New audio dharma talk by Chimyo Atkinson

For more audio dharma talks, please visit the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Audio dharma by Chimyo Atkinson (2021/03/13)

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

New audio dharma talk by Laura O’Loughlin

For more audio dharma talks, please visit the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Audio dharma by Laura O’Loughlin (2018/02/24)

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

New audio dharma talk by Ian Case!

For more audio dharma talks, please visit the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Audio dharma by Ian Case (2020/02/29)

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Letters from the Garden: Planting Good Seeds

Dear Sangha,

So much is happening! Right now I’ve got two main projects going: planting seeds in flats to grow them up into small baby plants, and then transplanting those starts into the ground outside. This week I want to talk about seed starting, because it’s fun, easy, and frankly miraculous. You can also play along at home.

This past week, we transplanted our first seedlings outside into the garden. They were spinach! You’ll get to see them if you finish reading this email.

Spinach starts as seeds. Seeds are incredible little packets of energy that contain just about everything the future sprout needs to put out a root and its first leaves. Water and temperature are usually the main events that tell the seed when it’s time to stop being a seed and to start being a sprout. Some seeds require a period of being cold and damp (i.e. winter, or a simulation of winter in your refrigerator), while others don’t. This is called cold stratification. Spinach doesn’t need it. We just put the seeds in some good quality potting soil, cover them up, add water, and wish them well.

Left: spinach seeds. Right: using soil block makers to make pressed dirt cubes for seeds. This is the first time I’ve used this method and so far I really love it. There’s a lot less plastic involved.

We started these spinach seeds in potting soil and protection of the indoors in order to get a head start on the planting season. Spinach can tolerate pretty cold temperatures, which is good because we’ll likely have frosts through early May, but the ground has been frozen solid until recently so nothing could be planted. By starting them early inside though, they were ready to go as soon as we could get them in the ground. It also guaranteed that we were planting big, healthy plants that can out-compete weeds and bugs.

Soil blocks ready for planting

Spinach, like lots of vegetables, doesn’t need to be started indoors. You can plant it directly outside (“direct sowing”) and it does just fine. There are some vegetables, however, which need a longer and warmer growing season than we get in New York, and therefore do need to be started early indoors and transplanted after the last frost if you want them to reach maturity before fall. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are the big names in this category, but onions also need a long season.

Once the seeds have been planted and watered, it takes them around a week to sprout. The first leaves you see aren’t actually true leaves. They’re called cotyledons, and they’re part of the embryo that was contained within the seed, like a starter pack. Those give the sprout the ability to gather enough energy to then put out their first set of true leaves, which look like the typical leaves of whatever the plant is.

Spinach seedlings under grow lights. The long thin leaves are the cotyledons, and the spinach-looking leaves are the first true leaves.

Leaves need sunlight in order to do photosynthesis, which is the process of converting light into metabolic energy. Unfortunately the light that comes through a bright window isn’t usually enough, and the seedlings can get too long and “leggy” as they stretch themselves towards it. Because we have a lot of seedlings here, I built a big rack in my bedroom in which full-spectrum LED grow lights can support the growth of plants that need to be kept in warm temperatures while they’re small.

The grow light rack in my bedroom

For plants that can tolerate colder conditions, which includes spinach as well as most brassicas and alliums, they get to go outside in the cold frame. A cold frame is basically just a large bottomless wooden frame with a transparent lid, which offers a protected microclimate inside. It can actually get over 100 degrees in there on a sunny day, even if it’s in the 40s outside! Propping open the lid to vent is therefore very important. Anyway, the rack in my room was getting full, so the spinach seedlings went into the cold frame along with the onions and cabbages.

The cold frame

The day of “as soon as the ground can be worked” arrived last week, and Bianca and I transplanted all the little spinaches into the garden, where they now look much happier. Because we don’t have a deer/rabbit fence up yet, I also covered them with a row cover, which lets light and water through but provides some wind and herbivore protection for the moment. I like to peek inside and say hi to them every day.

Bianca with spinach, and then spinach in the ground

You can do all of this at home, even if you only have a sunny windowsill or a balcony. Herbs grow great in pots, and container gardening is very possible in the city. I recommend trying basil, mint, chives, parsley, cilantro, oregano, and thyme. Basil is really the star, though, in my opinion, and will grow fine in a sunny window. If you have a balcony or porch outside that gets good sun, tomatoes and peppers also grow perfectly fine in larger containers.

All you need is some newspaper, paper bags, or brown packing paper and you can make your own seed starting pots for free. Just fill them with potting soil and add your seeds, keeping them moist by misting with water until they sprout. Covering with plastic wrap also helps, but make sure to take it off as soon as they start to grow. When they get a little bigger, thin the sprouts to one per cell, and when they have a couple sets of leaves you can transplant them into a larger pot. Of course you can also skip the seed starting and buy plant starts from a garden center. Either way, the biggest challenge is making sure everything gets enough light indoors, so use your sunniest spot.

I’m curious what y’all are growing this summer. What sort of spaces do you have access to? Is there anything new you’re really excited to grow? How are your houseplants doing? Are you doing any seed starting this year? Please share! I’m at ahzmgarden@brooklynzen.org.

Lots of love,
Ella Antell

New audio dharma by Kosen Greg Snyder

 

For more audio dharma talks, please visit the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Audio dharma by Kosen Greg Snyder (2021/02/27)

 

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

New audio dharma by Teah Strozer

 

A new audio dharma talk by BZC‘s root teacher Teah Strozer is now available!

For more audio dharma talks, please visit the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Audio dharma by Teah Strozer (2016/05/07)

 

New audio dharma by Kosen Greg Snyder!

Audio dharma by Kosen Greg Snyder (2021/02/06)

For more audio dharma talks, please visit the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Robes and rubber boots at AHZM (March 2021)

Letters from the Garden: Dharma Blossoms

Dear Sangha,

This is the first spring I’ve experienced at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery, and I continue to be enthralled by how fast everything changes. It feels like overnight that the apple trees are suddenly putting out buds and little green nubs of flower bulbs are poking up through the ground. Last week was close to 70 degrees, and this week we’re back to freezing. It’s still too early to really plant anything outside, but the day is coming soon.

This past Wednesday we celebrated Ancestral Heart’s first annual Garden Opening Ceremony, in which we held service outside under the sky and planted seeds while chanting Dogen Zenji’s “Dharma Blossoms Turn Dharma Blossoms.” It feels good to stand in the stubble of the field and thank the earth for the life she gives us; to give our lives in return. It feels like coming home.

Robes and rubber boots at AHZM (March 2021)
Robes and rubber boots
A temple under the sky at AHZM (March 2021)
A temple under the sky

Most seed packets will tell you that early varieties should be planted “as soon as the ground can be worked,” a phrase which I find delightfully ambiguous. I interpret it to mean that the ground has both unfrozen and dried out enough that the seeds won’t rot in the ground. But when is that exactly? It’s not my analytical mind that knows, but something in my body can tell when the weather is right and the soil is ready. I feel all my ancestors in that knowing.

The one thing (besides grass) that is growing in the new garden field is something we planted last October—a pound of garlic cloves. Last fall the bulbs put up a few little shoots before going dormant for the winter, and then lay sleeping under several feet of snow until just a week ago when the last of it melted away. Now they are waking up again and putting out new green shoots to reach the spring sun. Hopefully they’ll grow some tasty scapes soon.

Garlic sprouts this spring at AHZM (March 2021)
Garlic sprouts this spring

As Dogen says, “Although bodhisattvas who emerge from the earth into myriad worlds are the great sages of timeless dharma blossoms, still they emerge now turned by themselves and turned by others. Do not regard emerging from the earth alone as turning the dharma blossoms. Regard emerging from the sky also as turning the dharma blossoms. Know with buddha wisdom that bodhisattvas emerge not only from the earth or the sky, but also from the dharma blossoms.”

Lots of love,
Ella Antell

Audio dharma talk by Sarah Emerson now available

Audio dharma by Sarah Emerson (2021/02/20)

For more dharma talks by BZC and visiting teachers please visit our Audio Dharma page.

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated.

Letters from the Garden

Dear Sangha,

I heard my first birdsong of the year this morning. A week of days above freezing have been rapidly turning two feet of snow into boot-sucking mud. Our neighbors at Watershed Center are busy tapping dozens of elder maple trees to collect the spring sap, and on a warm day you can watch the clear liquid flow from the trees into a huge metal trough to be boiled down. You need 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup! In this year of so much uncertainty, it feels good to know that the sun is still coming back, right on schedule.

As you may know, we here at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery are in the process of getting a large garden up and running this year in order to feed some hungry, hungry monks a lot of vegetables. My job is to make all this happen, together with the seasons and the weather, the deer and the rabbits, the seeds and the soil. Spring’s arrival means that the plans I’ve been busy making all winter are about to rapidly transition into intense activity. It’s a huge undertaking! All this work is guided by our vow to act in alignment with the ecosystems around us, large and small, human and non-human, in recognition that our lives and deaths are bound up together intimately. There is no control here—the earth is very clear that we plant and harvest on her terms only.

Winter view from Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery

Our current horticultural efforts consist of two raised beds by the main house, a mature orchard that produces more apples than we know what to do with, a 4×8’ cold frame, which is basically a ground-level greenhouse, and a sizable new plot that we plowed out of the meadow last August. This new plot will become the main garden, planted with both vegetables and flowers, while the raised beds will turn into an herb garden for the kitchen. I also have plans to plant a ring of flower beds around the orchard in order to feed our friendly pollinators and provide fresh-cut bouquets for the temple’s many altars. For now, though, most of this only exists as spreadsheets and hand-drawn blueprints, and it’s going to take a lot of collective effort over the next few months to bring it into being.

Cold frame and raised beds, still snowed in last week

Most excitingly, my bedroom is currently home to the first tiny seedlings of the year (onions), which I started from seeds a few weeks ago and will transplant outside in a little over a month. They are about to be joined by other early-season plants like spinach, parsley, cabbage, and kale. The first thing I do every morning after hearing the wake-up bell is turn on their grow lights, and the last thing I do before going to sleep is turn the lights off and say goodnight to all my tiny little roommates. I recently hosted an “onion viewing” for the other humans here to come see how adorable they are! You can admire them too!

Tiny onion seedlings just up (yellow onions, red onions, and scallions). So cute!!

This garden, like the monastery, belongs to the Sangha, as much as it can be said to belong to anyone beyond itself. Because we are all so far apart right now, I’d like to do my best to bring the garden to you through a new biweekly letter (you’re reading it!)—with photos, stories, updates, recipes, maybe some tips on window gardening, who knows?—in the hope that the mountains here can connect us, wherever we are. I feel we’re all cultivating something here together, one way or another.

Bags of soil and and a big box of seeds in the garage

That’s it until next time, much more to come. Until then, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to write back, you can reach me here, or by snail mail at Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery, 87 Kaye Rd., Millerton, NY 12546. Let me know what you’d like to see and hear about in future letters, and we can have a conversation. Happy spring!

Lots of love,

Ella Antell

 

Rohatsu Sesshin dharma talks now available!

You can now listen to all the dharma talks offered during the 2020 Rohatsu sesshin  (formal retreat) by Brooklyn Zen Center‘s dharma teachers:

Rohatsu Sesshin Day 1 (2020/12/09), by Kosen Gregory Snyder

Rohatsu Sesshin Day 2 (2020/12/10), by Laura O’Loughlin

Rohatsu Sesshin Day 3 (2020/12/11), by Kosen Gregory Snyder

Rohatsu Sesshin Day 4 (2020/12/12), by Laura O’Loughlin

Rohatsu Sesshin Day 5 (2020/12/13), by Kosen Gregory Snyder

 

For more dharma talks by BZC and visiting teachers please visit our Audio Dharma page.

Our programs are given free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. If you would like to support Brooklyn Zen Center, please visit the “Giving” section of this website. A suggested donation of $10 per audio dharma talk is greatly appreciated.

New BZC Ethics Statement and Process

The new Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) Ethics Statement was presented to our community recently.

These new forms, just approved by the BZC Board, 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. We are deeply grateful for all involved in these efforts.

We are equally thankful for those who will continue to support the BZC sangha for months to come in the unfolding of these new forms, namely as members of the Sangha Council (a new organizational body) and as Sangha Harmony Allies (to be named).

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. – BZC Ethics Statement

Learn more about the BZC Ethics Statement and Process here.

New audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder

Audio dharma by Kosen Gregory Snyder (2016/02/27)

New audio dharma talk by Laura O’Loughlin

Audio dharma talk by Laura O’Loughlin (2021/02/13)

New audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder

A new episode of the Brooklyn Zen Center Audio Dharma Podcast is now available!

The BZC audio dharma is available free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you!

Audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder (2020/05/02)

 

New audio dharma talk by Ian Case

A new episode of the Brooklyn Zen Center Audio Dharma Podcast is now available!

The BZC audio dharma is available free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you!

Dharma talk by Ian Case (2020/12/05)

New audio dharma talk by Yoko Ohashi

A new episode of the Brooklyn Zen Center Audio Dharma Podcast is now available!

The BZC audio dharma is available free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you

Audio dharma talk by Yoko Ohashi (2019/10/05)

Black and Buddhist Summit

Brooklyn Zen Center is honored to be a partner of the upcoming Black and Buddhist Summit, a free online event taking place from February 18th through the 25th.

The Black and Buddhist Summit will explore what Buddhism can teach us about race, resilience, transformation, and spiritual freedom. Over 20 leading African-descended Buddhist teachers will offer their wisdom and insights about Buddhist teachings, being Black practitioners, and the possibility of a truly representative American Buddhism.

The summit will Include contributions from Bhante Buddharakkhita, Angela Dews, Jules Shuzen Harris, Kate Johnson, Ruth King, Rhonda Magee, Kamilah Majied, Sebene Selassie, Spring Washam, Vimalasara [Valerie] Mason-John, Fresh White, Jarvis Masters, and many more.

Produced by The Awake Network and Shambhala Publications, the Black and Buddhist Summit will be hosted by Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl A. Giles, co-editors of the recently published anthology Black and Buddhist, as well as Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips.

All people interested in Buddhism, race and religion, harmony in the sangha, and writing about Buddhism, Zen, and practice, are welcome.

Click here to register for free.

 

New audio dharma talk by Ian Case

Dharma talk by Ian Case (2020/10/10)

New audio dharma talk by Laura O’Loughlin

Dharma talk by Laura O’Loughlin (2020/10/31)

The BZC audio dharma is available free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you