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Newsette 10-25-2021

After over 24 hours of rain, much welcomed after months of drought in the Bay Area, the sun is dispersing clouds and drying glistening raindrops on the maple tree and bushes in the City Center courtyard.

I am happy to welcome a new member to Branching Streams, Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham Washington. Founded in 1991, Red Cedar ZC is affiliated with Everyday Zen Foundation. Zoketsu Norman Fischer is their founding teacher, and Nomon Tim Burnett is their guiding teacher. Here is their Mission Statement: “The Red Cedar Zen Community follows the Soto Zen style of Shunryu Suzuki. We support practice with a spirit of cooperation, extending the essence of Buddha’s teachings into everyday life.” They are currently searching for a new meeting space.

A Men’s Retreat will be held at at Hokyoji in Eitzen, MN from October 28 to 31 (thank you, Chapel Hill Zen Center, for sharing news of this retreat). Retreat leaders, Marc Anderson and Bob Zeglovitch, and participants will investigate “what it means to be male and explore the terrain of awakened, energetic and mature masculinity. The retreat is suitable for all levels of experience – everyone will explore new terrain.” Here is a link to the retreat flyer).

Tonight, Valley Streams Zen Center in Sacramento, CA is featuring a recorded talk, Love and Rage – The Path of Liberation Through Anger with Lama Rod Owens, interviewed by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz. Lama Rod Owens is an author, activist, African American gay man and authorized lama in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism who explores spiritual practices that transform anger and rage into a force of healing.

San Francisco Zen Center is offering a one-day retreat with Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Green Gulch Farm Abiding Abbess Fu Schroeder, Toward a More Radical Dharma: A Path and Framework for Liberation on Saturday, November 13from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. The final hour will be a special session for dharma teaches and leaders.

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Newsette 10-18-2021

Here’s an autumn poem from Richmond Zen Center’s newsletter:

Although I try
to hold the single thought
Of Buddha’s teaching in my heart
I cannot help but hear
The many crickets voices calling as well

–Izumi Shikibu

We’re approaching the full moon and the end of October – a liminal time when many centers have ceremonies to honor the hungry ghosts.

Mountain Rain Zen Sangha in Vancouver, B.C. is having their “annual ceremony to offer the nourishment of the dharma to the hungry ghost realm” on October 31st. Chapel Hill Zen Center is combining a Sejiki Ceremony with a Food Drive for the local Interfaith Council pantry on October 23rd, ET. Here’s the link if you’d like to learn more about the meaning of the ceremony and how it can be linked to a food drive.

Reirin Gumbel, guiding teacher of Milwaukee Zen Center, is involved with an interfaith group, #Teach the Wisconsin Truth, which sponsored a Week of Action for Racial Equity this month, lifting up stories of Wisconsin history at sites of significance for racial justice. Reirin and a sangha member made a video about their visit to Native burial grounds an hour’s drive from Milwaukee.

#Teach the Wisconsin Truth offers this message: “Around the country, the forces of white supremacy and racism are confronting school boards, demanding they prevent teaching the true history of racism, slavery, sexism, and violence against marginalized communities that is part of the founding of our country. 

“As people of faith, we believe it is the responsibility of each person to do their part to address the systemic inequities and injustices in our society, and to create a world where every human being can live a life of dignity and respect.  Our children need to be prepared to take on their share of this task when they grow up. Yet, without knowing the true history of how our nation came to be, they cannot understand the underlying causes of the issues we face, and therefore, will be ill-equipped to meet the challenges they will confront as adults.”

Here is a resource shared by the Soto Zen Buddhist Association: “This year, scholars and professionals have come together in conversation to provide important information and findings on sexual misconduct in Buddhist communities. These conversations are entitled Abuse, Sex, and the Sangha; A Series of Healing Conversations. The producers of this series are sharing these videos with the broader Buddhist community.  Each of these conversations focuses on a different issue within this general topic area and all are critically important.” The most recent is entitled Sexual Misconduct & Legal Liability Issues in Buddhist Sanghas. In this conversation, attorney Carol Merchasin, highlights the legal responsibility of boards of directors in cases of sexual misconduct. You may wish to watch the video and share the conversation with your boards and sanghas.

San Francisco Zen Center is announcing the release of the newly completed Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive, a comprehensive collection of more than 300 recordings from SFZC’s founding teacher, Shogaku Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, including 29 lost lectures. It’s connected with a longer project of making some of Suzuki Roshi’s earliest talks available on the SFZC website. To read more about the project and to learn about the first two “lost” tapes they have released, go to SFZC’s Sangha News Journal article.

I wish you all good health in this time of the full moon, falling leaves, and feeding our hungry ghosts.

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Newsette 10-12-2021

I am focusing in this week’s Newsletter on the ways two Branching Streams sanghas are recognizing indigenous people in the U. S. and Canada.

Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples Day in the U.S.  – a public holiday in some states. Although California is not one of them, members of Everyday Zen sangha, based in Marin County, gathered with several Native community leaders for an online ceremony.

I was invited to attend yesterday’s Everyday Zen ceremony, which was organized by Jaune Evans, a Senior Priest and Teacher with Everyday Zen and Guiding Teacher of the Heart of Compassion Zen in Point Reyes. Jaune works for a foundation that supports indigenous peoples internationally. In introducing the ceremony, Jaune stated that Indigenous Peoples Day gives those of us who are not Native an opportunity to learn about and recognize Native people and how they have cared for the lands we live on. She said that ritual is a way of connecting with all beings, a way of healing the passing of people, a way of honoring sacred places. She noted that both Native spirituality and Zen Buddhism are traditions of gratitude. Expressing gratitude brings us together across language.

Three Native guests introduced themselves in their native languages as well as in English. Melissa Nelson, Turtle Mountain Chippewa from North Dakota, said Indigenous Peoples Day reminds us that indigenous people are still here today. “We are modern people with deep roots.” Kaimana Barcarse, participating from the Big Island island of Hawai’i, said the bones of his ancestors are in Hawai’i; “our ancestors discovered Hawai’i.” Kaylena Bray, a member of the Turtle Clanfrom the Seneca Nation, introduced the ceremony they later shared, “The Words Before All Else,” a Thanksgiving address which begins every Native gathering. They offered thanks to many aspects of nature, honored their elders and the land.

Members of Everyday Zen followed with a service. Founding and guiding teacher Norman Fisher was doshi, and sangha members were kokyo, doan, and Zoom host. They chanted the Heart Sutra and the Metta Sutta and ended with an Eko written by Jaune. Here are a few lines of the Eko:

Reaffirming our respect and care for each other

Not turning away from our community or global bonds and responsibilities

Acknowledging and bowing to all our aw-inspiring knowledge systems,

Our diverse cultural lifeways and practices of well-being, our languages and cosmo-visions, our ways of praying, of kneeling our compassionate Earth…

We return the gifts we are given, offering this ceremonial exchange of gratitude for the awakening and freedom of all beings.

Our minds are now One…

Canada has recognized a National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on June 21 since 1996, and the country honored the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 of this year — the Canadian government has apologized at various points for the suppression and forced assimilation of Indigenous communities. Vancouver’s Mountain Rain Zen Community is midway through their class on “Exploring Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” a series for those of settler/immigrant background, whether recent or generations past, who would like to deepen their understanding of history, culture, spirituality and lived experience of the indigenous peoples of Canada.

The Everyday Zen ceremony and the Mountain Rain class point to ways those of us who are not Native can learn about history we weren’t taught in school, change some of our misconceptions of Native people, and find ways to engage with Native people in our localities that honor their culture and their lives.

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Newsette 10-4-2021

Here are some encouraging words from Taigen Leighton, guiding teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate: “We are feeling the season changing in Chicago. It is cooler as we move into autumn, with all its rich, shifting, trembling colors. Our world continues to shift as well, and multiple situations of distress flourish along with flickerings of helpfulness. We engage all with equanimity, resilience, and dynamic balance as we open to responses to the various challenges. Our practice can make a difference.”

Several sanghas, including Berkeley, Houston, and Chapel Hill Zen Centers participate in Buddhist Global Relief’s Walk to Feed the Hungry every year. Houston Zen Center writes: “This year, once again, the COVID-19 pandemic prevents us from holding our walk. Thus we will instead be gathering via Zoom: Buddhist Action to Feed the Hungry Online Gatherings. Saturday, October 30th. [There was an East Coast event on October 2.] Buddhist groups from the Eastern, Southern, and Midwestern states will join together. for Dharma talks by distinguished Buddhist speakers on the theme of “putting compassion into action” and to learn about Buddhist Global Relief and the work of alleviating global hunger and poverty.” Individuals as well as sanghas are invited to participate.

Branching Streams Zen Centers and two other organizations are offering one-day to five-day retreats as well as several longer programs that may interest you.

One-day to Five-day retreats

Seattle Soto Zen is hosting a one-day online Zazenkai with Zoketsu Norman Fischer on Sunday, October 10, from 8:50 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PDT. The day includes a talk and Q&A with Zoketsu and a Wellbeing and Memorial Service, in addition to zazen. You can Register for this event here.

Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, CA is holding an online retreat/one-day sitting with Ben Connelly on November 6. Ben’s topic is Yogacara – Integrating personal and social healing and liberation. This retreat will focus on the Indian Yogacara master Vasubandhu’s Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only. “We will move towards a deeper knowing that in every moment we are participating in the whole of the world in all its beauty and harms, and in every moment we can act for the liberation of all.” Suggested Dana is$40 to$80. Here is the link to register.

Tenshin Reb Anderson, Senior Dharma Teacher of San Francisco Zen Center, and the honorary founder of Houston Zen Center, will lead a 5-day in-person Intensive Retreat at Houston Zen Center’s Margaret Austin Center from Tuesday, November 2 at 7:00 pm to Sunday afternoon on November 7. The theme is “Zen Meditation, Great Compassion” Follow this link for more information or to register. The last day to register is October 19.

Longer programs

Austin Zen Center’s Fall Practice Period will be led by visiting teacher Rev. Kokyo Henkel from October 13 through December 11 focusing on the practices of lay woman ancestor Queen Srimala. In the Srimaladevi Simhanda Sutra, she teaches Buddha-nature as the pure essence of heart/mind which we all share. Read more & Register.

Stanford University is offering the Contemplation by Design Summit from October 25 to November 2., a free series of presentations to further individual, community, and planetary health and well-being. Several sessions focus on the climate crisis. You can learn more and register here.

I will be participating in an opening panel of the International Western Dharma Teachers Gathering, A Virtual Conference, from October 20 to 24. The theme of the Conference, sponsored by Lions Roar and the Hemera Foundation, is Facing Truth: Love, Equity & Justice on the Path of Awakening. Speakers will explore topics important to Dharma Teachers everywhere during our modern times.

As the season, and our world continues to shift and change, may our practice make a difference, as Taigen says.