement

On the Road
Profile: Kannon Do
Stories of Jizo and Tribute to Yvonne Rand

On the Road: Visiting and Sharing Mid-Stream

Chapter 2, Summer 2017
By Marcia Lieberman

NOTE for Summer 2018: Marcia has volunteered the past two summers to visit and practice with a number of Branching Streams sanghas (see her story below about her 2017 visits). She is offering to do the same in 2018. If your Sangha is interested in the possibility of a visit from Marcia, please let Steve Weintraub know.

The summer of 2017 found me traveling to sanghas in the Great Plains and along Lake Michigan. Packing a bag of temple art materials, I arrived first at Bozeman Zen Group to lead with (BZG’s resident teacher and priest) Karen DeCotis a one month long practice period based on Suzuki Roshi’s teaching—Express Yourself Fully. Together we joined the sangha with an assortment of teachings: pen to paper practice such as enso, sutra copying, zengo; creating sound in the zendo; and home altars. Bozeman is full of rocks so keeping paper in place was easy–a short walk outside produced chunks of granite. Considering nature and Zen, we made, then distributed, seed balls for the back lots of Montana. The oryoki training included fresh produce from the local market and generous servers. Hospitality included a bike trail from my homestay to the zendo in 10 minutes—wild flowers on either side, and the sun tipping the mountain tops. (continue reading)

One of the First Branching Streams

Kannon Do, Mountain View, California

Suzuki Roshi in Haiku Zendo

One of Suzuki Roshi’s original “extensions” of Zen practice outside of San Francisco was a sitting group in Los Altos, which began in the mid-1960s. As one of the very first “branching streams,” this center, in the heart of what would soon be known as Silicon Valley, has been providing opportunities for comtemplative practice for the San Francisco mid-peninsula and South Bay for over fifty years.

Marian Derby

The Los Altos community established a daily practice of zazen that was made possible by the generosity of one of the Sangha members, Marian Derby. Marian generously insisted that the garage of her home be converted into a zendo. Suzuki-roshi and the Sangha did the construction. There was room for seventeen cushions. As seventeen is the number of syllables in a haiku poem, they named the new center Haiku Zendo. (continue reading)

Stories of Jizo: New Jizo Garden at Green Gulch Farm

And dedication ceremony honoring Yvonne Rand

Yvonne Rand and Chris Fortin

Last November a number of people gathered in the Green Gulch Farm garden to dedicate a new Jizo garden, and to honor Yvonne Rand for her decades of influential, formative practice at San Francisco Zen Center and for her development of the practice of Jizo ceremonies. Many people were present—many who have known and been influenced by Yvonne as well as many who have taken part in and benefited from the Jizo Garden and the Jizo Ceremonies for Children and Those Who Have Died. Yvonne was present and spoke at this moving event.

Here are stories about Jizo, the Bodhisattva who is especially known to protect children, women, and travelers; stories of the Jizo Garden; and stories of Yvonne Rand, written by Wendy Johnson, also a decades-long practitioner and co-founder of the Green Gulch garden, and Chris Fortin,who continues to perform Jizo ceremonies regularly and to teach the tradition to others. Included is Yvonne’s own story of her history with Jizo practice, which she wrote in 2002. (continue reading)

Map of Affiliates
Rakusu Kits Available
Tassajara Summer Work-Practice Opportunity
New Book on Dogen
Yearly contributions; web editor needed

Map of Affiliates

Click to bring up full-size map.



Rakusu Kits Available

Kyosho Valorie Beer, head of Harmonious Spirit Affiliate sangha, is offering to provide rakusu kits. They contain all pieces necessary to make a rakusu and envelope. Valorie can be reached at Kits are available in blue, black, brown and green.  Black and brown kits also include okesa envelope fabric. Kits do not include thread.

Tassajara Summer Work Practice

The Tassajara Summer Work Practice Program is a wonderful opportunity for living and working in a community where Zen meditation is the foundational practice. The dates of the 2018 program are April 6 to September 26, and students can stay for a minimum of five days or up to five months. With a 3-5-month commitment you will earn credit for practice periods at any of SFZC’s three practice places. Please visit
for more information. Click for a PDF flyer: Tassajara_summer_work_practice

Next Branching Streams National Meeting: Timing and Location

The next large Gathering of the Branching Streams will be in the Fall of 2019.  We are following this every-other-year schedule for a number of reasons, one of which is that it allows Branching Streams Teachers who are part of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) to attend the SZBA biennial meeting.  Kannon Do, in Los Altos CA, one of the original Branching Streams, (see profile on this page ), has graciously offered to host this upcoming Gathering.  More specifics and details will follow.  Please consider the possibility of coming out to the West Coast for a visit (perhaps including City Center and/or Green Gulch Farm) and to attend the Gathering!

New book on Dogen’s Being Time

Ocean Gate Zen Center

Shinshu Roberts, co-head teacher at Branching Streams sangha Ocean Gate Zen Center, (more on OGZC here ) has authored a book on Dogen’s Shobogenzo fascicle, Uji, Being-Time.  Shinshu’s book has received wonderful pre-publication praise from a number of teachers and practitioners.  Here is one: “In Being-Time, Shinshu Roberts gives us a wise, kind and wonderfully patient guide to one of Dogen’s most important and enigmatic texts. Now, more than ever, these profound old teachings are relevant to our lives in the here and now. This is a book I will treasure and return to time and time again.” — Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being. Shinshu’s book will be published in March, by Wisdom Publications (and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon).

Yearly contributions; web editor needed

Contributions for 2018 membership in Branching Streams will be due soon, and a notice will be sent soon to Branching Streams leaders. Last year’s contributions were critical in enabling us to financially support the Fall 2017 Branching Streams Conference.

We are still in need of a volunteer who would be interested in working on the Branching Streams website.  There’s lots of opportunity for participation and creativity.  Please let Steve Weintraub know if you or anyone in your Sangha might be interested.

You can find older items in the News Archive.