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Newsette 12-7-2021

I am back in touch after the weeks of Thanksgiving and Rohatsu Sesshin. City Center’s sesshin was in-person (truly wonderful!), with about 30 participants in the zendo and Buddha Hall. On December 3rd we held a special memorial service on the 50th anniversary of his death. The next day we celebrated Buddha’s enlightenment joyfully in the morning and had a Shuso ceremony for Roger Hillyard, who was a warm and energetic Shuso for the Fall practice period. Yesterday I attended Green Gulch Farm’s Shuso ceremony. Michael Gelfond from Presidio Hill Zen Group in San Francisco was Shuso. And Tassajara’s Shuso ceremony will be on December 10, with Tim Kroll, who practiced at Austin Zen Center for many years, as Shuso. All three centers have had in-person Fall practice periods.

Sanghas from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada – including Brooklyn Zen Center in New York, Austin Zen Center and San Antonio Zen Center in Texas, Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham WA, and Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, B.C. – are still sitting Rohatsu sesshin. Ian Case writes in the Brooklyn Zen Center newsletter, “This week we celebrate and commemorate the Buddha’s enlightenment and his awakening to the fundamental truth of our interconnectedness with all things. May we awaken together and realize spiritual friendship for the benefit of all beings.”

This is also, for many Zen Centers and sanghas, a time for year-end fundraising. Please consider giving generously to your own sangha or to others, as we come to the end of a year that has been financially challenging for many individuals, families and sanghas.

News from sanghas in England and Germany:

Recently Totnes sangha in Devon, England has been engaging deeply with the local parish church of Saint Mary’s in its “Unity in Diversity” programme, where different faiths have come together around the Climate Conference COP26 and the Covid pandemic. The church was built in the 13th Century; people have been worshipping here for well over 800 years!

A few months ago, we heard from Akazienzendo in Berlin about their plans to plant a long hedge in Obersdorf, in the country, where they host sesshins. Charlotte, Gisela, Bernd, and Zaher wrote: “A big truck from a local nursery delivered the plants on Friday morning, and for a day our yard was full of rock pears, rowan, willow saplings, white hawthorn, elder, cornelian cherries and roses. We labeled each one, and now the new hedge has taken its place on our land. Soon, we have no doubt, it will unfold all its qualities as a refuge and food source for birds, insects, and all sorts of creatures. We are still completely filled with the energy and also the friendliness and harmony of planting together with 20 members of the sangha – which was possible thanks to your financial support.”

“After the last climate demonstration in Berlin, shortly before the German elections, Greta Thunberg was asked in an interview what success meant to her. She answered: If we can say we have done everything we can to save this earth, that is success to her. Please let’s not stop trying to do everything we can to help this wonderful planet in its great diversity; each and everyone in his/her private sphere, and especially to continue to work together and network. Thank you very much!”

Last week my interview with Hakusho Ostlund about establishing Brattleboro Zen Center in Vermont during the pandemic was published in San Francisco Zen Center’s Sangha News.

Looking ahead, if you’d like to bring in the New Year by sitting with others, Brooklyn Zen Center will be hosting an online sit and celebration. “Please join us for this intimate celebration of community and collective practice, in what is the longest running BZC celebration – we have been doing it since 2005! Registration for this offering closes December 30. More information and registration is available here.”

May you feel nourished by our shared practice at this time of year, which is for many a time of both grieving and celebration.

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