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I hope you are in good health and finding ways to enjoy the crisper air and changing colors of autumn. This week’s Newsette begins with a poignant ceremony and ends with Halloween. In this and in future Newsettes my aim is to share news from a wider range of Branching Streams groups, and to be less U.S.-Centric. Please help me by sharing your news!

The Stepping Down Ceremony for founding teacher and Abbot Sojun Mel Weitsman at Berkeley Zen Center on Saturday, October 24th, reminded me of the importance of honoring our elders. Many Branching Streams teachers received dharma transmission from Sojun Roshi and were among the 250 people attending this online ceremony. I saw the faces of teachers and members of 25 Branching Streams sanghas from all parts of the U.S. at the ceremony. Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi, Shunry Suzuki’s son, spoke as did Akiba Roshi, bishop of the Soto Shu, and several of Sojun’s senior students.
Sojun Roshi began his comments by offering an apology, saying “I want to wipe the slate clean…I will try harder.” He reflected on his deep gratitude to Suzuki Roshi and his teachings and stated that one of his own goals has always been to create harmony in the sangha.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. The journal Lions Roar recently published an article about the significance of Suzuki Roshi’s teachings with comments from Buddhist teachers including Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Sojun Mel Weitsman, and Konjin Gaelyn Godwin. Shambhala publishers will issue a special 50th anniversary edition.

You may wonder how students are continuing to sew rakusus in this time of physical distancing. Here is one innovative solution. Joan Amaral, guiding teacher of Zen Center North Shore (MA), wrote, “The semi-virtual sewing retreat this year with Laurie Belzer (sewing teacher and priest at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago) was beautiful and strong.” An onsite sangha member who is apprenticing with Laurie assisted the five sangha members preparing for jukai. “Many laptops and tv monitors made it possible for the people physically together to sew safely. The retreat was held at a sangha member’s home which has many spacious rooms while still feeling cozy. It also gave sangha members a chance to see each other in person since our schedule is currently 100% virtual.”

Teresa Bouza of Kannon Do Zen Center in Mountain View has been organizing a series of talks called Buddhism in Society. The next talk in the series will be given by Mushim Ikeda, a co-founder of the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA, on Saturday, October 31st from 10 to 11:30 Pacific Time. Here is a description: “Mushim will talk about how to move forward together in this time of divisiveness and chaos and how to create more diverse, inclusive Sanghas and come closer to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities as allies, practicing cultural humility and respectful curiosity.” Here is the link.

On a lighter note, Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood is participating in a Halloween Pumpkin Walk on the afternoon of Saturday, October 31st. Their slogan is “wear your mask and wear a mask.”

You are welcome to attend Jon’s weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday October 14th at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link. Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

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It’s two weeks before election day in the U.S., and while many sanghas are focusing on practice periods and ceremonies of different kinds, members of many sanghas continue to get out the vote and prepare for the post-election period.

This Sunday I attended the first Jukai ceremony of Centro Budista Zen Soto in Puerto Rico, led by local guiding teacher Sandra Laureano and supported by her teacher Valorie Beer, who was in Northern California. One of the Zoom hosts was in New Orleans, and guests from Twining Vines ZC in New York State joined the Puerto Rican sangha members, the three ordinands, and their friends and family. The collaborative ceremony was conducted in Spanish.

Another example of Branching Streams teachers and leaders collaborating with and supporting other Centers is Austin Zen Center’s roster of speakers for their Fall Practice Period. Guiding teacher Mako Voekel writes: While AZC Practice Leaders will be holding the retreats, practice period gatherings, classes & other events during the Fall 2020 Practice Period, we are grateful for the opportunity (largely provided by the pandemic!) to invite a number of Visiting Teachers to give talks in our Online Zendo – all on the topic of Taking Refuge. These teachers include Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts, former Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center, Josho Pat Phelan, Abbess of Chapel Hill Zen Center, Kokyo Henkel, former Head Teacher of Santa Cruz Zen Center, and Zoketsu Norman Fischer, founder of Everyday Zen and former SFZC Abbot.

In case you missed this in last week’s Newsette, The Board of Directors of Berkeley Zen Center, with boundless gratitude, invites you to the Stepping Down Ceremony and Stepping Into Founding Dharma Teacher position for Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi: Saturday, October 24 at 3 pm Pacific Time. The ceremony will be virtual; go to and click on the link on the right hand column “Enter the Zendo Now” at the scheduled time. All are welcome.

Houston Zen Center will be having a Ceremony of Lay Dharma Entrustment on October 31, 2020 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Central Time. In this ceremony, Keisen Lynn Snow (Keisen Myōhō, Joyful River, Wondrous Phoenix) will receive entrustment as a Lay Dharma Teacher from Abbot Gaelyn. Lynn has been preparing for several years for the ceremony, while leading a group of Zen practitioners in Alabama. The ceremony will take place outside on the front lawn of the center, with a limited number of friends and family in attendance. Everyone is invited to participate via zoom. This ceremony acknowledges the importance and vitality of Lay Dharma leaders.
Please RSVP to Joy. You can enter the ceremony here.

Regarding pre-election activity, Reirin Gumbel, Guiding teacher of Milwaukee Zen Center, spoke last night at an Interfaith Candlelight Rally to “Light up Milwaukee” on the first day of early voting in a swing state in which there were many obstacles to voters in the primary election several months ago. The focus of the Interfaith Rally was to mobilize people to vote early. Their commitment is “to bring 100,000 souls to the polls.”

The election retreat group writes: Together we’ve written 25,000 letters to voters in swing states, and we urge you to participate in one of our upcoming phone banking retreats as well (October 25 and November 1). They are now turning their attention to the Engaged Buddhist Election Protection Project. “Many of us are deeply concerned that Donald Trump may try to steal this election.

As engaged Buddhists, our goal is simple: to make sure that everyone votes and every vote is counted.” For recommendations about actions we can take, please visit their website.

No matter how complex or simple your Zoom questions are, you are welcome to attend Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday October 21st at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link, and Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

In this time of heightened spread of Covid-19 in many European countries as well as in many states in the U.S. and heightened tension in the U.S. due to the coming election, I have been appreciating the grounding practices of humming and rocking Resmaa Menakem describes in his book about racialized trauma, My Grandmother’s Hands (pp. 141-147) and recommend them to you.

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This evening I took part in an interfaith vigil called Mourning Into Unity, outside Temple Emanu-el in San Francisco. It was one of many such Vigils taking place across the nation to activate people of Faith to vote and to stand together against the pandemics of Covid 19, systemic racism and environmental devastation. It’s the first time I’ve gathered with interfaith clergy since March, and though we all wore masks and maintained physical distance it felt very tender to stand in a circle and share our prayers for people in our city and country. There will be another Mourning Into Unity vigil next Monday in Washington DC outside the White House.

Today was Indigenous Peoples Day. I received an email from Stephanie Kaza, who spoke on the climate crisis at last year’s Branching Streams Conference, about steps sanghas can take to cultivate local indigenous awareness. Stephanie forwarded a message from Unitarian Universalists with some questions that made me realize how little I know about local indigenous people:
· Do you know the history of the land your congregation/sangha calls “home?”
· Do you know what Indigenous people historically or currently inhabit that land?
· Do you know who the Indigenous people or communities are who live in your area or region and what their visions and struggles are?
· Are you acting in relationship or solidarity with any of them?
If you’d like to read more, here is a link to the newsletter Stephanie forwarded.

Ceremonies are important ways of marking transitions in our sanghas. One of great significance is happening at Berkeley Zen Center later this month:

The Board of Directors of Berkeley Zen Center, with boundless gratitude, invites you to the Stepping Down Ceremony and Stepping Into Founding Dharma Teacher position for Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi: Saturday, October 24 at 3 pm Pacific Time. The ceremony will be virtual; go to and click on the link on the right hand column “Enter the Zendo Now” at the scheduled time. All are welcome.

Austin Zen Center is having a Tree-Planting Ceremony – A Celebration of Dharma Transmission on October 10th at 12:30pm Central Time. They will plant a Black Pine to celebrate and commemorate AZC Head Teacher Dōshin Mako Voelkel’s Dharma Transmission, given by her teacher Ryūshin Paul Haller in April 2019 at Tassajara. Dharma Transmission marks Rev. Mako’s full authorization as an independent Zen teacher. All are welcome to join us in-person or online for this significant event. Read more & register her.

Eishun Nancy Easton of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago organized a day-long outdoor sesshin that brought many members of ADZG together face to face for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March. She writes, “On Sunday, October 4, 2020, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate held our first outdoor all-day sitting at the Harms Woods forest preserve, located just outside Chicago. Priests Eishin Nancy Easton and Gyoshin Laurel Ross co-led this event, which included seventeen participants who joined together for a day of physically-distanced zazen, services, and an extended meditative walk along a hiking trail by the Chicago River.” You can read the short article here.

In Jon Voss’s Zoom class recently, guiding teacher and members of Centro Budista Zen Soto in Puerto Rico have been planning their first Jukai, which will be conducted with only guiding teacher Sandra Laureano and three ordinands in the Zendo, and videoed by Zoom. No matter how complex or simple your Zoom questions are, you are welcome to attend Jon’s weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday October 14th at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link, and Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

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Even in the Bay Area, where it’s sometimes hard to recognize the changes in seasons, we’re seeing signs of autumn. Cooler weather and fog have aided firefighters in Northern California and the air quality in the Bay Area improved in the last week. San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center began our online Fall Practice Period last week. Branching Streams groups in Vancouver, Seattle, Austin, Brooklyn, and elsewhere are also beginning Fall practice periods at this time. It’s encouraging to have this more focused period of practice in the midst of the many tensions in our country.

Thank you to all the Branching Streams sanghas that have responded to the Covid-19 Survey. I’ve received 39 responses thus far and will reach out one more time to about 25 groups that have not yet responded. I will share the results next week.

Thanks also to those of you who responded to Sanriki from Montaña de Silencio Comunidad Zen Insight in Medellín, Colombia. He writes: “I tell you that the goal was reached, and even exceeded. ..With this, we can end the year without financial concerns and start 2021 with much more confidence…150 practitioners and friends supported us in the campaign. This is indeed a unique treasure that fills us with energy and courage to continue building our sangha and the right conditions to share the Dharma.”

There are two online DEIA events you may be interested in. One is tonight, October 6th from 7 to 8:30 EST, a dialogue, “What is Right Justice?” between Greg Snyder, co-guiding teacher of Brooklyn Zen Center and Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, offered through Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Greg teaches.

And Kannon Do in Mountain View, CA will be hosting an online talk about transformative justice with Lucy Andrews on Saturday October 10th, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. (Pacific Time), as part of their “Buddhism in Society” Discussion Series. Lucy co-leads the Unpacking Whiteness program at San Francisco Zen Center and is a PhD candidate in environmental science at UC Berkeley. The link is:

The Action to Feed the Hungry, an Online Gathering Sponsored by Houston Zen Center and Myoken-Ji is coming up this Sunday, October 11, 2020 11:30am – 1:30pm Central Time. Abbot Gaelyn Godwin says: “This year, during the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together to provide help and support for the many people who suffer food insecurity. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the founder of Buddhist Global Relief, will join our action to give us encouraging words, as well as guided meditation. We invite everyone to participate by joining us for this online action.”

Jon Voss will be offering his weekly Zoom clinic every Wednesday from 11 to noon Pacific time. Bring your questions about hosting Zoom events, sounds for ceremonies, and anything else Zoom-related. Here’s the Zoom link. (Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143)

Thank you all for your sustained practice and for the many ways you encourage your sanghas.