News

Leadership Bodies at BZC

We wanted to refresh and update the sangha on some of the powerful institutional work happening to strengthen leadership and governance at BZC. Here’s an overview of the leadership bodies at BZC, their roles, how they work together, and how you can contact them.

  • The Board of Directors is in charge of the financial and administrative health of BZC. They review and advise on budgets, strategy, governance, and operations. You can contact them here.
  • The Practice Council is made up of practitioners who have gone through shuso (head student) training and oversee the training and practice health of the center. They set the calendar of retreats and dharma talks, nominate ryo heads, and discern other practice-related issues that arise. You can contact them here.
  • The Sangha Council represents the sangha when making decisions about leadership at BZC. Their role is to review names of those proposed for leadership roles, as well as receiving grievances in the Ethics Process. You can contact them here.
  • Sangha Harmony Allies are here to listen and guide someone through their process, empower that person with agency, and to moderate peer conversations when ethical questions and issues arise. You can contact Inzan Monica Rose Smith here and Renhō Gerardo Dexter Ciprian here.

Buddha’s Robe Sewing Apprenticeship at Sanshin-ji

From the BZC September Newsletter, by Kiku Morimoto:

Last April, I moved to Sanshin-ji in Bloomington, Indiana, to begin a one-year Buddha’s Robe-Sewing Apprenticeship. During this apprenticeship, I will study under Yoko Okumura, a renowned sewing teacher, to learn  Okesa sewing, technique, and history, originally written in the Vinaya (rules and procedures for a Buddhist monastic community) and other texts such as Shobogenzo Kesakudoku by Dogen Zenji. This project helps to build upon my sewing skills and ensure this traditional, 2,500-year-old Buddhist robe-sewing knowledge is passed on to the next generation. Yuko is the only teacher in the United States who received formal one-year sewing training at Antai Temple in Kyoto, Japan, under the lineage of Zen Master Kodo Sawaki, who revived the tradition of hand-sewing kesa in modern Japan.

After this apprenticeship, I hope to be able to spread this knowledge to various temples around the United States, and thus help to ensure the preservation of this sewing lineage, which is derived directly from the Buddha. Unfortunately, this sewing practice is dying out, even in Japan. Though at a few temples the monks still sew their own Okesa, most priests in Japan purchase their Okesa. I feel that preserving this knowledge will be critical to changing that reality and returning to the tradition of personal sewing practice.

My first project here was to sew a seven-panel Okesa with bird feet stitches for a dharma teacher whom I have never met. When Yuko sewed 20 Okesa in one year during her apprenticeship at a temple in Kyoto, she also didn’t know who she was sewing for. I worked on it every day for months, in a quiet peaceful environment where every day I’d see baby bunnies hopping on and munching grasses, squirrels  running and jumping on branches of walnut trees, a deer with two bambi hanging out in the backyard, and birds singing beautiful songs. I brought the finished Okesa to Okumura Roshi’s room and put it down on the altar, then prostrated three times. I will never see that Okesa again. Just sew, finish, and let it go.

Dogen Zenji instructed: “Impermanence is swift; life-and-death is a vital matter. For the short while you are alive, if you wish to study or practice some activity, just practice the Buddha-Way and study the buddha-dharma,” (Shobogenzo-zuimonki; 1-11).

This teaching of impermanence was brought home to me in the middle of April, when my friend Mark passed away unexpectedly. He was a fun, generous, and loving person. During his active and varied life, Mark loved running a doughnut shop and teaching creative writing at a University. He once took his step-son on a cross country road trip by motorcycle. His lively personality informed his love of Buddhist practice. He once told me that he used to smuggle espresso coffee in a thermos into a strict Rinzai temple to keep awake during sesshin. After driving for five hours from a three-day Vipassana retreat in D.C., he once took me and five other passengers to each of our homes in Manhattan and Queens,  without anyone asking. Mark was planning a trip to Greece to celebrate his 60th birthday. His sudden absence was hard to believe.

A few weeks later, we found a dead rabbit in our front yard at Sanshin-ji. The next day, we found a dead bird in the backyard. We buried them, put rocks and flowers on their graves, and chanted the Maka Hannya Haramita Sutra. From June through July, in the evening, so many fireflies with twinkling lights illuminated our backyard like a jewel garden.They only live for a short time and now they are gone. I thought of the dream-like nature of life. Fireflies appear and disappear, Mark was here and now he is gone. His life was complete. His death was complete.  We all come from no-thingness and return to no-thingness.

I practice the Buddha-Way through sewing Okesa. Because the nature of life is impermanent, I can only sew moment by moment putting in a wholehearted effort. By bringing my whole body, mind and undivided attention to each stitch. In this way, there is no separation between myself, sewing and everything else. The boundary of sense of time and space disappears. There is only eternal now.

“If you are not living life that doesn’t die you are wasting your life” (Kodo Sawaki Roshi).

The life that doesn’t die is so close and intimate.
Just sew wholeheartedly stitch by stitch.
Clarifying the reality of life-and-death.
There is just sewing.
That is my Zazen.

You can see my sewing practice through Facebook Live regularly from Yuko Okumura’s Facebook page here.

Here is the Kesa Study Channel on Youtube where you can see the past videos.

Bowing,

Kiku Morimoto,
Sewing Apprentice at Sanshin-ji


Sign up to the Brooklyn Zen Center mailing list here and receive the monthly newsletter and occasional special announcements. The BZC newsletter is sent at the beginning of every month with information on our many offerings, program scheduling and other sangha news. Trouble receiving the BZC newsletter? Let us know, we are here to help!

Qigong Fundraiser for BZC!


A message from Laura:

Dear Sangha,

Sally Chang is offering a Qigong fundraiser workshop this weekend in Brooklyn. She is open for folks who register for the event to come for less than the full two days as a way of supporting more sangha to participate in this fundraiser for Brooklyn Zen Center. She is also excited to meet and practice with our sangha.

Through Sally’s teaching, my very beginner’s qigong practice has allowed me to experience a fluidity, harmony and strength while moving my body through space that resonates deeply with the qualities of body, mind and heart cultivated while sitting on the cushion.

If you can’t attend the weekend, please consider participating in our online conversation this Friday evening which is also part of our fundraising event. You can register for these offerings here.

If cost is a barrier to participation, please reach out to Ryan at director@brooklynzen.org with the rate that works for you and we will try to accommodate. We also encourage those of you who cannot attend to give anyway—you can simply use the registration form and enter an amount in “Donate to BZC’s scholarship fund” without registering.

With deep bows,
Laura

2022 Fall Practice Period: Repose & Bliss, Engagement & Liberation

Each fall, BZC creates a container to help support our community in taking time to clarify our intentions, deepen insight, embody our commitments and more fully integrate our practice as life. Returning to silence in this way strengthens mindfulness and opens the heart.

We call this container a “practice period”. Our Buddhist ancestors created this ritual of bringing wandering monks In India together during the rainy season in order to cultivate sangha. This tradition has continued for the last 2,500 years. Zen practice emphasizes the importance of vow in order to align and support our deepest yearnings. The practice period supports us to return to our deepest vow, especially amidst a lay life that can distract us from this subtle, inner calling.

Find more information on the Fall Practice Period here.

2022 Fall Practice Period

Repose & Bliss, Engagement & Liberation

In the Fukazazengi Dogen-zenji, founder of Soto Zen in Japan, says that zen meditation practice is “the Dharma gate of repose and bliss, the practice realization of totally culminated enlightenment.” In this 90-day fall practice intensive, we will look together at the relationship between cultivating rest, joy, ease and spaciousness- and commitment to responding with care and skill to suffering, in the world, in our communities, and in ourselves. We will inquire into our karmic and cultural conditionings around “repose and bliss,” engagement and action; and consider what these qualities have to do with Bodhisattva practice. How do we uprightly cultivate them to support commitment to reducing harm and increasing liberation in our communities, our society and in ourselves?

Participation in this fall practice period will include: making a practice commitment; attending opening and closing ceremonies; opportunities for daily zazen, as well as one, three and five day retreats; regular meetings with practice leaders; being paired with a Dharma buddy; and an offering of texts and writings, both from the Zen tradition and contemporary thinkers about what role rest and joy have in our life of Bodhisattva practice-engagement.

We invite you to join the BZC 2022 Fall Practice Period and be part of this precious time when we together devote our efforts to cultivating the Bodhisattva way of life. The practice period form outlines the many optional offerings that will support our practice period. Please fill out and submit the 2022 Fall Practice Period Form by September 10th.

Highlights from the 2022 Future of American Buddhism Conference

From the BZC August Newsletter, by Weishin Huang:

L to R: Chenxing Han (author,”Be The Refuge”), Cristina Moon (Rinzai Zen priest), Devon Matsumoto (founder, Young Buddhist Editorial), Weishin Huang (Brooklyn Zen Center), Rev. Blayne Higa (Kona Hongwanji), and Ru-Jün Zhou (Hemera Foundation)

Highlights from the 2022

Future of American Buddhism Conference

Who and what is America?
Do we mean the one-hundred-and-eight military bases we have around the world?
Do we mean the territories? American Samoa? Puerto Rico?

 

Dr. Larry Ward, in his gripping baritone, uttered these questions into the still meditation hall at the opening of the four-day Future of American Buddhism Conference in Garrison, NY, this past June. I went, hoping an event of this ilk would offer some stirring, inspiring, and challenging conversations about the state of our mahasangha. I got those, and so much more. Here are some of my highlights:

Discussing her research on cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power in Buddhist communities, Dr. Ann Gleig, wielding Manjushri’s sword, shared a no-nonsense finding: major corporations have handled things better. The charge was clear—Buddhist communities must support the survivors, heal the harm, hold individuals accountable, and put in measures to reduce and prevent future acts of misconduct and abuse.

Chenxing Han and Rev. Blayne Higa busted the myth that American Buddhism was created in the 60s in the Bay Area. Buddhism arrived in the United States by way of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Right now, Asian American Buddhists make up over two-thirds of Buddhists in America. Rev. Blayne himself is a fifth-generation Japanese American Shin Buddhist, born and raised in Hawaii. He is the resident minister at Hawaii’s Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, which has been serving the local Jodo Shinshu Buddhist community since 1897.

Devon Matsumoto talked about the Young Buddhist Editorial (YBE), the online publication and community of young Japanese American Shin Buddhists he co-founded. YBE focuses on young Buddhists building connections with one another, fostering Japanese American cultural and religious resilience in the face of structural domination, and engaging with social justice movements as Japanese and Asian Americans.

There were also moments that rippled and jolted my whole being, in the best of ways:

Rev. Myokei Caine-Barrett blasted a rousing rendition of drumming and chanting that transformed the subdued room into a pulsing lotus bloom. Chenxing invited everyone to join her in prostrating to the Buddha, filling the hall with, to echo her words, a feeling of arrival and spiritual kinship. Cristina Moon woke us up with a sharp, clear bellowing katsu. She then shared the ways the highly rigorous physical training at the Rinzai Zen Daihonzan Chozenji in Honolulu are at once traditional and innovative forms of Zen practice.

Cristina also served tea to several of the conference guests, including our dear SFZC teacher and City Center Abiding Abbot Rev. Tenzen David Zimmerman. I also had the delight of being served. Cristina’s serene, gentle, lighthearted, precise-and-never-uptight, and yes, badass expression of Chado, or the Way of Tea, filled me with the sustained transmission of the practice. The six paramitas were all there, like a lotus floating, a breeze through the willows. Plus, she brought mochi from Hawaii, which was, I’m just going to say it, pure ecstasy.

Many other moments, many of them gestures of kindness, are quiet and simple. The kind that have no intention of drawing any attention to themselves. One speaker fills the cup of another before their panel, gently holds and moves their glass with a napkin. An attendee sprains their ankle, another lends them their set of crunches. Someone finishes their lunch, but not their conversation, as another offers and takes their plate. Each act lasts but a moment, a breath; a gift, given, received. Each time, my heart feels the dewdrops of dana.

Our time together concluded with dedications of merit from various panelists, organizers, and attendees. Each dedication reflected a different Buddhist tradition, expressed by each person through their unique heritage, age, gender, mind, heart, and hara. With each dedication, I felt the joining our hearts to the one heart of the world, in awareness and love. American Buddhism is messy, complicated, and, at times, painful and fraught. Yet, if those present at this two-hundred-plus-person gathering, onsite and online, were reflections of the Buddhdharma in this also-messy nation-state, then I have full faith that the three jewels—already carefully cared for on Turtle Island for two centuries—shall continue to glisten, like Indra’s net, amongst the multitude of intersectional inter-beings, for many more moons.

In community,

Weishin Huang
Brooklyn Zen Center Board Chair


Sign up to the Brooklyn Zen Center mailing list here and receive the monthly newsletter and occasional special announcements. The BZC newsletter is sent at the beginning of every month with information on our many offerings, program scheduling and other sangha news. Trouble receiving the BZC newsletter? Let us know, we are here to help!

Message from the Tanto: Introducing the Boundless Mind Temple Practice Roles

Dear sangha,

I would like to take a moment to introduce and celebrate the people holding the practice roles at Boundless Mind Temple. Some of these folks have been in their roles since the temple opened in March and some have just started. We have now filled all these positions, and so I feel a few words are called for to hold these people up and to articulate the spirit of their service.

We have two people each sharing the three roles of ino, shika, and shissui (workleader). Our two co-inos are Erica Essner and Gerardo Dexter Ciprián. (Yoko Ohashi also served as an interim co-ino during the spring.) The inos care for the practice in the meditation hall (zendo) and train the doanryo, who lead the chanting and play the instruments during service. They help oversee the ceremonial and ritual aspects of the temple. The inos and the doanryo also set up the zendo every Saturday.

Our two co-shikas are Radha Radkar and Kristen Davis. In a monastery, the shika is the guest manager. At Boundless Mind, the shikas—along with a team of greeters—help greet and orient guests and newcomers. They are also in charge of setting out the tea and refreshments that we enjoy at the end of our Saturday program.

Our two co-shissuis (or workleaders) are Matthew Menzies and Amy Holderness. The shissuis lead the periods of soji (temple cleaning) on Saturdays and the longer work periods during retreats. They help care for our physical space and for the practice of work itself, which in our tradition has the spirit of zazen in activity.

I would also like to acknowledge the role of jisha (or teacher’s attendant). As you know, Julia DeWitt became Kosen’s jisha after Ryan became director earlier this year. Inzan Rose will now be taking on the role of Laura’s jisha (as Kristen has transitioned into the shika role). The jisha role is unique in that its responsibilities—from personally attending to the teacher to coordinating and scheduling practice discussions and other events—often straddle both Boundless Mind and Ancestral Heart temples.

It would be very easy to see each of these roles as having a different area of responsibility—and they certainly do—but I would rather like to frame these as areas of care. The inos, shikas, shissuis, and jishas are helping care for different aspects of the temple; they are simultaneously being trained and helping to train others in developing a capacity of care. As we all learn to care for the cushions, for the brooms, for the cups, and for each guest who walks in the door, we begin to develop a new relationship to things and to each other. This capacity for care is cultivated gradually and the practice is also available immediately in this moment. Over time of course, guests become hosts. The practice of sangha is endless. 

Our situation at Christ Church is unique in that we have to build the temple anew each week. For our staff, I feel that this calls for an extra dimension of devotion, faith, and commitment than if the temple were ready made.

Please join me in celebrating their devotion and care.

With gratitude,

Kidō Ian Case
Tanto, Brooklyn Zen Center

Upcoming BZC Offerings: Save the Dates!

Save the dates for these upcoming BZC offerings.

At Boundless Mind Temple, Brooklyn:
– September 17, Saturday: One-Day In-Person Sit with Sarah Dōjin Emerson – Registration is now open!
– September 23-25, Friday evening-Sunday mid-day: Qi Gong Fundraiser for BZC with Sally Chang (details TBA)
– October 14-16, Friday-Sunday: Three-Day In-Person Sesshin with Kosen Gregory Snyder
– Registration is now open!
– November 19, Saturday: One-Day In-Person Sit with Charlie Korin Pokorny – Registration is now open!
– December 7-11, Wednesday-Sunday: In-Person Rohatsu Retreat, co-led by Kosen Gregory Snyder, Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, Kidō Ian Case, Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny

At Ancestral Heart Zen Temple, Millerton:
– November 11th–13, Friday–Sunday: Weekend Themed Retreat at Watershed (details TBA)
– January 2–30, 2023: One-Month Residential Practice Period – Registration is now open!

Dates and information for additional 2023 winter retreats, as well as many other offerings, will be shared shortly – stay tuned!

New audio dharma talk by Yoko Ohashi and Kidō Ian Case

A new audio dharma talk by Yoko Ohashi and Kidō Ian Case is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Audio dharma talk by Yoko Ohashi and Kidō Ian Case (2022/04/09)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Save the Date: January Residential Practice Period

Dear Sangha,

We are thrilled to announce our first-ever One-Month Residential Practice Period, coming January, 2023: a major step for our sangha and temples. Ancestral Heart Zen Temple will partner with our neighbors at The Watershed Center to offer this powerful part of our Soto Zen tradition. We will follow an intensive monastic schedule, eat oryoki meals, sit multiple periods of zazen each day, and engage in communal work and ritual life.

More details are coming shortly, but we wanted to allow those who are interested to start planning. We request everyone to live on-site at Watershed and remain in residence the entire month, from January 2nd–30th.

We look forward to deepening our collective work through this ancestral practice. It would be a joy to sit with you all.

Ian Douglass Case,
Brooklyn Zen Center Tanto (Head of Practice)

New audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder

A new audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/06/11)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

A Deep Breath

From the BZC July Newsletter, by Chetan Khanna:

This Spring, we planted spinach in the garden at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple. On one particular day, my back wasn’t sore, but my fingers were chilly from the wet soil despite the sun coming down on us. My mind wandered to the idea of stamina, perhaps to distract me from my cold hands. I had come to Ancestral Heart for a few weeks, in part, to better learn to mitigate the cycles of exertion and burnout that are regular in my life. I hoped my body would further internalize the routine here and find ways to adapt it into my day-to-day.

For each spinach plant, I weeded the soil, carved out a hole, added some compost, placed the plant, and then packed it all up nice and snug. I tried not trying, easing my body when I caught myself exerting to be the best and fastest planter. I noticed the harsh voice that came up with that urge— the one that was never satisfied with what I did—allowing it to soften. I hoped that each plant would flourish, eventually nourishing us. If only I could control all the elements that could make this so! I made do with the attention and effort I could give them now. With each spinach plant tucked in the soil, I found myself slowly yielding to the moment. I wonder if longevity and stamina might be found here.

I finished planting the container of spinach. I felt the ground supporting my feet and admired the idyllic view the temple overlooks. I took a deep breath and grabbed the next container.

Chetan Khanna
Brooklyn Zen Center Sangha Member

Sign up to the Brooklyn Zen Center mailing list here and receive the monthly newsletter and occasional special announcements. The BZC newsletter is sent at the beginning of every month with information on our many offerings, program scheduling and other sangha news. Trouble receiving the BZC newsletter? Let us know, we are here to help!

New audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder

A new audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder (2022/01/22)

 

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Dharma Teachers Moving to Brooklyn

Dearest Sangha,

While some of you have heard their dharma talks and gotten to know them through their visits and joining our online programs, we are happy to announce that Dojin Sarah Emerson and Korin Charlie Pokorny are moving this summer to Brooklyn and have offered to support sangha life at Boundless Mind Temple. The main motivations for their moving here were their own wisdom regarding the care of their family – they joyfully come with their daughter Kaya and son Lokha – and their long held admiration and respect for the BZC Sangha.

When we first learned this might be a possibility, we were thrilled. Throughout our conversations, Sarah and Charlie have continually expressed admiration and enthusiasm for our sangha and the work we do here. They have generously offered to be of service in whatever ways they can. We have been so deeply moved by how very kind and respectful they’ve been with us and our sangha so far.

As they are both ordained priests and dharma-transmitted teachers, they will be making themselves available for practice discussion, retreats, and Zen training once they settle in. Also, both trained many years at Tassajara and were co-head priests at the Stone Creek Zen Center. So they bring very helpful practice and administrative leadership experience with them. Excitingly, Sarah is also a trained sewing teacher and can support sewing!

Since they will be offering dharma talks and practice discussion in an ongoing way within our community, we felt it appropriate to ask them to attend Practice Council meetings. They have also offered to support organizational needs where possible and appropriate.

For them to offer themselves and so many years of training in this way without a formal paid position is a rare kind of generosity. We are grateful for their willingness to make themselves so available to Brooklyn Zen Center. We are grateful for their openheartedness and inspiring care for the three jewels. Please reach out to them and make them feel welcome.

With love and joy,
Laura and Kosen

New audio dharma by Chimyo Atkinson!

You can now listen to a dharma talk offered by Chimyo Atkinson.

Chimyo Simone Atkinson was ordained a priest in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition in 2007 and received Dharma Transmission in 2015. She is a member of the Association of Soto Zen Buddhists Jukai-e committee and an SZBA liaison to that organization’s Roadmap Committee.

Audio dharma talk by Chimyo Atkinson (2022/05/07)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Branching Streams Return to the Source

Dear sangha,

In April, Ryan and I flew to Austin, Texas to take part in the 2022 Branching Streams Conference, a four-day gathering of affiliate sanghas and dharma centers in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. This felt like an auspicious meeting. Ryan and I would be representing Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) in our new roles—he had recently become administrative director and I was a newly minted tanto—and this was also the first Branching Streams gathering since the pandemic started (the last one was in Milwaukee in 2019). There would be 40 participants representing 20 different sanghas from across the US, Canada, and Germany, ranging from large established centers to smaller sitting groups.

On a personal level, returning to Austin was a homecoming of sorts. I had lived there for nine years before I moved back to Brooklyn in 2002. It was where I first met Greg Snyder, who would go on to found BZC with Laura O’Loughlin in 2005 and who would eventually become my teacher. I was also able to reconnect on this trip with the old friend who gave me a copy of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind for my birthday in 2000. It was in Austin where the initial sparks of my way-seeking mind were mysteriously and quietly kindled.

The conference itself took place at the Ancient Yoga Center, which was part of Radha Madhav Dham, a 230-acre Hindu ashram located in the outskirts of Austin. The grounds were beautiful, replete with a large central temple, a network of hiking trails, as well as a small population of peacocks. It happened to be mating season for the peacocks and their cries periodically punctuated the silence, contributing a wondrous soundtrack to our time there.

The theme of the conference was “Healing Relationships.” Over the course of the four days there were several workshops and large- and small-group activities. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye led a poetry workshop on the second day, which helped cultivate a sense of playful and creative vulnerability among the participants, encouraging us to bring our voices into the room. On the following day, the professor and writer Stephanie Kaza offered a workshop based on the work of Joanna Macy called The Work that Reconnects, which called on us to unfold the full breadth of our bodhisattva practice in a world riven by ecological destruction and inequity. On the last day, Galeyn Godwin Roshi, Abbot of the Houston Zen Center, presented a slideshow highlighting the 100th anniversary of Soto Zen in America and the spread of various lineages across the country. The cumulative effect of these offerings for me was reassuring, as we bore witness to the strength and resilient capacity of our communities two years into a pandemic, but also sobering as we came to realize the work still ahead. It was both a celebration of our tradition and a reality check for our bodhisattva vows in a suffering world.

For me, the jewel of sangha shone in the in-between moments: the spontaneous conversations that sprung up over meals and tea and the impromptu hike on a hill country trail that happened on our last evening together. It was illuminating to learn about everybody’s sanghas and their experiences over the past two years. It became clear that so many of us were navigating similar challenges: how to care for and cultivate community during a pandemic, how to come back together in person, how to support our online sanghas, etc. Some centers had lost their temples as we did. We shared stories, exchanged ideas, offered support. A wonderful sense of solidarity emerged. And underneath it all was the visceral understanding that we all shared a tradition, a family style that had been passed down to us by Suzuki Roshi and the ancestors before him.

May we all continue to care for the sangha in the ten directions.

With gratitude for sangha

Ian Case
Tanto (Head of Practice), Brooklyn Zen Center

Image by Pat Yingst, Austin Zen Center


Sign up to the Brooklyn Zen Center mailing list here and receive the monthly newsletter and occasional special announcements. The BZC newsletter is sent at the beginning of every month with information on our many offerings, program scheduling and other sangha news.

BZC Residential Summer Retreat, August 7–14

Please save the date for our annual seven-day BZC Residential Summer Retreat!

The retreat will include zazen, service, study, dharma talks, discussions, dokusan, and silent meals, along with time for swimming and walks in the woods. As in previous years, the BZC Residential Summer Retreat will take in the Watershed Retreat Center, next to Ancestral Heart Zen Temple, in Millerton, New York.

More information and registration coming soon – please stay tuned!

BZC at Branching Streams Conference

Forty zen leaders, students, and teachers from across the US and Canada gathered at Ancient Yoga Center in Austin for the Branching Streams Conference, which brings together temples in the Suzuki Roshi lineage.

Ian and Ryan represented Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC), and participated in workshops on healing circles, climate change, and poetry, and in between gathered to discuss everything from our CRM systems to Undoing Whiteness work to staffing our temples.

We also toured the beautiful Austin Zen Center and stayed on for a Saturday Dharma Talk from Bill Magness, one of its co-founders. And we reconnected with BZC sangha members Koan and Kayla!

BZC Administrative Director, Ryan Lee Wong
Ryan with BZC sangha member Kōan Anne Brink, who is now based in Austin.
Conference participants at work!
Ryan and BZC Tanto (Head of Practice), Ian Case.
Ian at the wheel!
On the road: Ian and Kōan.

New audio dharma talk by Sarah Dōjin Emerson!

You can now listen to a dharma talk offered by visiting teacher Sarah Dōjin Emerson.

Audio dharma talk by Sarah Dōjin Emerson (2022/04/02)

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

New audio dharma talk by Ian Case

You can now listen to a dharma talk offered by Zen priest and BZC Tanto (Head of Practice), Ian Case.

Audio dharma talk by Ian Case (2022/01/15)

 

The BZC Audio Dharma Podcast is offered free of charge and made possible by the donations we receive. A $10 suggested donation per dharma talk is recommended. You can donate to BZC here. Thank you for your generosity!

Zazen in a Teacup

From the BZC May Newsletter, by Emme Blong:

Over the last several years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for tea. Mostly Chinese teas, starting with Sheng (raw) and Shu (ripe) Puerhs, varieties of white teas, and more recently the world of oolongs. Most Monday mornings – our day off at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple – I take a couple of hours to devote to appreciation of tea, often with other residents, comparing the qualities, aromas and tastes that we perceive, where they appear in the mouth or the tongue, when they show up, when they dissipate, what impressions or other associations they bring about, and how these all change throughout the long gongfu-style brewing sessions. Early Summer Apricots? Mushroom funk? Fresh petrichor? Minerality or ocean brine? It is incredible what you can find. The various senses, flavors, aromas, and associations can combine in such a way as to produce an immersive narrative: walking alongside sea cliffs on a perfect sunny day, fresh grass tender underfoot as perfumed air swirls around, and stopping for shade under a lone fruit tree – and then, amidst this narrative, you remember that this is all just tea – Camellia sinensis – with nothing added or mixed in. The flavors and associations are all mental projections: dances between the tongue, the mind, past experiences, and the tea. The scene is an illusion, and yet that illusion is real, and so very delicious to explore, especially with others.

I have been enjoying the class that Jefre Cantu and Ian Case have been teaching on the Samdhinirmocana Sutra – a foundational Mahayana sutra that outlines Yogacara theory of mind – and it struck me that tea practice is just what the sutra is pointing to. In the sutra, various bodhisattvas clarify the relationship between mind and phenomena in dialogue with the Buddha, and while the Ultimate is essentially “of one taste”, it is apprehended through phenomena, which are relationships between senses, mind, experiential “seeds”, and objects. Studying (and enjoying!) the playful illusions that tea conjures up helps me to study and accept the energies, qualities, and feeling of all activity, without believing in their essential realness. They are all real, yet all play. The fear, rage, joy, the ineffable quality of poignancy that arise in zazen that can seem to demand attention and energy – they can all be appreciated and then let go of on the cushion just like the apricot, fresh grass, and ocean breeze of the tea cup.

As the weather warms, Saturday programming is back in person at Boundless Mind Temple at Christ Church, Cobble Hill, and Ancestral Heart is again accepting short- and long-term stays, perhaps we can enjoy the study and play of tea and being together soon!

Emme Blong
Shissui at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple


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