Category Archives: Old News

Practice Period Class—Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind

Practice Period Class—Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind

This spring our practice period class will draw upon the riches of Suzuki Roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Beneath the warm and inviting tone of Suzuki Roshi’s words are boundless depths that appear anew with each reading. Over nearly fifty years of teaching, Sojun Roshi never reached the limits of this book’s Zen wisdom. So, we begin again. We will share a selection of chapters, which will be announced. Practice period members, in fact all BZC practitioners ought to have a copy of this book. And a pdf of the whole text can be found at this link.
Classes will be held in the zendo and online at 7:15pm, for five Thursday evenings from May 18 to June 15. Suggested class fee is $50. No one is turned away for lack of funds. See you in class.

Please register for the class by clicking this ink: Class – Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind – Sign up
COVID restrictions will apply. If you have questions, you could reach out to the Class Coordinator Ryushin Andrea Thach at

Book Event with Ben Connolly

Imagination, Interdependence, and Liberation

Join BZC for a special event on Saturday, May 6, when we host Buddhist Teacher and Author Ben Connelly.  He will discuss is new book:  Vasubandhu’s “Three Natures”: A Practitioner’s Guide for Liberation.

Dive into this empowering approach to freedom from suffering and from harmful personal and social patterns—and find peace and joyfulness in the present.

In his new book, Vasubandhu’s “Three Natures,” a plain-English commentary, Ben Connelly shows the power of integrating early Buddhist psychology with the Mahāyāna emphasis on collective liberation. You’ll discover how wisdom from fourth-century India can be harnessed to heal and transform systems of harm within ourselves and our communities.You can find the book here:

Ben Connelly is a Soto Zen teacher and Dharma heir in the Katagiri lineage. He also teaches mindfulness in a wide variety of secular contexts including police training and addiction recovery groups. He works with multifaith groups focused on intersectional liberation, racial justice, and climate justice. Ben serves the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, travels to teach across the United States, has written for Tricycle and Lion’s Roar magazines, and is author of Inside the Grass Hut, Inside Vasubandhu’s Yogacara, Vasubandhu’s “Three Natures”, and Mindfulness and Intimacy.

Spring Practice Period 2023

The BZC 2023 Spring Practice Period is just around the corner – May 13 to June 25. This special time of deepening our practice will begin with the usual opening Sesshin, this year on Saturday, May 13, highlighted by the Shuso Entering Ceremony. Hozan has asked long time member Sue Oesher (Jumyo Seishin / Bright Pearl Pure Faith) to serve as Shuso, or Head Student alongside him for the six-week Practice Period. Preston Evers will take the position of Benji, or attendant during that time as the Jisha, arranging Sangha teas, and assisting Sue in various ways.

Below you will find links to the PARTICIPATION/COMMITMENT form and Practice Period CALENDAR. Please click on the form link and CHECK the various events you will attend either in person or online during this enriching time. These include your zazen intention on weekdays and Saturdays, the opening Sesshin, a Thursday night class with the Abbot, a zazen refresher with the Abbot, Bansan–tea/discussion with the Abbot, an all-Sangha workday, Shosan–Q & A with the Abbot, a Practice Period outdoor dinner, a group tea with the Shuso, practice discussion with a teacher or practice leader, the closing 5-day Sesshin, and the Shuso Ceremony.

Some events will have their own sign up forms, so watch for PRACTICE PERIOD emails on the list serve to participate in Sesshins, the class, the workday, and the practice period dinner. Each of us is encouraged to carefully consider our schedule and responsibilities as we decide what we can reasonably do. All are asked to check off zazen and event times, signing the form as a kind of contract, committing to what we intend to do. This offers a meaningful way for each of us to clarify our intention to ourselves. In this way, the Practice Period invites a unique opportunity to stretch one’s practice while supporting the Shuso as she encourages and inspires our practice as well.

Again, Farewell to the White Dragon

Ring the bells, beat the drum, clang the cymbals, chant the Ten Names of Buddha and to them add the name Hakuryo Sojun Mel Weitsman Daisoho—White Dragon/Essence of Purity. At last, eighteen months after Sojun’s death on January 7, 2021, we have performed the appropriate Zen rites to honor his passing into the realm of Buddhas and ancestors gone before. 
     Although according to Sojun Roshi and all enlightened beings there is truly no coming and going, no birth and death, still we offer rituals and ceremonies that mark transition and allow us to touch the depths of our gratitude, our joy in encountering a teacher like Sojun, and our grief at his seeming departure. Even today I find myself looking out my kitchen window toward his office, which is now my office, to see if he might be down there, so I can knock on his door and sit down to talk.
     On the weekend of June 18 and 19, with the support of so many good friends at Berkeley Zen Center, San Francisco Zen Center, and the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, two funerary ceremonies were held for Sojun Roshi. It is a Zen tradition to have an intimate convocation of family and students the night before the more formal funeral.
Taiya nenju—which means, roughly, “prayer on the funeral eve”—was attended by thirty-five people in the zendo and a like number online. For taiya and the funeral itself, the family and a teacher’s disciples serve as mourners. Reviewing his notes from Suzuki Roshi’s long-ago funeral, Tenshin Anderson Roshi described us a “barefoot hosts,” humbly dressed, with no footwear. Since family and disciples were mourners, we were fortunate to have Rev. Meiya Honshu Wender from Green Gulch serve as the taiya officiant. Meiya performed her simple tasks beautifully, honoring her long connection with Sojun through many practice periods at Tassajara and Green Gulch, going back more than thirty-five years.
     After initial offerings, chanting the Ten Names of Buddha, the Sandokai, and Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, heartfelt words to and about Sojun Roshi were offered by Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke, Rev. Denkei Raul Moncayo, Ross Blum, Rev. Mary Mocine, Rev. Ryushin Andrea Thach, Rev. Gerry Oliva, Karen Sundheim, and Ron Nestor. (We are presently collecting and transcribing the BZC and Green Gulch statements to share with Sojun’s students.) As we stepped out of the zendo that evening, there was a lingering golden light and stillness in the air, a feeling that matched the depth and intimacy of our love for Sojun.

                                                     * * *

The next day, Green Gulch Farm hosted Sojun Roshi’s long-delayed funeral. One hundred twenty of us gathered in person, observing careful masking and vaccination protocols in the Green Dragon zendo. Another hundred fifty guests watched online. At 2:45 the great bonsho’s deep tones called us together, and in a solemn procession disciples chanted the names of Buddha while circumambulating the temple, carrying Sojun’s ashes, portrait, robes, and his personal teaching implements. These things were carefully placed on the altar, along with offerings of incense, sweet water, green tea, and dharma words—hogo—composed by officiants Konjin Godwin Roshi of Houston Zen Center and Gengo Akiba Roshi, the Soto Zen bishop of North America.
     With stately drama, Tenshin Anderson Roshi—the chief officiant and dharma companion of Sojun Roshi for nearly sixty years, including their co-abbacy of San Francisco Zen center in the late 80s and 90s—drew a torch in a great circle of fire, which as principal disciple, I mirrored with a second flaming torch, symbolizing the burning up of Sojun’s residual karma and his fearless entry into the boundless realm of death beyond the particularity of life. This was followed by Tenshin Roshi’s moving tribute to Sojun’s teaching.
     As in the previous evening at BZC, a small number of family, friends, and disciples were invited to share the heart of Sojun Roshi’s dharma as each experienced him after many years of practice together. There were brief presentations by Liz Horowitz, Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi, Susan Marvin, Doug Greiner, Rev. Paul Haller, Rev. Shosan Vicki Austin.
     Each person’s words were unique and personal, each conveyed Sojun’s joy and complete confidence in our Zen way that, day by day, year by year, he transmitted to us.
     The ceremony was completed with sutra chanting, dedication of merit, and bows of appreciation to the three officiants. Both Saturday and Sunday ceremonies concluded with an opportunity for all those present to offer incense and pay their respects to Sojun Roshi. While they came forward, a lovely recorded passage from Bach, with Sojun Roshi playing recorder and Nick Bertani on cello, filled the air.

                                                     * * *

So many hands from our “beloved community” went into these once-in-a-lifetime ceremonies. Bows of gratitude to Liz Horowitz; to our officiants Rev. Tenshin Reb Anderson, Rev. Gengo Akiba, Rev. Konjin Gaelyn Godwin, Rev. Furyu Schroeder, and Rev. Meiya Wender; to Rev. Ejo McMullen, Rev. Ryoko Miyazaki, Rev. Taiga Ito, and Rev. Dokan Kojima from the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center; to Jiryu Rutschman-Byler and the Green Gulch/Green Dragon Temple staff; and to Mary Duryee, Marie Hopper, Gerry Oliva, and the tireless Berkeley Zen Center sangha.         

For Hakuryu Sojun’s Funeral 

Generous Dana Gifts

During this last season, BZC received two extremely generous anonymous donations of $25,000 each. We are astonished and delighted; we offer deep bows to these unknown bene­factors. These gifts give us an ample “prudent reserve” which can support upcoming projects (now in the planning stages) to enhance our ventilation and sanitation. Thank you!

Dharma Transmissions

In early July, Abbot Hozan will offer Dharma Transmission to Juen Friederike Boissevain and Nanzan Harald Schoecklmann in week-long ceremonies here at BZC. Juen and Nanzan are the teachers at our BZC affiliate Wind und Wolken Sangha (Wind and Clouds) in Bornstein, northern Germany. As medical doctors, they are also founders of Hospiz im Wohld, a hospice service and facility in Gettorf, Germany. In the next issue of this newsletter we will share some of their comments on the wonderful occasion of their transmission.

Recent BZC Library Acquisitions

Painting Enlightenment: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra, Paula Kane Robinson Arai; The Path to Bodhidharma, Shodo Harada Roshi; Trust, Realization, and the Self in Soto Zen Practice, Daijaku Kinst; Two Buddhas Seated Side by Side: A Guide to the Lotus Sutra, Donald S. Lopez and Jacqueline I. Stone; The Buddha in Jail, Cuong Lu; The Shamanic Bones of Zen, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel; Kobun’s Teaching on Platform Sutra, Kobun Chino Otogawa; The Stories of the Lotus Sutra, Gene Reeves; American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War, Duncan Ryuken Williams.