Category Archives: Musings

What is a Good Life?

On three Thursday evenings—September 21, 28 and October 5 at 7:15pm—Berkeley Zen Center is pleased to host Shaykh Yassir Chadly in dialogue with Hozan about “a good life” in our respective Sufi and Zen traditions.

Please register at

Yassir is a Sufi imam, born in Morocco, ministering to Bay Area Islamic communities for many years. From 2002 to 2017 he taught Islamic and Sufi studies at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union. Yassir and Hozan have been good friends since the 90s, sharing the music and wisdom of our spiritual paths. Yassir has visited and lectured at BZC several times. His warm-hearted presence is uplifting.

We can accommodate up to 35 people in the zendo itself (vaccination card required), and we will be live-streaming on Zoom as well. The suggested class fee is $30 (or whatever you can afford). For further information, contact class coordinator Ryushin Andrea Thach



Beginners’ Sesshin October 1

Please join us for a special sitting that comes around only twice a year. This is an opportunity for new and old practitioners alike to become intimate with beginner’s mind. The sesshin will be led by Laurie Senauke and Susan Marvin. The focus will be on the basics of Suzuki Roshi’s practice: zazen, kinhin, and bowing. New students will receive clear explanations of our sometimes challenging forms, while more experienced students will have a chance to fine-tune their practice.

Here is the link to register (please be sure to read the details below):

The sesshin will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 1. It will be offered in-person only (no online participation). The rhythm of the day will be similar to our regular sesshins, with shorter periods of zazen and some on-the-spot instructions. Please bring your own bag lunch (or you can purchase a lunch nearby).

The fee for this day is $15, or whatever you can afford.

You may pay online, or you can send a check to BZC at:
Berkeley Zen Center
1931 Russell Street
Berkeley, CA 94703
Attention:  Office Manager, Helen Cheng
If you have questions, please contact the day’s directors, Susan Marvin ( and Laurie Senauke (

One-Day Study Sesshin September 23

We invite you to join us for a One-Day Study Sesshin at Berkeley Zen Center, Saturday, September 23, from 7:50 AM to 5:30 PM. This study sesshin will be led by Hozan Alan Senauke, and will focus on Dogen’s Tenzo Kyokun/ Instructions to the Cook.
1.  Deadline to sign up is Noon on Thursday, September 21.  In-person attendance will be limited to 33 people.  Those who sign up after we reach the 33-person limit will be placed on a waiting list.
For all sesshin attendees, proof of vaccination and booster shots are required to participate.  Indoor masking is now optional, but social distancing protocols will still be observed.
Lunch will be served outdoors at tables in the courtyard, using a modified oryoki form.  There will be an instruction in eating oryoki during the 2nd period of zazen that day; a set of oryoki bowls to purchase will be available at that time.
We will have a short work period, so please bring work clothes you can change into.
Neither dokusan nor practice discussion will be offered during this study sesshin.
The sesshin fee is $25 for in-person attendees (or whatever you can afford).  You may pay online, or you can send a check to BZC at:


Berkeley Zen Center
1931 Russell Street
Berkeley, CA 94703
Attention:  Office Manager, Helen Cheng
Additional donations may be made at
If you have questions, please contact the Sesshin Director, Rob Lyons at

Many Communities, One Sangha – Sign Up Now

We are happy to invite all BZC members to participate in the next year of Many Communities, One Sangha, including those who have already taken part in the first session and would like to continue.  The program is offered in hybrid form (both online and in person).  There is a fee of $150 for new participants, which is the actual cost of the materials.  Returning participants are encouraged to provide dana (voluntary donation) for Rhonda’s work with us.  No one will be excluded because of inability to pay or donate.

The link to the form to sign up is:

The program consists of one meeting a month over ten months:  five meetings with Rhonda, on Saturday afternoon after our usual program with all participants, alternating with five meetings in smaller discussion groups.  While the materials will be the same as those for the first year, we are folding in the suggestions gathered during the first year to streamline and place emphasis on participation and discussion. Each meeting is two to two-and-a-half hours.  Outside reading and watching video segments are additional time commitments of about 5 hours (or less) a month.

We are delighted to announce that Prof. Rhonda Magee will continue to work with us for the coming year 2023-2024.  Rhonda is a lay entrusted teacher in the Soto Zen lineage and law professor at UCSF Law School.  She is the author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness.  This is an extraordinary opportunity to come together, to listen, learn, and find a spacious venue for conversations that can be difficult.  The accompanying materials were developed in coordination between East Bay Meditation Center and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, led by Mushim Ikeda, Crystal Johnson, and Rhonda Magee.

Questions or difficulties with the form?  Contact Mary Duryee,

Questions about the program? Contact Sonia Tamez, or Mary Duryee.

The MCOS coordinating committee:  Karen Sundheim, Heather Sarantis, Luminous Heart, Judy Fleischman, Gerry Oliva, Mary Duryee

BZC Tassajara Sangha Week 2 – September 2023

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 Suzuki Roshi lineage can bring a group from 7 to 10 members including the teachers. Ikushin Gerry Oliva and Mary Duryee will be leading a study period this year from September 5 to 10.

The daily program includes 5:50 AM zazen, 6:50 service, 7:15 Soji (short work period, 7:30 breakfast with other guest students, 8:30 until noon work assignments, noon lunch with students. The rest of the day will be structured by each study group. We will join the guests for dinner and sit the final zazen period of the day.

The cost for this will be approximately $600 per week. 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 $65.00 round trip.

If you are interested in participating, please let us know by the end of April or earlier if you can commit to the week of Sept 5-10. If there are more than 8 people interested, we will do this by lottery. There will not be scholarships available for this event.

Contact Gerry Oliva at or Mary Duryee at if you would like more information or are interested in discussing your participation.

Upcoming Class on Pali Suttas

“Enlightenment Stories from the Pali Canon,” taught by Laurie Senauke, will be offered on 3 Monday nights in August (8/7, 8/14, and 8/21) in the online zendo (only), from 7:15 to 8:45 pm.  Here’s the link to sign up.

The Pali Suttas are considered the earliest teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, memorized by the monks and passed on through word of mouth for several generations before being written down.

This body of literature includes many different kinds of teachings – one very accessible type is when the Buddha addresses lay people whom he meets serendipitously on his travels.  Some historical background will be presented, but the main time of the class will be reading the suttas (one per class) aloud and sharing our responses.

The suggested donation is $30, or whatever you can afford. Note that this class will be online only.

For Shuso Enzan Chotoku Gary Artim Benji

With great congratulations
A clear and genuine voice
Issues from the shuso’s body
Enzan has scaled the mountain
Taking a straight path
To the heights
From which he pours the medicine of kindness
Into the lake of suffering
And now the round mountain
Rests atop the mountain seat
Mountain upon mountain       

Being Benji

When Hozan first asked if I would be the Benji for this practice period, my initial response was one of hesitation. The invitation brought up doubting mind. As an introvert, and also dealing with various health issues, I wasn’t certain that I would be able to do all that this position required.
After discussing this with Hozan and some former Benjis, and trying to practice “don’t know mind” and “responding to what’s being asked” to support and nurture our sangha, I said yes.
While I didn’t know our shuso Gary Artim very well, it became immediately clear after meeting with him at Saul’s Deli that this was going to be a great opportunity to get to know him, and that we could mutually support each other.
Gary and I discussed various possibilities of tea schedules, what was needed, and how I could best support him during this time. He graciously offered to add the online schedule components so that the sangha could respond.

Having the teas with the sangha offered a more intimate opportunity to serve and to feel more connected with the sangha as a whole; especially since we had not met in person for more than two years.
The other part of the position that initially gave me pause was writing the Benji poem. My wife Karen Sundheim is the poet in our family, and with her encouragement and advice, and meeting with Luminous Heart, the poem began to arise organically.
Doing the five-day sesshin completely, culminating in the Shuso Hossen, was another practice opportunity to be with the sangha; allowing body and mind to drop away. Being in the zendo again, following our breath, kinhin, chanting, studying the koan of the Whole World Is Medicine, and having delicious daily lunches prepared by our awesome tenzos Laurie and Susan, was enlivening and full of joy.
Deep gratitude to Abbot Hozan and to everyone who assisted, gave support, and practiced together.
—Nancy Suib

Benji Poem for Enzan Chotoku Gary Artim

Benji Poem for Enzan Chotoku Gary Artim

Keyboard clicks
Basketballs bounce
A full court press

Our Shuso Enzan Chotoku Round Mountain,
   Clear Genuine

Showers us with his kind heart and sincere

At Old Plum Mountain we once again gather 
Body to body
Heart to heart

The mourning doves, east and west call to us 
Wake up
Take a breath
Settle in
Can you hear it?

Medicine and disease subdue each other:
The whole world is medicine; What is your self?

Circling, Circling
Where do you land?

Now let us hear the Shuso

                            —Mitsuko Myojun Nancy Suib
                                         June 12, 2022

Again, Farewell to the White Dragon

Ring the bells, beat the drum, clang the cymbals, chant the Ten Names of Buddha and to them add the name Hakuryo Sojun Mel Weitsman Daisoho—White Dragon/Essence of Purity. At last, eighteen months after Sojun’s death on January 7, 2021, we have performed the appropriate Zen rites to honor his passing into the realm of Buddhas and ancestors gone before. 
     Although according to Sojun Roshi and all enlightened beings there is truly no coming and going, no birth and death, still we offer rituals and ceremonies that mark transition and allow us to touch the depths of our gratitude, our joy in encountering a teacher like Sojun, and our grief at his seeming departure. Even today I find myself looking out my kitchen window toward his office, which is now my office, to see if he might be down there, so I can knock on his door and sit down to talk.
     On the weekend of June 18 and 19, with the support of so many good friends at Berkeley Zen Center, San Francisco Zen Center, and the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, two funerary ceremonies were held for Sojun Roshi. It is a Zen tradition to have an intimate convocation of family and students the night before the more formal funeral.
Taiya nenju—which means, roughly, “prayer on the funeral eve”—was attended by thirty-five people in the zendo and a like number online. For taiya and the funeral itself, the family and a teacher’s disciples serve as mourners. Reviewing his notes from Suzuki Roshi’s long-ago funeral, Tenshin Anderson Roshi described us a “barefoot hosts,” humbly dressed, with no footwear. Since family and disciples were mourners, we were fortunate to have Rev. Meiya Honshu Wender from Green Gulch serve as the taiya officiant. Meiya performed her simple tasks beautifully, honoring her long connection with Sojun through many practice periods at Tassajara and Green Gulch, going back more than thirty-five years.
     After initial offerings, chanting the Ten Names of Buddha, the Sandokai, and Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, heartfelt words to and about Sojun Roshi were offered by Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke, Rev. Denkei Raul Moncayo, Ross Blum, Rev. Mary Mocine, Rev. Ryushin Andrea Thach, Rev. Gerry Oliva, Karen Sundheim, and Ron Nestor. (We are presently collecting and transcribing the BZC and Green Gulch statements to share with Sojun’s students.) As we stepped out of the zendo that evening, there was a lingering golden light and stillness in the air, a feeling that matched the depth and intimacy of our love for Sojun.

                                                     * * *

The next day, Green Gulch Farm hosted Sojun Roshi’s long-delayed funeral. One hundred twenty of us gathered in person, observing careful masking and vaccination protocols in the Green Dragon zendo. Another hundred fifty guests watched online. At 2:45 the great bonsho’s deep tones called us together, and in a solemn procession disciples chanted the names of Buddha while circumambulating the temple, carrying Sojun’s ashes, portrait, robes, and his personal teaching implements. These things were carefully placed on the altar, along with offerings of incense, sweet water, green tea, and dharma words—hogo—composed by officiants Konjin Godwin Roshi of Houston Zen Center and Gengo Akiba Roshi, the Soto Zen bishop of North America.
     With stately drama, Tenshin Anderson Roshi—the chief officiant and dharma companion of Sojun Roshi for nearly sixty years, including their co-abbacy of San Francisco Zen center in the late 80s and 90s—drew a torch in a great circle of fire, which as principal disciple, I mirrored with a second flaming torch, symbolizing the burning up of Sojun’s residual karma and his fearless entry into the boundless realm of death beyond the particularity of life. This was followed by Tenshin Roshi’s moving tribute to Sojun’s teaching.
     As in the previous evening at BZC, a small number of family, friends, and disciples were invited to share the heart of Sojun Roshi’s dharma as each experienced him after many years of practice together. There were brief presentations by Liz Horowitz, Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi, Susan Marvin, Doug Greiner, Rev. Paul Haller, Rev. Shosan Vicki Austin.
     Each person’s words were unique and personal, each conveyed Sojun’s joy and complete confidence in our Zen way that, day by day, year by year, he transmitted to us.
     The ceremony was completed with sutra chanting, dedication of merit, and bows of appreciation to the three officiants. Both Saturday and Sunday ceremonies concluded with an opportunity for all those present to offer incense and pay their respects to Sojun Roshi. While they came forward, a lovely recorded passage from Bach, with Sojun Roshi playing recorder and Nick Bertani on cello, filled the air.

                                                     * * *

So many hands from our “beloved community” went into these once-in-a-lifetime ceremonies. Bows of gratitude to Liz Horowitz; to our officiants Rev. Tenshin Reb Anderson, Rev. Gengo Akiba, Rev. Konjin Gaelyn Godwin, Rev. Furyu Schroeder, and Rev. Meiya Wender; to Rev. Ejo McMullen, Rev. Ryoko Miyazaki, Rev. Taiga Ito, and Rev. Dokan Kojima from the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center; to Jiryu Rutschman-Byler and the Green Gulch/Green Dragon Temple staff; and to Mary Duryee, Marie Hopper, Gerry Oliva, and the tireless Berkeley Zen Center sangha.         

For Hakuryu Sojun’s Funeral