September 30, 2014
A Fall Message from Central Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts

Dear Sangha Members,

As I am about to leave for Tassajara for the Fall Practice Period, I wanted to let you know some things that are on my mind both at San Francisco Zen Center and in the wider world we share and create together.

Central Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts

Central Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts

It has now been a year since we learned of the illness of Myogen Steve Stücky and the great transition of life and death for him became clear. The pain and intense suffering of that time for Steve, his family and for all of his students and Dharma brothers and sisters may, as the season changes, be relived in our hearts and memories. I feel this and I know many, many people are strongly affected at this time of the anniversary of his death. And through the cycle of the years to come, it may always be a difficult time of the year. At all three temples of San Francisco Zen Center we will be having a one-year anniversary memorial service the evening of December 30 and the morning of December 31. These ceremonies will be quiet and simple, and will commemorate and honor the passing of our beloved Myogen Steve Stücky. (There will be more information about times, etc., in the coming months.)

This summer has been filled with conflict around the world, and in the US. The events in and around Ferguson, MO, since the shooting in August of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American, by a white police officer, have shown us once again the many issues in the US relating to racism, power, and the conditioned ways of thinking that over-empower one group of people.

Abbot Ed Sattizahn and Abbess Furyu Schroeder join me in asking ourselves: as people who have taken vows not to harm, and to act in awareness and compassion, what is the skillful response in the face of these realities, i.e., deeply ingrained racial profiling, appalling poverty, and disproportionate numbers of African Americans imprisoned and unemployed. We vow, and ask the community to vow, to study our own karmic consciousness and areas of unexamined and rigid views, become allies to one another, and open to the ways we contribute to the suffering of those we experience as “different” from ourselves. Let’s educate ourselves—and when appropriate, others—going beyond the limits of the media, and listen to what communities are telling us.

As the abbatial leadership of San Francisco Zen Center we strive to live and be lived by the teachings of the Buddha. These powerful teachings challenge us all to express the fundamental reality of the harmony of difference and equality and to make it vividly manifest in our own lives and the life of the Sangha. We are committed to acknowledge and find ways to end our own participation in unconscious racist systems of thought, speech, and action and to continue to make efforts to create safe and welcoming spaces for all who wish to practice the Buddha Dharma.

I also want to acknowledge the reality of conflicts that arise here at San Francisco Zen Center, and the deep pain I feel when we are not in harmony with one another. There will always be conflicts—that is the nature of our human life. The practice is how to skillfully meet conflicts, support one another to practice with them, ask for help, listen to each other, and be ready to study our contribution to any difficulties that arise and, as it says in the Loving Kindness Meditation, strive to practice “not holding to fixed views.” At the same time we need to continue our efforts to respond to concerns and make positive and accurate changes in the community and our complex lives together.

Lastly, I want to let you know that a week ago Sunday I joined hundreds of thousands of people in New York for the People’s Climate March. I stood with the interfaith contingent, along with Susan O’Connell, SFZC President; Teah Strozer, guiding teacher at the Brooklyn Zen Center; Rev. Sally Bingham of Grace Cathedral; and many people from many different faiths—of all ages. I wanted to march to express my understanding that so many issues I care about are connected intimately with climate change: the loss of our healthy habitat and myriads of species, drought, disappearance of the snow pack and the glaciers, the poorest among us bearing the greatest suffering of hunger and lack of water, and so many other concerns.

I realize that because of my choices and lifestyle (including travel), I am completely interconnected with the problem itself; I cannot separate myself from this reality and somehow point to outside forces as a cause of these environmental challenges. At the same time I can take action to personally lower my carbon use and continue to educate myself about the complex forces that continue our over-dependence on carbon pollution sources. I will keep working with others to demonstrate the overwhelming need and support for action on climate change without delay, on a US national and international level. I feel that this is the moral issue of our times.

San Francisco Zen Center has a wonderful history of environmental awareness and practices that support the Earth. Let us continue to be on the forefront of this work for a healthy future for all beings in the ten directions. 

Thank you very much for your practice.

Bowing and bowing,

Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts
Central Abbess
San Francisco Zen Center


As an addendum on the topic of climate change, the Abbess recommends this video from the opening of the UN Climate Summit 2014, in which young Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner delivers a moving address including a poem to her daughter.