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23
Feb

Receiving the Precepts Mid-Pandemic

By Tova Green

On a cool afternoon in mid-February, Green Gulch Farm held San Francisco Zen Center’s first Lay Initiation ceremony since the Covid-19 pandemic began nearly a year ago. The ceremony took place outdoors, on a large lawn near the zendo. The participants wore masks and were physically distanced, as were the sangha members who came to witness and support the ceremony.

The day before the ceremony Eijun Linda Cutts spoke about the meaning of Jukai in her Sunday Dharma talk. She referred to it as a Bodhisattva initiation and described the mind of a person entering an initiation as open and receptive, like the mind of the Buddha.

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23
Feb

New Life for Suzuki Roshi’s Orchids

By Tova Green

Many residents of SFZC’s City Center go up to the roof to get a view of the city, find a quiet place to read, or to work out on the stationary bike. On the roof there are several beehives and a protected area with Suzuki Roshi’s orchids. 

These orchids were originally tended by Shunryu Suzuki, who lived at 300 Page Street from 1967, when San Francisco Zen Center acquired the building, until his death in 1971. We don’t know how many orchids there were initially, or how many times they have been divided and repotted over the last five decades but they have lived on the City Center roof all these years. They have been watered twice a month by a succession of Zen student gardeners, and have absorbed nourishment from the water and the moist air.

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18
Feb

Winter Storms Challenge Texas Zen Centers

[Photo credit: Tim Kroll]

by Tova Green

 In a winter when many regions of the United States have experienced fierce storms and freezing temperatures, last week’s extreme cold, snow, and freezing rain in Texas was unexpected and unprecedented. 

On Tuesday of this week, I noticed that Reirin Gumbel, Milwaukee Zen Center’s guiding teacher, posted her concerns about sanghas in Texas on the Soto Zen Buddhist Associations members’ forum. She wrote, “How are you doing in this weather? Are your centers safe? Thinking about all Texans and others in the South. We have a seemingly unending snowstorm here; but Milwaukee is ready for it.” 

This prompted me to reach out to Austin, Houston, and San Antonio Zen Centers, all members of Branching Streams, a group of sanghas in the Suzuki Roshi lineage. Read more

17
Feb

Intimate Discussions: An Interview with Sokaku Kathie Fischer

Kathie Fischer and her husband, Zoketsu Norman Fischer, will be co-leading an online intensive Intimate Discussions: On Dogen’s Zuimonki (March 2-20). She spoke with Sangha News about the text, the intensive, and the nature of teaching at a distance.

Sangha News: Thank you for speaking with us, Kathie. To begin, can you say a bit about the text, the Zuimonki? The translation of the term I found was something like “easy to understand.” Is that correct?

Kathie Fischer: I don’t know about the exact translation, but it is a text I’ve loved and studied for a long time, beginning when I was at Tassajara. A Primer of Soto Zen was an early English translation and I’ve gone back to it repeatedly over the years.
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10
Feb

A New Abbot for Old Plum Mountain Zen Center

By Tova Green

On January 31, 2021 Hozan Alan Senauke became the second Abbot of Old Plum Mountain Zen Center (usually called Berkeley Zen Center). The ceremony was held over Zoom and was attended by over 350 sangha members, Zen teachers, friends, and family from four continents and eight countries. This three-hour event could only have occurred with months of planning and many rehearsals, careful collaboration and coordination, much of it behind the scenes. 

The Mountain Seat Ceremony was the second of a pair of ceremonies. The first, held on October 24, 2020, was the Stepping Down of Berkeley Zen Center’s first Abbot and Founding Teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman. Sojun died on January 7, 2021, and his absence was felt and noted at the Mountain Seat Ceremony. Read more