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Statement from San Francisco Zen Center’s Spiritual Leadership

 

 

The spiritual leadership of San Francisco Zen Center stands with the families and communities of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black lives lost to the systemic racist violence endemic to American society.

The painful and pervasive reality of racism will not allow us to turn away. We take a stand against all expressions of racism, beginning with the racial, cultural, and class disparities in our state and country that are being highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bodhisattva vows we hold in our hearts tell us to save all sentient beings from suffering. To this end, we encourage each member and friend of the wider San Francisco Zen Center community to cultivate the Bodhisattva spirit in inquiring deeply, “What am I going to do from here on to be actively anti-racist?” We urge our community not to be silent.

In the coming days, we will be sharing more about how to practice with this deeply complex and important question, as well as what SFZC is doing as a sangha and an organization.

May we all have the courage, strength, and support to examine our own hearts and minds. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Current Updates and Information on COVID-19

Monday, June 1, 12:00 pm

Statement from San Francisco Zen Center’s Spiritual Leadership

The spiritual leadership of San Francisco Zen Center stands with the families and communities of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black lives lost to the systemic racist violence endemic to American society.

The painful and pervasive reality of racism will not allow us to turn away. We take a stand against all expressions of racism, beginning with the racial, cultural, and class disparities in our state and country that are being highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bodhisattva vows we hold in our hearts tell us to save all sentient beings from suffering. To this end, we encourage each member and friend of the wider San Francisco Zen Center community to cultivate the Bodhisattva spirit in inquiring deeply, “What am I going to do from here on to be actively anti-racist?” We urge our community not to be silent.

In the coming days, we will be sharing more about how to practice with this deeply complex and important question, as well as what SFZC is doing as a sangha and an organization.

May we all have the courage, strength, and support to examine our own hearts and minds. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.


Wednesday, May 20, 4:00 pm

Shadows and Pandemic Practice

An essay by Brenda Proudfoot.

A City Center resident finds ballast and dharmic lessons when she takes up the practice of photographing shadows on her daily walks during the pandemic.

The day we learned we would no longer practice zazen together in the zendo but instead would each practice in our individual rooms using Zoom, the tears came. My heart broke a little that day. Practicing zazen in the beautiful zendo here was central to my decision to come to San Francisco Zen Center.

Continue to read >>


Tuesday, May 12, 12:00 pm

Perspectives from Tassajara

The monks at Tassajara have written a letter to the boundless sangha: friends, supporters, guests, former residents, fellow practitioners, all sentient beings. The letter will be published in four parts over the next several days. It is inspired by the prompt “What I Want You to Know” which was given to the sangha by Ryushin Paul Haller, who led the Winter Practice Period and is remaining at Tassajara while the community shelters in place.

Continue to Read Part I, Part II , Part III, Part IV, Coda>>

 


Monday, May 11, 12:00 pm

A Livestream Call with Abbot Ed

Have you donated to our Emergency Fund or are thinking about it but have questions about SFZC’s financial picture?

Many people have asked for more information on how finances work at SFZC and how their donations will help. Central Abott Ed Sattizahn will address SFZC financial questions on a live video call on Monday May 18, 7 – 7:30 pm PT.


Thursday, May 7, 4:00 pm

A Lattice Onto Which I Could Grow: An Interview with Former GGF Apprentice Jack Thomas

Last week, former Green Gulch Farm apprentice Jack Thomas stopped by City Center to pick up potato chits and lettuce and collard starts gifted by Green Gulch Farm to San Francisco’s Alemany Farm. The hand-off was distinctive to the current circumstances: not entering the building, wearing masks and gloves, and maintaining six feet of distance. Nevertheless, the starts made it to Alemany Farm where they were planted this week and where they will be harvested and delivered free of charge to low-income residents of San Francisco.

Continue to read >>

 


Wednesday, May 6, 4:00 pm

The Green Gulch 2020 Farm Season Has Begun

A report on how the farm and GGF community are doing as they navigate the restrictions of sheltering in place and get the first big planting in.

Continue reading >>

 


Friday, May 1, 2:00 pm

“How Can I Be of Service?”

In the midst of this global pandemic, many of us are asking ourselves, “How can I be of service?” Jeffrey Schneider, Coordinator of the Zen Center Outreach Program talks to us about how he is turning that question.

For the past ten years, City Center resident and priest Jeffrey Schneider has served as coordinator for the Zen Center Outreach Program. Today, in the midst of this global pandemic, Jeffrey is asking with a beginner’s mind, “How can I be of service?”

Continue reading >>


Thursday, April 30, 9:00 am

Join in Chanting for the Well-Being and Healing of All Those Affected by the Pandemic

For decades, the San Francisco Zen Center has performed a weekly Well-Being Ceremony, chanting for the health and safety of loved ones suffering from physical and psychological distress. This past Saturday, the ceremony moved online to Zoom and included a prayer for the well-being of those affected by the current pandemic.

A Well-Being Ceremony will now be taking place every Saturday at 7:00 am, immediately following the 6:30 am period of zazen of the Online Zendo. All are invited to send the names of loved ones in need of support for inclusion in the ceremony to the Ino, head of the meditation hall, at ccino@sfzc.org. You are welcome to participate in this short yet powerful ceremony.

 


Daily Life at City Center During the Covid-19 Pandemic

An essay by By Dawu Camille Whitney, Zen student at City Center.

Numerous members of San Francisco Zen Center’s wider sangha have written with well-wishes and to inquire what daily life is like in the midst of this pandemic. Here’s my story of what it’s been like to live at SFZC’s City Center during this time.

 


Monday, April 27, 4:00 pm

Every Day is a Good Day: Zen and the Art of Sheltering in Place

I didn’t set out to be a Zen monk. It was an accident, really. I happened to arrive to do a
little volunteer work at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, on September 10, 2001. When the Twin Towers fell during the first period of meditation on my first morning there, all I could think was, “okay, you’ve got my attention.” My immediate instinct was to start packing. I told one of the teachers I was getting ready to drive back down along the perilous 15-mile dirt road that connects that mountain valley to the rest of the California coastline, jump on a plane, and head straight to New York, the city of my birth.


Thursday, April 16, 1:30 pm


Image of Abbot David bathing the baby Buddha, captured on Zoom by Diego Miglioli

Abbot David Zimmerman on Buddha’s Birthday

On Saturday, April 13, our online community celebrated an abbreviated Buddha’s Birthday ceremony after morning zazen. Here are some additional thoughts from Abbot David on the meaning and purpose of Buddha’s Birthday in these times.

The purpose of Zen practice is to give birth to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to bring into the world loving, wise and compassionate ones who see the nature of reality and suffering and are deeply committed to supporting all beings to know themselves and be free.

This is what we are celebrating when we celebrate Buddha’s birthday. We are celebrating the miraculous birth of our own life and potential, the birth of our own awakened heart-mind, and the transformative capacity to express this radiant Buddha mind in all of our personal and collective endeavors.

During this time of pandemic, it has become all the more apparent that the world needs each of us to inquire deeply into the great matter of birth and death and liberation. Doing so will empower and inspire us to bring forth a profound healing for the benefit of Mother Earth and all beings.

Bowing in gratitude and joy for each of you, baby buddhas.
Abbot Tenzen David Zimmerman


Thursday, April 2, 2:00 pm

At Home Zendo Supplies

The City Center bookstore is taking phone and email orders for incense, zafus/zabutons, books, and other home practice items.

City Center Bookstore
415.354.0397
bookstore@sfzc.org

Friday, March 30, 2:00 pm

Update on Online Zendo

In order to meet demand, we’ve updated our Online Zendo on Zoom. Effective March 30, please be sure to use the new link and remember to change your bookmark, if using one.

To see the schedule, please visit our Online Zendo page.


Friday, March 27, 4:00 pm

Spiritual Leadership Temple Updates

“While the temple doors may be closed, the Dharma always remains open.”


Furyu Schroeder, Abiding Abbess, Green Dragon Temple


Dear Sangha,

We are doing all we can to keep ourselves and our resident community safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. Our thoughts are with all of you as well and we hope you have found safe shelter with loved ones and good sources of inspiration.

For many of you, Green Gulch Farm’s Sunday program, sittings and practice periods have been meaningful and spiritually sustaining. We are very sorry to be unable to provide access to the temple at this time.

Green Gulch is trying its best to increase our bandwidth so that we may be able to schedule virtual sittings together, as the City Center has done … and which you are all welcome to join as well. We are hoping to have the capacity to provide on-line classes and Dharma talks in the near future.

Our Board of Directors met recently to discuss how we can best provide support to those of you living outside of the residential community. Please know that our diligent and incredibly skillful staff are working hard to keep you connected with us.

Please feel free to join SF Zen Center’s Online Programs, especially morning zazen and Dharma talks, as we continue to develop a variety of programs both for our residential students and for all of you who are near to our hearts … now and always.

Stay well and be safe.

Warm bow to you all,
Furyu Schroeder
Abiding Abbess Green Dragon Temple


Leslie James, Abiding Teacher, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center


Dear Zen Center Sangha,

While I am thinking of you all at home, I want to let you know how things are here at Tassajara.

We ended the Winter practice period early because several people felt that they needed to leave to be with their loved ones and because those left at Tassajara needed to focus on this new world, including how to get food and supplies safely into the valley, and how to live with each other while maintaining six feet of social distancing. We will still be doing the shuso ceremony on April 3rd, the original date, with whoever is here at that time.

Currently, there are still about 40 people in residence, including Senior Dharma Teacher Paul Haller, who was leading the practice period and who has been able to stay supporting the practice and people here so far.

We had to cancel the April Work Period, a loss to so many people of their time at Tassajara. And such a loss to us. But we will do our best to care for Tassajara until we can have another work period.

It is too soon to tell when, whether and how we will be able to proceed with the Summer Guest Season. Please know that we are looking forward to seeing you as soon as it is safe and feasible to do so.

I am hopeful that this time of overturned priorities will help all of us to see what is really important to us. That this time of fear and anxiety will help us to remember how believing our imagination of the worst case is not helpful to our state of mind. That this time of being able to do so little to help, or even do so little at all, will encourage us to do the little that we can with whole-heartedness. That this time of slowing down will lead to a life more like Tassajara’s for everyone.

May you have patience and strength and peace.

Leslie James
Abiding Teacher,
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center


Tenzen David Zimmerman, Abiding Abbot, City Center


Dear Beloved Sangha,

A particular analogy for these remarkable times has been on my mind recently: that of our respective communities and households having had to hurriedly jump into life rafts and push off from the familiar land of our daily routines and comforts to become refugees on the wide-open and unfamiliar waters of COVID-19. We have had little time to properly pack or prepare, and despite predictions by certain experts, we really don’t know when we’ll return to shore again. Sadly, some of us may not survive the journey.

While the waves of the pandemic already seem large and unsettling, it’s very probable that they’ll only increase in size and intensity in the weeks ahead. It’s only natural to be experiencing heightened levels of distress, fear and compassionate concern for ourselves and each other during this time of great upheaval. The occasion also calls forth from us innate capacities for courage, diligence and patience. One of the few things that I find heartening is recognizing that we’re all making this ocean journey together.

Those of us on the “raft” of Beginner’s Mind Temple (City Center) have been very engaged doing what we can to ensure the collective well-being of the residential community. While setting up safety protocols has been our priority, we’re also exploring ways to creatively maintain some of our traditional practices and communal supports wherever doing so feels supportive and encouraging. In a time of necessary physical distancing, the Zen form of greeting each other with a gassho bow has become an even more poignant way to honor our fundamental intimacy.

Collectively gathering for practice in the Online Zendo is another. While the temple doors may be closed, the Dharma always remains open. Many have expressed to me what a great joy, blessing and relief it is to be able to join both temple residents and the wider sangha for zazen (“Zoom-Zen”) and other Dharma activities.

We’ve also been able to continue the March month-long Zen & Work Intensive led by Marc Lesser and Susan O’Connell through our online portals, including conducting a 3-day online sesshin for the first time in SFZC history. I personally find it powerful and moving to feel the presence and practice of people from all over the world in these virtual ways as we together examine deeply the “great matter of birth and death” brought to the forefront of our minds by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Despite the need to significantly reduce traffic between our urban campus buildings, temple residents continue to meet regularly via Zoom for work circles, practice discussions, business meetings, small group check-ins, buddy connections, priest gatherings, and other beneficial forums. A majority of the practice affinity groups hosted by City Center also continue meeting virtually, including Meditation in Recovery, Young Urban Zen, and Zen en Espanol. (See the calendar for more information and Zoom links.) In many ways our collective practice seems stronger than ever despite the physical disconnection created by sheltering in place.

We are all of course greatly saddened not to be able to be together for in-person practice. Please know that you are all in our minds and hearts as we each do our best to navigate these remarkable circumstances. I feel great appreciation to be part of a spiritual tradition that emphasizes taking refuge in the three treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. May we continue to do our best to support and encourage each other in the spirit of bodhisattva solidarity as we all make our particular passage to the other shore.

Together with you in love, compassion and peace,

Tenzen David Zimmerman
Abiding Abbot, City Center


Friday, March 20, 1:00 pm

227 people from all over the world participated in Norman Fischer’s Live Zoom call on March 18. Here is the link to the video archive should you want to view or revisit it.

Spring Equinox Message from Abbot Tenzen David Zimmerman

While our minds and spirits grapple with concerns for our individual and collective well being during this time of COVID-19, the blossoms and other signs of Spring are also appearing and reminding us of the ongoing beauty of our world.

The world system that we live in and are profoundly connected with is still much larger than our current personal concerns and social preoccupations. And certainly much larger than any virus. It’s important to take time amidst our challenges to acknowledge what is good and beautiful in the world and our lives, including the profound cycles of Nature that continually unfold around us and within us.

At Beginner’s Mind Temple, we had originally planned to hold a Spring Equinox Ceremony this morning in our beautiful courtyard. Although it’s no longer possible due to the need for physical distancing, we can still take this opportunity to mark the occasion.

As you most likely know, the Spring Vernal Equinox is one of two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator, and day and night are of equal length in most parts of the world. (The word equinox comes from the Latin for ‘equal night.’) For those who are sheltering in place and in the Northern Hemisphere, the increased sunlight might make us feel disappointed and resentful about some of the limitations being placed on going out into the world. We might fall into a mindset that these are dark times.

One of the requests that practice asks of us now is to make the effort to balance the darkness with light. I would propose that this balance is fundamentally one that occurs in the mind. The more we practice zazen and mindfulness, the more we are able to recognize and live from the place of equanimity, quiescence and light within.

When we do so, we in time realize that our fundamental nature — that of luminous boundless awareness — is ever-present, and doesn’t come or go and diminish or fluctuate despite what might be happening in the so-called external world. Light and darkness are manifestations of the same Buddha Mind. Every moment of zazen and practice is itself a celebration of our own timeless, limitless Buddha Nature.

Spring is also a time of revival, which reminds us of our own natural resiliency. Despite whatever difficulties we humans may be facing, we can witness and celebrate our natural proclivity as a species toward regeneration and rejuvenation, just like the rest of nature. Just like the plants, animals and insects. Everything is unfolding in its own time, in beauty and fundamental perfection, regardless of our capacity to see and understand how this is so.

Here is a seasonal poem by the Japanese poet and Zen monk Ryokan:

In the scenery of spring,
nothing is better, nothing worse;
The flowering branches are
of themselves, some short, some long.

I invite you to find something about this moment and this season to hold in your awareness and celebrate through appreciation and gratitude. In addition, you might wish to read or write a poem, sing a song, or paint something in celebration of the arrival of Spring. Doing so are intentional ways we can bring more light into the world, and into our lives.


Wednesday, March 18, 10:00 am

New Online Offerings for Home Practice

In light of the current health crisis regarding COVID-19 and to take care of our residential and wider sangha, San Francisco Zen Center has closed Green Gulch Farm and City Center until further notice. At Tassajara, students remain cloistered and engaged in the practice period.

The April Work Period at Tassajara is canceled. We will continue to monitor the situation in regard to the Summer Guest Season. To find the latest information, continue to check this blog.

In the midst of this difficult and challenging time, we remain more than ever deeply committed to offering the Dharma. We have shifted many of our dharma offerings to an online format to support your home practice. Please be sure to check our Online Programs page as we will continue to add more dharma offerings there.

On Wednesday, March 18, Zoketsu Norman Fischer will be giving the Dharma talk and Q&A via a special Zoom link.

The Online Zendo has been extended to include expanded morning periods, as well as an evening period Monday through Friday, and two Saturday morning periods. See schedule below.

Beginning Thursday, March 19, Abbot David Zimmerman will be offering a twice-weekly Online Sangha Practice Session. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30-6:30pm. It will include 25 minutes of zazen, a brief dharma reflection or encouragement from the Abbot, and a half-hour group practice of sharing and discussion.

We will continue to livestream our Wednesday and Saturday Dharma talks and archive them for viewing later. There is also a vast archive of audio and video talks available.

If you already have practice discussion on a regular basis with a practice leader at SFZC, consider requesting a practice discussion via Zoom or Skype. Contact Tim Sandoe ccabbotassist@sfzc.org for more information on how to arrange a meeting.

Online Zendo Schedule

The Zoom link to the Online Zendo is:
https://zoom.us/j/437703267

Monday-Friday
5:50-6:20 am Zazen (30 min)
6:20-6:30 am Kinhin (10 walking meditation)
6:30-7:00 am Zazen (30 min)

Saturday
6:30-7:10 am Zazen (40 min)
8:40-9:40 am Online Zazen instruction with Q&A (60 min)
The Zoom link for Zazen Instruction is
https://zoom.us/j/492979624
9:25-10:00 am Zazen (35 min)

Late Afternoons & Evenings

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
5:30-6:10 pm Zazen (40 min)

Thursday Evening
7:30-8:00 pm Zazen (30 min)

Tuesdays & Thursdays
5:30-6:30 pm Online Sangha Practice Session
(use the Online Zendo link)

Dharma Talks

Access via livestream
Wednesdays: 7:45-8:30 pm (exception: 3/17 via Zoom)
Saturdays: 10:15-11:00 am (followed by Q&A)

Here is the direct link to the Online Programs webpage with important information about participating in our Online Zendo and other offerings.

Please consider making a donation, which sustains our three practice centers and our expanding online community. We are grateful for your support during these challenging times.


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Current Updates and Information on COVID-19

Monday, March 16, 3:30 pm

During this time of rapid change and uncertainty, we are committed to the health and safety of our communities, including our residential and wider sangha. We are also committed to continuing, to the best of our ability, to offer the Dharma and practices to encourage, inspire, and support us to meet this moment with wisdom and equanimity.

Green Gulch Farm and City Center are closed until further notice.

We are moving as much of our offerings to an online format as possible and will be adding several new opportunities to connect and practice together soon. Please visit our Online Programs page for the latest information

Tassajara is currently cloistered in Practice Period. The April Work Period has been canceled and we will continue to update this blog with any news about Guest Season.

 


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Friday, March 13, 3:00 pm

Green Gulch Farm

Green Gulch Farm will be closed to visitors and guests until April 7.

All conferences, programs, and public events will be suspended during this time. This includes classes, one day sittings, sesshin, etc. as well as the Sunday program.

We are looking into the possibility of livestreaming some of our offerings and will share information as that develops.

City Center

All public programs continue to be suspended until March 20.

The March 14 Dharma talk will be livestreamed.

The Fearless Purpose workshop has been moved to online participation only. There’s still room to join.

Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

Statement from Tassajara regarding COVID-19

As we navigate this quickly changing situation, the health and safety of our guests and residents remains our primary concern. Tassajara will be following the recommendations of the Monterey County Health Department when making decisions regarding COVID-19 and we may have to go above and beyond those recommendations given the unique situation that Tassajara presents.

Currently, work period and guest season will open as scheduled. Please be sure to check this blog regularly for updates.

Things you can do:

  • Revisit Abbot David Zimmerman’s Practice Suggestions (below) for ways to practice mindful attention and encourage compassion.
  • Check out our vast archive of audio and video Dharma talks.
  • Join the City Center talks online via livestream on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.
  • Join the Online Zendo M-F 6:30 am. (We hope to expand the Online Zendo to include PM hours, too. Stay tuned!)

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Friday, March 13, 11:00 am

Fearless Purpose: The Path to Actualizing Meaningful Work, March 14 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm is now being offered as a live-streamed, online option only. There are still spots available to join in.

 


Wednesday, March 11, 8:30 am

At this time, we are still adhering to the SF Department of Health’s request to limit all large gatherings through March 20. If this changes, we will update this post immediately. Please check back here before planning to attend any event at City Center or Green Gulch Farm. This post should be your go-to as it will always have the most up-to-date information first, sometimes before the website.

Here is the current breakdown of what is happening at City Center and Green Gulch Farm.

City Center

All public programs are canceled until March 20, with one exception (see below.)

  • No public zazen (Please join the online zendo M-F 6:30am)
  • No public attendance for the dharma talks on Wednesdays and Saturdays
    (The talks will continue — please join on livestream)
  • No affinity group meetings (Meditation in Recovery, Young Urban Zen, Queer Dharma, etc.)

EXCEPTION

Fearless Purpose: The Path to Actualizing Meaningful Work, March 14

This workshop will be held in the conference center at 308 Page Street and will also be available online

Green Gulch Farm

The Sunday Public Program (zazen, Dharma talk, etc) is closed to the public until March 20.

All other classes, workshops, and retreats are still being held.

 


Update from SFZC Leadership Regarding COVID-19

Saturday, March 7, 9:30 am

Following the recommendations of the San Francisco Department of Public Health Green Gulch Farm will be suspending public events on Sundays until March 20. Conferences, classes, and programs will still be offered at this time. Please check our website for updates and information.

 


Update from SFZC Leadership Regarding COVID-19

Friday, March 6,

11 pm

Following the recommendations of the San Francisco Department of Public Health all public events at City Center will be suspended until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We are taking these precautions in the interest of public safety and the health of our community.

Note: The events and public program at Green Gulch Farm are not affected at this time.

 


Statement from Abbots and Leadership Regarding COVID-19

Friday afternoon, March 6

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

All of us at San Francisco Zen Center are holding you in our hearts as together we prepare to meet the current public health challenge facing the world, COVID-19.

In times of increased stress and anxiety, the Buddha’s teachings on the importance of calming body and mind and practicing mindful attention to every aspect of our daily lives are ever more precious. We wish that you and your loved ones remain in good health.

The following outlines the immediate precautions that we are taking to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19:

  • We have been following the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as other precautions particular to our community life. This includes but is not limited to sanitizing the kitchen completely every day, along with the restrooms and showers. Additionally, sanitizer has been made available at entrances, and everyone is requested to wash their hands upon arrival and before eating.
  • We are in communication with the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health. They are coming to City Center in person to share their advice about taking necessary precautions.
  • An internal Health and Safety Task Force representing the three temples has been meeting regularly and is planning our ongoing response in coordination with the SF Dept. of Public Health and the CDC’s recommendations.

Additionally, there are many traditional Buddhist practices that support us to care for our mind and body, such as greeting each other with a gassho bow, which gracefully avoids the less sanitary handshake or hug. (See below for some additional suggestions that you may find helpful.)

In times like this, our practice intentions include efforts to be well-informed, avoid harmful reactivity, engage in beneficial action, and support each other with love, patience, and diligent effort. Thank you for taking good care of each other.

With a gassho and wishes for your well-being,

SFZC Abbots and Leadership

 


Practice Suggestions

While washing hands, consider chanting the En Mei Jukku Kannon Gyo (Life-Extending Ten-Line Kannon Sutra) or Sho Sai Myo Kichi Jo Dharani (Dharani for Removing Hindrance) once or twice through (instead of “Happy Birthday”).

Recite gathas during other routine activities throughout the day. The following are some traditional gathas from the Flower Ornament Sutra which can be posted in your residential or communal bathrooms and food serving areas.

When washing the hands with water

may we with all beings

have pure clean hands

to receive and hold Buddha’s teaching.

When washing the face with water,

may we with all beings

attain the pure teaching

and be forever free from defilement.

When going to sleep at night

may all beings

attain physical ease

and undisturbed minds

Thich Nhat Hanh also offers many beautiful gathas for reciting during daily activities.

Engage in a Metta Practice, extending well-wishes to all beings.

If you’re unable to join us in person for zazen or dharma offerings, consider joining us online for meditation and other programs.

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What Is Love?

By Bapu Vaitla

 

‘Love is to see the self in all the world.’

 

Twenty-two years ago, on an early autumn day at Green Gulch Farm, Norman Fischer gave a talk about pain. “All suffering,” he said, “is a reflection of mind.” It was a sunny morning, the air filled with the hum of dragonflies and the smell of fresh bread, and Norman’s words were easy to believe. Surely pain could not originate from a world this lovely; surely our own heads were to blame.

But I challenged Norman. I’d arrived at Green Gulch for the farm apprenticeship a few months earlier, soon after returning from India, my first trip to my birthplace since I was a child. The reunion with family was sweet, but the scenes of poverty stunned me—flimsy straw houses exposed to monsoons and mosquitoes; desperately ill people sleeping on sidewalks, clothed in rags; the hunger. Most of all, the hunger. Families living on two meals a day of watery rice and lentils. Children far too short and light for their age, continually ravaged by gastrointestinal infections. Zen teaches of a perfect universe, sullied only by the delusions of mind, but I didn’t see how the physical pain of children fit into the grand design.

So I asked Norman: “All suffering? What about hunger? What about disease?” I remember him looking at me for a few moments, then closing his eyes and sighing. It seemed—or maybe I imagined—that a little bit of grief passed across his face, perhaps sparked by a memory. He looked at me again and said, quietly but firmly, “Yes. Even hunger, even disease.” He waited for my reply, but I was confused and had nothing to say. I trusted Norman’s wisdom deeply; he’d shown his caring and insightful heart many times before. He’d considered my question and given the truest answer he could muster—but I didn’t understand it.

I’ve thought about that exchange many times over the years. I’m still not sure I fully understand what he meant, but two notions keep floating to the surface. The first is the core Zen teaching that all suffering literally does arise in the brain. Hunger is a bodily sensation that comes from nutritional deficit, but the feeling of hunger—and thus the suffering attached to it—is the mind’s interpretation of that sensation. The same is true for all other kinds of physical pain.

The second idea took longer for me to grasp. The physical suffering of children is preventable. It persists only because adults are so mired in their own mental suffering—their desires for wealth, power, sex, and everything else—that they fail to notice. They fail to love. Norman was right. Even the raw bodily pain of a child’s hunger originates in someone’s mind, and that someone is us, the voters, the consumers, the neighbors.

 

‘Love is being met with a dustpan when you’re holding a broom.’

 

I recently completed the winter ango at Tassajara, my first practice period since leaving Green Gulch over two decades ago. I’ve spent much of the intervening time in academia studying how good social change happens—specifically, researching the political and cultural forces that improve children’s lives. In India, Ethiopia, Brazil, and other countries, I’ve felt again the shock of seeing poverty manifest, especially among children.

But I’ve also seen remarkable things: vaccination and prenatal care programs that save millions of lives, staffed by tireless health workers receiving almost no pay; political movements led by women that push child well-being to the top of the policy agenda; villages taking care of families whose lives have been ravaged by natural disaster.

These stories differ in the details of who’s involved, the solutions employed, the obstacles overcome. In nearly every situation, though, trusting relationships are at the heart of good change. I’ve watched cash-strapped communities overcome forbiddingly complex problems by simply thinking together, working together, trying together, day after day. Conversely, I’ve seen well-funded, technically sophisticated projects fail because small cracks of misunderstanding—poor communication here, a difference in values there—grew into massive fractures, with no trust to fall back on.

A better world comes from committed cooperation, and cooperation is sustained by trust. But how do we build that trust, especially in an age of deep divisions of identity and ideology?

Many human spiritual traditions converge on a simple answer: we tell stories of love. We acknowledge Norman’s answer. We notice how our mental narratives cause pain to ourselves and others. We try to understand the conditions under which love emerges—the kind of love that opens our eyes to the suffering of children—and then we tell stories of how human beings created love in the past and how we can build it in the future.

I went to Tassajara to ask my fellow monks about their stories of love, and to sit with my own experience of love. As part of this journey, a small group of us asked each member of the sangha for their personal definition of love. Some of the forty answers we received are interspersed throughout this essay (and you can read all of the answers here.)

 

‘Love is the canyon wren; love is a heartfelt apology; love is a shared umbrella in the rain.’

 

What is love in the time of coronavirus?

The ancient image of Indra’s net—each of us a jeweled node in a net, reflecting every other jewel—becomes less metaphorical as science gradually reveals the shape of reality. Cooperative networks are everywhere inside our bodies: trillions of cells working in exquisite harmony; a parliament of genes encoding a common structure; molecules dancing in catalytic cycles; and, at the heart of it all, mysterious attractive forces binding the fundamental particles of the universe together.

Networks extend outward from our bodies as well. We are deeply dependent on other living beings—partners, family, neighbors, microbes, plants, animals—as well as beings whose sentience we have yet to appreciate: the mountains, rivers, atmosphere. Our true body is vast. Love would seem to be the appropriate response to all this: love for a self that contains marvelous worlds, love for the web of interbeing.

Hard as it is to accept, Covid-19 is part of this web. Viruses are strange beings, occupying a liminal space between life and non-life. Like life forms, they metabolize energy and replicate; but unlike other life forms, they do so by hijacking the cellular machinery of other organisms. “Hijacking,” of course, is a word laden with human disdain. One could also say that viruses are masterpieces of genetic parsimony, a high-water mark of elegance among natural selection’s creations. However you label Covid-19, though, this at least is clear: it wants to exist as much as any being on the planet.

And the virus also teaches us about the darker side of interdependence. Covid-19 is a zoonotic disease, a pathogen originally resident in another animal species. Human activity triggered the major zoonotic epidemics of the recent past—HIV-AIDS, the Ebola virus, various strains of influenza. Ebola outbreaks, for example, are linked to deforestation. Many of the devastating flu epidemics of the 20th century originated in domestic livestock and poultry. We don’t yet know the history of Covid-19, but human disturbance of animal (probably bat) habitat likely enabled the virus to spill over into our bodies.

Break a jewel in Indra’s net, and our bodies reflect the shattering. The question now is: will our fear lead us to double down on the illusion of separateness—razing ecosystems with even greater urgency, closing borders to the brown and poor? Or will we rededicate ourselves to the recognition of interbeing, transforming our political and economic institutions accordingly?

The hard truth is that pandemics will keep coming, some with far greater ferocity than Covid-19. Evolution is one thing viruses and bacteria do better than anything else on Earth. We can limit the damage by building an equitable global public health system, designing safer, more humane livestock and agricultural systems, and protecting the natural world. This is what responding to Covid-19 with love would look like. But is that the story we’ll tell?

 

‘Love is accepting yourself in the dark.’

 

Love of other beings in Indra’s net is hard; self-love is even harder.

When I was eleven years old, my father, brother, and I moved from a working-class, multi-ethnic neighborhood of Chicago to an extremely rich, almost totally white school district in the San Fernando Valley of California. We lived in a small apartment tucked in the corner of a town filled with mansions; my dad slept on the living room floor for seven years to give my brother and I a room of our own. Meanwhile, other parents at my school celebrated their children’s birthdays by giving gifts of new BMWs, full-size trucks, and, in the case of at least four girls, plastic surgery.

On top of typical teenage insecurities, I felt desperately poor and ugly, unable to participate in the status displays, unwilling for fear of rejection to look for friends within the white culture. I did my share of excluding as well, participating in the homophobic and weight-shaming culture of the school, trying to divert the hurt I felt to others.

Self-love was long in coming, a story to be told elsewhere. But memories of my own struggles helped me think in later years about social change, cooperation, and trust. Love for others, and thus our ability to alleviate suffering in the world, is very difficult to sustain without genuine self-love. Fear is always waiting to rule us, to write our thoughts. When it does, relationships start to fall apart; we hurt ourselves and we hurt the people we need.

My own definition of love is born of a teenage memory. I played a lot of basketball growing up; it was a refuge from all the other parts of my life I didn’t like. During the summers, I’d play all day, and when night fell most of the other kids went home—the park where we played didn’t have lights near the court. But I usually stayed, shooting hoops by myself for hours in the dark. I stayed for many reasons: to work on my game; because I didn’t have much to go back to, with a father who was always either working or consumed by anger; because seeing a shot go in made me feel like I could control at least one thing in my life.

Those reasons are all true, but most of all I stayed because I felt like I belonged there. I felt like my body was doing what it should be doing. I was at home, and that’s the best way I can put the feeling of love into words—a child shooting jumpers in the dark, finding steadiness inside a world that always seemed to be shaking.

 

‘Love is showing up, over and over again, until it’s clear: it’s okay, I’m here, you’re safe, I’m with you.’

 

The asking is part of the answer, perhaps. I felt deeply loved during the winter ango at Tassajara, and I found it easy to give love.

Perhaps more than any other moment, the practice period opening ceremony embodied this feeling. That January morning was bitterly cold. Our procession stumbled from altar to altar, shivering. I remember watching my breath rise as Paul stepped forward to offer incense in the lower garden. My gaze lifted to the sky and I gasped in delight at the stars—it was a stunningly clear night, and the Milky Way was everywhere.

I thought: the cosmos is unimaginably vast, and somehow I ended up on a living planet, maybe the only one anywhere. I thought: of all the bodies across four billion years of evolution, somehow I find myself in a human body, capable of self-consciousness and wonder. And finally I thought: I am healthy, safe, and loved. I am loved.

 

‘Love is the state of rest.’

 

About the Author:

In 1998, Bapu Vaitla went to Green Gulch Farm as a farm apprentice. Twenty-two years later, he came back to San Francisco Zen Center to participate in the 104th practice period at Tassajara led by Ryushin Paul Haller. After the practice period, Bapu returned to his work in the Sacramento area where he is finishing a book on the evolution of cooperation, in both nature and human society, and where he is working to address the rising homelessness in Yolo County.

He is a visiting scientist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and a visiting lecturer at the University of California-Davis. His core interest is the relationship between human cooperation and child well-being: why people decide to work together (or not) for mutual benefit, and the effects of these decisions on public policy, cultural change, and ultimately the lives of children. He was born in India and grew up in California. He holds a BA in Nature and Culture and an MS in International Agricultural Development from UC Davis, and a PhD in International Relations/Political Economy from Tufts University.

Love Letter from Tassajara

Bapu Vaitla, one of the forty-seven participants in the 104th Tassajara Practice Period this winter, arrived with a big question: What is love? The community responded with their answers to that question, which are collected here. Some were also made into a hand-written, hand-bound notebook which illustrates this post.

Bapu wrote an essay on this theme, interspersed with the reflections he had received.

 

 

 

 

“One body, many arms.”

“Constant, persistent vow and attention.”

“To see this: nature, life, death. To see it all as one vista.”

“Definitions are not possible for something as vast as this.”

“The heart’s great muse, the body its vessel. In every single moment, through song, dance, prayer, the living of life, together they express beauty as an offering to her.”

“The knowing of our shared being.”

“Acceptance and respect for who one is.”

“Seeing the self in all the world.”

“The well from which compassion springs; God.”

“Showing up.”

“When the heart is soft, open, and undefended; who we are.”

“The infinite, recognizing itself and dancing with joy at being reunited.”

“Love is nothing special.  It’s always there ready to be realized as the complete interconnection of everything. It’s realized when self-concern and self-defense drop. And that’s why love always comes paired with vulnerability.”

“Accepting yourself in the dark.”

“Being met with a dustpan when you’re holding a broom.”

“Finding all five servers getting on the same side of the zendo, serving, to fill the gaps.”

“Agape: the love that consumes.”

“Not having to do anything extraordinary to feel understood and to be connected to the world.”

“Relaxation and ease in the midst of difficulties.” [And then he laughed deeply.]

“Seeing with the true, dharmic eye, not the karmic eye.”

“The canyon wren.  A heartfelt apology.  147 dokusans.”

“Love is me, Love is YOU.  Love is everything unseen between us too.”

“My liberation is inseparable from yours; Love is that non-separation in action.”

“Miraculous, all-embracing acceptance characterized by warmth and enhanced by wisdom.  Not blind to reality. Softening the edges of ‘the world according to me.’  With a tiny heartbeat that reverberates in all directions.”

“Taking the experiences of others seriously.”

“Showing up, over and over again, no matter what, until it’s clear: It’s ok, I’m here, you’re safe, I am with you.”

“Looking into another and seeing one’s own tenderness.”

“The state of rest.”

“A child shooting jumpers in the dark, finding stillness inside the shaking.”

“The singularity that gave birth to the universe.”

“Does the vast empty sky touch the ground?”

“Unknowable; something that comes through the universe and goes through us.”

“The person sitting next to me.”

“Having to say goodbye.”

“Keeping the question alive.”

“What’s not?!”

“Connection and good sense.”

“Giving yourself permission not to think too much.”

“Everything divided by nothing. ∞/ø”

“[BIG WARM LAUGH] [BIG WARM HUG]”

 

Giver, Receiver and Gift: Offerings from Green Gulch Farm

During these days of imposed restriction, it is easy and natural to lament the loss of the easy freedoms that, just a few months ago, we took as given: the ability to meet with friends, to go to a restaurant or bookstore, to pick up an item or two at the grocery store without having to wait in line to enter. And, perhaps most importantly, to walk down a street without a mask and not instinctively shy away from our neighbors. But in the midst of these very real losses, it is good to recall that there are others who face an even more challenging loss: the loss of food due to unemployment, illness, or poverty.

While there are many heroic organizations in the Bay Area committed to making sure that everyone is fed, we are all called, as individuals or as a community, to do our part.

Sara Tashker, the farm manager at Green Gulch Farm, reports on the efforts undertaken there:

Seven students arrived from Tassajara recently and many of them will be working on the farm this season, bringing our crew up to full size. We also have an active social justice group whose members are focusing on augmenting the farm’s labor to harvest and distribute extra produce.

I have been sowing and planting with an eye toward having a regular supply of extra food to donate to those who need it. For many years now we have been working with the SF-Marin Food Bank. The great thing about the Food Bank is that they do pick-ups, so all we have to do is call and they will send a truck. It is a wonderful partnership and we are looking forward to working with them again this season, knowing there is so much need everywhere.

We have long standing relationships with HaMotzi, a food distribution program at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco and with The Cultural Conservancy’s Native Foodways program, a Native-led nonprofit which distributes fresh, organic food to Native community members in the Bay Area. Every week, we send cooked food to Poor Magazine for distribution.

What a gift it is to be able to produce good food and get it to those who need it.

This is how dana paramita (the perfection of giving) moves through our lives.

The Gift—a leaf of chard, an apple, a potato—is called into being by innumerable causes and conditions

The Givers—the farmers, cooks, truck drivers, volunteers—nurture the gift and deliver it to

The Receivers—those who come with empty hands to bless the gift with their acceptance.

San Francisco Zen Center has opened the gates of teaching and practice to all who come to us. But most of those who receive food from the Green Gulch fields may never have heard of SFZC, may never sit in meditation, may have no interest in or ability to hear a talk, or attend a class. For many of these people, the Dharma is food.

Shadows and Pandemic Practice

By Brenda Proudfoot

The day we learned we would no longer practice zazen together in the zendo but instead would each practice in our individual rooms using Zoom, the tears came. My heart broke a little that day. Practicing zazen in the beautiful zendo here was central to my decision to come to San Francisco Zen Center.

I love the morning noble silence residents keep as they enter the zendo and find their seats. I love walking to the Buddha Hall for service and the forms for entering and leaving the tatami. I had just begun to learn the role of kokyo and other doan ryo roles. Suddenly, it all changed and I grieved that change deeply. I suddenly understood in a new way how very precious these aspects of ceremonial life are to me.

Several weeks into the new ways of living here, I began performing service in my room. Zoom zazen and service in my room is not what I would wish for. It is not the same. It has, however, begun to take on its own beauty, a beauty different from the beauty of service in the Buddha Hall with the community. It is not a replacement but it is a way of sustaining my practice through the pandemic practice period, a practice period with no definite end.

During our first month of pandemic practice, Mary Stares, the City Center Tanto, suggested a photographic scavenger hunt for the Work Practice Apprentice group and gave us a list of things to photograph when we went out on walks. I got stuck on one kind of photograph – shadows – and never went on to the others. Photographing shadows has been a portal to a whole new world of seeing.

One might wake up, see the sun shining, and think, “oh, what a pretty day.” Recently when I wake up and see the sun shining, I think, “oh, a good day for shadows.”

It can be a little tricky to photograph shadows. One has to figure out how to get out of the way so that one’s own shadow is not in the way of shadow image one is trying to photograph. My own shadow could become part of the larger photograph but I have been more interested in shadows of other things. I have requested my shadow to stay out of it.

Shadows change constantly. One moment it is there, the next it may not be, or it may have moved, or changed in intensity and form, as the source of light changes. In my search for shadows to photograph, I see differently. I notice things I never might have seen while walking the same street or living in the same building.

I am intrigued, like a good Buddhist student, by form and emptiness. Shadows seem to be form but they are not. They are light that has been blocked by form. When the light goes away, they cease to exist. They are empty. They move in the wind. They change depending on the surface behind them.

Experientially, photographing––and therefore noticing and thinking about shadows––opens me to change with a lighter spirit. Sheltering in place is not an easy time. It is uncertain. It can feel isolating to live in a community while keeping social distance. Eating in silence during meals in the dining room and wearing a mask all the time is hard. Seeing each other and practicing together through Zoom helps ease the isolation but continues to be strange. Emotions of grief, sadness, resistance and fear can surface unexpectedly along with moments of laughter and delight in something someone does or says.

As so many of our teachers have articulated in so many different ways, this is the practice. I can think of no better place to be during this pandemic than San Francisco Zen Center.

About the Author: Brenda Proudfoot joined the City Center residential community in December 2019 as a Work Practice Apprentice. Prior to coming to San Francisco Zen Center, she spent three years as a resident and retreat manager at Tara Mandala, a Tibetan center in Colorado. Brenda was the founder and owner of Valley Yoga, a yoga studio in central California, for sixteen years. During that time, her way-seeking mind set her on the Buddhist path. She has had a daily meditation practice for twenty years.

 

Recent Articles

14
May

Coda: What I Want You To Know…

The following poem was read by Senior Teacher Ryushin Paul Haller at the end of the first-ever live-streamed Dharma talk from Tassajara. It is a compilation of the prompt ‘What I want you know … ‘ which he had given to the Tassajara monks earlier, asking them to write their answers down on pieces of paper. That prompt also inspired a letter which has been published as parts I, II, III, and IV.

What I want you to know:
Six feet apart we’re closer than ever
Endowed by four billion years of evolution
This human body breathes and wonders
This is enough, you are enough, we are enough
Wherever you are right now,
Make it a temple filled with compassion
Listen to what wants to be known
Like you, it’s worthy of love
Keep flowing, the hiking trails have
Sprouted grass and wildflowers
Turning the zendo inside out
Constant and always changing
Now is all we have
Moment by moment
Appropriate response

Watch or Listen to the Dharma Talk given by Ryushin Paul Haller and live-streamed from Tassajara on April 18, 2020.

14
May

Perspectives from Tassajara: PART IV

The monks at Tassajara have written a letter to the boundless sangha: friends, supporters, guests, former residents, fellow practitioners, all sentient beings. The letter is published in four parts. See parts I, II, III, IV and Coda.

PART IV: What I Want You To Know Is…

Tassajara will be okay. In fact, the plants and animals seem to be enjoying this unusual spring with plenty of rain and without hundreds of visitors.

We are acutely aware, as individuals and as a sangha, how lucky we are to be here. To have these mountains ringing us, this creek flowing through, a long, deserted dirt road to walk on. These are incredible privileges while so many others are sheltering elsewhere.

We’re maintaining the facilities, ready to receive a work period and guest season as soon as they’re announced. We’re clearing rockfalls and leaves and six months of cobwebs. We’re doing fire prevention projects that usually can’t happen in the summer. We’re finishing and correcting hastily-done improvements from years past. We’re watching eagles catch updrafts over Flag Rock. We’re stopping, awe-struck, at Venus setting in the inky sky over the Birdhouse after evening zazen.

We’re maintaining a vibrant practice and open-hearted sangha, sheltering together like one big family, out in the wilderness. We wish you could be here, too. We’re taking good care of Tassajara until you come back.

What I want you to know is…
The energy of the universe is running through everything — columbines are tall in the waves of it, finches and ravens flit, soar and perch in the sky of it. Everything is free in the sheltering, in the dishes left by the kitchen sink, the thread of chores and peaceful moments. The animals’ world and our own are more invited together it seems, in the viral wake-up call. Loved ones far away can rest in the stillness of an open hand, reaching for bedroom slippers thousands of miles away, that pile of papers she didn’t quite get to, wishes falling like downy feathers in stronger wind, love in a whole new past, 60 years together.

What I want you to know is…
Yesterday, mom wrote to say the universe bumps every Friday at 6, when she blesses her children. At 7 her cityside alights with the pots and pans, yelps of cathartic joys the closest sugar-asking neighbors meet. At 9, my brother calls to say he’s still standing and at 10, I feel the rounded slope of my stomach that I’m not quite resigned yet to never holding a child though how could I hold so tight to a feeling, so out of line with what’s happening before me.
What I want you to know is I ache for that child I’ve already let pass as a dream.
What I want you to know is I fear the greed deep in my belly that craves the exhilaration of catastrophe. How does this meet my never-bourne child? When I stare at the river I feel the water that is me move, great movement of inside and outside, and I am nauseous.
What I want you to know is the name of the plants your feet cover, the ways they meet the bones of our bodies to knit ourselves together.
What I want you to know is that I love you, that wide big breath of love so that there is dissolving and reforming. I do not always want this love.
I want you to know that I fear the death of everyone I love, as though the fear itself was the same as living.
I want you to know that I believe this world can be otherwise.
I want you to know the feel of the waves over your body once you’re no longer in the water. I want you to know earth that rises to meet your feet. I want you to know to take off your shoes on holy ground. I want you to know that (I believe) we consecrate each other.
I want you to know, I want you to know, I want you to know.

I’d Like You To Hear
History says don’t hope
On this side of the grove
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
and hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge
Believe that further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Call miracles self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth cry
Of new life at its term.

What I want you to know is…
Death is certain. How do you want to live/practice getting there?

While other faith communities have been meeting and supporting each other online in virtual zendos and live-streamed services, we here at Tassajara wanted to share our practice and experience in our way. Practice is still being enacted and embodied here, for the benefit of all beings. You might be surprised at some of the changes, but you would still recognize the heart of this practice.

This is an expression of Tassajara practice.

We would like you to know that we love you. We miss you. We hope you are safe.

Words submitted by Gurmeen Aneja, John Anklow, K., Tim Ream, Jordan Gardner, Eilis Ward, Krista De Castella, Nobuko Hori, Bapu Vaitla, Dan Gudgel, Zuzu Myers, S. H., Brent Haas and other Tassajara sangha members who wish to remain anonymous.

See parts I, II, III, IV and Coda.

12
May

A Livestream Call with Abbot Ed

Have you donated to our Emergency Fund or are thinking about it but have questions about SFZC’s financial picture?

Many people have asked for more information on how finances work at SFZC and how their donations will help. Central Abott Ed Sattizahn will address SFZC financial questions on a live video call on Monday May 18, 7 – 7:30 pm PT.

12
May

Perspectives from Tassajara, PART III

The monks at Tassajara have written a letter to the boundless sangha: friends, supporters, guests, former residents, fellow practitioners, all sentient beings. The letter will be published here in four parts over the next several days. See parts I, II, IV, Coda.

PART III: What I Want You To Know Is…

Perspectives from Tassajara

Of course we didn’t want to change the forms at Tassajara. For 50 years this training temple has been imparting Suzuki Roshi’s vision of Soto Zen practice. But as we’ve deconstructed these 1000-year-old forms that express a 2500-year-old tradition, the lively, beating heart of our practice has emerged.

Half the community sits zazen in the zendo, and half in the retreat hall to maintain distance — and so two people a day get to support the community by being doan. The hot springs plunges are drained and the steam rooms are off to reduce possible transmission vectors, and we have to count the shoes outside the bathhouse to make sure we don’t go over capacity. But we continue to offer incense at the bathhouse altar before entering.

We chant the meal verse outside together in the courtyard, before filing slowly into the dining room to be served, cafeteria style, by masked-and-gloved serving crews. We eat at opposite ends of 8-foot tables and yet, when the clackers end the start-of-meal silence, we still speak from the heart, listen completely and give ourselves to the moment.

After a few weeks with no services at all, we created a simplified morning service that we can do outside in the work circle, appropriately spaced, chanting the Loving Kindness Meditation so we don’t need chant books. We have to chant loudly to be heard over the sunrise birdsong and some days the wind blows out the candle, but it’s a joy to have the mountains join our ceremony.

What I want you to know is…

YOU ARE THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER OF THE LOTTERY OF THE UNIVERSE! As winner, you receive:

One beautiful planet, full of mountains and forests and rivers, to call home amidst the vast darkness of the cosmos;

One human body, endowed by four billion years of evolution with a host of skills, including self-consciousness, breath and wonder;

One long life, one natural death, and general freedom from the hunger, disease, and violence suffered by your ancestors*;

Unlimited stories, music, and laughter time-tested over a thousand generations of humanity;

Infinite opportunities, redeemable in any moment, to love and be loved.

*Restrictions (i.e., poverty) apply.

 

What I want you to know is…

Tassajara creek keeps flowing.

 

What I want you to know is…

How resilient this practice is. The hiking trails have sprouted grass and wildflowers, and every morning we turn the zendo inside out.

 

What I want you to know is…

While stacking firewood in the sun today, I started laughing so hard that I had to take a break.

 

What I want you to know is…

The whole earth, all life itself, is watching.

 

Words submitted by Gurmeen Aneja, John Anklow, K., Tim Ream, Jordan Gardner, Eilis Ward, Krista De Castella, Nobuko Hori, Bapu Vaitla, Dan Gudgel, Zuzu Myers, S. H., Brent Haas and other Tassajara sangha members who wish to remain anonymous.

See parts I, II, IV, Coda.