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Work and Practice at Tassajara this Summer and Fall

Tassajara Abbot's Garden

Photo by David Silva

During the last several months, the residential community at Tassajara has been very small. Yet the residents have maintained a daily schedule, and are following health and safety protocols.

While there won’t be a guest season this summer, Tassajara is accepting applications for a limited number of work practice summer students from May 4 to September 13. Unlike typical summers when they are assigned a specific crew, the work practice students will be working on a variety of different tasks.

Tassajara Director Goyo Piper says it will be most beneficial to have students join for the entire summer or for extended periods of a month or longer, although two-week stays are possible. There is no deadline to apply.

To be considered for participation, please complete the Tassajara Summer Work Practice application [PDF] [Word]. Applications can be sent to zmcdirector@sfzc.org.

Tassajara will offer a Fall Practice Period led by Senior Dharma Teacher Ryushin Paul Haller, from September 13 to December 12.

The intense schedule and atmosphere of a traditional Zen Ango (Practice Period) support practitioners to go beyond their usual sense of self and enter the wide open life of the Buddha. Kindness and love for one another will be our watchwords as we negotiate the way together for these precious few months. Read more

Branching Streams Flow On

Bell and striker

Photo by Renshin Bunce

by Tova Green

A line in the Sandokai (Harmony of Difference and Equality) of Sekito Kisen (700 – 790), one of Suzuki Roshi’s favorite poems, reads”the branching streams flow on in the dark.” Branching Streams has become the name for the network of Zen Centers and Sanghas in the United States and 9 in other countries in the Suzuki Roshi lineage.

These groups, which vary greatly in size, age, and location, are led by teachers who trained at San Francisco Zen Center and departed to found or to join fledgling Zen groups. The earliest are Bay Area groups: Berkeley Zen Center, founded by Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1967 in the attic of an old house, and Haiku Zendo Meditation Center, started by Suzuki Roshi in 1966 in a private home in Los Altos, which later became Kannon Do in Mountain View, led by Les Kaye. Read more

Receiving the Precepts in the Spring

Jukai group

On Wednesday, April 21, in a ceremony at Green Dragon Temple/Green Gulch Farm, three initiates received the precepts and Dharma names from Tenshin Reb Anderson. Drew Schaffer was given the name Hi Ryu Zen Ho/Compassion Dragon, Complete Liberation; Sam Ridge was given the name Ho Ko Myo Chi/Dharma Light, Wondrous Wisdom; and Julian Minuzzo was given the name San Rai Shin Ki/Mountain Thunder, True Refuge. This is the second jukai initiation ceremony since the Covid-19 restrictions were put into place. The earlier ceremony was held outdoors and required social distancing and wearing masks; this one was also outdoors, but distancing and masks were not necessary.

Congratulations to the initiates! Read more

Duncan Ryuken Williams and the May We Gather Memorial

Duncan Williams

Duncan Williams is a Soto Zen priest and the author of American Sutra, which tells of the internment of Japanese American Buddhists during WWII. He works closely with Tsuru for Solidarity, a nonviolent, direct action project of Japanese American social justice advocates working to end detention sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities that are being targeted by racist, inhumane immigration policies. He will be offering the online Dharma talk at San Francisco Zen Center on Sunday, May 2, 10 am PT.

Williams, along with co-organizers Chenxing Han and Funie Hsu, has been instrumental in organizing May We Gather, a national Buddhist memorial ceremony that will take place online on Tuesday, May 4 at 4 pm PT/7 pm ET. The ceremony marks the forty-nine day anniversary of the Atlanta shootings in which eight people, of whom six were of Asian descent, were killed, and arose in response to the need for mourning and renewal in the face of ongoing anti-Asian violence. Read more

Dario Girolami Organizes Buddhist Chaplains in Europe

Dario Girolamiby Tova Green

One of the activities that has engaged Dario Girolami, Abbot of Centro Zen l’Arco in Rome, during this year of the pandemic has been developing an organization for Buddhist chaplains in Europe. Dario received Dharma Transmission from Eijun Linda Cutts and practiced at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center during his training.

The first event, sponsored by the European Buddhist Union, was a daylong online meeting on Sunday, April 25. This event brought together Buddhist chaplains from at least ten European countries. The chaplains serve in hospices, hospitals, prisons, and armies, all places of great trauma. They came together to talk about their experiences, create a network, share materials, and support one another in their roles. Read more

How a Zen Priest Contributed to the Oscar-Nominated Film “Soul”

Daijaku Kinst

Daijaku Kinst

by Tova Green

It is unusual to see the name of a Zen Buddhist teacher in the credits of a Disney/Pixar animated film. Many people have noticed Daijaku Kinst’s name at the end of Soul, a recent release that has been nominated for three Academy Awards. Daijuku is a Zen priest who trained at San Francisco Zen Center. She currently teaches at the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS) in Berkeley and co-leads Ocean Gate Zen Center in Santa Cruz. I interviewed Daijaku to learn about her relationship to the film.

A December 2020 review in the New York Times by A.O. Scott describes Soul as “an inventive tale starring Jamie Foxx as a jazz musician caught in a world that human souls pass through on their way into and out of life, Soul tackles some of the questions that many of us have been losing sleep over since childhood. Why do I exist? What’s the point of being alive? What comes after? It’s rare for any movie, let alone an all-ages cartoon, to venture into such deep and potentially scary metaphysical territory.”

About four years ago Daijaku received a call in her office from Pixar asking if she would consult with them about a movie. They wouldn’t say how they found her or what the movie was about. When she visited Pixar in Emeryville, CA, she was invited into a large room with a storyboard on the wall. Peter Docker, the film’s director, and four or five other people were there. She found the staff humble, kind, gentle, welcoming, and really curious. They wanted to know about what Buddhist beliefs are concerning what happens after death. They were speaking with people from different faith traditions about this. The movie was still in the early stages of conception. Read more

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Jenee Johnson

Photo Credit: Mindful Magazine

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Priest Ordination in a Time of Pandemic 

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Well-being Service at City Center Has a New Protocol

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