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This evening I took part in an interfaith vigil called Mourning Into Unity, outside Temple Emanu-el in San Francisco. It was one of many such Vigils taking place across the nation to activate people of Faith to vote and to stand together against the pandemics of Covid 19, systemic racism and environmental devastation. It’s the first time I’ve gathered with interfaith clergy since March, and though we all wore masks and maintained physical distance it felt very tender to stand in a circle and share our prayers for people in our city and country. There will be another Mourning Into Unity vigil next Monday in Washington DC outside the White House.

Today was Indigenous Peoples Day. I received an email from Stephanie Kaza, who spoke on the climate crisis at last year’s Branching Streams Conference, about steps sanghas can take to cultivate local indigenous awareness. Stephanie forwarded a message from Unitarian Universalists with some questions that made me realize how little I know about local indigenous people:
· Do you know the history of the land your congregation/sangha calls “home?”
· Do you know what Indigenous people historically or currently inhabit that land?
· Do you know who the Indigenous people or communities are who live in your area or region and what their visions and struggles are?
· Are you acting in relationship or solidarity with any of them?
If you’d like to read more, here is a link to the newsletter Stephanie forwarded.

Ceremonies are important ways of marking transitions in our sanghas. One of great significance is happening at Berkeley Zen Center later this month:

The Board of Directors of Berkeley Zen Center, with boundless gratitude, invites you to the Stepping Down Ceremony and Stepping Into Founding Dharma Teacher position for Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi: Saturday, October 24 at 3 pm Pacific Time. The ceremony will be virtual; go to www.berkeleyzencenter.org and click on the link on the right hand column “Enter the Zendo Now” at the scheduled time. All are welcome.

Austin Zen Center is having a Tree-Planting Ceremony – A Celebration of Dharma Transmission on October 10th at 12:30pm Central Time. They will plant a Black Pine to celebrate and commemorate AZC Head Teacher Dōshin Mako Voelkel’s Dharma Transmission, given by her teacher Ryūshin Paul Haller in April 2019 at Tassajara. Dharma Transmission marks Rev. Mako’s full authorization as an independent Zen teacher. All are welcome to join us in-person or online for this significant event. Read more & register her.

Eishun Nancy Easton of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago organized a day-long outdoor sesshin that brought many members of ADZG together face to face for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March. She writes, “On Sunday, October 4, 2020, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate held our first outdoor all-day sitting at the Harms Woods forest preserve, located just outside Chicago. Priests Eishin Nancy Easton and Gyoshin Laurel Ross co-led this event, which included seventeen participants who joined together for a day of physically-distanced zazen, services, and an extended meditative walk along a hiking trail by the Chicago River.” You can read the short article here.

In Jon Voss’s Zoom class recently, guiding teacher and members of Centro Budista Zen Soto in Puerto Rico have been planning their first Jukai, which will be conducted with only guiding teacher Sandra Laureano and three ordinands in the Zendo, and videoed by Zoom. No matter how complex or simple your Zoom questions are, you are welcome to attend Jon’s weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday October 14th at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link, and Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

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Even in the Bay Area, where it’s sometimes hard to recognize the changes in seasons, we’re seeing signs of autumn. Cooler weather and fog have aided firefighters in Northern California and the air quality in the Bay Area improved in the last week. San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center began our online Fall Practice Period last week. Branching Streams groups in Vancouver, Seattle, Austin, Brooklyn, and elsewhere are also beginning Fall practice periods at this time. It’s encouraging to have this more focused period of practice in the midst of the many tensions in our country.

Thank you to all the Branching Streams sanghas that have responded to the Covid-19 Survey. I’ve received 39 responses thus far and will reach out one more time to about 25 groups that have not yet responded. I will share the results next week.

Thanks also to those of you who responded to Sanriki from Montaña de Silencio Comunidad Zen Insight in Medellín, Colombia. He writes: “I tell you that the goal was reached, and even exceeded. ..With this, we can end the year without financial concerns and start 2021 with much more confidence…150 practitioners and friends supported us in the campaign. This is indeed a unique treasure that fills us with energy and courage to continue building our sangha and the right conditions to share the Dharma.”

There are two online DEIA events you may be interested in. One is tonight, October 6th from 7 to 8:30 EST, a dialogue, “What is Right Justice?” between Greg Snyder, co-guiding teacher of Brooklyn Zen Center and Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, offered through Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Greg teaches.

And Kannon Do in Mountain View, CA will be hosting an online talk about transformative justice with Lucy Andrews on Saturday October 10th, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. (Pacific Time), as part of their “Buddhism in Society” Discussion Series. Lucy co-leads the Unpacking Whiteness program at San Francisco Zen Center and is a PhD candidate in environmental science at UC Berkeley. The link is: https://kannondo.org/event/online-buddhism-in-society-discussion-series-with-lucy-andrews/.

The Action to Feed the Hungry, an Online Gathering Sponsored by Houston Zen Center and Myoken-Ji is coming up this Sunday, October 11, 2020 11:30am – 1:30pm Central Time. Abbot Gaelyn Godwin says: “This year, during the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together to provide help and support for the many people who suffer food insecurity. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the founder of Buddhist Global Relief, will join our action to give us encouraging words, as well as guided meditation. We invite everyone to participate by joining us for this online action.”

Jon Voss will be offering his weekly Zoom clinic every Wednesday from 11 to noon Pacific time. Bring your questions about hosting Zoom events, sounds for ceremonies, and anything else Zoom-related. Here’s the Zoom link. (Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143)

Thank you all for your sustained practice and for the many ways you encourage your sanghas.

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This is a time of both celebration and mourning, sometimes expressed in ceremonies.

This past Saturday, three sanghas held outdoor Jukai ceremonies. I was able to attend the ceremonies in Austin and Houston by Zoom and received a description of the Jukai at All Beings Zen Sangha in Washington, D.C., written by their Shuso, Shōryū Chris Leader. “All Beings Zen Sangha held their second socially distanced Jukai ceremony this past weekend. The event was held in an open-sided barn at their rural retreat site and was attended by family members of the initiates and several sangha members. The barn was lit by the afternoon sunlight framing their preceptor and slipping through the boards of the ceiling. After the students took their vows and received their robes, each had a chance to step away from everyone, remove their mask, and address those who had gathered to support them. Afterward the ceremony closed with bells that roiled among the rafters, and exclamations of joy from Bodhisattvas and family alike.”

In recent newsletters we’ve spoken about closing ceremonies for beloved zendos. Ceremonies are also healing when loved ones die. Ramana Waymire of Ashland Oregon Zen Center writes: “One of our beloved sangha members, Kakuga Cyndi Grewe, died on September 7th. We held the traditional three-day vigil for her, adjusted for Covid-safety; only four in the zendo at a time, wearing masks and keeping social distance. At 72 hours we held a ceremony with 108 bows, with teachers and priests in the zendo with the windows open so that sangha could bear witness and participate from outside.”

Chris Fortin, guiding teacher of Dharma Heart Zen sangha, will be offering two online events centering Jizo Bodhisattva through San Francisco Zen Center. She writes: “In this time of difficulty and uncertainty, the archetype of Jizo Bodhisattva, an embodiment of fearlessness and great persistence, is a profound resource. Jizo vows to walk into the fires of suffering, and to accompany all beings across to the safety and equanimity of awakening.”

Chris is offering a Jizo Workshop and Ceremony (traditionally done for children who have died, it is relevant to losses of any kind), on October 10th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and an 8-week practice group that begins on October 15th. She says, “All are welcome, especially those in need of compassion, healing, and solace from the many losses, uncertainty, and changes of these times. Here’s a link for More information and registration.

We have received 31 responses to the Branching Streams Covid-19 Survey to date. The survey is designed to provide an overview of how the pandemic is affecting sanghas. If you haven’t responded, here’s the link to the survey. We request that only one person in each sangha respond. It will take 10 minutes or less to complete. Please respond by Friday, October 2nd. We will share the results in a Newsette and on the Branching Streams website.

The last letter writing election retreat will be on October 11th. Enrollment is open until Friday October 2nd. Here’s the link to their website: https://www.electionretreat.org/. In following weeks, election retreats will focus on phone-banking in swing states.

Jon Voss will be offering his weekly Zoom clinic every Wednesday from 11 to noon Pacific time. Bring your questions about hosting Zoom events, sounds for ceremonies, and anything else Zoom-related. Here’s the Zoom link. (Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143)

Thank you for reading this Newsette. May you find strength and sustenance in ceremonies, in your sanghas, in your families, in nature.

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Although the fires near Tassajara have been sufficiently contained to create safe enough conditions for a few students to return, some fires are still burning in California, Oregon, and Washington.

This Newsette includes a message from Ashland Zen Center in Oregon, and news of Zendo closings in Chicago and San Jose, CA. These reports hint at the grief that many of us are feeling, as the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. nears 200,000. In addition, many of us are mourning the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg last Friday.

Ramana Waymire of Ashland Zen Center wrote on September 17th, “We are smoked in, but thankfully we are safe. We each know someone who has lost a home or livelihood to the Southern Oregon fires, and know many who have been displaced by fire. The outpouring of support from the whole valley has been tremendous in the face of this suffering. Our sangha is gathering up care packages to distribute to those affected by fire. We also have an apartment which we are making available for short-term housing for some people who are living in their cars because their homes burned down. The fires have disproportionally affected the Hispanic community so we are grateful to have a Mexican sangha member who can assist in translation.”

Zendo Closings:

Douglas Floyd, Board Chair, sent this message: “Based on three Sangha Community Meetings held in August, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s board of directors is announcing that we have unanimously agreed that Ancient Dragon Zen Gate will not be renewing our lease after it expires on December 31, 2020. It’s with a heavy heart that we came to this conclusion. The temple on Irving Park Boulevard in Chicago has been our home for over 10 years. It’s important, however, to keep in mind that Ancient Dragon Zen Gate was a community before we occupied that building, and also that in the midst of this pandemic we have stayed together and grown together as a community. We will conduct a temple closing ceremony on December 6, which will include removing the image of Shakyamuni Buddha from our altar. The ceremony will be streamed on ZOOM, and additional information about the ceremony will be posted beforehand on our website www.ancientdragon.org.”

Cornelia Shonkwiler, guiding teacher of Middle Way Zen writes: “We did close our rented space in San Jose. Middle Way Zen is continuing on Zoom for now, but we are hoping to find a new sitting space when the pandemic is over, or at least better controlled.”

Here is a description of the closing ceremony from sangha member Ann Meido Rice: [The ceremony] “was held in the garden courtyard of the Art Gallery with which we were associated, with many of the sangha in attendance, socially distanced and masked. The ceremony was a simple and poignant one, much like the history and workings of our sangha. It was one in which many students were involved without realizing the specific contribution they had made to the service.

Cornelia’s closing remarks were beautiful and real: ‘With the closing of our zendo, we may experience a sense of loss, but we should remember that an ending can lead to a new beginning…Let’s go forward with trust and confidence that this practice will continue forever.’

My overall experience was one of realization of the profound effect of the simplicity, connection, teaching, and zazen that Middle Way Zen has had on many in the 11 years that we called this address our home, with the circle ever widening from this point. We are now on Zoom with zazen, services, talks, and social catch-up 6 mornings/week…..small and still together.”

On another note, by popular request Jon Voss will repeat his basic Zoom training Wednesday, September 23rd from 11 to noon Pacific time. Here’s the description and link:

Time to add some backup to your online zendo team? This training will go over the basics for using Zoom to host online zendos. We will cover basic security features, how hosts can set up the zendo when they log on, using recorded bells and other sounds, and a quick intro to breakout groups if time allows. This class will be recorded.

Zoom link here

This class is in lieu of the regular Wednesday Zoom clinic. If you have any questions, you can email me or Jon, jon@jumpslide.com.

As we approach the Autumn Equinox, already experiencing the shorter days and changing colors of Autumn, may we find ways to connect with and support one another.

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This morning I received a message from Josho Pat Phelan, the guiding teacher of Chapel Hill Zen Center, saying, “I am thinking of you and of California and the West Coast fires and send my deep wish for it to end soon.” I replied, “Thank you for your wishes concerning the wildfires. It’s such a call to do whatever we can to slow climate change.”

For me, slowing climate change is linked to getting out the vote for the November election. Nearly 200 people from sanghas across the country, including Shokuchi Deirdre Carrigan from Brooklyn Zen Center and Chris Fortin from Dharma Heart Zen in Sebastopol, CA participated in an online election retreat organized by many members of Berkeley Zen Center yesterday. This retreat generating over 4,000 letters encouraging people in swing states to vote. The 4 ½ hour retreat included zazen, a dharma talk by Roshi Joan Halifax of Upaya Zen Center, and time to write letters. Thus far this year over 50,000 letters have been generated in these retreats – an example of how, together, we can make a difference. It’s not too late to enroll in the three remaining retreats on September 27, October 4 and 11. Here’s the link to their website: https://www.electionretreat.org/

This Newsette also includes a description of what two sanghas are doing to support a global Buddhist response to feed the hungry, a new video of zazen instruction by Sojun Mel Weitsman, and a study group inspired by A Wild Love for the World, as well as an invitation to a special Zoom class with Jon Voss.

Houston Zen Center writes: “This year, during the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together to provide help and support for the many people who suffer food insecurity. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the founder of Buddhist Global Relief’s Walk to Feed the Hungry, will join HZC’s action to give us encouraging words, as well as guided meditation.

“We invite everyone to participate by registering for this online action. You can also make a video of yourself walking or standing with a sign that supports Buddhist Global Relief. Your efforts and generosity will help with programs that provide direct relief, promote sustainable agriculture, and provide education and right livelihood opportunities for women. To learn more: https://mailchi.mp/houstonzen/walk-to-feed-the-hungry-october-26th-2187372?e=f8dc82556b

Berkeley Zen Center will also be participating in the Walk to Feed the Hungry.
Berkeley Zen Center’s Vice-Abbot Alan Senauke writes: “Sojun Roshi [who is 91 years old] offered a full zazen instruction, with some q&a, at a Friday afternoon talk in the Zendo. We tried to capture it in a high-quality video with good sound. This wonderful documentation of his teaching can be found on our new Berkeley Zen Video YouTube channel, which also features almost all our Saturday talks and classes since we moved onto the Zoom platform. You can browse through the offerings. Meanwhile, here is the link to Sojun’s instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBmYlr35mYU

On Saturday night I attended an online conversation between Stephanie Kaza (who spoke at the 2019 Branching Streams Conference) and Joanna Macy, Buddhist activist, teacher, and writer. In the midst of the fires burning in California, Oregon (Stephanie’s home) and Washington, their words on the climate crisis were healing and energizing. Stephanie edited A Wild Love for the World, Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, a tribute to Joanna’s decades of work to help us turn our despair into compassionate action. This book is the focus of study for Heart of Compassion sangha in Point Reyes, whose guiding teacher is Jaune Evans.

Here’s a reminder about a special Zoom class offered by Jon Voss this week:
Many sanghas are expanding both the range of Zoom offerings (e.g. beginning to do service and ceremonies on Zoom) and including more sangha members in hosting Zoom events. Here’s a description of a class Jon is offering next week:

Time to add some backup to your online zendo team? This training will go over the basics for using Zoom to host online zendos. We will cover: basic security features, how hosts can set up the zendo when they log on, using recorded bells and other sounds, and a quick intro to breakout groups if time allows. This class will be recorded.

Wednesday, September 16th from 11 to noon Pacific time.
Here’s the Zoom information:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/222402816?pwd=ODVWLzZ5ZUFtREcvS2M3YmkyVnVaUT09
Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143
This class is in lieu of the regular Wednesday Zoom clinic. If you have any questions, you can email me or Jon, jon@jumpslide.com.

May we all find the words and actions that inspire us to care for ourselves, one another, our sanghas, country, and planet.

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I enjoyed seeing many of you at last week’s Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference.

And I’m happy to let you know that we have a new Branching Streams webmaster, Jon Voss, a member of Mid-City Zen in New Orleans. I want to thank Eric Jonas of All Beings Zen Group in Washington, D.C. for his responsiveness and creativity in updating the website.

This Newsette features news from Branching Streams groups in Europe, Mexico, and Columbia. You will read of some challenges groups have faced due to Covid-19 as well as opportunities going online has afforded sanghas.

Djinn Gallager writes: Black Mountain ZC in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is hosting an international weeklong sesshin on the theme Entering the Buddha Way, led by Ryushin Paul Haller. “The sesshin has 62 participants, and we will be sitting together across the world in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada, Thailand, Australia, Slovenia, Greece, Norway and Austria. Ryushin is offering the sesshin by donation to allow as many people as possible to attend, regardless of their finances.”

Akazienzendo in Berlin offers an international evening

Bernd Bender, their guiding teacher, writes: “The zendo was closed from April to the middle of June. Since then we very cautiously reopened and accommodate 14 people to sit, practicing physical distancing. Like in many practice places, most of our events still happen online only.

“Zen in English” started two months ago as a venue for practitioners in Greece to meet with me. (For the past five years I have been traveling to Greece four times a year for short weekend-retreats.) The big surprise of “Zen in English” has been that right from the start people here in Germany also participated and a dream came true: For years we have been trying to find ways for the Athens and the Berlin sanghas to meet, and now it is happening. Then some friends from California joined, and lately Djinn Gallagher in Belfast participated and hosted our last meeting.

It is a very heartwarming experience how in challenging times we can find creative ways to connect and practice together. The meetings happen every Friday, 7.30-9 pm, Central European time. We sit together for 30 minutes and chant the Heart Sutra, usually followed by a brief talk and discussion.”

The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/s/3516453359?pwd=bDlaT042OWR0UDJmNmlFOUFVM1VUdz09#success. You are invited to join!

News and request from Montaña de Silencio Comunidad Zen Insight in Medellin, Columbia

Sanriki Jaramillo, their guiding teacher, was participating in the Spring Practice Period at Green Gulch Farm, which ended in mid-March, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He writes, “I returned to Medellín to guide our small community through the quarantine. It has been a time of great uncertainty and limitation. Although we are now close to ending our quarantine (the curve of contagion and death from COVID 19 has begun to diminish significantly in Colombia), the economic impact of the temporary closure of our center has been great. The largest part of our income is comprised of donations and voluntary support from practitioners and visitors, and our monthly income has been reduced by forty percent. In the last six months, we have incurred a large deficit that threatens our future. If we are not able to cover this deficit, we may have to give up our practice center, the house we currently occupy, where a small community of permanent and occasional practitioners live.

Fifteen days ago, we began a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $20.000.000 Colombian pesos ($5,500 US dollars). The result so far has been encouraging as we have raised 60% of our goal, but we still have a long way to go before we reach it.”

Sanriki asked me to share their current situation in the hope that we might be able to assist them in guaranteeing our economic equilibrium for the rest of the year.

Link to the campaign: https://vaki.co/generosidad

Link to visit their page: http://montanadesilencio.org/

Sergio Stern, leader of Montaña Despierta in Jalapa Mexico writes: “ We just reopened the zendo at Montaña Despierta with limited capacity (8-10 persons) and all the measures of hygiene, some distancing and mask wearing. The rest of the sangha may connect through Zoom. We are also meeting regularly in nature, by a river, to do some walking meditation. We are beginning to feel the full force of the sangha coming back to life after a big blow just when the pandemic started and we had to cancel everything. We were beginning our very first Practice Period in which I was going to be Shuso under the guidance of one of our teachers, Anka Rick Spencer. We couldn’t continue. Many of us, including myself, had our lives completely upended and it was very difficult to give space to the practice and feel the close in-person support that we felt was needed for a Practice Period. But we are back with our once a week sitting group. Gaining in confidence little by little and turning again into that place of refuge for the people in our community, where Eijun Linda Cutts has led many sesshins.

We have a nice web page in English and Spanish with a unique audio library of Dharma talks in Spanish or with translation from the English which makes a special contribution to the Spanish-speaking Dharma world.” www.mdzen.com

Here’s an invitation to join Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in clinicsWednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time if you need Zoom advice, support, or encouragement.

Wishing you all good health and resilience (the topic of a talk I’m giving at Monterey Zen Center) this week.

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One of the gifts of this challenging time is the ease with which we can visit distant sanghas, hear their dharma talks, take part in their classes, one-day sittings, sesshins, and ceremonies. I am currently participating in a study group offered by Houston Zen Center and will be co-teaching a class at Mid-City Zen in New Orleans this fall – with no travel needed.

As I mentioned in a recent Newsette, Brooklyn Zen Center decided not to renew the lease on their Brooklyn home of many years. Laura O’Laughlin, (Laura and Greg Snyder are the guiding teachers) describes their process of grieving and celebration: “We have been going through a month-long process with the sangha of grieving our city temple (about two years ago BZC purchased land outside the city). We have had a few zoom evenings of recollection and the BIPOC community made a short video and another sangha member made a longer video .Folks in the city are visiting the space in small groups and next week Greg and I will do a ceremony to close the space. It has been such a powerful, beautiful practice space and our sangha grew substantially in that space, especially with the kitchen. Kitchen practice is still happening once a week until the end, creating soups and food for protestors and those in need.”

Laura also shared a 30 minute video. She describes it as “a beautiful and generous offering to our community, capturing our practice in our Brooklyn temple. It includes snippets of teachers’ talks at BZC and chanting.” Here’s the link: https://vimeo.com/450607102 password snowy2328.

I’ve signed up for a second election retreat. It’s not too late if you’d like to join other Buddhists in September or October for four hours of practice (zazen and a dharma talk) and letter writing to encourage people in swing states to register and vote. On September 13th you can join members of Houston Zen Center, San Francisco Zen Center, and Upaya Zen Center. Roshi Joan Halifax will give the dharma talk that day. Here’s the link for information about these election retreats: https://mailchi.mp/1325076a5ced/september-october-retreats?e=d3485a4663

Douglas Floyd, Board Chair of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, and I are working on a survey we will be sending you soon to learn how Branching Streams Zen Centers and sanghas have been affected by Covid-19 — what decisions you’re making about your practice spaces, how you’re offering the dharma, how your membership and finances may have changed. I’ve received many questions about what sanghas are thinking about renewing leases, reopening, amplifying online offerings, surviving financially. We will be able to share the survey results on our website.

Branching Streams is in search of a new Webmaster. After several years of maintaining the Branching Streams website, our wonderful webmaster, Eric Jonas, of All Beings Zen in Washington, DC, needs to pass on the baton. Please let me know if you or someone in your sangha would like to be our next webmaster.

Here’s an invitation to join Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time if you need Zoom advice, support, or encouragement.

May you find ways to nourish yourselves and to connect with others this week. I hope to see some of you at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference September 3rd and 4th.

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This has been a challenging week for those of us in California, with over 600 wildfires flaring all around the state, many of them close to practice centers and homes of sangha members and causing poor air quality in the Bay Area and beyond. In addition, a tropical storms is on its way to the Gulf Coast, endangering communities in Louisiana and Texas. Such vivid reminders of the climate crisis are impossible to ignore.

Many sanghas have been addressing this issue for several years. Climate justice was a theme of the 2018 Branching Streams Conference, which included a wonderful presentation by Stephanie Kaza on systems theory and the climate crisis. Given the pandemics of Covid-19 and the heightened awareness of racial injustice, the precarious state of our planet may have moved to a “back burner.” Please let me know if your sangha is involved in climate justice actions or study and I will include that in the next Newsette.

As the days grow shorter, even in places that are still experiencing the heat of summer, signs of autumn are unmistakable. School is starting, for most students, from pre-school to college, online. Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s senior students host a Zen group for students at the University of Chicago, which was recently featured in a Tricycle article, “Buddhists on Campus”.

Many sanghas are planning Fall Practice Periods, some starting as soon as September. Mountain Rain Zen Centre in Vancouver is opening its Fall Practice period with a weekend retreat and will be opening its zendo for up to ten sangha members at a time, physically distanced, as well as offering the retreat online. Guiding teachers Michael Newton and Kate McCandless carefully worked on a zendo reopening plan.

Seattle Soto Zen’s guiding teacher Allison Tait writes, “I am receiving support from the teachers both Bellingham and Vancouver to offer an [online] Seattle practice period! SSZ has only ever had a shuso one time before, so the Sangha is very excited.” This inter-sangha support and cooperation is happening more easily with Zoom.

In case you missed it, I’m mentioning again Thomas Bruner’s Fundraising for Buddhists class, offered by Houston Zen Center, three sessions beginning September 1st. For a description or to register, go to: https://houstonzen.org/events-calendar/2020/9/1-september-fundraising-for-buddhists

Jon Voss continues to generously offer his weekly Zoom drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

May you, your loved one, and all beings be healthy and safe.

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In 1963, in the summer before I graduated from college, I spent three weeks in a voter registration project in Greensboro, North Carolina, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. I joined a group of about 20 Black and white college students. We were housed in the basement of a Black church and went door-to-door to encourage African-Americans to register to vote. I have never forgotten how precious and precarious is the right to vote. Getting out the vote continues to be of vital importance.

In recent years many Zen Buddhist practitioners have organized election sesshins in swing states. This year, leaders and members of sanghas across the country are participating in online election retreats. Individual and groups of sangha members can participate in these letter-writing efforts to get out the vote. You can find more information at https://www.electionretreat.org/

In response to the climate crisis, the Shogaku Zen Institute is offering a 13-week course in Eco-Dharma, beginning September 10th, led by David Loy and Kritee (Kanko). Some questions the course will address include:

  • How can we respond urgently and effectively to the ongoing climate emergency and the larger ecological crisis—and stay sane doing it?
  • How do we understand the interconnection of environmental degradation with colonialism, racism and neoliberal economics?
  • What contemplative/spiritual principles and perspectives can help us forge a response to our ecological predicament?

For more information, here’s the link.

In case you missed it, I’m mentioning again Thomas Bruner’s Fundraising for Buddhists class, offered by Houston Zen Center, three sessions beginning September 1st. For a description or to register, go to: https://houstonzen.org/events-calendar/2020/9/1-september-fundraising-for-buddhists

Jon Voss continues to generously offer his weekly Zoom drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

I’d like to end with words from the late John Lewis, in a statement he wrote just before he died in July, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

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Several sanghas are finding creative ways to practice together outdoors, physically distanced. This image is from Richmond, VA Zen Center, at Sheilds Lake:

Richmond Zen Center: Sitting Zazen by the Water

If you’d like to know more, please go to: https://www.richmondzen.org/boundless-zendo

Houston Zen Center is offering a second series of Fundraising for Buddhists led by Thomas Bruner, as the first one filled. The next series will be September 1, 8, and 15.

Jon Voss will be hosting the Wednesday Zoom weekly drop-in clinics, at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

This continues to be a time of great hardship for many people in the U.S. and around the world. May we find ways to share our practice in ever-widening circles.