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Newsette 5-9-2024

This Newsette highlights expressions of the dharma through writing and art by members of Branching Streams sanghas, and more widely.

First, however, some Branching Streams news:

Welcome to new affiliate, Oceans Compassion in San Francisco. Oceans Compassion has grown over the last two and a half years and just celebrated its first Jukai ceremony. Founding and guiding teacher Steven Tierney was ordained by Dairyu Michael Wenger and received dharma transmission from Ryotan Cynthia Kear, guiding teacher of Great Spirit Sangha.

Since the 2023 Gathering in Santa Cruz, the Branching Streams Advisory Group and I have been following up on some issues that were explored at the Gathering. We have been focusing on how Branching Streams sanghas support their teachers. We created a survey that I sent two days ago to over 70 teachers. We think the results will be helpful to teachers, board members and sanghas experiencing teacher transitions, as well as more broadly. We will summarize the results and share them on the Branching Streams website.

Arts and Letters

Ryan Wong, the Director of Brooklyn Zen Center, relates, in his personal newsletter, “On Chanting, Protest and Faith,” his morning practice at Brooklyn Zen Center’s Ancestral Heart monastery with the experience of joining a student march in Manhattan this week in solidarity with Palestine.

An exhibit of Blythe King’s artwork, “Time Beings,” opened recently at the Eric Schindler Gallery in Richmond, VA. Richmond Zen sangha member Blythe’s collages “give expression to her ongoing de/re-construction of our images of women as re/de-fracted through the lens of Zen practice. This exhibit specifically explores Dogen Zenji’s teaching on time, in which he directs our awareness from our usual sense of time as “merely flying away,” to an understanding that “time itself is being, and all being is time.” This view brings an urgent vitality to every moment of being.”

“Are You Really Present All the Time?” – an article   by Kaishin Victory Matsui discussing a modern koan about waking up in this lifetime – was recently published in Tricycle. Kaishin. a priest of the Brooklyn Zen Center sangha, currently serves as the Director of Brooklyn Zen Center’s Ancestral Heart Temple, in Millerton, New York.

Lien Shutt, founding and guiding teacher of Access to Zen in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been hosting a podcast series available on the Access to Zen website. On May 1, in honor of Asian and Pacific Island month, she posted an interview with the 2024 May We Gather co-organizers, Funie Hsu, Chenxing Han, and Duncan Ryuken Williams. Lien will be co-hosting the next series of podcasts with Dana Takagi, who trained at Santa Cruz Zen Center.

Lion’s Roar just launched “Bodhi Leaves: The Asian American Buddhist Monthly” written and edited by Asian American Buddhists. Editors Noel Alumit and Mihiri Tillakaratne write, “Bodhi Leaves centers Asian American experience and is part of a larger movement creating a more inclusive American Buddhism.”

Turning toward summer

The Tassajara guest season began on April 30. The first Branching Streams sangha to go for a Sangha Week was Zen Heart Sangha from Woodside, CA. Twenty-five Branching Streams sanghas will be enjoying Sangha Weeks at Tassajara this summer.

Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland OR offers a Buddhist Summer Camp for children. Dharma Camp, from July 21 to 26, is “an overnight summer camp for kids aged nine through eighteen who are interested in Buddhism. The camp experience combines traditional camp activities, such as swimming, crafts, sports, and a campfire, with Buddhist practices like meditation, a chanted morning service, silent breakfast, and mindful work practice. Campers come from a variety of traditions and have different levels of familiarity with Buddhism but are willing to participate in our forms for the week of camp.” Please spread the word if you know families who may be interested.

I hope you are enjoying the colors and fragrances of spring.

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Newsette 5-2-2024

Earlier this week I returned from nearly two weeks of vacation in Rome and Venice. In Rome I visited Dario Girolami, Abbot of Centro Zen l’Arco and his wife Annalisa Miglioni, enjoyed many walks with them in the ancient and modern streets of the city, and practiced with Dario and the sangha.

I went to Venice for the opening of the Biennale, an international display of art that occurs every two years. This year’s theme was Strangers Everywhere, and many artists created work related to the experiences of migration, refugees, and the impact of colonialism.

Several Branching Streams teachers and sanghas participated in the April pilgrimage to Eiheiji and Sojiji Japan to honor the 700th Anniversary of Keizan Zenji, the founder of Sojiji, and many were able to visit Rinso-in, Suzuki Roshi’s family temple. Houston Zen Center’s Abbot Konjin Gaelyn Godwin reported on the pilgrimage, including some wonderful photos.

In the latest Mountain Rain Zen Community (Vancouver, BC) newsletter, co-guiding teacher Kate McCandless writes: “I want to say something about the war in Gaza, and beyond, the war that is all wars, the dead children that are all the children killed in wars – and at the same time this war, and this child, and this one. Like so many others, I am heart-broken at the news every day.” If you would like to read more, here’s a link to the Mountain Rain newsletter.

Kate invites us to listen to a Ted Talk given in Vancouver by “two men of tremendous courage and heart, a Palestinian, Aziz Abu Sarah, and an Israeli, Maoz Inon, both of whom have lost family members in the conflict, and both of whom are whole-heartedly working for peace. Their conversation opened TED2024 in Vancouver April 15.” Click here for link 

Djinn Gallagher, resident teacher at Black Mountain Zen Centre in Befast, Northern Ireland, writes that Paul Haller from San Francisco Zen Center is offering two workshops this Saturday, May 4, in person and online. The first, at 10 am, is The Essentials of Zazen, which will explore the awareness of posture, breath, and mental/emotional activity. The second, The Path of Zen, at 2 pm, investigates how to let the insights that have been revealed guide us to bring kindness and wisdom into our life. 

The current Brooklyn Zen Center newsletter includes a beautiful description of the coming of spring at Ancestral Heart temple, Brooklyn Zen Center’s monastery in Millerton, NY written by a student named Larissa P.

Also, Brooklyn Zen Center is offering a new class with co-guiding teacher Kosen Gregory Snyder, Karma and Collective Liberation, in person at the Millerton Zendo and online, during eight consecutive Thursday evenings from 6:45 to 8:30pm, June 13 – August 1. Registration is now open!

Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento CA celebrated a Jukai Ceremony in April. Malia McCarthy received the Dharma name Hō Etsu/Dharma Joy.  Dave Jarrell received the Dharma name Kō Shin/Generous Heart.  Myō Lahey, Abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco was the preceptor. Guiding teacher Jim Hare gave the dharma names and prepared the rakusus and documents. He reported, “Many people pitched in to set up the hall and hold a reception afterwards.  It was a lovely day.”

Joan Amaral, guiding teacher of Zen Center North Shore in Beverly MA, recommends a new book by Tim Ream, Fallen Water: A Novel of Zen and Earth. Joan says, “I just finished it, and was deeply moved by his thorough and compassionate view of beings – plants, birds, stars, fire, water, earth, animals, and humans. I think others might enjoy it, possibly recognizing with fresh eyes aspects of their own practice and training at Tassajara as I did.” The book is  available in print and on Kindle here.

This month’s event in the Soto Zen Buddhist Associations yearlong series, Celebrating the Voices of Women in Buddhism, Yesterday, today, and tomorrow is a talk by Eijun Linda Cutts on Receiving the Marrow by Bowing, Raihai Tokuzui on Sunday May 11, 12:30 to 2 p.m. PDT, on Zoom. Eijun says, “Besides his unfolding of the issue of gender in relation to the Dharma of nonduality and in the choosing of a guiding teacher, Dogen does not hold back in his diatribe and strong admonishment of the biased practices of the time in relation to women…” There will be time for discussion and Q&A. Registration is now open to all who are interested, including your sangha members.

I welcome news you would like to share with other sanghas. I also welcome your comments and feedback about these newsettes.