By Tova Green
Brendan Crowe, SFZC’s Program Manager, has been working behind the scenes to launch Online Learning: “During the pandemic we learned that people have different learning needs. Because participants in SFZC’s online programs were on different time zones, or had scheduling conflicts, they asked for recordings of the classes. There was a demand for continued access. We created our own platform using Teachable, which makes the material available on demand, in the viewer’s own time. It’s geared to the individual learner.”
Most of the classes offered on Online Learning were live Zoom classes offered during the last few years, repackaged with added material. For example, to Tassajara Tales, an online class offered by Diane Renshaw, Brendan added videos of Tassajara to augment the beautiful slides Diane had prepared. Many of the classes focus on a particular topic or sutra, such as Ryushin Paul Haller’s class Practicing Zen in Uncertain Times, a four-part teaching on the fundamentals of zazen.
These classes provide another opportunity for people to connect with San Francisco Zen Center. In Ayya Dhammadipa’s Introduction to Buddhism class, the material on Online Learning was supplemented by weekly Zoom meetings with Ayya Dhammadipa for Q&A. Befriending Your Pain serves as a touchpoint for people who wish to participate in the Transforming Depression and Anxiety Practice Group.
As he adds content to Online Learning, Brendan is exploring several sources: archival material, if it still speaks to people at this time; Dharma talks by several SFZC teachers on a particular theme; and original content which he creates.
One program Brendan is excited about is Awakening the Archive, which is based on a class taught by Abbot Ed Sattizahn and Shundo David Haye on Suzuki Roshi’s recently rediscovered and remastered lectures. Bonus material has been added from SFZC’s media archives, such as photos and issues of Wind Bell, recorded Q&A sessions, transcripts of the talks, and audio commentaries by teachers who practiced with Shunryu Suzuki, like Lew Richmond, Sojun Mel Weitsman, and Yvonne Rand.
Brendan is enjoying his work with Online Learning. “I’ve grown personally and professionally, learning video editing skills and how to market online courses. We’re at a pivotal moment at SFZC, and it’s important to document who and where we are right now.” His key question is, “How are these teachings alive for people in this moment? I think that is what learning is all about.”