January 12, 2018
The Flourishing of Suzuki Roshi’s Way — Branching Streams Affiliate Sanghas

Suzuki Roshi’s Way is flourishing.

San Francisco Zen Center’s “Branching Streams” Network of Affiliate Sanghas is now comprised of 75 Dharma centers, ranging in size from meeting-once-a-week small sitting groups to established centers with their own Abbesses/Abbots, Boards of Directors, dedicated property, and numerous weekly Dharma offerings.

There are now 65 Affiliates in the United States and another 10 in Europe and Central and South America. Branching Streams—the name comes from a line in a poem by eighth century Zen Master Sekito Kisen—grew out of a recognition, in the mid-80s, that sanghas affiliated with San Francisco Zen Center, around the country and around the globe, were burgeoning, and that they both wanted and would benefit from a closer connection to SFZC and to each other. The mission of the Branching Streams programs is to encourage and support the development of these Affiliate sanghas.

Entryway at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s storefront zendo in Chicago

Every other year we hold a large “Gathering of the Branching Streams.” We completed such a Conference in early September 2017 in Chicago, hosted by the thriving Affiliate, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate.

Forty Branching Streams Leaders were in attendance; we practiced zazen together, had meals together, and informal time. Our two main topics for this particular gathering were the “right use of power” and “Zen practice and social engagement.” There were intense discussions in group sessions both large and small, on these and related topics. People left the Conference feeling more connected to the Dharma and to each other; energized and encouraged.

Branching Streams Gathering, September 2017

In addition to the biennial Conference, other programs that have been developed in recent years as part of the Branching Streams initiative include:

  • A Fellowship Program that allows senior SFZC-trained practitioners to spend up to six months at a given Affiliate, for the mutual benefit of both the senior practitioner and the Affiliate.
  • Members of Dharma Vow Zen Sangha (Santa Monica, CA) at Tassajara, Summer 2017

    A Tassajara Program that allows a Branching Streams Teacher to visit Tassajara during the Summer Guest Season with members of their own sangha, participate in Tassajara practice life and have time as well to meet and study with each other.

  • A Program that provides lineage documents to Teachers in Branching Streams, for lay and priest ordinations they perform.
  • A Branching Streams website to promote communication to and among the Branching Streams Affiliates.

Over the past few years various Affiliates have submitted Profiles of their groups for publication in Sangha News and on the Branching Streams websites. To give a sense of what the Affiliate groups are like, see these three profiles: