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Newsette 1-19-2024

The teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have inspired me and many sanghas this week as we work toward creating Beloved Communities locally and internationally.

The Report on the 2023 Branching Streams Gathering is now on the Branching Streams Website. If you were unable to attend the Gathering, the Report will convey the spirit of the Gathering, the program, some nuts and bolts about the planning process, and how feedback from participants will guide Branching Streams in the coming year(s). Thanks to Jon Voss of Mid City Zen, Teresa Bouza of Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center, Jaune Evans from Everyday Zen and Heart of Compassion, and others in the Gathering Program Committee for working on the Report with me.

If you or your sangha is responding to the growing tension and war in the Middle East, please let me know what you are doing or planning, what questions you have, or what teachings or poems have encouraged you. I am working on a blog for the Branching Streams Website, as what I’ve gathered so far is too lengthy for a Newsette.

Welcome to a new affiliate, Thousand Flowers Dojo in Durach, Germany. The resident teacher, Andreas Elsen, a student of Paul Haller, was Shuso at SFZC’s City Center for the Fall 2023 practice period. Andreas, a physician and psychiatrist, practiced at Tassajara for 2 years from 2002-04. He has been joining Black Mountain Zen Centre in Belfast for Paul Haller’s sesshins since then (2004).

If you’re curious about other Branching Streams Sanghas in Germany and Switzerland, read the blog I wrote about my October journey to Zen Centers in Germany and Switzerland, including several photos, which was just published in San Francisco Zen Center’s online Sangha News. Here is the link.

Dario Girolami, Abbot of Centro Zen l’Arco in Rome met with Catholic hospital chaplains in Assisi at the invitation of the Vatican. Dario writes, “Since now only Catholics are hired as hospital chaplains in Italy – chaplains of other religions are called individually at the explicit request of patients – the Vatican raised the question of how Catholic chaplains should address patients of other religions.

“I explained to a group of twenty-five people (mostly male priests, a few monks and two nuns) what the Buddhist perspective on old age and death is. I explained that – unlike Christianity- the Buddhist approach is not theocentric. My talk was received with great interest, enthusiasm and affection. The meeting took place in a large Franciscan institute within walking distance of the Portiuncula, the very first church of St. Francis.Given the success of the meeting, the plan is to organize more meetings to explore the topic in more depth.”

Konjin Gaelyn Godwin, Director of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, is extending an invitation to Branching Streams teachers: “In honor of the important 700 year anniversary and commemoration of Keizan Zenji’s life and teaching, our Branching Streams centers are invited to participate in the ceremonies in Japan. We are opening more spaces for participating in this great event, and we have extended the deadline for registration to January 31.

“The International Center has organized a tour for April 21-23, 2024. Please join the tour with your sangha members. If you cannot join, your sangha members will be well-supported by our staff. They will be traveling with fellow Zen practitioners. You might want to arrive in Japan before the tour and join on April 21. Or you can plan to stay on after the tour ends on April 23. The tour includes visits to Eiheiji and Sojiji, and a Soto Zen World Fellowship gathering in Tokyo. The cost for the tour, which includes 3 days of ceremonies together, 2 nights’ lodging, and all food is $650. In addition, $100 donation per temple (total of $200) is requested. We warmly invite you to join the tour with us.  For more details or to register use this link.

Here is a request from Nomon Tim Burnett, guiding teacher of Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham, WA: “We’ll have the great blessing of opening a new zendo late in 2024 and I have an amazing woodworker volunteer. He’s happy to build us an altar and I’m looking for examples, parameters, and theory. Would you be willing to share your understanding of the symbolism of altars and/or snap me a picture of an altar you’re fond of at your zendo?” Nomon’s email is

In the midst of cold weather and storms of many kinds, may we be warmed by our connections to one another.