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Branching Streams Newsette 6-28-2021

Some good news about Tassajara: the 2021 Willow Fire is 73% contained and Tassajara is no longer in critical danger. As Tassajara is still under an evacuation warning status, the Tassajara Fire Crew will remain there until further notice. SFZC thanks all of those who have been following the situation and keeping Tassajara in your thoughts.

Updates about the Willow fire are posted on the SFZC website.

Many sanghas are partially reopening while continuing to make their offerings available via Zoom. If you would like some support with the technical side of this transition, you may wish to attend:

A Branching Streams Workshop

After Covid — Technology and the Zendo, A Practical Approach

Facilitated by Jon Voss

Saturday, July 17, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. PDT/12:00-1:30 p.m. EDT

 Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode:057143

By popular demand, we’re offering a 90 minute online program to explore how various sanghas are making their temples accessible with technology. We’ll be going behind the scenes at a handful of hybrid zendos to learn what technology solutions people have come up with, from computer and a/v hardware to aesthetic and privacy considerations. We’ll also leave ample time for Q&A so you can ask your own questions about various technology setups. No registration is needed. Please share this invitation with your sangha members.

Jon Voss’s Zoom clinic, which was launched in March 2020, is now meeting every two weeks. The next meeting is this Wednesday, June 30, from 11 to 12 PDT. Here is the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode:057143.

 On Sunday, July 4, Taigen Leighton, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s guiding teacher will give his annual Interdependence Day talk, celebrating the intersection of American ideals of freedom with Buddhist liberation. 

I wish you all a nourishing Interdependence Day weekend.

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Branching Streams Newsette 6-21-2021

This has been an eventful week for Branching Streams as well as for many in the U.S.

Last Thursday we held our first online gathering of European/British Branching Streams Teachers and Leaders. The Branching Streams Advisory Group met to plan our next workshop. And many sanghas celebrated the summer solstice as well as the new U.S. national holiday, Juneteenth, a recognition of emancipation from slavery as well as of all the ways in which African Americans still are not free.

You may have heard about the Willow fire, which began on June 17, three miles from Tassajara. Most residents were evacuated the next morning and fire crews are on site. The best way to get updates about the fire is on the sfzc.org website.

The workshop below evolved from the breakout group on hybrid zendos Jon Voss led at our Branching Streams Flow On conference on May 22nd:

A Branching Streams Workshop

After Covid — Technology and the Zendo, A Practical Approach

Facilitated by Jon Voss

Saturday, July 17, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. PDT/12:00-1:30 p.m. EDT

By popular demand, we’re offering a 90 minute online program to explore how various sanghas are making their temples accessible with technology. We’ll be going behind the scenes at a handful of hybrid zendos to learn what technology solutions people have come up with, from computer and a/v hardware to aesthetic and privacy considerations. We’ll also leave ample time for Q&A so you can ask your own questions about various technology setups. No registration is needed. We’ll send a Zoom link closer to the time of the event.

Last week eighteen teachers and leaders from Britain and nine countries in Europe (Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Northern Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), met via Zoom.

Participants discussed ways to build the connections between all the groups represented. There was also shared interest in exploring how Zen training, including chaplaincy training, can evolve in Europe, responses to the climate crisis, and how groups can continue to benefit from the positive aspects of Zoom as in-person meetings become possible again.

Welcome to Branching Stream’s new affiliate, Brattleboro Zen Center in Vermont, whose guiding teacher is Hakusho Johan Ostland. Hakusho trained at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara and was ordained by GGF Abiding Abbess Fu Schroeder.

Austin Zen Center is seeking a new Administrative Assistant. – to support day-to-day temple management in collaboration with senior leadership. This ~30hr/wk. position requires a consistently warm and welcoming presence, someone technologically inclined and extremely well-organized. Read more…Prospective candidates may apply via our our Indeed Posting

Jon Voss’s Zoom clinic will not meet this week and will be back on Wednesday, June 30th

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Branching Streams Newsette 6-14-021

I’ve had several meetings today regarding Branching Streams and want to share with you two events we are planning.

The first is a meeting of European teachers and leaders in the Suzuki Roshi lineage, which will occur this Thursday, June 17th. There will be about fifteen participants from Zen Centers and sanghas in eight countries. This initial meeting will provide an opportunity for networking and sharing common concerns and resources. I will report on it in my next Newsette.

The Branching Streams Advisory Group met today to debrief our May 22 gathering, Branching Streams Flow On, and to plan our next offering, on “hybrid zendos.” Many centers are beginning to reopen for in-person zazen and other programs, while wanting to stay connected with sangha members who live at a distance. We will have a description of the program and a date soon.

Jon Voss’s Zoom clinic will meet twice this month, on Wednesdays June 16th and 30th from 11 a.m. to noon PDT. Here is the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode:057143.

Joan Amaral of Zen Center North Shore shared news of an important series, Abuse, Sex, and the Sangha: Conversations for Healing, hosted by Buddhist Currents. On Saturday, June 26, from 3:30 to 5 p.m ET, they will offer “Speaking As, With, and For Survivors” with Lama Willa Miller, Chozen Bays Roshi, Rev. Grace Shireson, and Carol Merchasin. You can register in advance here.

Several years ago, Hakusho Johan Ostland, a San Francisco Zen Center priest, was a Branching Streams intern at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago. Hakusho now lives in Vermont, where he is establishing the Brattleboro Zen Center. He will return to Ancient Dragon to give an online summer solstice talk on June 20th from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. CST.

May you enjoy these days of longest sunshine as we approach the summer solstice.

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Newsette 6-3-2021

It is now early June, and summer solstice is only a few weeks away. I’ve been reading some of your newsletters and notice that some Zen Centers are beginning to open their zendos to in-person zazen and to half-day or daylong retreats. Other groups are taking advantage of the longer days and warm weather to hold sittings and daylong retreats outside. As we in the U.S. continue to venture out and reconnect with friends and family, I’m aware of the many parts of the world in which this is still not possible.

For those of you who attended Branching Streams Flow On two weeks ago, please complete the Survey I emailed yesterday so we can use your suggestions for planning our next offerings. For everyone, if you’d like to watch Teresa Bouza’s seven-minute video of nature photos and words, here’s the link.

I will be on vacation next week and my next Newsette will be sent the week of June 14th.

Zoom Clinics with Jon Voss will be offered every two weeks instead of weekly, on Wednesdays from 11 to noon PDT, June 16 and 30. Here is the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode:057143.

Here are a few offerings coming up this weekend and next week, all online.

Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, CA is offering “Allowing Emptiness to Fill the Page,” a one-day Zen and Writing retreat on Saturday, June 5from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. PDT, led by author and lay Zen teacher Beth Jacobs. one-day retreat and writing workshop led by author and lay Zen teacher Beth Jacobs, Ph.D.

Sandra Barros Pena will be giving the June 6 Sunday dharma talk on “The Bodhisattva Vows as Heart-Based Action” at Zen Center North Shore at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Sandra will be Zooming in from Argentina where she works in a community clinic with women who have experienced sexual abuse or gender violence.

At Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, the Sunday morning talk on June 6th (zazen at 9:30, talk at 10:10 CDT) will be given by anthropologist Juan Pablo Restrepo, their participant from Patagonia in Argentina, speaking on “Spiritual Practice in the Age of Ecological Crisis.”

Also on Sunday June 6, Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver, BC will have a memorial service for the 215 native children whose remains were discovered recently on the grounds of one of Canada’s largest residential schools in Kamloops—”holding the grieving communities in our hearts.”

Alan Senauke, Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center, is part of a team producing the Burma Spring Film Festival June 4 – 13. He says, “Extraordinary films and beautifully constructed panels, all of which throw a bright light on life in Burma/Myanmar today.”

May you be well.

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Newsette – May 24, 2021

It was wonderful to see so many of you at Saturday’s gathering, Branching Streams Flow On. Thirty-five Branching Streams sanghas in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, Italy, and Greece participated. Three themes were highlighted through Abbot Gaelyn Godwin’s talk on “The Climate of Our Time” and  breakout groups on Climate Chaos, The Sacred Work of Racial Justice, and Transitioning to Hybrid Zendo Offerings.

This is a time of transition for many Zen Centers, including San Francisco Zen Center. At City Center we had our first in-person work circle this morning after 15 months of Zoom work meetings.  Several sanghas are doing member surveys as they make plans to reopen while maintaining the capacity to include online participation.

You can bring your questions about anything related to Zoom to Jon Voss’s Zoom Clinic which meets on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to noon, Pacific time. Here is the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

Most of you will be reading this Newsette on May 25th, the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. This year has brought a heightened awareness of racial injustice in the U.S. Pamela Ayo Yetunde, Community Dharma Leader, Zen practitioner, chaplain, and author is offering George Floyd, the Bodhisattva’s Cry, and the Paramita of Persistence, a San Francisco Zen Center program on Thursday June 10th from 4 to 6 p.m. PT.

Last summer Branching Streams offered our first course, Unpacking Whiteness led by Crystal Johnson. If you missed it, a similar course led by Crystal is being offered by the Soto Zen Buddhist Association: Unpacking Whiteness; exploring the delusion of race from a Buddhist perspective. Dates: June 6, 13, 20, and 27 from 1-3:30 Pacific.For more information or to register: www.szba.org/courses .” This event will benefit the East Bay Meditation Center and fund the initiation of the SZBA’s BIPOC Support Fund; a fund to support Black, Indigenous and People of Color in Soto Zen lineages.

Taigen Leighton is offering an Online Seminar on Dogen’s Being Time and view of temporality, and its implications for Joanna Macy’s teaching of Deep Time and reinhabiting time, on Saturday, June 19th from 2pm to 5:30 p.m. EST/11am to 2:30pm PST. For more information or to register contact: info@ancientdragon.org.

In a prior Newsette I shared an invitation from the Zen Buddhist Sewing Teachers and Everyday Zen to participate in their first 6-month practice period, “Sew With Heart.”  It begins on June 3rd. The entire schedule is on the registration form. If you wish to participate, please register before May 28th.

Royce Johnson of Houston Zen Center received a request from a practitioner in  the U.K. who writes:  “My name is Christopher Jarrell and I am a retired social worker and counsellor, and I am autistic. I live in the UK and have been a practicing Buddhist for about thirty years. I’m researching for a book with a working title of Buddhism, Sangha and Autism: An Anthology of Personal Stories, which has been accepted for publication by Jessica Kingsley Publishers (London and New York). I’m writing to ask for your help in reaching out to potential autistic Buddhist contributors.” If you know sangha members who might like to contribute to this anthology they can contact Christopher directly. His email address is chris@jarrell.karoo.co.uk .

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Newsette May 17, 2021

We are less than a week from our Spring Gathering, Branching Streams Flow On, Saturday, May 22 from 9 a.m. to noon PT/noon to 3 p.m. ET. Registration is free of charge and is open to sangha members as well as teachers and leaders. Thank you to those who have registered and/or shared the invitation in your newsletters. An abbreviated program is on the Branching Streams website. You can still Register Here or from the website.

Jon Voss’s Zoom Clinic this Wednesday at 11 a.m. PT will focus on the many ways to use Breakout Groups. Here is the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

Since February, in addition to my weekly Newsettes, I’ve been writing weekly blogs for San Francisco Zen Center’s Sangha News. I recently wrote about our refreshed Branching Streams website. Here’s the link.

For details and applications forms for Tassajara’s summer student work opportunities and Fall Practice period, here’s the link to another Sangha News article.

Another blog focuses on Dario Girolomi, Abbot of Centro Zen l’Arco in Rome, who is creating a network of chaplains in countries connected with the European Buddhist Union.

Charlie Pokorny from Stone Creek Zen Center, asked me to share this with you: Stone Creek Zen Center in Sonoma County California is seeking a new head priest. Please read the job description here for more information.

If you’ve missed hearing Chenxing Han, who has spoken at several Branching Streams sanghas since her book Be the Refuge, Raising the Voices of Young American Buddhists was released in January, she and Rev. Dana Takagi will be giving a live-streamed  dharma talk on Saturday May 29at 10 a.m.PT  at San Francisco Zen Center.

There are some wonderful offerings coming in June, which I’ll share in next week’s Newsette.

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Branching Streams Flow On in the Dark

May 22, 2021, 9 a.m. – noon PT

Abbreviated Program

Register Here!

Please note: this event is free for all Branching Stream affiliates and their members, but registration is required.

Welcoming words, Tova & MC Inryu Ponce-Barger, All Beings Zen, Washington DC

Tova Green, Branching Streams liaison, speaks on “Branching Streams Flow On in the Dark”

Introductory breakout groups

Video of Nature Images compiled by Teresa Bouza, Kannon Do Zen Center, CA

Konjin Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot of Houston Zen Center, speaks on “The Climate of Our Time”

Topical breakout groups:

  •  “Climate Chaos: How does it feel? What will we do?” facilitated by Eden Kevin Heffernan, Richmond Zen Center, VA    
  • “The Sacred Work of RacialJustice” facilitated by Joan Amaral, Zen Center North Shore, MA   
  • “Transitioning to Hybrid Zendo Offerings” facilitated by Jon Voss of Mid-City Zen, LA

Ceremony: Looking Back and Looking Forwardwith Douglas Floyd, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, Chicago, IL; Michael Shinmon Newton, MountainRain Zen Sangha, Vancouver, BC; and Reirin Gumbel, Milwaukee ZC, WI.

Closing

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Newsette May 11, 2021

Please register for our spring gathering, Branching Streams Flow On, Saturday, May 22 from 9 a.m. to noon PT/noon to 3 p.m. ET. Registration is free of charge and is open to sangha members as well as teachers and leaders. Please consider posting this invitation in your sangha’s newsletter.

The gathering features Konjin Gaeyln Godwin, Abbot of Houston Zen Center, speaking about The Climate of Our Time, followed by breakout groups on three topics of interest to many sanghas – the climate crisis, the sacred work of racial justice, and creating hybrid zendos and events. There will be time to connect with one another in small groups, watch a video of our nature photos, enjoy music, and participate in a ceremony.

Jon Voss will be offering the breakout group on hybrid zen offerings at the May 22nd event. For more focused attention on your questions about anything related to Zoom, you are welcome to join his weekly Zoom Clinic on Wednesday May 12from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. PDT. Sangha members who are hosting Zoom events including zazen, service, classes, etc. are invited to attend. Here is the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

If you missed last week’s May We Gather Ceremony or if you’d like to watch again or share with others, the recording is available here: https://www.maywegather.org/livestream and also directly on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=665Gf6yyzVQ

There has also been some thoughtful press coverage of the event with lovely photos:

Norman Fischer, founder and guiding teacher of Everyday Zen, is launching his new book, When You Greet Me I Bow, Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen, edited by Cynthia Schrager, on Tuesday,  May 18th at 6 p.m. PT. The free online reading is sponsored by Book People in San Francisco. You can register and get more information at this link

“Looking backwards at a life lived, walking forward into more life to live built on all that, trying not to be too much influenced by what’s already been said and done, not to be held to a point of view or an identity previously expressed, trying to be surprised and undone and maybe even dismayed by what lies ahead.” —Norman Fischer If you are a Bob Dylan fan, you may wish to attend Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s ZAZEN AND DHARMA TALK BY TAIGEN DAN LEIGHTON: BOB DYLAN’S 80TH BIRTHDAY Sunday May 23, 2021 @ 9:30am – 11:30am CT. The talk features three of Taigen’s favorite Dylan Songs. Looking farther ahead, Taigen Leighton is offering an Online Seminar on Dogen’s Being Time and view of temporality, and its implications for Joanna Macy’s teaching of Deep Time and reinhabiting time, on Saturday, June 19th from 2pm to 5:30 p.m. EST/11am to 2:30pmPST. For more information or to register contact: info@ancientdragon.org. In recent newsletters from Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, California, I learned about two unusual ceremonies, one marking a birth and the other commemorating a death. With the help of Jim Hare, the residing teacher, I interviewed two sangha members and wrote a short feature for the Branching Streams website, called “A Sangha Meets Birth and Death Ceremonially.” Here’s the link if you’d like to read it.   Laurel Ross, a priest at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, has been leading monthly outdoor haiku walks. I will end this Newsette with two that were written on the second walk in a park near the Chicago River:  
New life emerges,
Crawling from the wreckage of
Last year’s foliage  

Insistent Robin Singing
and hoping for love
I’m here.  Where are you?

May new life be emerging for you and your sanghas.    
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A Sangha Meets Birth and Death Ceremonially

A Sangha Meets Birth and Death Ceremonially

By Tova Green

In recent newsletters from Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, California, I learned about two unusual ceremonies, one marking a birth and the other commemorating a death. I wanted to learn more about how these ceremonies originated. Jim Hare, the residing teacher, put me in touch with sangha members Doralee Grindler Katonah and Barbara Baccei, who agreed to meet with me by Zoom.

The Beginning of a Life

In the spring of 2020, after Valley Streams began to meet online, a new couple began participating regularly in sangha meetings. Sangha member Doralee reached out to them and offered them zazen instruction. During the pandemic they became pregnant with their second child. Doralee was excited to realize that there was a baby Buddha sitting with the sangha!  Most Valley Streams members are older and it had been many years since a sangha family had given birth. The pandemic has brought in a younger generation of practitioners.

Doralee wanted to find a way for the sangha to welcome the new baby.  She had the idea of adapting the Jizo Ceremony, usually offered at times of grief and loss, to this occasion. Her idea was to embed the ceremony in a half-day sitting.  The Sangha practice committee endorsed this Idea and asked Doralee to give a dharma talk about the meaning of the ceremony.

Doralee had read in Jan Chozen Bay’s book Jizo Bodhisattva that in medieval times Jizo was seen as a protector of children. In Japan there are “Jizo clubs” for pregnant women.  Doralee consulted two Bay Area Branching Streams teachers, Chris Fortin and Val Szymanski, who had experience with Jizo ceremonies. They confirmed Doralee’s sense of the significance of a child being born into a family that already knows the Buddha way. 

In preparation for the ceremony, Doralee met with the couple and their 11-year old daughter, guiding them to open their hearts and let their hands create an offering to Jizo (from craft materials), thus expressing their wish for a healthy birth. The family practiced bowing and learned the Jizo chant – Om Ka Ka Kabi San Ma Ei So Wa Ka. The ceremony was held after sitting in zazen all morning.  During the Ceremony each sangha member offered a blessing and later these were written on prayer flags and sent to the family. The mother gave birth on April 25th and sangha members are looking forward to greeting baby McKenzie.

The End of a Life

During the course of progressive illness with ALS, in June 2019, Bruce Baccei received the Bodhisattva precepts in a Jukai ceremony.  As a consequence of his illness, Bruce was unable to speak at that time.  In a moving ceremony, the phrases the initiate usually speaks were voiced by a “chorus” of Sangha members who had already received Jukai.

Bruce entered in-home hospice later that year and passed away on April 18, 2020.  During the months of in-home hospice, sangha members came to chant with him and Barbara at their home once a week. The sangha supported Barbara with a cremation ceremony and a 49-day memorial ceremony,

As the one-year anniversary approached, Dharma sister Sarah O’Gara, who was visiting Barbara said, “We’re all missing Bruce,” and they began to plan for an event in his memory. Bruce had loved outdoor activities, especially biking and sailing. They decided to invite sangha members to bike or hike a three-mile path that Bruce had biked to and from his job every day. 

This memorial event on April 18 iwas the first in-person sangha gathering in over a year, due to the pandemic. Sangha members met in a grove on the Sacramento State University campus, walked or biked the route, and then picnicked in the park and shared memories of Bruce. Due to Covid restrictions sangha members wore masks and brought their own lunches. Barbara had been in grief and recovery for a year. She described the gathering as heart-opening and healing. Many sangha members had experienced loss during the last year. She said, “Connecting with the suffering of others opened me up to a new ability to be responsive to others’ pain.”  

The weather was perfect. What could have been a day of sorrow for Barbara and the Valley Streams sangha became a day of joy. 

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May We Gather

This guest post by Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot of Houston Zen Center, was originally published on the Houston Zen Center blog.

A broken lotus flower, repaired at the gathering with gold. This is a symbol of strength and beauty after breakage.
A broken lotus flower, repaired at the gathering with gold. This is a symbol of strength and beauty after breakage.

Friends, our sangha was one of the original sponsors of May We Gather: A National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors. Buddhists of Asian descent from all Buddhist traditions in the US gathered at Higashi Honganji, in Los Angeles, which was recently vandalized. 49 Buddhists speakers gave teachings on practice, and how we can heal from violence and the causes of violence that have rocked our country: the violence that has been shown to Asian Americans for decades.

The ceremony took place on May 4th, 49 days after a gunman killed 8 people, including 6 Asian women in the Atlanta area. One of the most moving testimonies was in the form of a video by the sons of one of the women.

You can read an article about the ceremony: Learning to Heal in the Wake of Anti-Asian Attacks here. You can watch the full video of the ceremony here.

May all beings be peaceful and free from suffering, hatred, delusion, and greed.

With palms together,

Abbot Gaelyn

Candles for victims of violence against Asian Americans.
Candles for victims of violence against Asian Americans.
Monastics and Dharma teachers of Asian descent from all Buddhist traditions in the US gathered in Los Angeles for this momentous ceremony.
Monastics and Dharma teachers of Asian descent from all Buddhist traditions in the US gathered in Los Angeles for this momentous ceremony.
Leaving the ceremony, connected by the long thread originating from the Buddha.
Leaving the ceremony, connected by the long thread originating from the Buddha.
Entering the ceremony.
Entering the ceremony.