Category Archives: News

Aspects of Practice, Fall 2023

All sangha members are warmly invited to join Aspects of Practice, our fall practice period, which will open with a one-day sesshin on Saturday, October 14 (led by Gerry Oliva), and end with a one-day sesshin on Saturday, November 11 (led by Carol Paul). The theme will be the Genjo Koan, which will be studied in four classes on Thursday evenings as well as in Saturday lectures and WSM talks.
Ten senior students will be leading Aspects of Practice. Please consider your schedule and responsibilities in order to determine your participation, and try to attend as much as you can along with zazen.

All events will be held in person as well as online.
Register for Aspects here

Remember: In addition to the Practice Period sign-up, you will need to register separately for each sesshin and for the class.
We look forward to practicing with you during this special yearly time.

Many Communities, One Sangha – Sign Up Now

We are happy to invite all BZC members to participate in the next year of Many Communities, One Sangha, including those who have already taken part in the first session and would like to continue.  The program is offered in hybrid form (both online and in person).  There is a fee of $150 for new participants, which is the actual cost of the materials.  Returning participants are encouraged to provide dana (voluntary donation) for Rhonda’s work with us.  No one will be excluded because of inability to pay or donate.

The link to the form to sign up is:

The program consists of one meeting a month over ten months:  five meetings with Rhonda, on Saturday afternoon after our usual program with all participants, alternating with five meetings in smaller discussion groups.  While the materials will be the same as those for the first year, we are folding in the suggestions gathered during the first year to streamline and place emphasis on participation and discussion. Each meeting is two to two-and-a-half hours.  Outside reading and watching video segments are additional time commitments of about 5 hours (or less) a month.

We are delighted to announce that Prof. Rhonda Magee will continue to work with us for the coming year 2023-2024.  Rhonda is a lay entrusted teacher in the Soto Zen lineage and law professor at UCSF Law School.  She is the author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness.  This is an extraordinary opportunity to come together, to listen, learn, and find a spacious venue for conversations that can be difficult.  The accompanying materials were developed in coordination between East Bay Meditation Center and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, led by Mushim Ikeda, Crystal Johnson, and Rhonda Magee.

Questions or difficulties with the form?  Contact Mary Duryee,

Questions about the program? Contact Sonia Tamez, or Mary Duryee.

The MCOS coordinating committee:  Karen Sundheim, Heather Sarantis, Luminous Heart, Judy Fleischman, Gerry Oliva, Mary Duryee

Benji Poem for Jumyo Seishin Sue Oehser

Benji Poem
Jumyo Seishin Sue Oehser

Here we are again, as always,
for now. Our whole lives
we’ve been praying for peace
and finally the world has grown
quieter than silence. The main gate
squeaks open. In the kitchen,
a carrot is chopped like a finger.
Who ever said that harmony
wouldn’t hurt?

And so we sit together,
the afternoon sun sneaking
through the zendo blinds,
specks of dust tumbling down
streams of light. You see,
our skin is always dying, always
taking flight from the body
and becoming this air
that we breathe.

The Buddha heaves a sigh.
On the altar, the candle flame
burns upright and restless.
What are we waiting for?
we ask ourselves and each other.
What is the orbit of this dream?
Out of the corner of our eye,
a bright, bitchin’ pearl
accomplishes nothing
with her friends,
falling awake.

Let us hear from the shuso!

—Preston Evers

Board Nominations

Board Nominations

Are you interested in serving on the BZC Board? Or is there someone you would like to nominate? If so, please contact the Board Recruitment and Elections Committee ( and include any relevant information about why you or your nominee would make a good BZC Board member.

Every year the BZC sangha selects up to three at-large members to two-year terms on the BZC Board. This year we have one vacancy. Board members may serve a maximum of two consecutive two-year terms. Elections take place in October and the new term starts in January 2024. The Board will present its nominees at the All-Sangha Meeting on Sunday, September 17. Nominations can also be made by sangha members at that meeting.

Some of the various skills the Board seeks in nominees are oral and written communication, organizational experience, information technology, money management, fundraising, engineering, building maintenance, and non- profit law. Nominees should be members of BZC. Board members attend about ten Sunday morning meetings a year plus an all-day retreat in the first part of the year, and serve on at least one working Board committee: Finance; Buildings & Grounds; Development; Electronic Communication & Social Media; Archive; and Elections & Nominations.

BZC Tassajara Sangha Week 2 – September 2023

Every year the Tassajara Mountain Zen Center provides an opportunity for sanghas to practice together as part of the Guest Practice Program during the summer guest season. Teachers from Suzuki Roshi lineage can bring a group from 7 to 10 members including the teachers. Ikushin Gerry Oliva and Mary Duryee will be leading a study period this year from September 5 to 10.

The daily program includes 5:50 AM zazen, 6:50 service, 7:15 Soji (short work period, 7:30 breakfast with other guest students, 8:30 until noon work assignments, noon lunch with students. The rest of the day will be structured by each study group. We will join the guests for dinner and sit the final zazen period of the day.

The cost for this will be approximately $600 per week. We will plan to drive down together if possible. If we can’t drive all the way to Tassajara because of parking constraints, there is a stage from Carmel Valley to the Center for $65.00 round trip.

If you are interested in participating, please let us know by the end of April or earlier if you can commit to the week of Sept 5-10. If there are more than 8 people interested, we will do this by lottery. There will not be scholarships available for this event.

Contact Gerry Oliva at or Mary Duryee at if you would like more information or are interested in discussing your participation.

Coming-of-Age Program

Coming-of-Age Program

BZC is offering a Coming-of-Age program for
youth ages 12‒14. Participants will receive a
basic introduction to Buddhist teachings, learn
about mindfulness, precepts, and meditation,
and celebrate their journey toward adulthood.
The program will meet one Sunday a
month for two hours from September 2023
through June 2024. For more information,
please contact Marie Hopper at

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.

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.