Category Archives: News

Buddha’s Parinirvana Ceremony

According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of thePali canon, at the age of 80 the Buddha announced that he would soon reachPage 3 January‒February 2024 BZC Newsletter Parinirvana, or the final deathless state, and abandon his earthly body. After this, he ate his last meal, fell ill, and died.

Each year we celebrate Buddha’s transition with a ceremony where we all can make offerings and chant in honor of this occasion.This year the ceremony will take placeSaturday, February 17, at 5:00 p.m., as the closing of our sesshin on that day.

Sojun Mel Weitsman Book: Seeing One Thing Through

Our late teacher Sojun was a deep and warm presence for many of us over the years, until his death in early 2021 at the age of 91. Over
the last year of his life, Sojun Roshi worked with several of his  students to put together a long-promised book for Counterpoint Press. This book—Seeing One Thing Through: The Zen Life and Teachings of Sojun Mel Weitsman, with a foreword by Norman Fischerand an introduction by me—is now available. It has a unique structure. The first third of the book is a series of vivid memories and sketches of Sojun’s life, from his childhood to his life as an artist in the 1950s San Francisco scene; from his early years with Suzuki Roshi at SFZC to finding his way at Berkeley Zen
Center. The remainder of the book, two hundred more pages, contains a well-edited selection from a lifetime of practice and
dharma talks, touching on many aspects of our
everyday Zen practice. Seeing One Thing Through is available
from Counterpoint, from your local bookstore, and from all the usual online vendors. To quote Publishers Weekly: “This treasure trove of
wisdom is a welcome addition to the American Zen canon.”

Rohatsu Sesshin 2023

We invite you to join us for a Seven-Day Rohatsu Sesshin at Berkeley Zen Center, Monday December 4 through Sunday December 10, from 6:00 AM to 5:30 PM. This sesshin will be led by Abbot Hozan Alan Senauke, and will commemorate the Buddha’s enlightenment.
  1. Deadline to sign up is Monday, Monday, November 27.  Participants are expected to attend for a minimum of 3 days, of which at least 2 are consecutive.  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.
  1. The sesshin will also be offered online; sign up using the same link.
  2. We have switched back to masking optional. We also ask you to test 48 hours before you come and again on your first day.
  3. If you need overnight lodging, there will be spots available at the Zen Center.  Please contact Cecelia Fitzgerald at to arrange this.
  4. We will be offering oryoki breakfast and lunch in the zendo.  It is important that all participants be trained in the oryoki forms. There will be an oryoki training prior to sesshin, details will be posted on the website.  For further information please contact Ellen Webb at,
  5. There will be two special ceremonies during Rohatsu this year:
  • Founders’ Ceremony (including Suzuki Roshi Memorial), Monday, December 4; and
  • Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony, Saturday December 9
Check the website for times for each.
  1. We will have a short work period each day, so please bring work clothes you can change into.

  2. Dokusan will be offered daily by Hozan Alan Senauke, and practice discussion by a senior student, both in-person and online.
  3. The sesshin fee is $35 for in-person attendees, or $15 for online participants (or whatever you can afford).  You may pay online, leave a check in the donation slot, or mail 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 by check as above, or at
If you have questions, please contact the Sesshin Director, Rob Lyons at


During Aspects of Practice (October 14 through November 11), the BZC sangha is studying Genjokoan. A scroll called “Zen Fan” by the calligrapher Kasumi Bunsho has been selected to hang next to the altar. The choice of “Zen Fan” was inspired by these words in Genjokoan:

      Zen Master Baoche of Mt. Magu was fanning himself. A monk approached him and asked, “The nature of wind is ever present and permeates everywhere. Why are you waving a fan?”
      The master said, “You know only that the wind’s nature is ever present—you don’t know that it permeates everywhere.”
      The monk said, “How does the wind permeate everywhere?”
      The master just continued waving the fan.
      The monk bowed deeply.

      Kasumi Bunsho, a Zen priest, is recognized for his extensive calligraphy. Many feel that his calligraphy expresses an energetic exuberance, reflective of his practice. He was a direct pupil of Nakahara Nantembo (1839‒1925) and Deiryu Kutsu (1895‒1954), both devoted Zen monks and highly recognized calligraphers.
      Kasumi was born in Gifu Prefecture, in the region of Honshu in central Japan, on December 25, 1905, and died at the age of 92 on October 17, 1998. Like his teachers, Kasumi loved to paint monks begging (takuhatsu), which he believed was an important monastic practice of humility and gratitude. In 1943 he became the Abbot of Kaisei-ji Zen monastery, and in 1990 the 642nd Abbot of Myoshin-ji, one of Kyoto’s oldest major Zen temples.
      Deiryu Kutso influenced Kasumi as they shared a similar approach to painting Zen circles (enso). Deiryu and Kasumi frequently brushed images in the center of their ensos as well as brushing their ensos with a distinctive and unusual gray ink. One can see the presence of gray ink in “Zen Fan.” Kasumi Bunsho signed the handle of “Zen Fan” with his pen name, Kaisei Dainin. The calligraphy on “Zen Fan” is translated here:

When you use
it skillfully
spring comes again;
for a fan to work
you need to rely on others

Bag Lunch Project

The Bag Lunch Project has made and delivered about 500 lunches over the past year to the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center at 2218 Acton Street in Berkeley. Additionally, thanks to the generosity of many at BZC, we have collected and/or purchased personal care items in our drives for the women and children whom the center serves. Twenty lunches twice monthly does not really put a dent in the call to end hunger and homelessness; still, this small effort does make a difference in the lives of those families being helped. We are told repeatedly how much the women enjoy our lunches and how grateful they are for our efforts.
WDDC’s mission is to help empower homeless women and children for a brighter future. To that end, they offer drop-in services including to-go meals, groceries, and hygiene products Monday through Friday 9am‒2pm through their service window.
WDDC offers housing resource services to unhoused participants over the phone as well; they are also the North County Housing Resource Center (serving Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville families).
If you would like to support this project at BZC, please send a check to BZC or use the Generosity button on the website. Please be sure to note that your contribution is for The Bag Lunch Project (or, alternatively, contact office manager Helen at to let her know).
If you would like to help shop, make sandwiches, put together bags, or drop off lunches at the center, please contact Susan Marvin. Each task takes about an hour, and we would be most happy to have you join us.

Preston, Mira, Gary, Luminous Heart,
Emily, Tom, Bob, Laurie, and Susan

Your Donations at Work!

Thanks to generous sangha donations, major work has been completed in 1929 Russell, the apartment above the Community Room. There is now a heat pump and a complete ventilation system, including ducting, registers, and thermostat. None of this existed before. Also, those smelly and noisy gas heaters in the Community Room and apartment above have been removed, and the openings have been dry-walled.
Next on the agenda: we will begin replacing Community Room windows with secure, energy-saving double-paned windows. Since these are quite expensive, we will do a few at a time as our budget allows. Check out the photos below of work accomplished. Huge thank-yous to Greg Denny as Project Manager; to Mary Duryee for her wisdom and guidance throughout; to residents Helen Cheng and Preston Evers for their patience and collaboration during months-long preparation and several weeks of disruption during the actual work; and to Cheryl Gordon for keeping focus and preparing for the windows replacement.

Branching Streams Flow on in the West

The biennial Branching Streams conference was held in late September, hosted by Santa Cruz Zen Center. This year’s gathering was the best yet, a breathtaking exchange of questions, ideas, and aspirations.
Branching Streams originally started twenty years ago as an opportunity for small temples and sitting group leaders with a strong affiliation with SFZC to share experiences and to support each other. More recently, sanghas with leadership trained in the Suzuki Roshi lineage have been invited to send up to three members of their choosing, including newer practitioners and other community leaders or emerging leaders. This year only Ryushin was able to attend from BZC.
At this conference, Branching Streams adopted an “Open Space” format. Using the topic loosely defined as “Transitions,” anyone of the 60 attendees from 30+ different sanghas could raise a topic for discussion and facilitate it. Together we explored the experience of imagination and art in expressing the Dharma; engaged in an intergenerational discussion of “Why is Tassajara necessary?” (as a prerequisite for becoming a priest); shared our efforts to express “the path of the Bodhisattva” in the world; spontaneously created a ceremony for healing pain around Climate Change; and discussed neurodiversity, making sanghas accessible, aging and medical aid in dying, and much more. Former Santa Cruz poet laureate Danusha Lumiere shared her poetry and helped us write our own; we shared our no-talent talent and ended with a Fall Solstice ceremony. We left not so much with information, but filled with ideas, intimate connection, and newly imagined ways forward to create Zen in America.

Suzuki Roshi’s Japanese Zen has fully manifested its North American identity in its third generation. Perhaps you’ll see your face in the crowd at the next meeting?

Lay Ordination Sewing for 2024

Sewing your rakusu in preparation for Lay Ordination and receiving the precepts is an opportunity to deepen your practice and your relationship with the sangha. Each year, sewing-class students engage in the practice of sewing and studying the precepts together. This is how they prepare themselves to receive a rakusu/robe and a dharma name from their teacher. The sangha celebrates and supports these new bodhisattvas, affirming their aspiration for continuous practice.

Sewing classes start in the new year. Classes are open to those who have asked their teacher for permission to participate. If you are interested in participating this year, as soon as possible please speak with Abbot Hozan (in dokusan, by phone, or via Zoom) or one of BZC’s brown-robe teachers or green-rakusu teachers. After you have spoken with your teacher, contact the sewing teacher, Jean Selkirk (

BZC Sangha Study Weeks at Tassajara

BZC Sangha Study Weeks at Tassajara
BZC was fortunate to be able to send two groups for two different weeks to Tassajara. Sangha members joined Tassajara residents for morning and evening zazen periods, meals, and the morning work period. Afternoons were open for studying together and exploring Tassajara. These were rare opportunities to experience the monastery since it was closed to guests as the result of the pandemic.

One group, led by Ryushin Thach and Susan Marvin, attended June 27–July 2 and studied Sojun Roshi’s forthcoming book, Seeing One Thing Through. Also at Tassajara that week were sangha members from Ancient Dragon Zen Gate (Chicago) and Queer Dharma, led by Tova Green and Lisa Hoffman.

The second group, attending September 5‒10, was led by Ikushin Gerry Oliva and Josu Mary Duryee, and studied Hongzhi’s Cultivating the Empty Field, translated by Taigen Dan Leighton. Sangha members from A Single Blade of Grass (Brooklyn) were also at Tassajara during that week. This was also the last week study groups were able to be at Tassajara, as the monastery transitioned into a two-week work period in preparation for the fall practice period.