Category Archives: News

2023 Spring Practice Period

BZC’s 2023 Spring Practice Period will go from an opening sesshin on Saturday, May 13, to a five-day sesshin and Shuso Hossen on Sunday, June 25. We are very happy to announce that the shuso for this year will be Sue Oehser, Jumyo Seishin (Bright Pearl/Pure Faith).
While details of the practice period are still to be worked out, we will have our usual activities, including Shuso teas, Hozan’s practice period class, a mid-practice period dinner and skit night, and—of course—zazen. Stay tuned for further information.

BZC Tassajara Sangha Week 1 – June-July, 2023

As you may recall, last summer’s Tassajara Sangha Weeks were canceled due to a Covid outbreak. This year, once again, Tassajara is offering the opportunity for sangha members to come together to practice there for a week. Ryushin Andrea Thach and Susan Marvin plan to bring a group from June 27 to July 2. The week will include zazen, daily work, study time together, and free time to relax in the beauty of the area.
Some of the folks who were signed up for last  summer have committed once again to go this time. There are a few spots remaining. Cost is around $600/week  with shared accommo­dations.
Please email Susan ( and Ryushin ( if you are interested in going and feel certain you can go for that entire week.
The SFZC website has some information about the summer schedule here:

Abbot’s Message: March-April 2023 Sanshin—Dogen’s Three Minds

Sanshin—Dogen’s Three Minds

In 1237, as Dogen Zenji was creating his new monastery in the wilds of western Echizen Province, he composed the Eihei Shingi,* with precise instructions and an overview of temple responsibilities. The first chapter of this manual is Tenzo Kyokun, instructions for the head cook. Tenzo Kyokun is a wonderfully practical text that still guides our own kitchen practice and influences all aspects of our Zen practice.
In ancient China and Japan, the tenzo or head cook was a pivotal position for a senior monk in a monastery. Think about it. The daily care, feeding, and health of many monks or nuns depended on this person. Training monasteries were often deep in the mountains. One could not go to the supermarket or the corner store to get a missing ingredient. In fact, there is a well-known story in which Dogen tells how, on his arrival in China, he encountered a tenzo who had traveled many miles to purchase mushrooms for his community.
The last section of Tenzo Kyokun speaks of “sanshin”—three qualities of mind necessary for the cook: Joyful Mind (kishin), Parental Mind (roshin), and Great Mind (daishin). “Shin” translates as heart/mind, so “mind” here is not strictly pointing to mental activity. I think that most of us in the West tend to see heart and mind as two different organs. But a Buddhist understanding points to the oneness of heart/mind. One commentator explains that these qualities of mind express the “internal world of the bodhisattva.” As such, they are not at all distinct from each other. Rather, we see them interpenetrating and reflecting each other, as heart/mind become our whole life.
While Dogen expresses this in his instructions to the cook, the principle actually applies to anything we do, inside or outside of the temple. This is enlightened activity. Or to put it another way, enlightenment is activity informed by these three minds. This is each person’s responsibility. Dogen writes, “Do not overlook one drop in the ocean of virtue by entrusting it to others.”
If we look at a life of practice, of course we can plunge in at any point, beginning with the expression of any of these minds. But it is provisionally useful to consider how the Three Minds might unfold: Great Mind gives birth to Joyful Mind, which gives birth to Parental Mind.
Great Mind or Magnanimous Mind is grounded in zazen, which itself is vast and boundless. Suzuki Roshi spoke of Big Mind, which is the same thing. This is wholehearted activity, throwing oneself into the house of Buddha with no self-centered thoughts. Commenting on Tenzo Kyokun, Suzuki Roshi said:

First of all the cook must have a big mind, a magnanimous mind to accept criticisms and complaints. He shouldn’t smile. You cannot even smile, because if you smile the monks will be even more angry. Just accept what people say and understand human nature.

Great Mind is like an ocean or a mountain. As Dogen writes:

The ocean does not refuse water; therefore it is able to achieve its vastness. Mountains do not refuse earth; therefore they are able to become lofty. Great Mind calmly and naturally includes every sentient being and even every insentient being.

The expression of Great Mind is gratitude, which gives birth to Joyful Mind. Grateful for the gift of life, for the opportunity to be of use to others, joy arises and flows freely. Dogen writes:

Now we have the good fortune to be born as human beings and to prepare the food that these three jewels receive and use. Is this not of great karmic significance? We should thus be very happy.

In one of his lectures, Suzuki Roshi tells an enigmatic story about Joyful Mind.

Where I grew up in Japan there are many fishermen and fish shops. Besides fish stores, we have people carrying fish and selling them in the street. They are running down the street with a big flag, and they are always full of joy. If they were not happy, the fish would look old. The fish just look fresher if they are carried with joy. When fish become old, their eyes turn from blue to white. But even if the fish are white-eyed, if the fish-sellers are running with joy the fish look fresh.

That is the transformative power of Joyful Mind!
Paternal Mind, or roshin, naturally arises from Joyous Mind. Literally, roshin means “old mind.” Some translators call it Grandmotherly Mind, or Nurturing Mind. Thinking of my paternal grandmother, this is a perfect fit—the one member of my family who seemed to love and accept me without judgment or expectation; who unfailingly fed, taught, and encouraged me. Such a heart/mind is the spirit of service, marked by unconditional love without concern for oneself—which of course returns to Great Mind. A quotation attributed to Kobo Daishi, the ninth-century Japanese founder of the Shingon school, says: You can tell the depth of a person’s enlightenment by how they serve others.”
We have an expression in English: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Zen students have another way. Stay in the kitchen, keep cooking. Sit still, pay attention, bring these three minds of zazen right into the kitchen. As Master Tozan said, “When it is hot, let the heat kill you. When it is cold, let the cold kill you.”
–Hozan Alan Senauke


*Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi
, translated by Taigen Daniel Leighton and Shohaku Okumura. State University of New York Press, SUNY Series in Buddhist Studies, 1995.


Looking Back, Stepping Forward

Welcome to 2023 and the turning of the season, the return of light. What will come our way this year is unknown. The pandemic still wanders at will; its course is uncertain and compels us to stay flexible in so many of our activities.
The last three years—marked by the pandemic and by Sojun Roshi’s illness and death—have spurred us to let go of customary patterns and plans, to adapt, to bow to grief and loss, even as we move forward.The Berkeley Zen Center sangha seems to be adept at making these changes. I think this is the deepest legacy of our late teacher: in the spirit of zazen simply to be a true community, a beloved community; to remain flexible and capable of an appropriate response as conditions continually change.
I am now about two years on as BZC’s second abbot. While I had a very long apprenticeship as tanto and vice-abbot, nothing I had previously encountered prepared me for the changes we have had to reckon with. I want to emphasize that I have never felt alone or overburdened by the zigs and zags of the Covid years. Senior students, residents, and long-time practitioners carry so much of the day-to day responsibilities of our temple life. I am deeply grateful to all. As for Sojun, he spent fifty years preparing us to meet uncertainty, even to welcome it. He showed us how to lean into zazen practice and cultivate ordinary mind.
Over the last years, I feel I’ve been mainly trying to support the practice and community. Not everyone agrees about what this should look liked. Should our Covid protocols be looser or tighter? Should we return to our prepandemic schedule more quickly? Are we at risk of losing the practice legacy carefully crafted by Sojun over many years? As a community, how should we be responding to a societal call for a deeper commitment to equity and inclusion? There are other questions.
My response to such issues has been to listen deeply and hear the inner voices of Sojun and our ancestors. To be patient and nonreactive, to try and see the other side of things. When possible, to take the time to build consensus for major decisions. Honoring these principles, much of my energy has necessarily been focused on administration and organizational process. In the coming year I plan to get help sharing these tasks. I’ll say more about this early in the year.
If I can share some of the administrative responsibilities, I’ll have more time as abbot to focus on the dharma. I’d like to do more teaching and studying with people. This would include classes, informal teas, ongoing study groups, etc. Starting in January I will expand my dokusan hours online and in-person. It is important for us to train and refresh the Soto Zen forms, which include basic zendo activity and comportment, the proper way to do various service positions, how to chant, how to bow, and so on.
The practice we have inherited is always a work-in-progress. Many of us have seen small shifts over the years. Like Sojun, I prefer to make changes slowly, honoring what our ancestors carefully carried here from China and Japan. Then the pandemic drove us out of the zendo we love and into the unexpected and challenging land of Zoom. Now, as the pandemic’s effects are more diffuse, we have had to create a “hybrid” practice—in-person and online—which is very challenging.
What next? We don’t know, but we do know how to practice together. On that ground, which is the meeting place of faith and action, I believe we will step forward from the top of a hundred-foot pole.

The Bag Lunch Project

The Bag Lunch Project began in response to the increasing numbers of homeless people on the streets as the pandemic hit in 2019. This fall we stopped offering lunches in downtown Berkeley because the good news is there has been an effort to house more and more folks. We have continued to make and deliver 20 bag lunches twice monthly to the Women’s Day­time Drop-In Center (WDDC) on Acton Street.

WDDC has worked with at-risk families for 30 years, presently serving an average of 150 women and children each month in a variety of ways. Our recent drive to collect umbrellas and ponchos for WDDC brought in generous dona­tions by many Sangha members. Thank you so much for your continued support. This, along with the support of the BZC Board, allows us to continue our very small project.

As the year draws to a close and you make your year-end contributions, please consider one to The Bag Lunch Project. You can do this by going to the BZC website’s “Generosity” page. Please note what your contribution is for. If need be, send a note to Helen, the office manager, at

If you would like to join The Bag Lunch Project, please send a note to Susan Marvin at We’d be happy to add you to the group!

—The Bag Lunch Project                                                                                                                                    (Preston, Mira, Tom, Penelope,
Maria Teresa, Laurie, Susan)

Chiden Orientation and Review

Please join head chiden Nancy Suib and Abbot Hozan for a chiden review and training in the zendo on Wednesday, February 22, 3:30‒5:00 p.m. This is a wonderful and fulfilling oppor­tu­nity to deepen your practice of mindfulness in attending to the aesthetics of the altar.

A deep bow to all past and present chidens for their service. We hope that you will join the new chidens, and members interested in becoming a chiden, for this orientation and review.
For further information, please contact Nancy (

Koan Study Group

Ryushin Andrea Thach, Ellen Webb, and Ron Nestor will be offering an ongoing koan study group beginning Wednesday, February 1. We’ll meet once a month on the first Wed­nesday evening from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. We’ll be using The Book of Serenity translated by Thomas Cleary, as well as commentary on each case by Yamada Koan Roshi, a contemporary Zen teacher.

The Book of Serenity is the koan collec­tion most closely associated with the spirit of our Soto lineage. We have found these koans both compel­ling and difficult in their variety of tone, emphasis, and interpretation. The stories in them are based on actual Zen practi­tioners and teachers who mostly existed in the Tang dynasty (roughly 600‒900 A.D.). The Book of Serenity was created in the twelfth century by Hongzhi, who chose the koans to include and created a verse to accompany each one. Wansong provides commentary alongside the koans. His comments run the gamut from critical to humorous, and often seem quite modern. All the koans deal with nonduality in some way, but the devil is in the nuances and the details.

We’re aiming for something between a class and a dharma group. There will be no fee. We’re hoping that participants continue to show up because of their interest. We will start out on Zoom. An announcement and link will be available in the week before the first session, as well as an earlier reminder.

If you would like more information, please contact Ellen Webb (