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Newsette – 4-19-2022

“In the face of impermanence and death, it takes courage to love the things of this world and to believe that praising them is our noblest calling.”

― Joanna Macy, from A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke

The quote above appeared in Richmond Zen’s recent newsletter.

Sanghas in many places are celebrating Earth Month and Earth Day (April 22) in unique ways, some of them involving their wider communities.

Richmond (VA) Zen Center members gathered on April 16 in a local park where they planted trees in November 2019. After sitting with all beings, they chanted the Heart Sutra and shared poems. The invitation was to “bring a favorite poem that speaks to you of our inextricable bonds with the planet that supports us.”

Members of Houston Zen Center (TX) painted on the sidewalk, and a beautiful Buddha emerged. Via Colori supports Houston’s Institute for Spirituality and Health. During the event on April 2-3, local artists, underwritten by sponsors such as Houston Zen Center, paint squares of the plaza or sidewalk in front of the old main post office building. You can view photos of their creation here.

Brattleboro (VT) Zen Center’s Eco-sattva group meets twice a month. The group’s purpose is three-fold: to support the individual environmental work of each member, to review what we might take on as a group, and to provide support for other groups.  Topics of discussion are broad and range from social justice to light pollution to civil disobedience action. 

The group has collected signatures for, and hosts a silent meditation for the earth and all beings every Saturday in downtown Brattleboro. This month the group will participate in‘s Earth Day event in Brattleboro on 4/22, by sitting in silent meditation and then marching in the parade.

Jeff Bickner, a Senior Dharma Teacher at Everyday Zen Foundation in the SF Bay Area, gave a lecture in a public health course at U.C. Berkeley on Faith and Sustainability on April 4 to 280 students.

On Saturday April 23, members of Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, BC will walk together in silent witness to Trans Mountain’s oil storage facility on Burnaby Mountain. They will “mindfully walk along the gentle footpath that borders six hundred meters of the Federal Government’s facility. In this walk we honour the spring, its creatures (including us), and our hope that soon the storage facility will shrink, rather than expand, as now planned by the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”

Mountain Rain is also organizing a two-week Earth Care Market, with a focus on “gently used books, crafts, and art.” Proceeds from the market will be donated to the Circle of Eagles Society, which “supports Indigenous Brothers and Sisters leaving federal institutions and those dislocated from society to reintegrate into Community by providing wholistic services and culturally safe spaces.”

Alan Senauke, Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center, writes: “Berkeley Zen Center is beginning to explore principles and plans for environmental sustainability as a practice place. If you have established protocols and policies, can you share them with me at ?”

There are so many ways in which we can express our connection to planet Earth and all beings!

Mid City Zen in New Orleans, in partnership with the Jumpslide Artist/Activist Residency, is welcoming a guest teacher (or teachers) to New Orleans this June and July to help support our sangha in terms of practice and organization, and also enter into conversation with our sangha and our city around the many topics unique and amazing to this place (from social justice and climate change to music and masking). We are currently without a resident priest and are a peer-led sangha (with lots of help from supporting priests). We have a lovely zendo and currently offer zazen 3 mornings a week and have a Sunday morning program that includes beginner instruction, service, 2 periods of zazen, and study group. We can offer free housing (the main Jumpslide house), use of a car, and a small honorarium of $50/wk up to $200, and people can stay longer than 4 weeks if they like. Please contact Jon Voss at if you’re interested.

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Newsette – April 11, 2022

This month is both Earth Month and National Poetry Month. If you enjoy poetry, you may wish to participate in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 29th.

I’m reminded of a short poem by Jane Hirshfield, which Austin Zen Center has printed on the back of their t-shirt:

            Everything changes

            Everything is connected.

            Pay attention.

Gaelyn Godwin, Abbess of Houston Zen Center, is updating her presentation on Soto Zen in the U.S., which she showed at the 2019 Branching Streams Conference and will be showing at this month’s conference in Austin. She is requesting photos of your meeting places, in particular:

  • Several outdoor photos of your place
  • Several photos of a ceremony or gathering of members

Please send them to, and, if you would, copy me at so we can include some photos on the Branching Streams website.

Earth Month: Please let me know of any teachings or programs that your sangha is offering related to Earth Month, which I will feature in next week’s Newsette.

You may be interested in a rare brief online training on social and environmental transformation with Joanna Macy, supported by Stephanie Kaza, and Wendy Johnson. offered by Upaya Zen Center on May 15 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 Mountain Daylight Time. The training is free and donations are welcome.

Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center in Mountain View, CA has two offerings for Branching Streams sangha members: a free downloadable printable image of the precepts  and Kannon Do’s Oryoki Instruction pamphlet prepared by Les Kaye. The dual interpretation of the Buddhist precepts offered through their website was created by Kobun Chino, the first teacher at Kannon Do, and Les Kaye, the current abbot. Kobun contributed the traditional, prohibitory precepts in green, while Les provided the updated version in black, representing how practice needs to be expressed in the modern world.

This week ends with Good Friday, Passover, and Easter, opportunities to celebrate life and renewal in a country and world in which there is so much suffering.

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Newsette 4-5-2022

I’m looking forward to the Branching Streams Conference, hosted by Austin Zen Center at Ancient Yoga Center in the Texas hill country, April 25 – 28. Forty people have registered. We will accept late registrations until April 10. Here is the link for more information and the registration form.

Many of you have written about the ways in which you will gather to enjoy Buddha’s Birthday, celebrated by Buddhists throughout the world this month:

Zen Heart Sangha in Woodside, CA, celebrated Buddha’s Birthday on April 1st and 2nd this year with a hybrid retreat.  (Friday on-line, Saturday in-person and on-line).

Santa Cruz Zen Center (CA) had a Buddha’s Birthday Ceremony and Celebration on April 3, which will be followed by a 4-day in-person sesshin April 7–10. (photo from Santa Cruz ZC).

On Saturday April 9 from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. Berkeley Zen Center will “follow the Japanese tradition of symbolically bathing the baby buddha represented by a small statue ensconced in a flower-covered bower.” Their ceremony with be in the courtyard following a short talk by Abbot Hozan Senauke.

Also on April 9, at 12:15 p.m. Austin Zen Center (TX) members will listen to a short reading of the story of the Buddha’s birth before circumambulating and bathing the baby Buddha with sweet tea in his flower pagoda, all while chanting the Shin Gyo and strewing flower petals! This ceremony will be in-person and outdoors.

On April 10 from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Mountain Rain Zen Community invites members to come and help decorate a flower pavilion for the baby Buddha, hear the story of the Buddha’s birth, and join in the ceremony of washing the baby Buddha. Tea and Buddha’s birthday cake to follow.  In Japan, Buddha’s Birthday is called Hana Matsuri, Flower Festival. This year our celebration coincides with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Sakura Days Japan Fair at Van Dusen Gardens. Sangha members are welcome to attend and meet up there after morning practice. 

Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, CA is hosting a Buddha’s Birthday celebration and picnic on Saturday, April 16, 10:30 to 2 p.m.Join Valley Streams Zen Sangha and our families in the Lumbini-like grove of oaks and sycamore trees along the American River for a celebration of Buddha’s birth and a remembrance of his mother, Queen Maya. We will bathe the baby Buddha and read Norman Fischer’s wonderful Buddha’s Birthday poem/play, followed by a picnic.” Families are invited.

Houston Zen Center (TX) notes thatShakyamuni Buddha was born nearly 2645 years ago, in about 623 b.c.e., in Lumbini in Northern India. On April 17 at 11:30AM, after the dharma talk, they will celebrate the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha. The ceremony includes birthday cake.

On another note, you may be interested in a class offered by the Shogaku Institute, a Soto Shu dharma talk, and news of a possible Zen-inspired senior living community in Southern California.

The Shogaku Institute (SZI) is offering an online 3-session class in Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct in Zen Communities on May 13, 20, and 27 from 12 noon to 2 p.m. PDT. SZI has licensed Faith Trust Institute materials and has received a grant to offer this class with psychologist and Zen teacher Grace Schireson and attorney Carol Merchasin to address specific situations in our communities. The class is offered by donation. Here is the link for more information.

Gyokei Yokoyama from the Soto Zen Buddhism North America Office asked me to spread the word about a Dharma Talk with Rev. Kosai Ikeda. Rev. Kosai is one of the so-called Tokufa Fukyoshi, a special delegate from Soto shu.Rev. Kosai will speak on the Special Dissemination of Soto Zen Buddhism on May 12, 2022 at 6:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 898 3030 5254

Zen-Inspired Senior Living Community in Southern California: As you may already know, San Francisco Zen Center, in partnership with Kendal Corp (a Quaker-based nonprofit senior living community developer) has been creating a new paradigm for aging – a Zen-Inspired Senior Living Community. “Our initial offering, Enso Village, will be opening in summer of 2023. Because of its success, we are welcoming input on a potential 2nd site in Southern California. If you think this might be of interest to people in your sangha, please feel free to share this link to a short, 5 minute survey: The link will be live until mid April. 

May this Newsette find you in good health and good spirits.