All posts by Troy DuFrene

Some Thoughts from Sojun This Practice Period

The other  day I spoke with someone who told me what they were going to be working on during this practice period. The student then asked me what I was going to be working on. That took me aback for a moment and after a pause I said, “Just staying alive.” I wasn’t sure what I meant by that. But it led me to think about the millions of displaced wandering refugees in the Middle East and Europe just surviving from one meal to the next at the mercy of their hosts, devoid of all the security of a home and the familiar conveniences and necessities that we all take for granted. And added to that the missing and dead family members and friends.

When I was a kid in the 30’s it was common for mothers to tell their children to eat all their porridge while thinking of the poor starving Chinese. In those days China was on the other side of the world and flying there was only a dream. So that admonition was not taken too seriously. Now the whole world is right in our face and we are confronted with the horrific explosion/implosion of the Middle East, unleashing the demonic insanity and barbarity of the sleeping giant of conflicting ideologies lying dormant there. Throughout the history of the world this has always been going on in various locales, but now, everywhere is our neighborhood. Like it or not we can’t leave it. And now from a different side comes our very own contribution — the presidential election. I will not presume to tell you how to vote. I will only urge everyone to do it. With the internet we have the convenience of being able to sign petitions online, which gives us the opportunity to express our concerns and contribute. We are not helpless.

Given the personal trials and tribulations that occupy our attention daily, and our limitations of time, it may feel annoying to have to face these larger concerns that we all share and often feel powerless to control. I am reminded of that saying “Think globally-act locally.” I also like the saying to “light up your own corner of the world.” To illuminate our corner of the world through zazen, both sitting and moving, regardless of our shortcomings is to find our own ground. The far reaching effects of our practice are not measurable, but each one of us has an effect on our surroundings. It is like the question: does my vote count?

I see the practice period as an annual tune-up/spring cleaning-resetting the balance and appreciating how your practice gives encouragement to my practice, and mine to yours. So after all is said and done, my work of just staying alive is to truly appreciate the opportunity to practice moment by moment with everyone. It is truly a great gift to experience the peace and freedom we have here at this point in time with our self as the only real obstacle.               


Buddhist Perspectives on the Climate Emergency

The earliest story of Buddha’s awakening has him calling on the Earth itself to serve as his witness. Today, as temperatures rise, drought rages, and coastal areas flood, we need more than ever to be witness the planet we live upon. The emerging climate crisis touches everyone.

On Thursday evenings in February, Hozan Alan Senauki will lead a class and discussion about Buddhist perspectives on climate change, drawing from traditional Buddhist texts, analysis by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and the ground breaking reflections of Pope Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato Si.

Class session will be on February 4, 11, 18, and 25 from 7:15 pm to 8:45 pm in the community room.  The class charge is $40/series. No one is turned away for lack of funds. Materials will be available in advance of the class.

Sojun’s Winter Koan Class

Sojun will present a koan class series in January and March. Taking off from our recent Aspects practice period, he’ll select cases from our Chinese Ch’an ancestors and the three main koan collections: the Blue Cliff Record, Book of Serenity, and Mumonkan (Gateless Gate). Across these collections he’ll focus on multiple koans all relating to a particular teacher, and cover a limited number of teachers in this fashion as time permits. So not only do we get to take on the meaning of the case, but we’ll also get a feel for the character and style of the teacher its centered on.
The series will cover six Monday evening dates from over the two months. All classes begin at 7:15 pm and end at 8:45 pm.  These will be the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Mondays of the month. 1/11, 1/18, 1/25, 3/14, 3/21, 3/28. This is the first time he has taught a Monday evening class. The sign up will be posted on the patio board after Rohatsu or you send an email to Ron at Cost is $60/series, but if you want to attend for just one month @ $30, that’s okay. This will not be a drop in class and as always discounts are available by talking to Ron.

Special Announcement: Rohatsu Sesshin Information

This year’s Rohatsu sesshin, led by Sojun Mel Weitsman, begins on November 29 and ends on December 5. Each day begins at 5:00 am and ends at 9:00 pm, with the exception of the final day, which ends at 5:00 pm.

Times open to non-sesshin participants are:
  • Sunday
    • 10:15 am  Lecture
  • Monday – Friday
    • 5:50 am zazen
    • 10:15 am lecture
    • 5:40 pm zazen
  • Saturday
    • 5:50am zazen
    • 8:45am zazen instruction
    • 9:30am zazen
    • 10:15 am lecture

Everyone is also invited to attend these ceremonies:

  • Monday, November 30: Suzuki Roshi Annual Memorial at 7:40 pm (not 8:20 pm)
  • Saturday, December 5: Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony immediately after lecture
Please note that the following activities will not occur this week:
  •  Wednesday night drop-in group will not meet on December 2.
  • Family practice will not occur on December 5.

Rohatsu Sesshin

The following periods, lectures, and ceremonies during Rohatsu are open to all:

Sunday, November 29

  • 5:50am zazen
  • 10:15am lecture

Monday  – Friday, November 30  – December 4

  • 5:50am zazen
  • 10:15am lecture
  • 5:40pm zazen
  • 7:40pm Annual Suzuki Roshi Memorial Ceremony (Monday, November 30 only)

Saturday, December 5

  • 5:50am zazen
  • 8:45am zazen instruction
  • 9:30am zazen
  • 10:15am lecture, followed by Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony

E-Voting Comes to BZC


To date, BZC elections have been conducted using sequentially numbered paper ballot slips, which  are made available for eligible members on the patio bulletin board table. Members are given a window of time in which to vote using the paper slips by marking their choices and returning their ballots to  the laundry room door slot.

Presumably, this system as been adequate for our needs so far. A move to eVoting from the standing  paper system, however, makes BZC elections more convenient, accessible, easy to execute, and it could addresses several possible  (though unlikely) problems with the paper system:
● It is possible that single members or non-­members may cast multiple votes
● It is possible for non-­members to vote
● Members who don’t frequent the grounds yet are entitled to vote may not notice the notice in the newsletter preceding the election

How It Works

BZC eVoting  relies on a tokenized, anonymous web survey link emailed to each eligible  member. “Tokenized” means that the link is unique and issued just to one member (by email address).  Once the token is used by a member to submit a ballot, the token expires and is no longer usable.  The token is encrypted when associated with the ballot results, so that, even though a token can be  revoked and the related ballot data removed from the totals, the results are completely  anonymous. We can verify whether a particular member has voted but not how her or she has voted.

Once you get your ballot email, click the link it contains. Then, just follow the instructions on the screen. Voting should take you no more than two minutes, and that’s if you have to think about your votes very carefully.

But I Don’t Have an Email Account!!

While there are relatively few members without email addresses on file with the business office, there are a few. If you’re one of them, you’ll be receiving a paper ballot in the mail, which will contain instructions and information about deadlines. If you receive one, you may return your paper ballot by mail to the business office or push it through the laundry-room door slot.

What’s Next?

The polls for the 2015 election will open on October 1st, 2015.

For E-Voters

If you have an email address on file with the business office, you’ll receive your ballot email before 12:00 pm PDT on October 1st, 2015. If you don’t get it, please check your spam folder. If it’s not there, please email office manager Tamar Enoch at for a replacement ballot. Please note that you can only use your ballot link once, and you must complete the ballot in a single session. If you have trouble, email Tamar about that too.

Now would be a very good time for you to update the business office with your correct email if you need to make a change.

For Paper Voters

Paper ballots will be mailed to eligible members on October 1st, 2015. If you haven’t received your ballot in the mail by October 8th, please contact the Tamar for a replacement. You’ll need to complete your ballot and seal it in the internal, anonymous envelope provided. You can mail it in to the business office, but please be sure to postmark your ballot not later than Friday, October 23rd, 2015, to make sure it arrives at BZC by the October 31st, 2015, deadline. Ballots that arrive later than October 31st, 2015, will not be counted. You can put your paper ballot through the laundry-room door slot until midnight on October 31st, 2015 (and if you come that night, you might also want to wear a costume and bring a bag for candy.)

Family Sesshin: Not Just for Families

Dharma brothers and sisters: we’re all just one big happy family, right? On Sunday, October 5, BZC will be offering its third annual ground-breaking Family Sesshin for all ages and stages of being. The day will begin at 9:00 am and go until 4:00 pm. It will include zazen, service, a mindful walk, work period, theater games, art projects, stories, and other fun activities for all ages. As usual, we need non-parents and non-children for ballast! You can attend all or part. Please sign up on the zendo bulletin board. Questions? E-mail Laurie Senauke (

One Day Sesshin: Aspects of Practice Period Opens

The Aspects of Practice opening sesshin, led by Laurie Senauke, will take place on Saturday, October 18. We encourage both long-term and new sangha members to participate. Please sign up on the patio bulletin board by Wednesday morning, October 15, 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; please speak to the director). Put checks marked “October 18 sesshin” in the courtyard laundry room door mail slot or mail to the BZC office manager at 1931 Russell St., Berkeley 94703. You can also use the bill pay option on your banks’ website with the notation “October Sesshin fee.”

Please feel free to contact the sesshin director, Gerry Oliva at (510) 652-7217 or if you have any questions.