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
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.
Tuesday, May 12, 12:00 pm
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.
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
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.
Wednesday, May 6, 4:00 pm
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.
Friday, May 1, 2:00 pm
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?”
Thursday, April 30, 9:00 am
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to participate in this short yet powerful ceremony.
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
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com for more information on how to arrange a meeting.
Online Zendo Schedule
The Zoom link to the Online Zendo is:
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)
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
9:25-10:00 am Zazen (35 min)
Late Afternoons & Evenings
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
5:30-6:10 pm Zazen (40 min)
7:30-8:00 pm Zazen (30 min)
Tuesdays & Thursdays
5:30-6:30 pm Online Sangha Practice Session
(use the Online Zendo link)
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.
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.
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.)
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,
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
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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