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 —Hozan
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.
Keyboard clicks Basketballs bounce A full court press Our Shuso Enzan Chotoku Round Mountain, Clear Genuine Showers us with his kind heart and sincere practice 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
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. —Hozan For Hakuryu Sojun’s Funeral
Bookshop.org is a prosocial company that sells books online and gives a cut of all earnings to independent bookstores and affiliate organizations. They launched recently and are offering themselves as an alternative to Amazon. They work with independent bookstores and publishers as a more equitable and less exploitative partner.
Bookshop.org enables affiliate organizations like ours to create an online storefront on their website, and receive a percentage of all sales. BZC’s Bookshop has been set up by us to include books Zen students will be interested in, including books by BZC’s own authors. We’re open to suggestions and will continue to add books over time. Here’s the link to our Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/shop/berkeleyzencenter
You can also find the Bookshop link on the Recommended Reading page, under the main menu item Practice.
Thanks to Ben Clausen and Hozan Alan for the legwork on this!
Our relationships to our changing climate are complex. There are many folks at BZC who are thinking about, affected by, or acting on climate change through their work or in their free time. Some of us met a few weeks ago at a climate-themed Zoom meeting in January; others have undoubtedly been in conversation for years.
This short regular column will be a place to uplift these climate conversations, programs, and actions, so that members of BZC can find new ways to engage with climate change. This month, we’d like to focus on the topic of eco-grief.
Eco-grief is a psychological response to environmental degradation or climate change. Another commonly used term is climate anxiety, or “solastalgia”—a sense that your home is changing for the worse, or disappearing, as you live in it. These topics have been in the news lately, notably in the New York Times article “Climate Change Enters the Therapy Room” and the New Yorker article “Mapping Climate Grief One Pixel at a Time.”
The first step in coping with eco-grief is to speak with others—to share with them the very real sadness you are experiencing. That’s why we’d like to introduce an upcoming program (dates TBD)—possibly a class, group, or workshop—dedicated to processing and coping with eco-grief, led by BZC member Judy Smith and others. Please keep an eye out for more information!
One of the best ways to make creative use of eco-grief is by taking collective action on local climate change issues. Our next column will focus on how to get involved in the Bay Area climate advocacy landscape. We are developing a Getting Started in Climate Advocacy workshop to take place some time in the coming months.
If there is a climate topic, memory, or meditation that you would like to share or see in this column, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen Webb, Ryushin Andrea Thach, and Ron Nestor will present three koans from Thomas Cleary’s translation of The Book of Serenity. This collection of 100 koans or cases is the koan collection most associated with our Soto lineage.We’re aiming for interactive class discussions of these three provocative cases, which can be understood from different points of emphasis. We’ll supply a scanned copy of Cleary’s text and Word files of excellent commentaries by Koun Yamada. For those without printers we will have paper copies available on the bulletin board shelf at BZC. The Book of Serenity is also available from booksellers and online. The four cases we’ll be working with are case #12, Dizang Planting the Fields, case #20, Dizang’s Nearness, case #36, Master Ma is Unwell, and case #53, Obaku’s “Drinkers”. Studying koans in this way is not the same as the Rinzai practice of working with one’s teacher and trying to embody the koan, so we want to be clear about the difference. However, we have found it to be rich and helpful in clarifying the essential points of Zen practice.
Cost for the series is $40 or what you can afford. More information will be posted on BZC Community Group as we get closer to the dates. All are welcome.
In this issue and the next, our column will briefly summarize the IPCC Working Group III Sixth Assessment Report, which you may have heard about in the news.
That’s a mouthful! First, let’s demystify the terminology:
- The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body responsible for providing governments with scientific information to make climate policy. The IPCC issues Assessment Reports every 5 to 7 years, and just released their Sixth Assessment Report.
- Each Assessment Report has three working groups, which release their own sections of the overall report. Working Group III handles mitigation (what we can do to stop climate change), and released their report on April 4, 2022.
That report shows that our current mitigation policies will lead to a world that is over 3 degrees warmer than preindustrial average. This blows past a goal of 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming. We must reduce our emissions by 50% by 2030 to have a chance of staying well under 2 degrees, which is critical to human and ecosystem health. The good news is that we have the technology to do this! The time for action is now.
The report identifies a chief obstacle to action: a lack of political will made worse by corporations and lobbyists who act as impediments to real climate action. The biggest collective solutions we should be organizing toward are state and federal policies that:
- rapidly deploy wind and solar technologies,
- electrify transit,
- electrify buildings, and
- end fossil fuel subsidies and stop the extraction of fossil fuels.
The report highlights that the global richest 10% generate disproportionately more carbon emission than others, between 36 and 45% of all carbon emissions. (If you make over $35,000/year or have assets worth more than $12,000, you are a member of the richest 10%!) The report highlights actions the global rich should Avoid, Shift, and Improve:
- Avoid taking long-haul flights or regularly using a car;
- Shift to more public transit and fewer animal products; and
- Improve by using electrified heating, appliances, and cars.
Avoiding, shifting, and improving your habits in these ways, and then sharing this with your friends and neighbors is a great way to tie individual and collective action together.
Many thanks for reading, and for your continued commitment to saving all beings.
—Brianna McGuire (BZC resident)