Words and Sights of Sangha Life

This fall, we studied these lines from the Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi: “Turning away and touching are both wrong, for it is like a massive fire.” How do we live in a climate literally aflame, our collective nerves firing with patriarchal and racial hatred? This poem of 1,200 years offers a simple guidance: don’t be consumed by it, don’t ignore it. There’s a mystery in the midst of it all—one that we can find together.

– Ryan Lee Wong, Undoing Patriarchy Co-Facilitator, Co-Shika

I want to support awakening, kindness, vulnerability, authenticity, and community. Supporting BZC is supporting these things. I can’t think of a more worthy cause to back than a group of people committed to courageously looking at the roots of harm and suffering in themselves and the world, and vowing to end it. In times like these (and always), coming together, recognizing our connection to each other and to life, seems to be the only way. BZC is a place that facilitates this kind of coming together.

– Kayla, sangha member 

Brooklyn Zen Center is a spiritual home for me in a way that is difficult to sum up. I am inspired by the sincerity, ethical commitment, lightness, care that I see and experience here. I support this space and practice here because I believe these small instances of human community are the kindling by which a more humane world is lit.

– Emily, sangha member

Brooklyn Zen Center is a refuge in the deepest way. A refuge in the world, not away from the world, not an escape, but deeply engaged in waking up to meet everything we face with open hearts.

– J., sangha member


suchness of fly

a light dusting of snow has hardened into a fragile layer of ice
and my ears receive the sound of shoe meeting ground in a soft crunch.

trees greet wind in an easy dance
and my eyes absorb their rhythm; I feel my body sway.
i’m tree
and wind.

musty leaves offer the unmistakable scent of fall’s dying,
giving way to winter’s unapologetic arrival.

but the fly still lands on the apple in my palm
and the bird darts from branch to ground and back again because her work is not quite done.

if everything i do is mind touching mind
there is no need to worry or wonder if it’s ever enough.

and i can rest in the lessons of the ice as it melts
the trees as they dance
the fly as it lands
the bird as it darts.

face softens into a wide, deep smile.

sun is almost asleep now.

– Kristin Miscall, Head of the Kitchen (Tenzo)

One step in, it became clear I was entering the gates of Dharma. Brooklyn Zen Center from the beginning felt like a refuge, held by clear teachers and practitioners willing to do the work of discernement to clarify karmic conditioning. What was a practice is now a deep faith, swelling and receding as the tides of awakening manifest. There is no better home.

Sansetsu Flo Lunn

I am so grateful to have found such a loving and fierce community in Brooklyn Zen Center. It’s an honor and an immeasurable support to practice with people so deeply committed to showing up for one another and to doing good in a troubled world.

– Carl Fisher

I’m touched by the generosity of the sangha: having a clean, inviting home in which to practice; a cup of tea when I need it; treats; clean towels; bells; altars; smiles; mini-clashes that help me to see: ); invitations for fellowship; sangha outings; heart to heart conversation; ceremonies; candles; flowers; a lay monastic practice in Brooklyn (amazing when you really think of it!); chanting; chantboooks!; incense; library books; wise friends and compassionate teachers devote to our waking up.

– Camille Shigetsu, sangha member and Head Doan

This practice period has taught me so much about refuge—returning to and relying upon Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. For me, Sangha was the first refuge; I knew about as soon as I walked in that there was something in this community that I could trust. The second two have come much slower and more mysteriously. Receiving the precepts this fall, I realized that I had been thinking of refuge as a thing, when actually it is just the ground. Returning to and relying upon relationship, upon the earth, upon our vows together—refuge is expressing the joy of how we all define each other. I don’t know what I am without all of you.

– Ella

Brooklyn Zen Center has been a refuge of stillness for me since moving to New York City six years ago. I can’t imagine living here without the nourishment that I receive from this community and the teachers that support us.  No matter where I find myself on the path, one thing I know is that I can’t walk it alone. The sangha of Brooklyn Zen Center has continuously and graciously met me exactly where I am at. For that, I am deeply grateful.

– Jefre Cantu