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About BZC

Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) is an embodied training community in the Soto Zen tradition. We aspire to offer opportunities to realize personal and collective liberation through the cultivation of intimate, ethical, and just relationship with ourselves and all beings. Our vow to practice undoing harmful and oppressive conditioning compassionately transforms our world.

Founded in 2005 as the first Zen Center in Shunryu Suzuki’s lineage in New York, BZC embraces both Soto Zen tradition as well as the complex realities of practice in a diverse urban environment. BZC has grown rapidly to become one of the most active, community-engaged Zen centers in the northeast.

BZC operates two separate temples: Boundless Mind Temple (BMT), which shares space at Christ Church Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, and Ancestral Heart Temple (AHT), located two hours north of New York City. Ancestral Heart is the first training temple in Suzuki Roshi’s U.S. lineage in the Northeast.



 

Lineage

Photo of  Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest belonging to the Soto tradition, came to San Francisco in 1959 at the age of fifty-four. Already…

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Photo of  Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi
Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi

Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi is a Soto Zen priest and a Dharma heir of his late father, Shunryu Suzuki-roshi. He became the abbot of Rinsoin temple…

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Photo of Sojun Mel Weitsman
Sojun Mel Weitsman

Sojun Mel Weitsman was a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and a Dharma heir of Suzuki’s son Hoitsu Suzuki. Sojun Weitsman founded the Berkeley Zen Center…

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Photo of Soshin Teah Strozer
Soshin Teah Strozer

Soshin Teah Strozer is BZC’s honorary founding teacher. She visited BZC’s city temple to lead retreats from 2006 through 2010. BZC then invited her to…

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Teachers and Practice Leaders


 

Governance

Board of Directors Executive Council: Martin Duus (Interim Board Chair), Charlie Pokorny (President), Kosen Greg Snyder (Senior Priest), Liz Curtis (Consultant, TDC)
Administrative Team
Temple Leadership

The Practice Council cares for the general practice health of the community and discerns how to better support training and any challenges to a just and harmonious sangha.

The Council’s responsibilities include:

  • Inviting students to fill practice roles (with input from the Sangha Council);
  • Giving ongoing attention to the training needs of students, both lay and priest;
  • Designing and scheduling BZC’s dharma offerings, including classes, retreats, ceremonies and other training events; and
  • Attending to all matters having to do with our practice forms, customs, and culture at BZC

The Practice Council is made up of the teachers and practice leaders (both lay and priest) for the community. The current members of the Practice Council are Kosen Gregory Snyder, Laura O’Loughlin, Sarah Dojin Emerson, Charlie Korin Pokorny, Ian Case and Yoko Ohashi.

The primary role of the Sangha Council is to care for the harmony of the sangha. The Sangha Council operates independently of both the Board of Directors and the Practice Council. The body has two primary responsibilities.

First, the Sangha Council functions as the first body to receive grievances within the sangha. If a sangha member has a conflict with another sangha member and has not been able to resolve the conflict one-on-one, the sangha member can bring their grievance to the Sangha Council, who can support finding and facilitating the best possible path to resolve the conflict, in alignment with our current grievance procedure.

Second, the Sangha Council will review all names submitted for temple officer roles before they are appointed by the Practice Council. The Sangha Council will support the Practice Council in offering a wider perspective on how the candidate is experienced by the sangha and give feedback to the Practice Council and teachers. BZC teachers will present all feedback to those being invited to take up the role. Input of this kind at the beginning of a role is an important mirror for practice.

These responsibilities are both expressions of the Sangha Council’s role in helping the sangha realize a deep and just harmony.

The first cohort of the Sangha Council was selected by the Practice Council. Going forward, the Sangha Council will self-select its new members with the approval of the Practice Council. We are committed to having at least half of the Sangha Council be students of color.

The current members of the sangha council are Jefre Cantu, Camille Goodison, Madhu Kaza, Flo Lunn and Adriane Rozier.



 

Ethics Statement

BZC's Commitment to Ethics

 

It is a great joy to practice the Buddha’s way in community with others. In the course of our practice together, conflict and disagreement will inevitably arise. The health of our sangha is not measured by the presence or absence of conflict, but rather by our collective willingness to find effective, responsible, and compassionate resolution when it arises. Each situation provides us an opportunity to manifest awakening and the practice of the Buddha way.

The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts are integral to upright conduct and sangha harmony in our lineage, and serve as our guide for our ethical conduct. If a sangha member experiences conflict or harm, we offer a range of possibilities for healing, including initiating a Formal Grievance Process. Given that our internal and social lives are shaped by white supremacy, patriarchy, and other forms of social harm, and that expectations of upright conduct increase alongside one’s responsibilities in the sangha, we will hold power relations at the forefront of our ethical considerations.

The Sangha Council, Board of Directors, and Teachers are committed to supporting sangha members coming forth and addressing their concerns in a way that is timely, transparent, just, and rooted in vow.

Please bring any questions to ethics@brooklynzen.org.

 

When an ethical issue arises, please examine your conditioning and role in the situation, and clarify what would be needed for healing. We ask all parties, including the person bringing the grievance, to use upright, inward-looking discernment during this process. 

Once you’ve done this, we offer several options:

  • Peer-to-Peer. Discuss the situation with someone you trust in the sangha and/or initiate a discussion directly with the other involved party. 
  • Sangha Harmony Ally. Consult with a Sangha Harmony Ally trained to meet and hold concerns.
  • Formal Grievance Process. If the first two options feel inadequate, unproductive, unsafe, and/or the integrity of the sangha is being threatened, file a formal grievance with the Sangha Council.

Confidentiality and Disclosure at BZC: BZC’s leadership will assume confidentiality in order to create a trusting environment for personal matters to be brought forth. At the same time,  BZC practice and administrative leadership—including Teachers, priests, staff, and board members—are expected to disclose knowledge or accusations of serious ethical violations to the Ethics Committee. This includes information shared in dokusan, correspondence, and casual conversation. The Ethics Committee will then notify the appropriate bodies and determine if a Formal Grievance Process or other actions are needed. In addition, both Teachers and Sangha Harmony Allies are encouraged to consult with their peers who hold the same role, sharing information with each other when needed, in order to best support sangha members.

Each time we enter Brooklyn Zen Center, we step into a shared practice container. We water a collective intention to create and hold spaces rooted in safety and bravery. We carry varied histories and traumas; we embody different forms of power and privilege. Conflict may arise, and at times we may not feel safe.

These Community Agreements are meant to guide us in navigating these complex terrains together and to support our fullest expressions in community.

1. Arrive Gently, Be With

We begin and end our meetings on time. Arrive and leave when best for you. Appreciating how refreshing it is to be in a place that is well cared for, we take care of our ourselves and our community by keeping the space uncluttered and accessible, especially near doors, aisleways, bathrooms, kitchen, and tea area.

2. Honor Intimacy, Privacy, Confidentiality

We do not share the names or personal stories of anyone other than ourselves, now or later. If we want to follow up with anyone regarding something they said in community, we ask first and respect their wishes.

3. Assume None, Be One

We do not assume the race, class, gender, sexuality, or ability of anyone else. We have the individual option to share pronouns, and we will collectively respect pronouns.

4. Dialogue over Debate through Mindful Listening

We listen deeply with our full attention, in body, heart, and mind. We listen to understand, not to respond. We are willing to be surprised, to learn something new, to be changed by all viewpoints and ideas. Not knowing is most intimate.

5. Practice Care and Consent

We practice care and consent by participating in what feels right and speaking our needs and concerns as they arise, as much as we can. We can say “I pass” or “No, thank you” if we don’t wish to speak. We ask before touching, and we are free to say no to touch. We ask for permission before offering advice, unless directly asked.

6. Practice Self Focus and Speak from the “I”

We attend to and speak about our own experiences and responses. We speak using “I” statements and do not speak for a whole group or express assumptions about the experience of others.

7. Practice “Both / And”

We substitute “and” for “but” when speaking. This practice acknowledges and honors multiple realities. This also supports creating spaciousness around our binary ways.

8. Understand the Difference Between Intent and Impact

No matter our intentions, we take responsibility for the impact our actions have on others. Denying our impact by focusing on intent can be  more destructive than the initial interaction.

9. Refrain from Blaming or Shaming Self & Others

We practice giving skillful feedback and not performing quality control on another’s expressions, or our own, understanding that powerful emotions  can arise as a shout, a stammer, a cry; and that these expressions, too, deserve space and care.

10. Taking Space, Making Space

We encourage full participation by all present, knowing that courage takes different forms for each of us. Take note of who is speaking and who is not. If you tend to speak often, consider “tuning in” through mindful listening. If you tend to rest in silence, consider “making space” by sharing your experience.

Community Agreements – PDF Version and Online PDF Version