The Practice of Wholehearted Activity

From Zen’s inception in China, wholehearted presence in activity has always been considered integral to our practice. Habits of mind are clarified when the body is still in meditation as well as when the body intends toward this very same presence in daily activity. Both stillness and activity are required to see clearly what hinders our liberation from the mental habits causing us unnecessary suffering. Brooklyn Zen Center provides not only a place for practicing meditation and studying Buddhist teachings, but a community-supported opportunity to encourage in your own life a continuity of presence in activity.

All practitioners – to the degree each is able – take part in the care of our practice, the community and our physical building. The overall care of the community is coordinated by five roles, four of which have a crew – or ryo as we often call them – addressing the many details of an area. These leadership roles have both a functional responsibility to ensure their areas are addressed as well as a practice responsibility to encourage wholehearted activity in all that we do. In being wholehearted or fully present in what we are doing, we are embodying the liberated mind and heart of non-separation and freedom. Shunryu Suzuki wrote, “When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” We invite you to participate in this wholehearted effort that burns up the self-clinging at the root of suffering. 

The five leadership roles are:

Tenzo (Head of the Kitchen) The Tenzo leads the care of the kitchen and supports kitchen practice for the community. Ordering food, organizing meal preparation and caring for the overall kitchen falls under the purview of the Tenzo. The Tenzo takes on the kitchen as heart, mind and body. The Tenzoryo, or kitchen crew, is the practice group that takes care of the kitchen and helps with meals. In Zen, we consider the kitchen a second meditation hall as meal preparation is a powerful mirror for showing us the mind. Please read here for more on kitchen practice. If you are interested in learning more about kitchen practice, please email the Tenzo at tenzo[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Ino (Head of the Meditation Hall) The Ino leads the care of the meditation hall and supports all meditation and ritual practice for the community. Caring for the zendo (meditation hall), training and supporting those on the doanryo, and organizing ceremonies are only some of the many responsibilities of the Ino. The Ino takes on the zendo as heart, mind and body. The doanryo is the collective name for the practitioners who have decided to make the carrying out of our ritual forms a part of their wider Zen practice. Those on the doanryo time meditation, lead chants and sound bells and other instruments to hold the container of meditation. Like the kitchen, this practice too is a powerful mirror for the mind. If you are interested in learning more about doanryo practice, please email the Ino at ino[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Shika (Guest Manager) The Shika leads the care for our guests and supports all processes around the welcoming and following up with those who come to our center. Greeting and providing information to those new to our community, making arrangements for those coming to retreat from out of town, supporting visiting teachers and generally creating a welcoming environment at Brooklyn Zen Center are among the responsibilities of the Shika. The Shika takes on all guests as heart, mind and body. Those on the shikaryo have decided to make the practice of welcoming, inclusivity and cultivating an open space for others integral to their Zen practice. If you are interested in learning more about shikaryo practice, please email the Shika at shika[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Work Leader  The Work Leader leads the care of our physical facility and supports all work practice for the community. Organizing work periods and work days, ensuring the maintenance of appliances and equipment, ordering supplies and overseeing the cleanliness and upkeep of the space are some of the responsibilities of the Work Leader. The Work Leader takes on the physical facility as heart, mind and body. Those who are on the work crew often have skills useful for taking care of the center. That said, this is not required. Those who join the work crew are Zen practitioners who find joy in caring for our beautiful loft space and making sure it is maintained for our practice together. If you are interested in learning more about work crew practice, please email the Work Leader at workleader[at]brooklynzen[dot]org.

Director The director leads the organizational administration at the Brooklyn Zen Center. All administrative volunteers including the Treasurer, Program Director all board committee chairs – communications, development, finance, inclusivity, membership and planning – report to the Director. The Director takes on the administration and operations of the organization as heart, mind and body. If you are interested in volunteering on any administrative committees or roles, please email the Director at director[at]brooklynzen[dot]org. 

Our aim is to have two people sharing the responsibilities of each of the ryo leadership roles. The Head Teacher invites Zen students to take up the role of Tenzo, Ino, Shika or Work Leader as a way of deepening their practice. Usually these roles are filled by community members who have been practicing for sometime.

All are encouraged to contact the various ryo leaders to take up these various expressions of wholehearted activity in order to experience the true richness of Zen practice. We welcome and want your to support your interests. We hope that you will join us, both on the cushion and in community activity together.