All posts by Daniel Ohara

Sejiki—Feeding the Hungry Ghosts: October 29

On Saturday, October 29, BZC will again celebrate Sejiki, an annual ceremony from our Soto Zen tradition that we have missed during the pandemic. The morning program will include a short zendo talk by Hondo Dave Rutschman, followed by a joyous ceremony in the courtyard.
The outdoors altar will be filled with fruit, cakes, and other food offerings to entice spirits from the beyond and those present. Raucous noisemaking by children and adults will call forth hungry ghosts and the spirits of the departed. After offerings and chanting of the “Sutra of Opening the Gate of Sweet Dew,” we will read the names and honor all those who have died this year.
Families and children are encouraged to participate. Since we have adapted the tradition to dovetail with the western tradition of Halloween, members and children are welcome to come in Halloween costumes. Noisemakers will be provided and you may also bring your own. The talk and ceremony will start in the zendo at 10:15 a.m. All are welcome to join the work circle at 7:45 a.m. to help set up the altar.

Second Koan Class

Ryushin Andrea Thach, Ellen Webb, and Ron Nestor will present our second Zoom koan class on three Thursday evenings: October 20, October 27, and November 3. Classes will be at 7:15‒8:45 p.m. All are welcome.

We’ll be continuing with three cases from The Book of Serenity, the koan collection most closely associated with the spirit of Soto Zen. There’s a subtlety and nuance in this collection that we’ve really enjoyed. We’ll also be provid­ing excellent commentaries from Yamada Koun on each of the three cases in online Word documents, including paper copies on the BZC bulletin board shelf for those without printers. Based on our first class series last year, we particularly enjoy the give and take of group discussion rather than a strict lecture format. What do these koans bring up for you? Where is there confusion? Also, after focusing on mainstream Buddhism during Aspects of Practice, it may be interesting to switch gears into a Zen context.
Cost for the series is $30 or whatever you can afford. We’ll be announcing the three cases we’ve picked and sending out the texts and commentaries as we get closer to the starting date, allowing ample time for study before we actually meet.


Lay Ordination October 15

This year’s Zaike Tokudo (Jukai/Lay Ordina­tion Ceremony) will take place on Saturday, October 15, at 3:00 p.m. in the zendo. Heather Sarantis, Helen Cheng, Yoni Ackerman, and Joe Buckner will receive precepts, rakusu, and lineage papers from Hozan; Nick Robinson and Nathan Britton will receive from Ryushin Andrea Thach; Diane Ritchey will receive from Peter Overton; and Phillip Sherard and Ten Bartholomew will receive from Gerry Oliva. Congratulations in advance to the ordinees, who have been studying and sewing diligently with our sewing teacher, Jean Selkirk, and with Hannah Meara. Everyone is encouraged to attend the ceremony either in person or via Zoom. In-person capacity of the zendo is limited to 30 people. Check the website and zendo bulletin board for details on attending.

New Member Entering Ceremony October 17

Our annual New Member Entering Ceremony will be on Monday, October 17, 7:30 a.m. If you are a new BZC member, or if you are a member who has never participated in this ceremony and would now like to, please contact Hannah Meara ( Although during this time the sangha cannot meet new members with an in-person bow, BZC most heartily welcomes and looks forward to greeting them in our virtual online zendo at the ceremony.

Sangha Work Day

On Sunday, October 23, we will be having a Sangha Work Day. The day will open with coffee and pastries at 8:00 a.m., then zazen from 8:15 to 8:40 and work circle at 8:45, with work starting at 9:00. Lunch will be provided by our tenzos from noon until work circle at 12:45 p.m., and we’ll wind up with informal zazen 3:45‒4:00.
If you would like to join us, please contact Greg Denny ( or 510-402-8282). Please also let him know which of the following categories of work you are able to participate in: cleaning; gardening; painting; and simple carpentry or building-related tasks (possibly using tools like drills or saws). Some work may get you dirty. Dress appropriately.
Finally, we will be adhering to the follow­ing covid protocols: Vaccination and one booster are required, and all must wear a KN94, KN95, or N95 mask while indoors. We recommend that people also wear masks outdoors as much as possible.
For any questions, contact Greg.

Three Aspects of Practice

Some years ago Sojun Roshi invited me to lead a fall practice intensive that we have come to call Aspects of Practice, which focuses on the basics of our Zen Buddhist tradition. With the partnership of senior students, we created this month-long program, which served well as a point of entry for newer students and as a kind of refresher for more experienced practitioners.
This fall’s Aspects of Practice begins on September 10, continuing through October 9, led by Karen Sundheim and other practice leaders. Details can be found elsewhere in this newsletter. But in this space, I’d like to review three essential “aspects” of our dharma practice: daily zazen, meeting with a teacher, studying the Dharma.
When Suzuki Roshi came from Japan to be the priest at Sokoji, the Soto Zen temple in San Francisco, he established a practice of daily zazen that we maintain more than sixty years later. His disciple Sojun moved to Berkeley and followed much the same practice. As we have done for fifty years, BZC is open for sitting six days a week. We strongly encourage people to come to the zendo, sit together, and share a daily practice. Taking into account members’ work and family lives, everyone cannot come to the zendo every day, but the doors are always open. Sitting side by side we sustain each other naturally, and we come to a wonderful intimacy of practice.
The Covid pandemic compelled us to create new modes of online zazen that are not our traditional body-to-body zendo practice. But Zoom has served us pretty well these last few years, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But now we are back in the zendo early mornings, afternoons, and Saturdays. I want to encourage you to resume our long-standing in-person practice. Join us. Those of us who have returned to BZC feel refreshed and encouraged again by the opportunity to sit zazen together. This is the shining heart of the Sangha treasure.
The second element of our practice is meeting with a teacher. When I came to BZC in the early 80s, there was an implicit expectation of meeting regularly with a teacher. Back then, our only teacher was Sojun, but in time, students’ maturity and understanding have deepened. Now we have a roster of practice leaders and teachers who are available as guides, as mirrors, as dharma friends or kalyanamitra. This is the Buddha treasure. A teacher as Buddha reveals that you yourself are Buddha. A practice leader or teacher doesn’t dispense wisdom or give out answers to our difficulties. She or he or they help us to stand on our own feet, to find our own inborn wisdom.
As abbot, I welcome the opportunity to meet with people—formally or informally. My dokusan signup for meeting face-to-face during morning zazen is just to the right of the zendo door. To schedule an online meeting with me, see this link: or contact me at Also, if you scroll down the “Teachers” page on the BZC website, there are email addresses to contact all of our practice leaders:
Studying the Dharma is the third treasure. In the broadest sense, zazen is our principal study. As Dogen Zenji writes in Genjokoan: “To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.” In zazen, we sit still and allow the myriad things—which are the ever-changing elements of our “self”—to arise and to fall away. To complement this experiential study, we immerse ourselves in the teachings of Suzuki Roshi, Sojun Roshi, and our luminous ancestors in Japan, China, and India, going back to Shakyamuni Buddha. Their words and actions illuminate our own lives. During the upcoming Aspects of Practice, we’ll explore the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, a timeless map for living found in his very first teaching.
These three dimensions of practice create a whole, each including all the others. Each of us must find the right balance for the circumstances of our life. May the journey be complete.


Class: Buddha’s Eight-fold Path, Starting September 15

Starting September 15th, there will be a series of four Thursday night classes, each session focusing on two limbs of the Eight-fold Path. They will all be on Zoom and start at 7:15 pm.

While anyone can attend the classes, we ask that you register so you can be notified about reading materials. Note there is a $10 fee per class, and you may pay what you can afford. Register here: Class Registration Form.  

If you have questions about the classes, please contact our Class Coordinator, Ryushin Andrea Thach:

Sangha Work Day June 5

On June 5th, we will be having a Sangha Work Day. The day will open with coffee and pastries at 8:00 a.m., then zazen from 8:15 to 8:40, work circle at 8:45, with work starting at 9:00. Lunch will be provided by our tenzos from noon until work circle at 12:45 p.m., and we’ll wind up with informal zazen 3:15‒3:30.

If you would like to join us, please contact me, Greg Denny, either by email (gr… or phone (510.402.8282). Please also let me know which of the following categories of work you are able to participate in:

– cleaning

– gardening

– painting

– simple carpentry or building-related tasks, possibly using tools like drills or saws

Some work may get you dirty. Dress appropriately.

Finally, we will be adhering to the following covid protocols:

– vaccination and one booster required. If you have not already done so, please email your vax info to BZC’s office manager Helen Cheng.

– all must wear a KN94, KN95, or N95 mask while indoors. We are also recommending that people wear it outdoors as much as possible.

Any questions, let me know…..    Greg

Five-Day Sesshin June 8-12

Abbot Hozan will lead our five-day sesshin on Wednesday through Sunday, June 8‒12. Please review the following details and sign up through this link.

  1. The Sesshin will be held from Wednesday, June 8 through Sunday, June 12. The hours are 7:50 AM. to 5:30 PM. Sunday, will include the Shuso Ceremony which begins at 3:30 PM.
  2. Sesshin will be both online and in-person. In-person attendance will be limited to 30 people (with proof of vaccination and booster shots), and participants will be required to attend a minimum of 3 days, which includes 2 consecutive days.  Slots will be given on a first-come-first-served basis, first to practice period participants and then non-practice period folks. So please sign up as soon as possible, although the formal deadline is June 4.
  3. For in-person sesshin attendees, lunch will be served buffet style outside in the courtyard. For work period, please bring suitable clothes to change into.
  4. Abbott Hozan Senauke and Senior Practice Leaders will offer Dokusan for both in-person participants and online participants.

When paying for sesshin, please indicate on your check or in the PayPal note field that your donation is for the “June five-day sesshin.” The sesshin fee is $15 a day. Mail a check to BZC Office Manager, 1931 Russell St., Berkeley, CA 94703, or pay through the website using the “Sits/Classes” tab on the “Donate” page. Please consider a donation to Berkeley Zen Center above the suggested fee to help us maintain our practice.

If you have questions, please contact the Sesshin Director, Rob Lyons at <>.