Category Archives: News

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 (

Tuesday Evening Tea with Hozan

Selected Tuesdays from 7:00 to 8:15 pm

Beginning Tuesday, October 20

then November 17, December 1, December 15

Contact Hannah Meara for a place in the room:

In the midst of a pandemic that keeps many of us in our homes, interrupting our face-to-face practice for eight months now, experiencing the disturbing realities of climate change and racial injustice, and facing a presidential election that may well bring unprecedented challenges to our nation, BZC moves towards its first formal leadership transition at the end of December.

I would like to create a safe and informal setting where we can meet over the next few months—where you can express your interests, questions, and concerns to me, and where we can talk among ourselves about things that concern us all: the continuity and shape of Suzuki Roshi and Sojun’s practice, our sense of and needs from the BZC community, and the state of our ever-changing world.

Rather than dokusan form, this would be more like sitting around in the living room or around the kitchen table, except for now, it will be on Zoom (see link below).  It will not be open to the wider public and won’t be recorded.

For the sake of intimacy, we will have up to eight available slots each evening, for roughly an hour of discussion among those present. All your words and views are welcome.



BZC Dharma Groups
Passcode: bzc

Meeting ID: 939 998 180


After zazen on Wednesday mornings (at 8:10 am) we will hold an ongoing well-being service.  Due to the limitations of Zoom, congregants will be muted while we each chant along with the doshi/kokyo.  If you would like to have a name added to the ongoing well-being list, send your request by email to Co-Zendo Manager Hannah Meara:

In addition, all are welcome to request a personal service for an individual when there is need for prayers for well-being or when someone has died. Hannah is also the contact person for these requests.

2019 Year End President’s Letter

In the deep stillness of Rohatsu, gratitude rises. Permeates the zendo. Shosan ceremony is joyous. Lightness and sorrow both present. During this last year, 2019, much has happened and we have done our best to “tend and befriend” each as they arose. Several of our brick walkways were reworked, smoothed, made safer.

The zendo roof was mended. An archive committee was formalized and is working on bringing together early records—photos, newsletters, videos—of the long history of BZC. A large-scale digitization project is under way of thousands of Sojun’s (and others’) talks, currently existing only on ancient audiotape. Even more ancient electrical panels were replaced on two of our buildings, fixing a fire hazard that had led to several power outages in our buildings.

2019 was a year of change. Sojun began a sabbatical in January, and ended it recently. We celebrated his 90th birthday in July. Hozan reduced his teaching commitments in sister communities. In the fall, at Tassajara, Hozan was assisting Sojun in two dharma transmission ceremonies when Sojun faced a health crisis and was hospitalized. Hozan stepped in to help continue a ceremony, until Sojun was on his feet again.

We are very fortunate in this way—having a “deep bench,” as the saying goes. We met these changes with flexibility, as we have learned to do from practice. We are blessed that Sojun is feeling well now and facing his health situation with optimism. We are lucky to have people whose long practice and dedication to BZC give us the ability as a community to adapt to all these changes. Looking ahead to 2020, the Board asked Hozan to increase his position at BZC from 75% time to 100% time. He accepted and will step into this change beginning in January, centering his focus and teaching at BZC. Sojun and Hozan harmonized their activities to create continuity, as was so beautifully manifested during Rohatsu. This is our practice for 2020: befriending change; tending to harmony in the community; and enjoying one another completely.

—Mary Duryee

BZC Board President

Friday Tea Time

Every Friday at 5:00‒5:30 p.m. (just before the afternoon zazen period) BZC welcomes members and friends for tea, tasty treats, and informal discussion, hosted by a rotating team of BZC senior students. Weather permitting, we meet in the garden; otherwise, in the community room.

Walkway Upgrading

BZC volunteers joined together in August to rebuild the brick walkway alongside the zendo wheelchair ramp. The walk was widened to 36” and flattened out, to make it easier for people using wheelchairs and walkers to move smoothly into the zendo. Thanks to Ross Blum, Cheryl Gordon, Matt Haug, Rob Lyons, Susan Marvin, Ron Nestor, Alex Senauke, Laurie Senauke, and Lance Shows for their contributions!

Sangha Support Network: List Renewal and Updating

The Sangha Support Network email list needs to be rebuilt, due to a computer glitch that deleted many people off the list. Whether you’ve been on the email list all along, or are interested in joining for the first time, please email me at with your name and email address and I’ll put you (back) on the list. And please be sure to add me to your email Contacts list so my emails don’t land in your spam folder!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Sangha Support Network, here’s what it is:

When a sangha member needs temporary assistance or support, usually due to a medical issue, we recruit members to help out. Assist­ance may include driving to an appointment, doing errands, preparing a meal, helping in the home, or assisting with child or pet care. Support may include visiting someone at home or in the hospital, providing caregiver relief, or providing emotional support.

Requests for assistance are generally infrequent, and you will never be expected to respond unless the spirit moves you. Even if you doubt you’ll ever have time to volunteer, you can be on the email list just in case someday a request feels like the right thing for you to take on. Nobody is ever asked to help out more than they’re comfortable doing.

Here is what one sangha member who received help from the Sangha Support Network (and who subsequently has volunteered to help others) wrote about that experience:

“Thanks for organizing this. This is a deeply important job for all of us—both by making help available to those who need it and also by making the jobs okay/manageable for people to do them. I received monumental amounts of help. . . . It’s such a special skill to be able to offer the opportunity to help to the degree one is comfortable and to stop or draw lines when that feels appropriate. That kind of thing is so hard to manage when the person needing help has to ask people directly. . . . Sangha Support provides all of us a great service: Those who need assistance can get it; those who want to help others but are not comfortable signing on for open-ended situations, can offer specific and limited help.”

Liz Horowitz, coordinator
Laurie Senauke, assistant coordinator

Lay Entrustment

In the quiet dawn hours of July 22, 2019, a Lay Entrustment ceremony was held for Seishi Tetsudo Ross Blum and Sentei Kokyo Susan Marvin, performed by Sojun Roshi and Hozan Sensei. The ceremony was a recognition of two seasoned practitioners’ commitment and deep understanding of the Dharma. Ross and Susan received green rakusus and each gave a short talk and responded to formal questions. Here are some words from our new Lay Entrustees:

Ross: “Having finally gone through this bamboo tube I feel I can both rest in the stillness of this acknowledgment and trust Sojun Roshi has bestowed, and continue the activity of supporting our temple in the myriad forms available to us.”

Susan: “I very much appreciate practicing with Sojun and our Sangha through thick and thin. May we continue to practice together with heart and humor and continuous effort.”