Category Archives: News

Vallejo Zen Center Garden & Jazz Party

It’s time again for VZC’s annual fundraising party at 607 Branciforte St. in Vallejo. Great jazz, food, drink, door prizes, silent auction, and a grand raffle of dinner for two at Greens. (You need not be present to win the raffle.) Raffle and doorprize chances are $5 each or $20 for five chances. Admission is $20 per person (kids under 12 free). You can purchase tickets at BZC from Ko Blix or Jake Van Akkeren.

Consider Making a Bequest to BZC

“After years of putting off getting my estate in order with a will and trust, I find that doing so gives me great peace of mind: peace that family members will not be burdened with trying to discern my wishes; and peace that the people and organizations that really matter to me are sup­ported. Including a legacy gift for BZC has the heft of affirming no-birth-no-death, and the great satis­faction that this practice place will continue to be supported for years to come.” (BZC legacy donor)

As you know, Berkeley Zen Center is solely supported by our dues and donations. One of the significant ways sangha members and friends have donated is by leaving a monetary gift in their will or their trust. A gift in your will or revocable living trust, called a bequest, is a wonderful way to donate for people who love the sangha but may not wish to part with their resources today.
Remembering BZC in your estate plan helps ensure the ongoing health and well-being of our teachers, the structures at BZC, our sangha, and our practice. The BZC Board would like you to know that a number of its members, past and present, have named BZC in their wills or trusts. The Board invites all members and friends to follow this example and consider making such a bequest.
For more information about including BZC in your planned giving, contact BZC Treasurer Laurie Senauke at
You can also contact Laurie if you would like to let us know that you have already provided for BZC in your estate plan.

Position Changes

Jake Van Akkeren has taken over the Health and Safety Coordinator role from Nancy Suib.
Mahin Mahdavi is now tending the dokusan hut, taking over from Kiká Hellein (who has returned to Tassajara).
Thanks to you all for your dedication! 🙏

Board News

The June Board meeting was postponed. Its agenda will be included in the July 15 meeting, which will be 9:00 a.m. to noon instead of the usual 9:00‒11:00  a.m. (We opted to postpone so as to be able to focus on the Practice Period and five-day sesshin.)
All sangha members are welcome to attend any Board meetings. The agenda is always posted several days ahead of time, so you can see if there is any topic you are particularly concerned about.

Lay Ordination

On Saturday, June 9, three members of the Berkeley Zen Center sangha received Lay Ordination (Zaike Tokudo) from Sojun Weitsman Roshi and Hozan Senauke Sensei. This year Dôan Robert Thomas and his student joined in the ceremony.

This ceremony takes place once a year at BZC and is a significant rite of passage for each participant and for the whole sangha. We have the feeling that we are all together witnessing and participating as the ordinees receive Buddha’s precepts. We welcome these ordinees into the lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha and Suzuki Roshi’s family.

Sojun Roshi’s student:
Cheryl Gordon
Tai Dô Myô Shin
Peaceful Way Radiant Heart

Hozan Sensei’s students:
Rhiana Wiggins
Shin Sen Tai Do
Deep River Peaceful Ground

Greg Smith
Un Zan Kô Rei
Cloud Mountain Great Effort

Dôan Robert Thomas’s student:
Cricket Halsey
Gen Shin Yû Dô
Truth Source Gentle Way

August Caregiving Meeting

Sangha Support is offering a gathering for helpers of loved ones/family caregivers on Sunday, August 26, at 4:00‒5:30 p.m. in the Senauke home at 1933 Russell St. at BZC.

For our gathering, there will be the usual (unusual!) guided meditation by Laurie Senauke, time for checking in, and space to share ideas for how this caregiving practice can be met with kindness for all, including oneself.

Thank you for helping another person with doing things that they used to do for them­selves; we recognize your courage in navigat­ing this challenging practice.

For more information, please contact Debbie at or 503-505-4282.

Nothing’s Perfect

Yes, even in a Zen community there may be disagreements, conflicts, unethical behavior, and grievances. That’s why BZC has the Harmony, Ethics, and Reconciliation (HEAR) Committee to help deal with these ruptures in the relationships among sangha members.

The Bodhisattva Precepts serve as our guide toward right conduct, right speech, and relationships. The BZC Ethics Guidelines are based in the Precepts. You can read the Guide­lines at BZC’s website:  The HEAR Committee is empowered by the BZC Board of Directors, and its members are appointed by the Board.

A major focus of the committee is conflict resolution by offering sangha members a means of dealing with the inevitable conflicts that occasionally arise when people work closely with one another. The other purpose of HEAR is to receive and hear complaints about possible violations of the ethics guidelines.

To initiate a process, one may contact any HEAR Committee member. The initial conver­sa­tion can be quite informal, even as informal as a consultation about whether HEAR is the correct medium for addressing the problem, including whether there might be other steps to take first, whether or how one wishes to engage with the other person, and whether an informal or formal process is most appropriate.

An informal process is one in which there is a need for reconciliation of some sort, but no determination by a third party of “right” or “wrong” conduct. HEAR uses a variety of means to address these issues, determined on a case-by-case basis with the permission of the participants: for example, (1) a “shuttle diplo­macy” model prior to a joint meeting with the other person; (2) facilitated discussion(s) between the concerned parties with the aim of settling the issue sufficient to allow them to continue practicing together, or a complete resolution; (3) referral to an appropriate forum (such as the Practice Committee when practice policy is part of the issue); or (4) mediation between the parties.

A formal process in one where a formally convened panel of noninvolved individuals reviews the details of the situation, meets with the parties, and makes a determination about whether the complaint is valid and constitutes a violation of the ethics guidelines. These cases fall into three general categories: (1) obser­vation of serious misconduct or unethical behavior on the part of a sangha member that has not been addressed by teachers or practice leaders; (2) serious misconduct by the abbot, vice abbot, priests, or lay leaders; or (3) an appeal of an administrative decision regarding oneself. The process begins with the submis­sion of a written formal complaint. A sangha member may consult with HEAR prior to preparing a written complaint in order to review the process.

The initial conversations with a HEAR Committee member are confidential, as are the informal and formal grievance processes.

Commensurate with our goal of promoting harmony, the HEAR Committee at times pro­actively initiates interventions when we see that conflict or discord loom. We have also sometimes initiated councils or discussions in which sangha members gather to listen deeply to each other about controversial issues within the community. When necessary, HEAR also helps the Board in amending the Ethics Guide­lines or our procedures for resolving issues.

The HEAR Committee is not a substitute for your relationship with a teacher. We encourage sangha members to consult their teacher, as well as to attempt to communicate with the person with whom they are in conflict before bringing the issue to the committee. However, the committee is a resource for the sangha when other attempts at conflict resolution or reconciliation do not work.

The 2018 members of the HEAR Committee are: Stan Dewey (chair), Mary Duryee, Gerry Oliva, Tom Painter, Hozan Alan Senauke, and Penelope Thompson. Feel free to talk to any of us if you want further information.

Lotus Sutra Class Thursdays, August 30 - September 20, 7:15 pm - 8:45 pm

The Lotus Sūtra is one of the most popular and influential Mahayana sutras. It is known for its development of the concept of skillful means, mostly in the form of parables. It is full of cosmic imagery but it’s basic message is that all beings have the potential to become Buddhas and teach the Dharma here and now.
Susan Marvin and Laurie Senauke have been studying and enjoying the Lotus Sutra together for several months and are looking forward to sharing it with you. Readings will be from Gene Reeves translation of the Lotus Sutra and from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Opening the Heart of the Cosmos. 

Calendar Changes

Please note the following changes from the dates indicated in the BZC calendar: Practice Period opening sesshin is now May 5. All-Sangha Work Day is now June 3. All-Sangha Potluck and Board Nominations is now September 25.