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Sounding Board for September 2015

The climate crisis has arrived, despite all crackpot denials. We feel it here in California in the depth of drought, mandated state water rationing, and now in a twelve-month fire season burning through our forests and grasslands.  As responsible citizens and visible members of Berkeley’s religious community, the BZC sangha has been taking steps to evaluate and change our consumption of waterand petroleum-based fuel.

Recently the board asked for reviews of water and energy usage. Board member Mark Copithorne has found that our total electrical usage—for all four of our buildings—averages 1200kWh per month. This is remarkably modest given the usage of residences, zendo, community room, etc. The average California single household uses about 500 kWh per month.

Checking water bills, Office Manager Tamar Enoch has found that our water usage, compared  with 2013 usage is down by the following startling percentages:

  • 1929 Russell is down 45%
  • 1931 Russell is down 50%
  • 1933 Russell is down 42%

The garden committee, with guidance from Sojun Roshi and others, is actively looking at replacement of our front and back lawns with paving and drought-resistant vegetation. As prices of solar panels and installations continue to fall, the

Board is investigating the possibility of solar conversion. Lastly, although we are not a wealthy community, we have in place a socially-responsible investment policy that eschews funds that carry in their portfolios weapon manufacture, tobacco products, alcohol, oil, and gas.

Jizo Ceremony for Children Who Have Died Saturday, October 3, 1:00pm - 2:30pm

The loss of a loved one often opens a well of profound grief. No matter how the loved one dies suddenly or slowly, whether through illness, accident, miscarriage, abortion or suicide, our sorrow is deep and may be long-lasting. To help families and friends in their process of grief, we will honor our lost loved ones by participating in a ceremony in our Jizo garden. Jizo, the Earth Store Bodhisattva, is viewed as a guide and protector for those who are enduring the loss of loved one, particularly a child lost in miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion or in early life. Jizo’s vow is to remain in the world until all beings are free from suffering, and he accompanies children when they pass out of this world.

Before the ceremony we will spend time making a personal memorial for a lost one, by writing a message, making a simple necklace or other offering. Attendees are also invited to bring a picture of their loved one or other personal token of remembrance for our altar.

The ceremony will be led by two BZC priests, Gerry Oliva and Judy Fleischman. All BZC members and neighborhood residents are invited to attend. A sign-up sheet will be posted on the courtyard bulletin board. There is no fee but offerings of dana are welcome. For more information or to sign up by phone contact Gerry Oliva at or call (510) 652-7217.

All Sangha Potluck – Board Nominations Tuesday, September 15, 6:30pm

Please join us for a potluck dinner on Tuesday, September 15, beginning at 6:30pm in the community room. A sign-up sheet is posted on the patio bulletin board for bringing food, drinks or helping with clean-up.

After dinner the Board will nominate three candidates for the three open positions for this fall’s election. In recruiting candidates, the board has identified skills that support the sangha’s interests, including but not limited to: oral and written communication, organization, information technology, money management, fundraising, engineering, building maintenance and non-profit law. Board members are expected to attend monthly meetings, an all-day retreat on a Sunday in January, and to serve on at least one working board committee: finance, buildings, development, electronic communication, nomination/election process. As in the past, all BZC members are welcome to nominate fellow members for this position, but please contact them first concerning their willingness to be nominated. If you yourself are interested in being nominated, please contact either Stephanie Solar or Stan Dewey.

During the meeting there will also be opportunity for board committee chairs to provide updates regarding finance, building projects, fundraising, electronic communication, election/nomination reform, and HEAR. We hope to see you at the dinner and meeting and wholeheartedly welcome your participation in the nomination process.

Aspects of Practice 2015 Remembering the Ancient Way

Aspects of Practice—led by Vice-Abbot Hozan Alan Senauke and BZC senior students—will begin with sesshin on Saturday October 17, and continue through the closing sitting on Saturday November 14. As always, this is an opportunity for new and old students to study and practice together the basics of zazen, forms, and dharma here at BZC. And of course, we will share work, practice discussion, and tea.

This year our classes and lectures will focus on our Chinese ancestors—Soto and Rinzai, men and women—and how their teachings and example remain alive to us so many centuries later. Copies of the texts will be available in advance.

As fall begins, please join us for this opportunity to refresh our timeless practice. All the relevant info and signup sheets will be posted late in September. If you have questions, email Hozan at or leave a note in his box on the porch. See you there.

Sojun’s Summer Class Series Six Thursdays, August 6 - October 1, 7:15 pm - 8:45 pm

Sojun Roshi will teach a new class series beginning in August. The subject will be a continuation of his practice period class on Vasubhandu’s Thirty Verses, which describes a system of eight consciousnesses developed by the Yogacara school of Buddhism. The interplay between all eight aspects is the subject of the Thirty  Verses and Sojun’s class.

 Vasubhandu: Japan (c. 1200)
Vasubhandu: Japan (c. 1200)

If you did not attend the practice period class you are still most welcome and encouraged to join us. Sojun will bring us up to speed.We’ll meet on Thursday evenings from 7:15-8:45 pm.The six dates are: 8/6, 8/20, 9/3, 9/10, 9/24, 10/1. Because of summer vacations, the class fee will be $50 for the series or pro-rated at $10/class. Our basic text will be Thich Nhat Hanh’s Understanding Our Mind (previously published at Transformation at the Base.)


A Day with Shohaku Okumura Saturday, August 29

We are very fortunate to be hosting a day of teaching with Shohaku Okumura Roshi on Saturday, August 29. He will give the public lecture in the morning and a longer teaching in theafternoon. The subject will be Dogen’s waka poems from Zen of Four Seasons. Both talks are open to all.

Okumura Roshi is a Dogen scholar and the author of many translations and commentaries, including Zen of Four Seasons, Realizing Genjokoan and Living by Vow. He is abbot at Sanshin Zen Community in Bloomington, Indiana.

One-Day Sesshin Saturday, August 15, 5:00 am - 9:00 pm

Sojun Mel Weitsman will lead a one-day sesshin on Saturday August 15, from 5:00 am –9:00 pm. We encourage old and new sangha members to participate. Please sign up on the patio bulletin board by Wednesday morning August 12, after zazen. If this is your first sesshin at BZC, we recommend that you first participate in a full Saturday program and also speak with the sesshin director. The fee is $35 and should be paid in advance (a discounted fee is possible for those in need; please speak to the director). Leave checks marked “August sesshin” in the mail slot in the courtyard laundry room door or mail to the BZC office manager at 1931 Russell St., Berkeley, 94703.

If you are attending for the first time, you will need to fill out a sesshin information sheet to let us know of health problems, food allergies, or physical problems requiring accommodation. Info sheets are available under the patio bulletin board or from the sesshin director, Gerry Oliva ( or (510) 652-7217.