News

Faith and Liberation: A Community Conversation on Prison Abolition

Image: Second Shot, a short film by Andrew Michael Ellis

A three-part in-person conversation series:

  • Event dates: Wednesdays 2/8, 3/22, 4/19
  • Event time: 6:30 to 8:15pm EST
  • Location: Christ Church Cobble Hill, located at 326 Clinton Street (at the corner of Kane Street).

These multi-faith community conversations will explore the concept of prison abolition, and how our Buddhist practice and the Christian faith traditions relate to it. Prison abolition is not simply a movement that looks to close all prisons, it seeks to reimagine justice in a system that discriminates so heavily toward poor people of color, and to address the hyper-funding of the police and military industrial complex at the expense of important community resources, like housing and healthcare. Furthermore, prison abolition demands that we consider the way that our carceral system influences and shows up in our personal life.

This series of dialogues between the Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) and Christ Church Cobble Hill communities is a practice building community along lines of religious difference while using these interactions to reflect more deeply on what it means to be practitioners in our respective traditions.

Each evening, we will screen a documentary and then have a discussion which will be led by practitioners of each religion. For 2/8 and 3/22 conversations, we will explore prison abolition and mass incarceration, and for the 4/19 conversation, we will explore various efforts that prison abolitionists are involved in.

These conversations are part of Odyssey Impact, a network of faith-based communities, congregations, faith leaders, seminarians, and secular partners, which seeks to drive social change through innovative storytelling and media, and this opportunity came about through Union Theological Seminary, where BZC dharma teacher Kosen Greg Snyder is the Senior Director of Buddhist Studies.

BZC EoY Appeal: One More Day to Give and Two-Thirds There!

We have one day to go and we’ve raised $65,803 toward our End of Year campaign—just under two-thirds of our goal.

Please donate today to help us reach our goal of $100,000!

Dana, generosity, is one of the many ways we come together as a community. Your support ensures that the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are available to all, and that we enter 2023 with the resources to meet each person where they are.

Thank you for considering a gift.

Image: Throwing Flower Petals at the End of Rohatsu Sesshin, December 2022
For more images of BZC‘s life during the past year, see 2022 at BZC: A Year in Pictures

Four Days Left: Campaign Update

We’ve raised $56,897 toward our End of Year campaign. This collective effort has come from over 90 individual donors, with dozens of sangha members phone banking and emailing. With just four days to go, we are over halfway to our goal of $100,000.

Still, we are asking for 100 percent participation of the sangha in this final stretch. Would you be able to donate today to help us reach our goal?

As Sarah and Charlie Senseis wrote in their recent message to the sangha: “We deeply appreciate the mandala of support which keeps our doors open, bells ringing, lights on and hearts warm through your myriad contributions. Financial support is one vital piece of caring for the life of practice at BZC, fostering its liberative potentials, and maintaining our places of practice in Brooklyn, Millerton and online.”

Thank you for considering a gift today that will bring benefit to all beings.

With gratitude and appreciation,

Ryan Lee Wong
Administrative Director, Brooklyn Zen Center

Actualizing the Mandala of Support

Dear Sangha,

We are writing to ask you to contribute to Brooklyn Zen Center‘s end-of-year campaign. We have long valued the efforts in dharma and justice unfolding at BZC, and it has been a great joy for us to dive headlong into the Sangha since moving to Brooklyn in June. We have been thoroughly welcomed and deeply supported to offer ourselves as teachers, and we look forward to continuing to meet all of you, deepen our connections, and walk together in Dharma friendship.

We have just finished a wonderful Rohatsu sesshin held at Boundless Mind Temple as the culmination of our fall practice period, an intensive 5-day ritual of repose and bliss, engagement and liberation. In our collective teaching offerings, we have particularly focused on rest as integral to a more humane, compassionate, and sustainable life of engagement and liberative function. Instead of being a stepping out of engagement, we join in the collective reimagining of rest as a pause in the midst of whatever is happening—to make deeper contact and connection with self and others; rest as a reclaiming of humanity in the face of enculturated systems of dehumanization.

We deeply appreciate the mandala of support which keeps our doors open, bells ringing, lights on and hearts warm through your myriad contributions. Financial support is one vital piece of caring for the life of practice at BZC, fostering its liberative potentials, and maintaining our places of practice in Brooklyn, Millerton and online. We are asking for you to offer whatever amount you can. We are also striving to reach the goal of 100% participation from our membership. And for those who are not members and value the practice, your gifts are essential as well.

All true liberative practice is collective and communal. Supporting BZC in this campaign is a way to nurture a place in the world where people gather to work towards actualizing and embodying this reality.  May we all ensure the great work and great rest of our Sangha activity continues, deepens, thrives and revolutionizes!

With love and profound gratitude,

Sarah and Charlie
Dharma Teachers

Inclining Our Hearts: A Message from Kidō Ian Case

Dear Shanga,

This time of year in the Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) calendar—the interim period between Rohatsu and the beginning of the new year—has always had a particular texture for me. The fall practice period has just ended and there are a couple weeks before our regular programming resumes in January. I experience this as a wondrous time of stillness and potential. My karmic patterns seem to stand out in stark relief, illuminated by the teachings and engagement of the practice period and the effort brought forth in the Rohatsu retreat.

During the break, there is always the risk that I will simply fall back on my conditioning and succumb to its comfort and familiarity, which I have so often confused with ease and with rest.  At the same time, my own intentions still resonate, the teachings are close at hand, and I can still feel into the collective intentions of the sangha towards awakening. I have the wonderful possibility to make another choice at this moment, to incline my heart toward liberation and away from separation.

This year’s Rohatsu retreat felt especially poignant and powerful for me. It was the first Rohatsu in many years that Kosen and Laura did not lead. It also marked the one-year anniversary of our reopening of Boundless Mind Temple and the six-month anniversary of Sarah and Charlie Senseis’ arrival in Brooklyn. I had the opportunity to co-lead the retreat with them, to give a dharma talk and to meet students in practice discussion. This new vantage point only deepened my appreciation for the sincerity of practice in this community and gave me a visceral sense of amazing potential that is revealed when the sangha comes together in presence.

Our End of Year Campaign is of course another such opportunity for us to come together and manifest a collective intention—to support the community and BZC’s mission of liberation for all beings. In the same way that realization isn’t actualized without practice (or that we can’t have wind without fanning), we need each of us to contribute to this effort for it to do its work.

So far we have raised $42,463 toward our goal of $100,000. Please consider making a gift today. May we celebrate this opportunity to incline our hearts towards peace and awakening, towards sangha. Together we can do this.

With gratitude,

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

New audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny

A new audio dharma talk offered by Charlie Korin Pokorny during the recent Rohatsu Sesshin is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

The Dharma Gate of Repose and Bliss: Audio Dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny (2022/12/10)

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!

Culminating 2022 Ango Weekly Message: Freedom and Liberation

Image: Tsherin Sherpa’s painting from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (please check out his work at the link here…it’s wondrous)

A weekly message from dharma teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

I am quite confident that even as the oceans boil, and the hurricanes beat violently against our once safe shores, and the air sweats with the heat of impending doom, and our fists protest the denial of climate justice, that there is a path to take that has nothing to do with victory or defeat: a place we do not yet know the coordinates to; a question we do not yet know how to ask. The point of the departed arrow is not merely to pierce the bullseye and carry the trophy: the point of the arrow is to sing the wind and remake the world in the brevity of flight. There are things we must do, sayings we must say, thoughts we must think, that look nothing like the images of success that have so thoroughly possessed our visions of justice.

May this new decade be remembered as the decade of the strange path, of the third way, of the broken binary, of the traversal disruption, the kairotic moment, the posthuman movement for emancipation, the gift of disorientation that opened up new places of power, and of slow limbs. May this decade bring more than just solutions, more than just a future – may it bring words we don’t know yet, and temporalities we have not yet inhabited. May we be slower than speed could calculate, and swifter than the pull of the gravity of words can incarcerate. And may we be visited so thoroughly, and met in wild places so overwhelmingly, that we are left undone. Ready for composting. Ready for the impossible. Welcome to the decade of the fugitive.
– Bayo Akomolafe from his website

Beloved Sangha,

We have come to what appears to be the end of this Ango, this Peaceful Abiding, together this fall at BZC. So we have come to the beginning of exploring how everything we have taken up now has time to percolate, infiltrate, nurture, inform and hopefully alter our lives in the direction of liberation.

For this final week, and for the rest of our lives and lifetimes to come, we invite us all to take up the practice of liberation, of freedom. It may sound like a lofty invitation- to engage freedom and liberation- but look for the ways this engagement is available right now, and right now, and right now.

What did we learn about freedom and liberation in our early lives? What were the archetypes? What were the images? And how do we hold and engage freedom and liberation now? How has the Dharma seeped into you? And how has this shaped how you engage freedom and liberation?

Take your time with all of these questions, and let what you find be as spacious as you can imagine.

May there be joy in your efforts.

May there be rest and nourishment.

May there be play.

May there be radical, life-affirming bouts of transformative imagination that change you and shape the world around you, for the benefit of everyone you encounter and many beyond your perception who you’ll never even know.

And, maybe most importantly, may this Ango help sow into each of us a clarity that liberation only occurs in concert with all things, even in the tiniest and most seemingly personal of moments. That, like Shakyamuni Buddha, every awakening only happens together with all beings.

And in this, may we take refuge in Sangha.

May we take refuge in Dharma.

May we take refuge in Buddha.

My mother taught us that the Marvelous was free- in the patterns of a stray bird feather, in a Hudson River sunset, in the view from the fire escape, in the stories she told us, in the way she sang Gershwin’s “Summertime,” in a curbside rainbow created by the alchemy of motor oil and water from an open hydrant. She simply wanted us to live through our third eye, and see life as possibility. She wanted us to imagine a world free of patriarchy, a world where gender and sexual relations could be reconstructed. She wanted us to see the poetic and prophetic in the richness of our daily lives. She wanted us to visualize a more expansive, fluid, “cosmos-politan” definition of blackness, to teach us that we are not merely inheritors of a culture but its makers.
Robin D. G. Kelley, from Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

Please care for yourself, one another and all beings as we participate together towards freedom.

With bows and with love,
Sarah & Charlie


Ango Week 12: Bodhisattva Imagination

Image: The BZC sangha throwing petals at the end of the 2022 Rohatsu sesshin at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn

A weekly message from dharma teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

Imagination is powerful. It is essential for our humanness…all imaginative productions rise up from the unconscious to expand the soul, to help us feel who we really are and what the world really is. … The truth is, all that is creative and ennobling in us ultimately sources in the imagination….To go beyond the possible into the impossible, we need to imagine it.

…I advocate the development of the imagination as a necessity for human survival and thriving in times ahead. The practice of imagination has to be more than a good idea or an aspiration. It needs a path of development, a process, a discipline to support it.
—Norman Fischer from The World Could be Otherwise

In the beginning of the book The World Could Be Otherwise, Norman Fischer describes what he calls Bodhisattva imagination—the role that imagination plays in the engagement of Bodhisattva practice in the world of suffering humans. Basic Buddhist concepts: inter-being, non-duality, and liberation, in part require human beings to think beyond the confines of our habitual mind, to attune more fully, as Norman points to, to who and what we are; to liberate thinking from socially constructed limits.

This week, as many people at BZC and around the world come together to celebrate Buddha’s awakening, arguably, it took imagination for the historical Buddha to wake up to the reality that they, together with all beings, attained complete, Mother Earth-sanctioned awakening to how all things are connected.

As with love, our hope is that you can feel a progression throughout the Ango that continues now- from caring for and attuning to the body, cultivating rest, joy and love to how imagination builds a bridge across to liberation.  So this week the practice possibility is to take time for imagination.  Standing on the ground of attunement and care, standing on the ground of love, now allow the mind to open to what’s possible to imagine in this world coming from that love and care and attunement? What does liberation look like? What about practice? What does justice look like? And then open into more concrete questions—if we come from love and attunement, what do our shared systems look like: Education, health care, government, food production? What does housing look like? Streets? Vehicles? Neighborhoods? What does livelihood look like through this lens? Aging and dying? Relationship? What does your day-to-day look like when you ground in love and let imagination consider what’s possible?

Can we imagine into the Buddha’s awakening discovery—that all awakenings, in all times, are shared with all beings? And can we find ourselves in this reality?

We won’t offer more resources or practices this week beyond this inquiry, to encourage all of us, whether we are formally sitting Rohatsu sesshin or not, to be in a wide, quiet, spacious imagination saturated field, where real freedom- in this lifetime, in this world of complexity and suffering- is possible to see.


New audio dharma talks by Kosen Greg Snyder

The audio dharma talks offered by Kosen Gregory Snyder during a three-day retreat in June are now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Aspiration for Awakening: Audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/06/18)

Discipline and Freedom: Audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/06/19)

Sitting Zazen: audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder, sesshin day 1 (2022/06/17)

 

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 Kosen Greg Snyder

A new audio dharma talk offered by Kosen Gregory Snyder during last Saturday morning program sit is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Audio dharma talk by Kosen Gregory Snyder (2022/12/03)

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!

Ango Week 11: L.O.V.E.

Image: Buddha Field by Mike Newhall

A weekly message from dharma teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

I awakened from my trance state and was stunned to find the world I was living in, the world of the present, was no longer a world open to love. And I noticed that all around me I heard testimony that lovelessness had become the order of the day. I feel our nation’s turning away from love as intensely as I felt love’s abandonment in my girlhood. Turning away we risk moving into a wilderness of spirit so intense we may never find our way home again. I write of love to bear witness both to the danger in this movement, and to call for a return to love. Redeemed and restored, love returns us to the promise of everlasting life. When we love we can let our hearts speak.
-bell hooks, preface to All About Love

Dear beloved sangha,

This week we would like to offer a focus on the practice-engagement and cultivation of love. To take up together the possibility that, to move towards liberation in this world, grounding ourselves in love increases the possibility of our capacity for freedom and skillfulness in our hearts, minds and actions.

Love is a complex concept/ emotion/ action/ way of being. No doubt there are layers and layers for each of us in what it means and how it is in us. How we cultivate love is a vast exploration.

This week we want to offer one from our tradition, which is the cultivation of Metta, often translated as “loving kindness,” or, as Mushim Ikeda names in her article below, “good will.” This is a cultivation that may be misunderstood as generating something soft and gentle, but in our experience, cultivating Metta is actually a vigorous challenge to the heart, to grow its capacity to extend connection and care beyond conditioned limits, beyond dualities of who is/ is not within the scope of our heart’s care. And it is a cultivation that is endless, and therefore can be engaged anew everyday.

We are in the last few weeks of this practice period together. There will be two more weekly emails after this one. Next week will focus on imagination and the last week on liberation. Again, we hope that you can feel each week building on those before, and see the connections between all we have been working with and how you engage with the concepts of these last three weeks. We hope that turning towards love feels like the natural next step of our collective bodhisattva efforts.

Practices:
– Read this article “How to Practice Metta for a Troubled Time” by Mushim Patricia Ikeda

– Listen to this guided meditation on Metta practice recorded by Sarah (16 minutes)

Inquiring into conditioning:
This is a big one…but gently take some time to sit with and explore- how do you know love in this world? Where did your root sense of love come from? from who? How does love live in your life now? How has it changed from your early life? How is it the same? As always, be as wide as you can in your scope of what you include both in what “Love” is and also what it does in the world, how you express it and know it.

With metta and in sangha,
Sarah & Charlie


Equity and The Great Ocean

Image by Jess X. Snow

Dear Sangha,

We are entering the final days of our Fall Practice Period, themed “Repose and Bliss, Engagement and Liberation.” We face the monumental challenges of racial and patriarchal violence, ecological catastrophe, eroding political systems, the global pandemic, and more. “Repose,” in this context, is no indulgent or self-interested activity. The Ancient Greek paúō means “cease, stop, hinder, halt”: repose is not passivity, but interrupting harmful systems.

This requires us to move against the stream and can create a space for repose—to build sangha (community) in a society that makes us individuals, to offer practices based not in profit but in vow. In a capitalist system, robust finances are considered their own measure of organizational health. For us, they are only an outward manifestation of our deeper practice intentions. This flow of resources between the sangha and temple enables us to deliver our offerings to the entire community.

Our End of Year fundraising goal is $100,000. We raised $88,074 last year and we are increasing our goal to: build our new Equity-Based Model making our programs more accessible, stipend our teachers and hire staff, and meet the expanded activity at our two temples.

Shakyamuni Buddha insisted that once monks entered the sangha, their former caste became irrelevant, “just as when the great rivers…reach the great ocean, they give up their former names and designations and are simply called the great ocean.” It was a quietly radical act in a society defined by those social stratifications.

America has its own caste and class system built on race, enforced through economic and political systems. We must face and care for those histories to build true sangha. It is not enough to leave our doors open—we must meet each individual who approaches with skillful means and compassion. Our new Equity-Based Model is a major turn in this direction: a practice of mirroring, and a way to offer dana to the temple and teachers.

We ask you to turn against the stream of division as you offer a gift that reflects the depth of your intention. Your offering will widen the dharma gate of our practice, and offer a chance at repose and bliss for our sangha. Please consider making a gift today.

Ryan Lee Wong
BZC Administrative Director

2022 at BZC: A Year in Pictures

Approaching the end of a very challenging and unusual year, we look back at the life of the BZC sangha during 2022. Together we have established a new practice space in Brooklyn, strengthened our organizational and practice structure, participated in national meetings across the country and gathered to celebrate the priest ordination of Kaishin Victory Matsui—among much more. This selection of images is a reminder of our precious life together during the past year.

A Temple in Brooklyn

After the closing in 2020 of our temple on Carrol Street in Brooklyn, the establishment of a new physical practice space in the city was a very important moment for the BZC community. In March this year, at the end of the three-day sesshin, the sangha came together for the reopening ceremony of Boundless Mind Temple, in which we celebrated our new practice space at Christ Church!

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/March-2022-sesshin_Panoramic-scaled.jpg

Spring in the Horizon

Dharma teachers and residents at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple take a moment to pose after a (very windy) garden opening ceremony in March.

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Residents-AHZT-March2022-scaled.jpg

A New Administrative Director

 

In early April, Ryan Lee Wong stepped into the new full-time position of Administrative Director! A new role at BZC, the AD not only manages day-to-day operations but also supports logistics, strategy, and administration at BZC. Since then, Ryan—a long time member of our sangha who has been serving the community in multiple roles over the years—has been instrumental in helping to implement BZC‘s mission and strategic plan.

 

Our First Sangha Harmony Allies

This year, BZC has designated its first two Sangha Harmony Allies: Renhō Gerardo Dexter Ciprian and Inzan Monica Rose Smith. The Sangha Harmony Allies (SHAs) are a new role recommended by the Ethics Working Group as part of the formal Ethics Process. The SHAs are tasked with meeting and holding ethical concerns in the sangha, and strive for impartiality, fairness, and true communication. Inzan and Renhō brought a depth of practice, commitment to our sangha, and compassionate hearts to this work. Their dedication and commitment has helped sustain the sangha during this year.

BZC at Branching Streams Conference

Forty zen leaders, students, and teachers from across the US and Canada gathered in Austin for the Branching Streams Conference, which brought together temples in the Suzuki Roshi lineage. Ian and Ryan represented 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.

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Branching-Streams-2022-Conference-participants-in-robes-scaled.jpg

Image by Pat Yingst, Austin Zen Center

Dharma Teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Korin Charlie Pokorny in Brooklyn!

Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Korin Charlie Pokorny moved to Brooklyn this summer and are now supporting the BZC sangha and organizational life at Boundless Mind Temple. As ordained priests and dharma-transmitted teachers, they have both brought their many years of training to the benefit of our community throughout the fall Practice Period. From dharma talks, to practice discussion, retreats, sewing instruction, and Zen training, they have become a cherished and precious support to our sangha. Thank you, Sarah and Charlie!

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Sarah_Charlie.jpg

BZC at 2022 Future of American Buddhism Conference

BZC Board Chair Weishin Huang attended the four-day Future of American Buddhism Conference in Garrison, NY. Weishin shared some highlights from the conference, giving us a taste of the conversations that took place there about the state of our mahasangha:

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.

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)

BZC Residential Summer Retreat

The BZC annual summer retreat was filled to capacity—again! Kosen Gregory Snyder, Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, and Kidō Ian Case co-lead the BZC Residential Summer Retreat this August at the Watershed Retreat Center, next to Ancestral Heart Zen Monastery, in upstate New York. During this week-long Soto Zen retreat, participants followed a semi-monastic schedule, which included zazen, service, study, dharma talks, discussions, meeting with teachers, and silent meals, along with time for swimming and walks in the woods. The retreat marked the Teacher Entrustment of Kidō Ian Case, a major step for Ian and the BZC sangha.

Qigong Fundraiser for BZC with Sally Chang

Dear teacher Sally Chang offered a Qigong Fundraiser Workshop at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn. The workshop raised over $4K for BZC! Sally Chang guided participants in learning the Eight Silk Brocades, one of the oldest and most influential Qigong forms. The program also included a special Evening Conversation with Sally Chang and BZC dharma teacher Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, now available at the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/SallyChang_02.jpg

Zen Priest Ordination

In October this year, the BZC sangha came together to celebrate the Zen priest ordination of Kaishin Victory Matsui by dharma teacher Kosen Gregory Snyder. Surrounded by BZC’s teachers, senior practitioners, sangha members, as well as family and friends, Kaishin took a vow of dedication to practice and community. The first such ceremony to take place at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn, the gathering was a very special occasion for our community!

https://brooklynzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Kaishin_JessXSnow_10-23-22-40.jpg

Image by Jess X. Snow

Jukai Ordinands

A group of nineteen Jukai ordinands has begun sewing rakusus and delivering Way-Seeking Mind talks. This is the largest group of ordinands in-training at BZC, a sign of the strength of the dharma in our community. They will be receiving precepts in June 2023.

100th Anniversary of Soto Zen in America

In November, six members of BZC attended a Jukai-e marking the 100th Anniversary of Soto Zen in America hosted by Zenshuji in Los Angeles. There were 100 kaitei (ordinands) from around North America, as well as 100 priests from North America and Japan to organize and hold the ceremonies, including a tenzo ryo from Eiheiji. Each day was packed with services, many of them rarely done in North America, as well as talks from elders in our lineage like Shohaku Okumura, Tenshin Reb Anderson, and Konjin Gaelyn Godwin. Gengo Akiba Roshi presided and offered the precepts to the kaitei. It was also an historic mix of Sotoshu representatives, historically Japanese American sanghas, and zen centers like BZC, forging stronger bonds between these different expressions of sangha.

L to R: Ryan Lee Wong (BZC Administrative Director), Inzan Monica Rose (Jisha to BZC dharma teacher Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin), Wesley Antell (Ancestral Heart Zen Temple Enju—head of the garden), Shigetsu Camille Goodison (techryo co-chair), Kaishin Victory Matsui (Ancestral Heart Zen Temple Tenzo—cook), Kidō Ian Case (BZC Tanto)

Zendo Dog

Not the most quiet of creatures, but here is Milo, one of BZC‘s dogs, in a moment of calm in the zendo, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight.

Image by Jess X. Snow

New audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny

A new audio dharma talk offered by Charlie Korin Pokorny during last Saturday’s one-day sit is now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast.

Let things come and rest in your heart: audio dharma talk by Charlie Korin Pokorny (2022/11/10)

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!

Ango Week 10: Joy continued

Image: Dancing Buddha print by Vivienne Eastwood

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

Right! There’s serious work to be done: let’s play.
—Bayo Akomolafe

Dear Ango sangha,

How have the past few days been? How is your practice of joy going?

We want to recognize, not only is this a tender time in the Sangha, but for many people the holiday season is a mixed bag. There are so many messages about joy and gratefulness and merriment…while for many people the holiday season amplifies loss, increases anxiety, and can generate despair, even while the world is all glitter and shopping and apparent holiday cheer. So it may feel like engaging a joy practice right now is yet another thing that brings mixed feelings. We want to offer the image of untethering joy from conditions, and really engaging it as something subtle and readily available, not something that could be compared, bought or sold. Practicing cultivating joy in this way takes effort. This is partly why we wanted to spend weeks building up to it- through embodied attunement, through breath, through rest, through ritual and ceremony, through our senses, through not-hurrying…see if it’s possible to approach it through the lens of all you’ve been cultivating and exploring over the fall Ango.

For those in the U.S., we want to include acknowledging that dominant collective culture turns this week toward the immense complexity of the tradition of Thanksgiving. However you do or do not celebrate this holiday, may practice support you to be with whatever the holiday evokes: maybe a season of gratitude, maybe an anticipated coming together of family…but also maybe something you have not historically celebrated/ not your cultural tradition; maybe a time of anxiety and pain around family, around food, around history; maybe a time of deep reflection on the myth and social conditioning that attempts to erase attempted genocide of indigenous people and centers colonial domination; and much more. May the Dharma support us being spacious enough to hold the complexity to honor every part, and to lift up parts that have not been so seen or acknowledged or allowed in the past.

Dancing

We are going to recommend dance as a practice this week, and wanted to share this teaching with you that we received for some context. Our family’s dance Kumu in California, Vao Paleti or Aunty Vao, shared with us that in Pacific Islander dance, every time our foot touches the ground or floor, we are connecting with ancestors and honoring them. Since learning this, all dance has opened for us as more of a ceremony- connecting us to our lineages, to our ancestors, to earth. This teaching can change our relationship to Kinhin/ walking meditation, and to walking or standing in general- feeling every step we take as meaningful, connected, and honoring. It feels resonant with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings around how “Peace is every step.”

The monks at Ancestral Heart shared that, in the days after hearing about Kosen having cancer, they were invited by Watershed to a bonfire and dancing. The image was so moving- everyone carrying care and worry, and also coming together around a fire, and moving with joy.

So it’s in these teachings, and in this spirit, we are offering the practice this week of dancing.

Possible practices:

– Dance for 5 minutes a day: we are hoping everyone will try this one on in a way that works for you. Maybe it just means listening to music you like and bobbing your head. But maybe it also means turning it up loud and moving until you’re sweaty and falling over…or maybe something in between. If you notice annoyance, cynicism, irritation, self-consciousness arising with reading this, honor that…and maybe try it for a couple minutes anyway. It can be supportive to dance alone, so it’s not about being seen or being social- just about having a vital human body and allowing joy in movement. And it can be supportive to dance with others, sharing the joy.

– Play: if you see the chance this week- do something playful you maybe haven’t done since you were a kid, or maybe ever. Jump on a swing for a minute; go down a slide; put on some roller skates, or ice skates; jump up/ down some stairs, roll down a hill or maybe just roll around on the floor? This is by no means an exhaustive list! Find something that works for you, for your body, that feels maybe a little silly, and try it on…just once, as an experiment.

– Care for yourself with tenderness: make it a koan for this week- how do I care for this moment? Include yourself in the inquiry and see what arrives to be done/ or not to do.

With gratitude and complexity abounding,
Sarah & Charlie


New BZC Audio Dharma Podcast Episode: Conversation with Sally Chang and Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin

This episode is a conversation with Sally Chang, Chief Instructor of Evergreen Taiji Academy, and BZC dharma teacher Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin, offered as part of a Qigong Fundraiser Workshop for BZC, offered at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn in September 2022.

Conversation with Sally Chang and Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin (2022/09/23)

About Sally Chang

Sally Chang is Chief Instructor of Evergreen Taiji Academy. She is a Teacher, Acupuncturist, and 30+ year practitioner of Daoist Wisdom Arts including Qigong, Taiji, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Sally’s teachings focus on cultivating the innate capacity for healing; and she is known for her warm, focused presence.

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!

Ango Week 9: The serious matter of Joy

Image: Yoko’ Ohashi’s calligraphy: raku- joy, bliss, music 

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

The zazen I speak of is not learning mediation, it is simply the Dharma gate of repose and bliss (raku).  The practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment.
—Dogen-zenji from Fukanzazengi, from Moon in a Dewdrop translation

 

Do not think lightly of good, saying it will not come to me. Drop by drop the water pot is filled. Likewise, the wise one, gathering it little by little, fills one’s self with good.
—Dhammapada Chapter 9 verse 122

Dear Ango sangha,

I have been working all week on an email about the complexity of cultivating joy and play in the midst of pain and suffering. Also about the relationship of joy and play to repose and bliss, engagement and, most importantly, liberation. To be honest, this email has taken on a life of its own and become, I think, too massive to be digested in one sitting.

So, in the spirit of our practice period, I won’t try to force all I have gathered to condense into something manageable today, but will slow things down and allow us to take up this theme over the next few weeks. For this week to start us off, I offer two ideas about joy, one story about play, and a few resources for all of us to consider together.

Here are the two ideas:

1) In the tradition of Buddhism, states of ease, peace and joy are cultivated not only because they are easeful and heart opening, but because they are ultimately wisdom building.
2) We have to investigate what we mean by joy and happiness and play, and anywhere we find they’ve been made conditional (vs innate and unconditional), gently untether them.

Here’s the story:
Recently, we were at a gathering for families with our son. Some people had known one another for years. Many, like us, were new to the community. It was a grey, drizzly day, so we were outside and chilly. Everyone was standing around a little awkwardly, not really knowing how to engage. Until, at some point, one wise parent/organizer yelled out- “Freeze tag- and everyone is playing!” Suddenly, everyone was running around, laughing and enjoying the particular chaos that ensues when playing freeze tag (especially when half the participants haven’t played freeze tag in decades). And suddenly we were in intimate connection with people we hadn’t even had a chance to meet yet- dodging and spinning, freezing and unfreezing one another. The whole field of relationship changed within minutes. And, once we all got too tired, everyone now felt warmly in community.

This, to me, shows the role of play in relation to the Dharma- to help us to be pliant and responsive, to wake us up to our vitality, to our connection. Play can transform us and change the field in which we are connected to one another, and also clear away, as really nothing else can, the hindrances for experiencing the depth of our connection

But often access to states of play can get inhibited as people grow. Again, as a Bodhisattva engagement of staying alive and responsive to the world, are there moments in your day where you can play? If not, can you build some? (and if not, start small!)

Here is a small list of resources around joy and play and Dharma:
Possible practices:
check out one, or several, of the resources below and see what comes up in you? what’s stirred? what’s challenged? what’s calling for further exploration?  Are there other teachings you’ve come across that you want to share?

– Listen or re-listen to Yoko Ohashi’s talk on Healing and joy including the evolution of the character above.

“Joy is a Radical Act”, by Scott Tusa, from Tricycle

-The work of Saliha Bava, PhD, Joy and Social Justice

Resistive Joy: Sustaining Our Activism Through Celebration by Helena
from Disorient- a blog/ resource for intersectional, feminist thought, education and activism

The teachings of Ross Gay author of The Book of Delights and Inciting Joy

– Ted Talk by Rick Hanson- neuroscientist and Buddhist practitioner, Hardwiring Happiness

Inquiring into conditioning:
What were you taught in early life about joy, fun, play, pleasure, bliss? Who was teaching you and how? What was allowed in these realms? what wasn’t? How do you feel about these concepts now? What arises in your daily life around them? What from your early life aligns with what you believe now? What doesn’t? When/ where/ how/ with who can you enact joy, fun, play, pleasure, bliss?

Stay tuned for next week, more to come…


New audio dharma talks available!

New audio dharma talks are now available on the BZC Audio Dharma Podcast!

Healing: audio dharma talk by Yoko Ohashi (2022/11/05)

This Distress is Worth Recounting: audio dharma talk by Sarah Dōjin Emerson (2022/10/29)

Potentiality: audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/10/15)

Healing and Vow: audio dharma talk by Kosen Greg Snyder (2022/10/14)

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!

Ango Week 8: The support of ritual and ceremony

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

To bow to the floor and to bow standing is dignified bearing in motion and stillness. Painting a decayed tree, and polishing a brick of dead ash continues without stopping. Even though calendar days are short and regent, study of the way in this manner is profound and deep.

—Eihei Dogen-zenji from Shinjin Gakudo (Body-and-Mind Study of the Way) in Moon in a Dewdrop

With news of Kosen’s diagnosis, and the complexity of feelings that are arising for many of us in digesting this news, we want to wait to take up joy together next week, and skip ahead to the nourishment and support of ceremony and ritual.

In Soto Zen ceremony and ritual are central, and are practice-engagements of non-duality. Ceremony is a place of integration of everything that can seem separate. Coming together in ceremony, we enact how this separation is delusion, and create space for the connectedness of all things to touch us and change us. For example, zazen practice itself is the ceremony of the non-duality of Buddhas and practitioners. When we sit, this is a ceremony of engaging how we are our particular selves, and how to tenderly be with our particular selves; and also how we are not apart from buddhas, how Buddhas sit in the world right where we sit.

Ceremony is a place where things that are hard to digest become digestible, because we do ceremony together, and together we have a capacity greater than when we imagine ourselves to be separate. Even if we offer incense alone in a room, we are engaging the enactment of how all Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and all practitioners of the past, present and future, are here with us. The meaning of any offering now lives in relationship with all the beings who have sustained this meaning over time, and do now, and will in the future.

So this week, coming from our practices of attuning to our bodies, and of exploring nourishment, we can take up ceremony and inquire: how does ritual and ceremony support me right now? If we are working with emotions and memories and feelings and life circumstances that feel un-integratable, is there a way that ceremony can help us integrate, help us feel connected to one another, and help us hold what is arriving to be held?

This week for the online daily zazen and service, we are offering well-being ceremonies for Kosen as a way to help us meet what’s arising, and then also to offer the merit and intention of our practice together to be of benefit to him. As we do this, we can open to how, as we make an offering of our coming together, this is also caring for ourselves- as we naturally want to do something to respond when someone we care about is in distress. So the making of an offering cares for our distress and benefits Kosen and we are alive there, in relationship with one another and how we impact one another.

Ceremony is a place of alignment of our conventional reality with the equal truth of the transcendent. In Charlie’s most recent Dharma talk, and in the class on Zen Ritual Life, there has been discussion of how ritual supports a different sense of time than our everyday, quantifiable sense of time. This articulates how, in ritual and in ceremony, we collectively make space to move at a different pace- one that allows for integration of complexities with our bodies and in concert with one another. And how, in a life of practice, this is not only nourishing, it is essential to move into with some frequency to nurture bodhicitta, to nurture our freedom, to nurture liberation.

So this week, please find a way to engage with ritual and ceremony in a way that supports you.

Practice possibilities:

– Wednesday through Friday morning after the ceremony of zazen from 7:30-8:00am, there will be well-being ceremonies for Kosen from 8:00-8:15am. To join these online offerings, please see here.

– On Wednesday evening (November 9) at Boundless Mind Temple we will offer a well-being ceremony in person.

– Utilizing the altar you created in the first week of the practice period- light a candle and simply make the offering of light. Or offer incense: light it, bring it to your forehead and state an intention, then place it in the incenser (or in something where it’s safe to burn), maybe spend some time with it while it burns.

– Take time to sit quietly and acknowledge all of what’s present for you and alive in you. Write down everything you can name on a piece of paper that you can fold into something that fits on your altar. If you practice with offering incense, you can light a candle and some incense, and circle this offering over the incense three times clockwise, then lift it to your forehead and name an intention, just in your mind, of how you want to offer this piece of paper and all it contains. Then put this on your altar and let it rest there for as long as it needs to be there.

– Everyday there are beings of all kinds- human, plant, animal and otherwise, offering us teachings. Offer a bow to something or someone to thank them for being in your life or the teaching they have offered in return. If it doesn’t feel appropriate to do this explicitly or outwardly in any given situation, offer a bow internally or maybe even on the sly so only you know, but the offering of gratitude will still be made.

Inquiring into conditioning:

What place did ritual and ceremony hold in your early life? How did these concepts and practices show up? What were you taught about them? How did you feel about them?

How do ritual and ceremony live in you presently? Are there ways they show up that are obvious? Are there ways they happen in your life that are more subtle, or not something you would historically think of as ceremony or ritual, but is part of a cyclical rhythm of your life?

When engaging with ritual, what arises for you? Some possibilities: skepticism, cynicism, doubt…devotion, love,immersion, freedom…discomfort, comfort, familiarity, resonance, alienation, confusion…and everything else in between. Take some time to turn this and just observe whatever is stirred up.