2018 Fall Practice Period at BZC

A message from the BZC teachers regarding the 2018 Fall Practice Period:

Dear Sangha,

We hope all of you are finding joy, rest and nourishment in these very warm summer days. As September quickly approaches, it is time to begin thinking about our commitments for the upcoming practice period.

Fall Practice Period is an opportunity to wholeheartedly devote ourselves to Zen practice in community by centering it in our lives from mid-September to mid-December. We use this time to create a container that supports our community in taking time to clarify our intentions, deepen insight, embody our commitments and more fully integrate our practice as life. If you are not familiar with BZC practice period, you can read about it more fully here. Regardless of your time practicing at BZC, we very much encourage taking up the practice period as a path of grounding your commitment to practice and sangha through zazen, practice roles, practice discussion and the many other opportunities for Zen students at BZC.

As is our usual custom, we ask that you please fill out the practice period commitment form, which you can find here. Also, please find below the description of the topic for the upcoming Fall Practice Period.

Karma and Rebirth: Waking up to our Shared Responsibility for Harm and Healing

During this fall practice period we will be exploring the Buddhist teachings of karma and rebirth in terms of personal, spiritual and societal transformation. This topic will be the focus of all our dharma talks and retreats during the practice period. We will refer to Dogen’s “Eihei Koso Hotsuganmon” as our vow and guide to take up karma as both an object of witness in practice and the very path of liberation itself. We will also look at case 8, “Bhaizhang’s Fox”, in the Book of Serenity, as well as Dogen’s discussion of this koan in his “Jinshin Inga” to further understand how we relate to karma in our Soto tradition. We recommend the book Exploring Karma and Rebirth by Nagapriya as a general overview of the Buddhist understanding of karma.

As karma is inherited and reproduced without separation from all beings, there can be no divide between the personal, spiritual and societal. Our inherited societal beliefs condition what we understand to be our personal mind and in turn we consciously and unconsciously reinforce karmic patterns in our world. Because of this, an aspect of our study together will be to think about our shared societal karma, how we internalize patterns of thought that cause harm and how we might work together to wake up from these patterns and practices. While we’ve recommended three books here from Ruth King, bell hooks and Resmaa Menakem, there are many readings that would help with thinking about the karmic mind’s role in ongoing societal harm. We encourage you to share them with each other as we move through this study together. We also encourage you to take part in the various Undoing groups that look at karma through these same lenses.

Books to support our study together:

“Eihei Koso Hotsuganmon,” from our BZC chant book.

Case 8, “Baizhang’s Fox,” from Xingxiu, and Thomas F. Cleary.

Book of Serenity: One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2005. (available here)

Fascicle 90, “Jinshin Inga (Identifying with Cause and Effect),” from Dōgen, and Kazuaki

Tanahashi. Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogens Shobo Genzo. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2013. (available in the BZC library)

Nagapriya. Exploring Karma and Rebirth. Windhorse Publications, 2004.

Menakem, Resmaa. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Las Vegas: Central Recovery Press, 2017.

King, Ruth. Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out. Boulder, CO: Sounds True. 2018.

hooks, bell. The Will to Change. New York: Washington Square Press, 2005.

There are many important books relevant to this practice period topic. We will be assembling a more comprehensive bibliography to send out to those who want to read further.

We look forward to practicing together this fall.

With loving respect,
Laura and Greg