May 16, 2018
Letter from Central Abbess: Abbatial Changes in 2019

NOTE regarding attendance at the ceremonies over the March 1 – 3 weekend: The March 1 and 2 ceremonies are non-public. The Mountain Seat Ceremony on March 3 in by invitation only due to space restrictions and will be livestreamed for offsite viewing.

Dear Sangha Friends,

I am very happy to announce to the wider sangha changes coming up next year in the Abbatial Leadership at San Francisco Zen Center. Upon recommendation of the Elders Council, the Board unanimously and enthusiastically has invited Tenzen David Zimmerman to become the next Abiding Abbot of City Center.

Rinso Ed Sattizahn, the current Abiding Abbot, having served five years in that position, will be appointed the next Central Abbot, and I, Eijun Linda Cutts, having served as Abbess and Central Abbess almost continuously since 2000, will step down and receive a sabbatical year. Fu Schroeder has been reappointed as the Green Gulch Abiding Abbess, and will continue her term at Green Gulch. All of these changes will begin in March 2019.

As stated in our bylaws, the religious leadership of SFZC is shared among the Abiding Abbess/Abbot at City Center, the Abiding Abbess/Abbot at Green Gulch Farm, the Central Abbess/Abbot, and the Abiding Teacher at Tassajara. This structure has evolved through the years as we have responded to the changing needs and complexity of our three temples and our wider non-residential sangha. This abbatial structure has evolved from a traditional model of a single abbot for life, as was the case with Suzuki Roshi and Abbot Zentatsu Baker, to a co-abbot/abbess structure, and to the current three-person form. The three abbatial leaders in this new structure have equal authority and each has a different sphere of responsibilities.

The Central Abbot/Abbess is the newest position, which bridges the administration and teaching sides of SFZC. This person works closely with the Abiding Abbots/Abbesses of City Center and Green Gulch Farm, who are primarily responsible for the spiritual life of their respective temples. For a more detailed description of the shared leadership structure and responsibilities of the Abbots/Abbesses, please see our Bylaws Article VI.

Tenzen David Zimmerman has been practicing Soto Zen for the past 27 years, 18 of which have been in residence at City Center and Tassajara. He was ordained as a priest by Hokai Teah Strozer in 2006 and received Dharma Transmission from her in 2018. He is currently the Tanto (Head of Practice) at City Center. While at Tassajara for eight years, David served in many positions, including Director—notably during the serious fire of 2008—as well as Head Monk (Shuso). David has also held the position of Program Director and SFZC Corporate Secretary. He serves on many committees including SFZC’s Promoting Equity and Inclusivity (PIE), Cultural Inclusivity and Awareness Committee (CAIC), the SFZC Elders and Abbots Councils, and is a co-facilitator of Queer Dharma and Unpacking Whiteness, two affinity groups at SFZC. David regularly leads retreats, workshops, classes, and practice periods at SFZC and other Dharma centers and is a leader in the ongoing Transforming Depression and Anxiety weekly practice class.

Several ceremonies will be performed the weekend of March 2 and 3, 2019: On Saturday, March 2, I will have a stepping down ceremony, and Ed Sattizahn will step down from Abiding Abbot and be installed as the Central Abbot, and on Sunday March 3, David will be installed in an all-day Mountain Seat Ceremony at Beginner’s Mind Temple, much of which will be live-streamed.

We look forward enthusiastically to the upcoming changes and the peaceful succession of our Abbatial leadership. We trust that the maintaining and developing of the Dharma and the care of our practice centers and relationships with the entire Sangha will be cared for with compassion, vision, and wisdom.

Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts