As we approach the end of the year, we look back at the life of the sangha during 2021. As we continued to adapt to the pandemic circumstances, BZC was able to offer a mix of in-person and online offerings, with the return of in-person practice opportunities in Brooklyn and at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery. This selection of images includes some – but not all – of the highlights of our sangha life during the past 12 months. May we continue to practice together in 2022!
Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery
Monastic practice has entered its third year at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery (AHZM). There are now twelve long-term residents, and throughout the year nearly 100 visitors have come to partake in zazen, ritual, and communal living. We are currently accepting applications from BZC members only, but planning has started for Phase 1 of the monastery’s build-out and we look forward to expanding the capacity to host more visitors at AHZM.
Black and Buddhist Summit
BZC was honored to be a partner of the Black and Buddhist Summit, an online gathering exploring what Buddhism can teach us about race, resilience, transformation, and spiritual freedom. Over 20 leading African-descended Buddhist teachers offered their wisdom and insights about Buddhist teachings, being Black practitioners, and the possibility of a truly representative American Buddhism.
BZC Ethics Statement and Process
BZC‘s Ethics Statement was presented to our community in early March. These forms, resulted from months of work, discussion, and discernment, with the goal of offering a possible path through which to hold conflict and harm in a loving, transformative way. This process, led by the Ethics Working Group, included the generous input and support of previous and current board members, sangha members, teachers, and other sanghas.
A new vegetable garden was born at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery! From the snowed fields in early March, to the promise of the first sprouts in the spring, through the abundance of the summer greens and flowers, to the last fall vegetables, we followed the hard work and adventures of the gardening monks and volunteers at AHZM under the guidance of Sansei Simmons Antell, Head of Garden and Grounds.
May We Gather: A National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors
BZC joined sanghas across the country for a national Buddhist memorial service. May We Gather featured Buddhist chanting and reflections from forty-nine Asian American Buddhist leaders of South, Southeast, and East Asian descent in a communal ritual to honor people who have died from acts of anti-Asian violence in the United States.
In-Person Garden Zazen
As the pandemic eased and the weather got warmer, the BZC sangha set up weekly in-person sits at the Warren St. Marks Community Garden in Park Slope. Week after week, the sangha sat under the Brooklyn skies, surrounded by the urban soundscape and the garden chickens.
Prospect Park BZC Sangha Gathering
For many of us, this was the first time we met in person for the past 18 months! Under majestic trees and beautiful sunlight, we sat zazen and shared food, as well as laughter and tears. The day also included a ceremony welcoming the new babies in the community!
In September, after a year of planning and development, BZC launched a new program: The Bodhisattva Path of Liberation: Racial Suffering and Collective Transformation. This ten-month program is an immersive group experience oriented towards transforming racial harm and suffering through a Dharma framework of liberation. More than 40 participants joined the program and are have now embarked on this ambitious and unique process to undo racial domination within the sangha and beyond.
2021 BZC Membership Drive
During the 2021 membership drive, 15 new members joined BZC! Of course, you can become a BZC member any time!
Zen Priest Ordination
At the end of a three-day sesshin, our sangha came together to celebrate the Zen priest ordination of Jefre Cantu, a long time BZC member. On the grounds of Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery in Millerton, NY, in a ceremony officiated by BZC‘s root teacher Soshin Teah Strozer, Jefre Cantu was surrounded by dharma teachers Kosen Gregory Snyder and Laura O’Loughlin, as well as monastic and lay practitioners who joined in person and online from around the world. It was a very joyous day for our community! Find more pictures of this day here, including a certain four-legged BZC sangha character.
Throughout the year, many visiting teachers joined our sangha to offer dharma talks and workshops. These included Sarah Dōjin Emerson, Charlie Pokorny, Sally Chang, Kritee Kanko, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, James Lynch, Konjin Gaelyn Roshi and Taiga Sensei. Many of their dharma offerings, as well as those from BZC teachers, are available at the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.
In-Person Rohatsu Retreat
After an online Rohatsu in 2020, the BZC sangha could gather in person and share space for this year’s December retreat. Hosted at the Christ Church Cobble Hill, in Brooklyn, the retreat focused on bringing our effort completely to the physical activity of building the temple. With 51 people in attendance, the sangha was devoted each day to cleaning and caring for this new space, in preparation for regular practice there in the year ahead.