Category Archives: News

Spring Practice Period 2021

Our annual spring practice period will take place online this year, beginning with a one-day sitting on Saturday, May 8, and continuing through a three-day sesshin on June 18 to 20. The schedule will include a Thursday evening class, Small Group Teas with the Abbot, a mid-practice period Skits and Music Night, and more.

Topic Schedule

Talk Sat 8 May—Fukanzazengi…Hozan

Class Thursday 13 May—Refuges…Hozan

Talk Saturday 15 May—Fukanzazengi…Hozan

Talk Saturday 22 May—4 Noble Truths…Laurie Senauke

Class Thursday 27 May—8-Fold Path…Hozan

Talk Saturday 29 May—3 Marks of Existence…Hozan

Class Thurs 3 June—16 Bodhisattva Precepts…Ryushin Andrea Thach

Talk Saturday 5 June—5 Skandhas…Hozan

Talk Saturday 12 June—4 Immeasurables…Peter Overton

Class Thursday 17 June—6 Paramitas…Hozan

Talk Sesshin Fri 18 June—4 Foundations of Mindfulness…Gerry Oliva

Talk Sesshin Sat 19 June—T.B.A….Hozan

Talk Sesshin Sun 20 June—T.B.A….Hozan

BZC Bookstore is on! 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. 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:

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 Approach to Practice Period

Since 1989, Berkeley Zen Center has had an annual six-week practice period in the spring or fall. Sojun Roshi regularly offered words of encouragement and perspective for those intending to participate. For our Spring 2021 Practice Period, I offer a similar message, drawing on Sojun’s expression and my own.

Practice Period has roots in Buddha’s time and continues through our Soto Zen tradition. In India and Southeast Asia, the Buddha established a Rains Retreat each year. During the monsoon season, monks and nuns would cease their wandering and gather in monastic centers for collective practice. This tradition migrated through East Asia and continues today. In Japan there is ango, which means “peaceful dwelling.” Practice period at BZC translates ango into our urban setting.

This spring we can concentrate our effort, renewing the practice of beginners’ mind. Study will center on zazen and basic Buddhist teachings. The practice period has some minimum requirements, but within these requirements each person should create his or her own realistic schedule. This is the nature of lay practice. According to the demands of our whole life, some will be able to do a minimum, while others can stretch themselves further in formal practice. In general, sangha members are not required to participate. You are free to come to zazen, even if you are not signed up for practice period.

The schedule you sign up for should incorporate zazen into your rhythm of  life as an intention rather than as a special activity. When we design our schedule for these six weeks, taking into consideration the other factors and responsibilities in our life, we have a foundation for practice, honoring all our commitments.

Sojun Roshi wrote: “I like to think of the spirit of practice period as the wish to do it all, and then narrowing it down to what is practical or possible, rather than simply picking and choosing pieces of it based on preference or convenience.  This helps to create an edge; something to push against but not enough to be inhibiting. When we all have this attitude, it creates a strong sangha feeling of mutual support and encouragement. We also manifest the spirit of zazen in our home and work life as continuous, well rounded practice; not just something we do on the cushion”

This provides an encouraging atmosphere for those who sit from day to day but are not in a position to throw themselves into this practice period. Please remember that we are all practicing together.

After this strange year of isolation, practice period can prepare us for the renewal of our intimate practice together.

—Hozan Sensei

Bag Lunch Project

We had two drop-offs of twenty bag lunches each during February to the Women’s Drop-In Center on Acton Street in Berkeley. The center has stopped inviting homeless folks inside as a result of the pandemic; food, supplies, and information are given through a window. As a result, they are very grateful for our contributions to what they are able to offer right now.

We stopped offering bag lunches in the downtown corridor in Berkeley when the lockdown was announced. We plan to revisit starting up again in March if all goes well.

Our drive to collect and offer scarves, hats, mittens, and gift cards is on hold too. Right now we are researching two other ideas—first, the possibility of supporting Dorothy Day House in some way. They serve 200 homeless people daily with meals and services.

If you are interested in joining us and/or have ideas and/or contacts to help with the above projects, please email Susan at

If you would like to make a donation, please send your check to the BZC business manager, Helen, and note “Bag Lunch Project,” OR go to the BZC site and make a donation there. In that case, be sure to then send Helen an email  ( to let her know it’s for the Bag Lunch Project.

Mountain Seat Ceremony for Hozan Senauke

The Board of Shogaku-ji – Old Plum Mountain
Berkeley Zen Center s pleased to invite you to:

Shin San Shiki – Mountain Seat Ceremony for

Hozan Kushiki Alan Senauke
January 31, 2021, 3 pm PST

The ceremony will be live streamed in BZC’s Online Zendo

Meeting ID: 657 798 2914
Passcode: bzc

Your congratulations can be posted to our online board for Hozan Alan:

or sent by email to

Hakuryu Sojun Roshi’s passing

With great sadness the sangha of Berkeley Zen Center announces that Hakuryu Sojun Roshi—White Dragon/Essence of Purity—Mel Weitsman peacefully passed from this world to the Pure Land of Buddhas and Ancestors, at 5:30 pm on January 7, 2021. He is survived by his wife Liz Horowitz Weitsman and their son Daniel, along with uncountable disciples, students, friends and acquaintances across the United States and around this wide world.

Some recent words:

“I am able to not hang on to anything. That’s my secret. I believed my teacher when he said “Don’t get caught by anything.” I really believed it. And then, not only did I believe it, I started acting it out. So that’s where I’m at. Don’t get caught by anything. I’m able to not dwell on something. The news is what the news is. My anger is what my anger is. That’s all. And I try to do what I can to assuage my…everybody’s anxieties. I don’t have much anxiety. I’m gonna die. I’m on my way. What should I do, worry about it? Everybody does this. Nobody escapes. This happens to every single person that’s ever lived. What should I worry about? What’s there to worry about? I am just not that kind of person. This is what I decided when I was young. I said, “I’m just gonna live my life all the way up to the end. And when it’s time to go, I go.” That’s part of..that’s life. Life is death. So we experience it every moment.  Here we are. Next moment, here we’re not. This happens every moment.”

We have created a Memorial Wall through the app KudoBoard, where you can post your stories, remembrances, feelings and thoughts. Access that here:

Our Saturday Program Now Begins at 8:40

Note:  We have made some changes to our regular Saturday schedule.  Here is the new schedule:

Zendo opens:      8:30 am
Zazen:                     8:40-9:20
Service:                  9:20-9:30
Kinhin/break:     9:30-9:40
Zazen:                     9:40-10:10
Lecture:                  10:15-11:15

Zazen Instruction (not in online zendo):      8:40-9:20 

Stepping Down Ceremony

With boundless gratitude, on October 24 Berkeley Zen Center honored Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman in a Stepping Down Ceremony (Taitoshiki Saho). A formal invitation to him to step into the newly created position of Founding Dharma Teacher was incorporated into the ceremony as well, which Sojun Roshi accepted.

The ceremony was warm, emotional, and well attended through live-streaming. (It was also recorded, and can be viewed at the Berkeley Zen Center channel on YouTube.)

Ten people offered congratulations:

  • Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi (Abbot, Rinso-in)
  • Gengo Akiba Roshi (Bishop of Soto Zen North America)
  • Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi (Senior Dharma Teacher, San Francisco Zen Center)
  • Leslie James (Abiding Teacher, Tassajara), speaking for the San Francisco Zen Center sangha
  • Zoketsu Norman Fischer (Founder, Everyday Zen Foundation), as deshi
  • Josho Pat Phelan (Abbess, Chapel Hill Zen Center), as deshi
  • Zenki Mary Mocine (Abbess, Clear Water Zendo), as deshi
  • Hosho Karen Sundheim, speaking for the Berkeley Zen Center sangha
  • Liz Horowitz (Sojun Roshi’s wife)
  • Hozan Alan Senauke (Berkeley Zen Center Vice Abbot)

Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi said:

“Congratulations to Sojun Roshi. You have been following the teachings of Buddhism for a long time, but you still have more and more to do, so please continue your work and also take care of yourself. About sixty years ago you learned zazen from Suzuki Shunryu Roshi. He would have taken your hand and taught you the Hokkaijoin (the Dharma-realm meditation mudra). I hope that you will continue the Hokkaijoin for the rest of your life as long as zazen continues, until now and into the future. . . . Congratulations. Thank you for inviting me. I’m really thankful to you.”

Rev. Akiba Roshi said:

“To me, it seems like Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi has been engraving ‘Monk Sojun of Shogaku’ on the foundation stone of Shogaku-ji, that was placed by Suzuki Roshi, for the long time in the past forty years.  Today, the engravement is completed. That is what I feel. . . . To end my statement, I would like to say ‘Gokurou-sama deshita,’ thank you for your hard work for such a long time. I deeply thank you for your many contributions to Soto Zen in North America. . . . From now on, I wish you have a slow and pleasant life enjoying what people will call the engravement ‘Monk Sojun of Shogaku.’ ”

Hozan Alan Senauke offered a poem:

For My Old Teacher—Hakuryu Sojun
For fifty-three years
The White Dragon has prowled
The slopes of Old Plum Mountain
Some trees here and there
Bear scorch marks from his fiery breath
But students who come and go
Are warmed and comforted
Bathed in his pure gaze

The fire in Sojun’s belly
Burns as it once did
At any moment
Embers may flare up bright and hot—
The fire remains
But as Suzuki Roshi told Sojun
“Just being alive is enough”

We have counted on him for so long
Now on our own two feet
The young dragons (comparatively speaking)
Must climb the steep hillside together
To care for all beings and even the mountain itself

A number of people were involved in planning both the ceremony and the technical aspects of the virtual presentation. Particular thanks to Steve Weintraub for guiding the planning of the ceremony, and to Jon Voss for acting as the digital producer. Mary Duryee, Laurie Senauke, and Carol Paul assisted Steve; Rob Lyons, Ed Herzog, and Ross Blum assisted Jon. Mary Beth Lamb, Raghav Bandla, Blake Tolbert, and Laurie Senauke acted as digital shikas to help people link into the ceremony. Deep bows and thanks to all.

Jizo Ceremony to Heal Grief

Grief accompanies every loss, be it recent or remote, sudden or expected. Whether through death, illness, miscarriage , abortion, estrangement or other circumstances of disruption, our lives are impacted immediately and in delayed ways by the separation we experience. Loss and grief, too are a part of these very disorienting and disturbing times of the pandemic, reckoning with racism, climate disaster and threatening divisions in our society.

Jizo Bodhisattva, one of the most revered figures in Japan, is known for his fearless compassion and perseverance in responses to the losses we encounter. His vow is to accompany those on difficult journeys or those who have died to safe passage. He is usually portrayed as a child, whose innocent certainty and lighthearted seriousness are the buoyant qualities of his purposefulness.

In this simple ceremony, we quietly work together to make a small garment or token to dress Jizo on his journey, and write our wishes for our loved one or the circumstance. We will offer these in a simple ceremony we create together.

This year, the ceremony will be conducted by BZC priests Ryushin Andrea Thach and Hannah Meara . It will be conducted on Zoom on Sunday, November 15 from 1-4. We will provide additional instructions to those attending. For those who need materials for making the garment for Jizo materials will be available in advance. Attendance is open to all BZC members, those from the larger community and loved ones. There is no fee for attending, though dana for materials is welcome. If you have questions and if you would like to attend, please message either Andrea ( or Hannah (