All posts by James Erb

Upcoming Class on Hsin Hsin Ming

The great way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

All are invited to join Ellen Webb and Susan Marvin in a study of the sixth-century Zen poem, the Hsin Hsin Ming (“Faith in Mind”) MONDAYS, September 16, 23, 30, and October 7 (7:15−8:45 p.m.).

This famous poem expresses the far- reaching truth of the enlightened mind, the Buddha mind in all of us. True faith in mind is our grounded belief that we have this mind right here—constant, still, and central to our life of practice.

The class will be offered in person at BZC as well as online. Please watch for updates on the listserv as well as on the BZC website. For now, mark your calendars!

Coming-of-Age Program

Berkeley Zen Center is offering a nine-month coming-of-age program for middle school youth between the ages of 12‒14, beginning in the Fall of 2024. Meetings are on Sundays for two hours once a month. Participants will be introduced to basic Buddhist teachings and mindfulness practice, and will explore how to apply these concepts in their journey toward adulthood. A half-day retreat and ceremony at the end of the program will recognize each of the participants for their accomplishments and their unique self.

For more information, please see the Family Practice section at the BZC website (berkeleyzencenter.org) or contact Marie Hopper (marie_hopper@sbcglobal.net).

New Saturday Schedule

The Saturday program will now begin at 6:00 and includes Oryoki breakfast.  See the schedule page for the current Saturday schedule and the schedule for other days of the week.

  • 6:00-6:40 Zazen
  • 6:40-6:50 Kinhin
  • 6:50-7:20 Zazen
  • 7:20-7:40 Service
  • 7:40-8:30 Breakfast
  • 8:30-8:45 Break
  • 8:45-9:30 Work Practice
  • 9:30-10:05 Zazen
  • 10:05-10:15 Kinhin
  • 10:15-11:15 Dharma Talk

Followed By Informal Tea

GUIDELINES/OPTIONS for Saturdays:

  • Come at 6:00 and stay for the morning
  • Come at 6:00, stay through work period in order to give back to the temple
  • Come after breakfast – for work period at 8:45  or for 9:30 zazen and stay for Dharma Talk and tea

BZC Work Crew

We all treasure our temple. And like ourselves, our temple, specifically our temple property, needs a lot of love. Please read on about a new project to maybe get some more of the love flowing.

There are two main challenges of taking care of our sangha property. One is addressing large projects that require financing and/or the hiring of outside contractors or other vendors. Examples are the heating and ventilation project we just completed for the upstairs of 1929, and the upcoming project to replace all the windows downstairs in the community room and the kitchen. The generosity of members and friends makes these large and exciting projects happen.

There is a second challenge, though: all the smaller projects, repairs and tasks that could potentially be accomplished on our own, from within the sangha, if only we had more time. History shows that our sangha members are as generous with their labor, time, and sweat as with their pocketbooks. Unfortunately, the work periods in our schedule—sesshins, work days, Saturdays—do not offer enough time to address all the care our property needs.

For this reason, we would like to try a new initiative—the creation of an ongoing work crew, and we are looking for volunteers. The idea would be that folks would volunteer to be on the crew and offer time to help, but on their own schedule, in coordination with the project manager. Here are some of the other proposed features of this initiative:

1. Tasks would only be ones each volunteer is comfortable with. Possible tasks might include painting (there is a lot of painting we need to get done!), simple carpentry, simple home repairs, various cleaning (maybe messy cleaning, like scraping old paint).

2. Work would be accomplished during “off” sangha hours.

3. All necessary tools and materials would be provided.

4. Support and guidance would always be available from the project manager or others. I

If you are interested in being part of this crew, or if you have any questions, please contact Greg Denny at greg@techsperience.org. Thank you!

Tassajara Work-Study Week

Every year the Tassajara Mountain Zen Center provides an opportunity for sanghas to practice together as part of the Guest Practice Program during the summer guest season. Teachers from sanghas in the Suzuki Roshi lineage can bring a group of from 7 to 10 members including the teachers.

This year there will be two sangha week groups from BZC. The first will be July 2‒7, led by Ryushin Andrea Thach. The second will be September 3‒8, led by Ikushin Gerry Oliva and Mary Duryee. The daily program includes 5:50 a.m. zazen, 6:50 service, 7:15 soji (short work period), 7:30 breakfast with other guest students, 8:30 until noon work assignments, then noon lunch with students. The rest of the day will be structured by each study group. We will then join the guests for dinner and sit the final zazen period of the day.

The cost for these programs will be approximately $80 per day. We will plan to drive down together if possible. If we can’t drive all the way to Tassajara because of parking constraints, there is a stage from Carmel Valley to the Center for $65 round trip. If you are interested in participating, please let us know by the end of March. If there are more than 8 people interested, we will do this by lottery. There will be no scholarships available for this event.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please contact Ryushin Andrea Thach (andrea.thach@gmail.com) for the July week or Gerry Oliva (gryoliva@gmail.com) for the September week.

Schedule Changes During Practice Period

We are happy to announce that during our spring practice period we will experiment with a return to the pre-pandemic Saturday schedule, starting at 6:00 a.m. This means we will have oryoki breakfast in the zendo after two periods of zazen and service. After breakfast there will be a short rest period, a work period, another period of zazen, a dharma talk, and then tea and cookies outside.

The oryoki breakfasts will once again provide the opportunity to train cooks, assistant cooks, servers, head servers, and dishwashers (all of whom will sign up on the bulletin board on the CR porch). We are hoping to get back into the rhythm of this important aspect of BZC practice with all of you, both in signing up and attending!

Also, each day of the two practice period sesshins will start at 5:00 a.m. (while still ending at 5:30 p.m.). Both of the above changes are experiments, offering us a way to intensify our practice during the six-week practice period. Watch for more information to come. Meanwhile, please mark your calendars!

Abbot Hozan on Practice Periods

Our practice period, in the springtime when the circle of life turns in renewal, is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the practice of living an enlightened life, to renew our beginner’s mind. Practice period includes sitting, walking, chanting, cooking, serving, eating, working, resting—all of this is enlightened activity, woven into whole cloth by zazen.

BZC members have jobs, families, and responsibilities outside the gate. Our practice is as much in our homes and in the world as in the zendo. This is our ongoing Dharma experiment—dedicated lay practice, sitting with everything. During practice period we do have recommended requirements, but within these requirements each person creates his/her/their own schedule. Some will be able to do only the minimum; others who are able can extend themselves further.

Each of us must be realistic about our capacity. The important thing—during practice period and throughout the year—is to clarify and set a practice intention, then do our best to keep to that intention. You don’t have to break your bones to do practice period. But don’t be slack with yourself either. With Right Effort our practice edge comes into view. What is the Middle Way? Whatever commitment and schedule one arrives at, we are all practicing together intimately.

Not everyone in the sangha has the time and energy to participate in practice period. That is completely understandable, and everyone is welcome to come to the zendo when they can. The PP class is open to all, and sesshins will be open to non-PP participants as space allows. All of us are supporting and being supported by the practice period— peaceful abiding. These weeks together can extend throughout the year. As Dogen says, “Practice period goes beyond this.” (from the May‒June 2023 Newsletter)

Spring Practice Period

In Zen monasteries, intensive practice periods traditionally last for three months. At Berkeley Zen Center, our usual way is to hold a six- week practice period each spring, designed to support us to intensify and strengthen our practice while living in the midst of family and work responsibilities.

Last year’s practice period was led by Hozan Roshi and graced by our Shuso, Sue Oehser, and our Benji, Preston Evers. This year, in light of Hozan’s hospitalization, and after polling senior students and other sangha members, the Coordinating Committee has decided not to have a shuso. We will return to having a shuso when the conditions come together to make it just right. We will still offer a full and rich practice period, with the many events we include and enjoy, and we hope that many of you will participate as fully as you can.

The theme will be SEEING ONE THING THROUGH: Practice, Insight, and Daily Life. Senior students will lead the practice period using lectures on practice and daily life from Sojun Roshi’s new book, Seeing One Thing Through.

This year’s practice period—May 4 to June 16—will begin with an opening sesshin on Saturday, May 4, led by Carol Paul. Other events will include a Thursday evening class, a community dinner followed by a possible return of skit night, Saturday dharma talks, way- seeking mind talks, and small group teas with senior students leading discussions, culminating in a five-day sesshin June 12‒16. Detailed information, including signups for the practice period and for specific events, will be found on the BZC website in April.