Category Archives: Old News

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.         
                                                                                                                                   
—Hozan

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.

Nominations for the BZC Board

Are you interested in serving on the BZC Board or do you know someone who you would like to nominate? If so, please contact the Board Recruitment and Elections Com­mittee: Ed Herzog (edherzog48@gmail.com) or Ellen Webb (elweb@sbcglobal.net). Please include any relevant information about why you or your nominee would make a good BZC Board member.
Every year the Berkeley Zen Center sangha selects up to three at-large members to two-year terms on the BZC Board. This year we have three vacancies. Board members may serve a maximum of two consecutive, two-year terms.  Elections take place in October and the new term starts in January 2023. The Board will present its three nominees at the All-Sangha Potluck on Sunday evening, Sep­tem­ber 18. Nominations can also be made by sangha members at the All-Sangha Potluck.
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.

Class: Parables of the Lotus Sutra – begins May 12

Abbot Hozan Alan Senauke will be teaching this year’s Practice Period Class on the Parables the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra is one of the most important Mahayana Sutras. Its influence runs throughout Soto Zen’s founder Dogen’s teachings. The parables reveal the inherent possibility of awakening in each of us.

The class will be held on Thursdays evenings May 12, 19, 26 and June 2 from 7:15 til 8:45 pm. This class will be held on zoom, and subsequently will be available on the website under “lectures.”
PDFs of excerpts will be available to class participants. Sign up for the class as part of the practice period sign up. If you are not participating in the practice period but will be attending the class, please notify the Class Coordinator, Ryushin Andrea Thach at andrea.thach@gmail.com.

If you’d like a hardcopy of the materials for the class, please let the Abbot assistant, Jonathon Koltz know. He can be contacted at jonkoltz@gmail.com. For a digital copy of the materials for the class, click here.

Suggested donation is $40 or whatever you can afford. This can be paid by using the “generosity” tab on the BZC website. Use the middle choice of “classes and sesshins” and please note that your payment is for the practice period class on Paypal or send the office manager a note at bzcofficemanager@gmail.com or pay by check by mail.
If you have questions, contact the Class coordinator.

Sangha Work Day June 5

On June 5th, we will be having a Sangha Work Day. The day will open with coffee and pastries at 8:00 a.m., then zazen from 8:15 to 8:40, work circle at 8:45, with work starting at 9:00. Lunch will be provided by our tenzos from noon until work circle at 12:45 p.m., and we’ll wind up with informal zazen 3:15‒3:30.

If you would like to join us, please contact me, Greg Denny, either by email (gr…@techsperience.org) or phone (510.402.8282). Please also let me know which of the following categories of work you are able to participate in:

– cleaning

– gardening

– painting

– simple carpentry or building-related tasks, possibly using tools like drills or saws

Some work may get you dirty. Dress appropriately.

Finally, we will be adhering to the following covid protocols:

– vaccination and one booster required. If you have not already done so, please email your vax info to BZC’s office manager Helen Cheng.

– all must wear a KN94, KN95, or N95 mask while indoors. We are also recommending that people wear it outdoors as much as possible.

Any questions, let me know…..    Greg

Five-Day Sesshin June 8-12

Abbot Hozan will lead our five-day sesshin on Wednesday through Sunday, June 8‒12. Please review the following details and sign up through this link.

  1. The Sesshin will be held from Wednesday, June 8 through Sunday, June 12. The hours are 7:50 AM. to 5:30 PM. Sunday, will include the Shuso Ceremony which begins at 3:30 PM.
  2. Sesshin will be both online and in-person. In-person attendance will be limited to 30 people (with proof of vaccination and booster shots), and participants will be required to attend a minimum of 3 days, which includes 2 consecutive days.  Slots will be given on a first-come-first-served basis, first to practice period participants and then non-practice period folks. So please sign up as soon as possible, although the formal deadline is June 4.
  3. For in-person sesshin attendees, lunch will be served buffet style outside in the courtyard. For work period, please bring suitable clothes to change into.
  4. Abbott Hozan Senauke and Senior Practice Leaders will offer Dokusan for both in-person participants and online participants.

When paying for sesshin, please indicate on your check or in the PayPal note field that your donation is for the “June five-day sesshin.” The sesshin fee is $15 a day. Mail a check to BZC Office Manager, 1931 Russell St., Berkeley, CA 94703, or pay through the website using the “Sits/Classes” tab on the “Donate” page. Please consider a donation to Berkeley Zen Center above the suggested fee to help us maintain our practice.

If you have questions, please contact the Sesshin Director, Rob Lyons at <RobertLyons2305@gmail.com>.