All posts by Sojun Mel Weitsman

Hakuryu Sojun Roshi began to practice at San Francisco Zen Center on Bush Street in 1964, and in1969 he was ordained by Suzuki Roshi as resident priest at the Berkeley Zendo. He received Dharma Transmission from Suzuki Roshi’s son and successor, Gyugaku Hoitsu, at Rinsoin temple in Japan in 1984, and was officially installed as Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center in 1985. Along with his responsibilities in Berkeley, Sojun Roshi helped train students and teachers at several affiliated temples. From 1988 to 1997 he served as Co-Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. Sojun Roshi gave Dharma Transmission to numerous students, each of whom draws on their experience and understanding in offering Sojun and Suzuki Roshi’s teaching to others all over the country. Hakuryu Sojun Roshi— White Dragon/Essence of Purity— Mel Weitsman peacefully passed from this world to the Pure Land of Buddhas and Ancestors on January 7, 2021. He continues to live in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.

Circular Sangha

Dear Sangha,

If someone were to ask me what would make me happy, I would say sitting together with a diverse group of people from all corners of the world, even though, because the world is more or less round, there are no real corners. We all belong to this great circular form whirling in space. Ever since I can remember I have been either thrilled or brought to tears experiencing people from diverse cultures or orientations working together in loving harmony.
When we opened the zendo in 1967, I thought of it as a grassroots endeavor where people from around here could find a zazen practice that they could devote themselves to for however long or short a time worked for them. Over time this vision has developed, and little by little a diverse group of members from all over the world have found their way here. We have folks from the deep midwest USA to Afghanistan and Japan.

I went through the BZC directory to verify all of this, and this is what I found. Our sangha includes members from both emigration and heritage, and here it is: Iranian, many Jews, French, Native American, African, English, Japanese, German, Korean, Norwegian, Irish, Chinese, Scottish, Finnish, Afghani, Italian, Mexican, Latino, East Indian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Turkish, Filipino, diverse Europeans that are hard to classify, diverse Asians, multiple mixes, and many unknowns. ALL EQUAL AND EACH ONE UNIQUE.
A teacher’s meeting space is called the Hojo. It is Vimalakirti’s 6 x 6 room where multitudes of beings fit comfortably and there is always space for more. My teacher Suzuki Roshi’s Hojo was his vast compassionate mind, which could expand to encompass the entire universe with all its beings. This is what I wish for all of you. It’s not as hard as one might think.

I feel honored to have been able to practice with you all these years and to continue to practice with you in this wonderful inconvenient time, figuring it all out together and expressing our mutual support.
From this small corner of the circular world let us set an example for those around us. Please remember to make the best of this present situation and don’t get caught wondering when it will be over. The characteristic of our practice is to find our uprightness in our present topsy-turvy situation, moment by moment. If you find your balance in this moment, you can find it in the next. As Adam said to Buddha, “Here am I.”

—Sojun Roshi

Sojun Roshi on “Think Not Thinking”

Often we read or hear that we should stop the activity of thinking in order to meditate properly. But that is almost impossible. The mechanism of thinking is going on constantly like a rushing torrent, and although you can stop it for a few moments, it always wins. It’s like the bubbles in a fish tank. When we sit, we think the thought of zazen. When we breath, we think the thought of breathing, when sitting up straight, we think the thought of balance, and when working, we think the thought of work. In other words, our thought and our activity become one. Thinking and that which is thought are not separate.

Master Dogen calls this (“Think not thinking”) the art of zazen. When there is no gap, there is no discrimination. When our thoughts wander, as they will because they are always hungry, we bring them home where they belong, and include them in some satisfying work. When our thoughts sit zazen, they become enlightened. So when you sit, think the thought of zazen.

COVID-19 – A Message from Sojun Roshi

Message from Sojun Roshi

The persecutions of Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty in China forced
Zen monks to flee to the mountains where they thrived. Today we are
forced to find our monks’ life in semi-isolation. What a great
opportunity to practice zazen and various forms of contemplation. This
wonderful opportunity is bringing forth our creativity as a sangha,
setting up the guideposts for the future. This present situation,
dangerous and uncertain as it is, must be an inescapable field of
innovative practice for all of us. Let’s continue to make good use of
this opportunity.