Category Archives: News

Lay Ordination Sewing for 2023

Sewing your rakusu in preparation for Lay Ordination/Jukai and receiving the precepts at the end of BZC’s spring practice period is an opportunity to deepen your practice and relationship in sangha. Each year, sewing-class students engage in the practice of sewing and studying the precepts together, preparing themselves to receive a rakusu/robe and a dharma name. The whole sangha celebrates and supports these new bodhisattvas, affirming their aspiration of 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, please speak with Abbot Hozan as soon as possible (in dokusan, by phone, or via Zoom)—in addition to one of BZC’s other brown-robe teachers or green-rakusu teachers, if you have a teacher-student connection with one of the latter. After you have spoken with your teacher(s), contact the sewing teacher, Jean Selkirk (

Jizo Ceremony March 19

On Sunday, March 19, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.,  BZC priests Hondo Dave Rutschman and Ryushin Andrea Thach will lead a simple ceremony to invoke, honor, and ask for help from Jizo Bodhisattva, one of the most important figures in East Asian Buddhism. Traditionally, Jizo is understood to be the embodiment of fearless compassion, a protector of children and travelers, of all those who are vulnerable, and of those who find themselves grieving or in hell-realms. Jizo is especially associated with abortion, mis­carriage, and stillbirth.

One ancient story about Jizo is that in a former life he was a Brahmin maiden named Sacred Girl. Sacred Girl’s mother died and went to hell, and out of love and devotion, Sacred Girl sold all her belongings and made offerings to the Buddha of her age. Eventually, because of her good works, she was able to see into hell and learn that her mother had been saved. But as she witnessed the sorrow and pain of all the other beings still there, Sacred Girl’s heart broke and opened, and she made a great vow to work for the benefit of suffering beings until all the hells were emptied. So whenever and in whatever way we find ourselves in hell, we know that Jizo has vowed to be there with us.

The ceremony will take place in person at BZC. During the afternoon, we will draw, write, or sew—creating actual tangible objects as expressions of our prayers. Often those objects are red caps or rakusus, which are then draped onto Jizo statues; but they can also be drawings, written messages, or anything else that feels right. There will be time for sitting in silence, and for sharing and discussion.

All are welcome to attend, especially those experiencing heartbreak and grief. The registration form can be accessed here: A suggested donation of $15 (or whatever you can afford) will cover the cost of materials. For answers to any questions, please email or

Winter Sesshins 2023

Our first sesshins of 2023 will be:

A one-day sesshin on Saturday, January 14, 7:50 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Register here:

A one-day sesshin on Saturday, 18, 7:50 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

A Beginners’ sesshin on Sunday, February 26, 7:50 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

All will be led by Abbot Hozan and will be offered in-person as well as online. A signup form will be posted on the website several weeks prior to each sesshin, and the deadline for registration will be during the week prior.

These sesshins will follow a modified winter schedule similar to that used at our recent Rohatsu sesshin, with three periods of zazen in the morning followed by a dharma talk, and then three periods of zazen in the afternoon. There will be a midday break for bag lunch, rest, and work period. This streamlined schedule is intended to minimize possible transmission of Covid or other seasonal viruses.

For all in-person participants, Covid protocols will apply. We require that you be fully vaccinated and boostered, and that you wear an KN94, N95, or KN95 mask indoors. We also ask that you get tested within 48 hours of the start of sesshin (an antigen rapid test will
suffice), and also that if you have any Covid symptoms such as fever, cough, etc., that you shift to online participation.

When paying for sesshin, please indicate  on your check or in the PayPal note field that your donation is for the sesshin or sesshins
that you will attend. The suggested donation is $15 per day (or whatever you can afford). Mail a check to the BZC Office Manager at 1931 Russell St., Berkeley 94703, or pay through the website using the “Sits/Classes” tab on the “Donate” page. Please also consider an additional donation to Berkeley Zen Center above the suggested fee, to help us maintain our practice.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the sesshin director, Rob Lyons, at

Board Members Confirmed

As of this writing, the votes are more than 90% in and we are able to confirm three new Board members for the 2023‒2024 term: Fulani Offutt, Heather Sarantis, and Rob Walker. Welcome!

We express deep gratitude for the service of the three members-at-large who are transitioning off the board after two terms of service: Sue Oehser, Linda Hess, and Dean Bradley. They
have served us with steadfastness, reliability, and skill. Nine bows to all three. We are grateful for the continuing services of Laurie Senauke as Treasurer, Hozan as Abbot, Helen Cheng as Office Manager, and Joe Buckner as Archival Assistant.
Bows and  gratitude for all.

New Year’s Eve at BZC

Y’all come to BZC’s annual contemplative New Year’s Eve celebration!

New Year’s Eve celebration begins at 8:00pm in person and online. Given our physical zendo capacity, the in person program is open to BZC community only. All attending must showing proof of Covid-19 vaccination and booster if not on existing list for this. Zoom participation is open to all. Come and go or stay for the duration as we sit and walk (zazen and kinhin) and listen as a ceremonial bell is rung 108 times. The night ends shortly after midnight with chanting the Heart Sutra. Then, those in person come together in the courtyard for hot cider, tea, and cookies beside a bonfire. Those online may greet one another.

We will release into the fire memorial cards from the year for those who have passed. Participants are invited to release traces of the last year and offer wishes for the year to

Lay Ordination

On Saturday, October 15, nine members of the BZC sangha received Lay Ordination (Zaike Tokudo) from Abbot Hozan, Peter Overton, Gerry Oliva, and Ryushin Andrea Thach. This ceremony takes place once a year at BZC and is a significant rite of passage for each
participant and for the whole sangha. We have the feeling that we are all together witnessing and participating as the ordinees receive
Buddha’s precepts. We welcome these friends into the lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha and Suzuki Roshi’s family. Great thanks to Sewing Teacher Jean Selkirk, along with Hannah Meara and Kabir Nabi. Laurie Senauke did a wonderful job working out the many details for this ceremony.

Hozan’s ordinees:

Helen Cheng—Jinkai Tatsugen/Renhai Dayuan
(Ocean of Compassion/Reach the Source)
Heather Sarantis—Kokai Seigō (Vast Ocean/Manifest Awakening)
Yoni Ackerman—Wakai Shōnin (Peaceful Ocean/Luminous Person)
Joe Buckner—Genkai Shinyū (Subtle or Dark Ocean/True Courage)

Peter Overton’s ordinee:
Diane Ritchey—Myōgetsu Jinsei (SubtleMoon/Compassionate Essence)

Ryushin Andrea Thach’s ordinees:

Nick Robinson—Ro-un Meishi (Buoyancy Cloud/Illuminate Stillness)
Nathan Britton—Tokushu Egen (Virtuous Shelter/Wisdom Manifest)

Gerry Oliva’s ordinees:

Phillip Sherard—Yakusan Yūshin (Medicine Mountain/Brave Heart)
Ten Bartholomew—Kyokin Shōdō (Great Diligence/Illuminating the Way)

Suzuki Roshi Memorial and Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony

During Rohatsu sesshin we will commemorate two significant ceremonies—Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s memorial (his passing was on December 4, 1971) and Buddha’s Enlightenment. Suzuki Roshi’s memorial ceremony is an opportunity for sangha members to remember and appreciate our root teacher. Our ceremony this year will on Monday, December 5, at 3:30 p.m., the first day of our seven day Rohatsu sesshin.

Our Buddha’s Enlightenment ceremony will be on Saturday, December 10, right after the lecture. It is a time to celebrate and express gratitude for our practice passed down through Shakyamuni Buddha. Both ceremonies will take place in the zendo for Rohatsu participants and can also be attended through BZC’s Zoom link. All are welcome to join and participate.

             For Hakuryu Sojun’s Funeral  

            In the fall of 1964, 
            You entered the dawn zendo  
            With your artist’s fire 
            And the Kabbalistic eye of a seeker 
            Behind you Suzuki Roshi 
            Gently adjusted your posture 
            Leaning down to demonstrate the cosmic mudra

            And you were home  
            Fifty-six years later, now 
            You have left one home for another 
            Sojun who had been and still is Mel 
            Became a handful of fire 
            A dharma wind 
            And today I stand here 
            In the Green Dragon’s nest 
            A barefoot host to your teaching

            You taught me 
            To read the other side of the page 
            And to see Buddha in each being 
            To rely on no particular thing 
            Not even you 
            As you did, I rely on everything 
            You asked Suzuki Roshi, “What is Nirvana?”               
            He said, “Seeing one thing through to the end” 
                                   —Hozan Alan Senauke          
                                    Green Dragon Zen Temple 
                                    19 June 2022

Many Communities, One Sangha: Community-of-Practice Program

“Many Communities, One Sangha: Exploring the Realities of Equity and Inclusion” is a curriculum which guides an inquiry for us, in small groups, to articulate our values and explore our desires and ways to implement the goals we determine together. It is not a top-down training, but rather a grassroots program designed to help us decide together how we proceed. The principal teachers of the curriculum are Mushim Ikeda, Rhonda Magee, and Crystal Johnson, who many of you may know.
Rhonda Magee, one of the program’s developers, will be providing experiential opportunities to acquire and practice the skills we have learned. Prof. Magee is also the author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communi­ties Through Mindfulness. She is a Dharma Holder in the Soto tradition.
Participants must sign up by September 15, 2022 and commit to two hours a month over 11 months. This will consist of five sessions of videos, readings, and small, ongoing group discussions, alternating with five sessions with Rhonda Magee. We hope to have in-person meetings, without excluding those who are participating from a distance, through a hybrid option. The cost is $150 per person, with scholarships and a sliding scale. Participation limit is 30 people (the number we can fit in- person in the zendo). If demand exceeds capacity, we will offer it again.
Here is the link to sign-up:
If you have questions about the program,  contact Karen Sundheim (; Sonia Tamez (510-502-1425); or Gerry Oliva ( If you have any questions about signing up, contact Mary Duryee ( More info will be on the website.

—Mary Duryee, on behalf of the culture change committee (Judy Fleischman, Hanna Meara, Gerry Oliva, Hozan Alan Senauke, Mauro Sifuentes, Karen Sundheim, Sonia Tamez, and Penelope Thompson).

Calling All Chidens: Past, Present, and Future

Please join Nancy Friedberg and Nancy Suib (co-head chidens) and Hozan Roshi for a chiden review and training in the zendo on Wednesday, October 19, 3:30‒5:00 p.m.

This is a wonderful and fulfilling opportunity to deepen your practice of mindfulness and the aesthetic in attending to the altar.

A deep bow to all the past and present chidens for their service. We hope that you will join the new chidens and members interested in becoming a chiden for an orientation and review.

Masking and vaccination status is required for participation. Please RSVP to Nancy Suib ( or Nancy Friedberg (