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Posts from the ‘Zen Practice’ Category


Sew with Heart: An International Zen Sewing Practice Period

Sewing a rakusu

By Tova Green

The Zen Buddhist Sewing Teachers and Everyday Zen launched a six-month non-residential online practice period in June 2021, called Sewing with Heart. Seventy sewing teachers and apprentices from the U.S., Canada, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Russia are participating in this unique offering.

The inspiration for the practice period came from Shosan Victoria Austin, who wanted to honor the fifth anniversary of Zenkei Blanche Hartman’s death on May 13, 2016. Because of the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, Shosan realized that she couldn’t plan a large in-person gathering to celebrate Blanche’s life and teaching, and decided to put together an online practice period to honor Blanche’s many years as the SFZC sewing teacher.

Shosan describes sewing Buddha’s robe as a work practice, a form of service to the sangha. Suzuki Roshi said in a talk he gave in June 1971, “We do not make our robe just for ourselves. We are making something greater, which will include everything, which could be everyone’s.”

Sewing Buddha’s Robe, or Nyoho-e (translated literally as the clothing of Dharma suchness) is a tradition that goes back to the time of the Buddha. In the early days of San Francisco Zen Center, Suzuki Roshi invited Yoshida Roshi to come from Japan to teach sewing. Later, Richard Baker invited Joshin-san, who had trained at Antaiji, to be the Zen Center sewing teacher. Yoshida Roshi and Joshin-san represent two traditions of sewing. Yoshida Roshi passed her method on to Tomoe Katagiri in Minnesota, and Joshin-san trained Blanche Hartman.

When the Zen Buddhist Sewing Teachers Association was founded in 2012, one of its goals was to fulfill Blanche’s request that we keep sewing practice alive and connect sewing teachers in both traditions.

The six-month Sewing with Heart practice period is divided into three sections, each two months long: a historical focus, acknowledging the heart of the Nyoho-e tradition, including stories about Blanche and Tomoe-san; learning about how this tradition is transmitted through time and space; and exploring the legacy of Nyoho-e, how to transmit the heart of Nyoho-e to future generations. Read more


Closed Captioning: Benefits and Limitations

Closed captioning graphic
By Tova Green

Recently, Closed Captioning was enabled for all San Francisco Zen Center’s programs, classes, Dharma talks, and meetings, that is, anything presented via Zoom. Dan Belsky, SFZC’s IT Director, and Brendan Crowe, one of SFZC’s Zoom hosts, worked through some glitches to get it functioning reliably.

Brendan had checked  for the availability of Closed Captioning and found that Zoom users had to pay for a third party transcription service that wasn’t efficient for SFZC’s purposes. While he was hosting a Zoom program on Unpacking Whiteness, he learned from East Bay Meditation Center’s host that Zoom had begun to provide its own automated transcription, with the qualification that it  transcribes only words and terms that are spoken in the English language.

Brendan is impressed by Zoom’s efforts to support users. Zoom can save an entire transcription of an event as well as the visual and voice recording and is planning to make this feature available to all Zoom users this year. He notes that, “When you’re working on making things accessible to a particular group (in this case, those who are hard of hearing or deaf), it ends up being of benefit to everyone.”

Sangha News consulted City Center resident Rev. Keido Keith Baker in preparing this article. Keith, who became deaf while residing at City Center and has been an advocate and resource for offering access to SFZC’s teachings to members of the Deaf Community, commented, “The current offering on Zoom is from the Google AI Transcription Servers. It’s called Closed Captioning by most, but really it’s Live Captioning, or Real Time Captioning. It approaches nearly 100% accuracy when captioning simple English wordings, and about a 75% success rate for ‘off English content.’” Read more


When You Greet Me I Bow: Interview with Cynthia Schrager

Cynthia Schrager - book cover

By Tova Green

Cynthia Schrager is the editor of Norman Fischer’s new book, When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen. A member of Everyday Zen, Cynthia has been a student of Norman’s since 2010.

When Norman was encouraged by Melvin McCleod, editor of Shambhala Sun and BuddhaDharma, to consider assembling a collection of his previously published essays, Norman was interested and knew he would need help. In Summer 2016 he invited Cynthia to work on the project.

Cynthia began with a list of Buddhist journals which, along with Shambhala Sun and BuddhaDharma, also included Tricycle, Inquiring Mind, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s Turning Wheel. She began by tracking down every article Norman had written, creating a spreadsheet as she went along. In the end there were 75 articles and essays. “Norman was quite surprised at how many there were,” Cynthia noted. Only half of what she discovered is in the book.

Cynthia’s second task as editor was to develop a structure for the book. She looked for “the themes that kept coming forward.” From the beginning, she could see that Relationship (Notes on the Joy and Catastrophe of Relationship) and Difference and Dharma (Notes on Social Engagement) would hold together as two of the four sections of the book. The sections on Form Is Emptiness (Notes on Thinking, Writing and Emptiness) and East/West (Notes on Cultural Encounter) followed.

In response to the Shambhala editor’s request for some new writing from Norman, Cynthia thought of asking Norman to write notes that would precede each section and tie together the essays. As some were written as long as thirty years ago; this gave Norman an opportunity to comment on how his views have changed over the years. Read more


Spring Priest Ordination at Tassajara

Tassajara ordination photo-2021

Shinchi Linda Galijan, Tenzen David Zimmerman, Zenko Jordan Montgomery, Zenshin Greg Fain

On May 22, Zenko Jordan Montgomery received shukke tokudo (priest ordination) from his teacher, Zenshin Greg Fain, along with co-preceptors City Center Abiding Abbot Tenzen David Zimmerman and Tassajara Tanto Shinchi Linda Galijan. Zenko has been a resident of Tassajara for six years, where he is currently the Tenzo (Head Cook); he is married to Lauren Bouyea.

The ordination ceremony in the Tassajara zendo was familiar and traditional, which felt utterly remarkable in light of the past year. The difference from past ceremonies was that it was streamed via Zoom to allow invited family members and friends to attend virtually. Zenko and Lauren’s 11-month-old daughter, Mirabelle, was also in the assembly, until she made it clear that it was nap-time.

The doors and windows were wide open to the bright, cool morning, and bird song filled the valley as Zenko received priest robes, okesa and rakusu that he sewed by hand, traditional lacquered wood formal eating bowls, and the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts. He then received lineage papers from his teacher with his Dharma name, Zenko Isshin (Zen Tiger, One Trust).

After the ceremony, there was a celebratory outdoor feast in the courtyard. The whole day felt all the more special because this was the first significant ceremony that had been held in the zendo in such a very long time. The joy in witnessing Zenko’s ordination was beautifully evident on everyone’s faces.


Pamela Ayo Yetunde and the Buddhist Justice Reporter Project

Pamela Ayo Yetunde

By Tova Green

Pamela Ayo Yetunde, a Community Dharma Leader, Zen practitioner, chaplain, and author, was living in St. Paul when George Floyd was tortured and murdered. She experienced the unrest in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the weeks and months after this event and paid close attention to the George Floyd/Derrick Chauvin trial in March. She was concerned that if Chauvin was found not guilty it would have serious repercussions for the safety of communities of color. She could not have just sat on her cushion without finding a way to respond.

Ayo, along with BIPOC Zen and Insight practitioners in the Twin Cities, founded Buddhist Justice Reporter: The George Floyd Trials to address the role Buddhists could play in criminal justice reform. This project is the focus of an online SFZC program Ayo is offering on Thursday, June 10, from 4 to 6 pm PT. She will engage participants in a discussion with an aspiration to tap into the compassionate and creative energies that already exist in Buddhist communities. Read more


Work and Practice at Tassajara this Summer and Fall

Tassajara Abbot's Garden

Photo by David Silva

During the last several months, the residential community at Tassajara has been very small. Yet the residents have maintained a daily schedule, and are following health and safety protocols.

While there won’t be a guest season this summer, Tassajara is accepting applications for a limited number of work practice summer students from May 4 to September 13. Unlike typical summers when they are assigned a specific crew, the work practice students will be working on a variety of different tasks.

Tassajara Director Goyo Piper says it will be most beneficial to have students join for the entire summer or for extended periods of a month or longer, although two-week stays are possible. There is no deadline to apply.

To be considered for participation, please complete the Tassajara Summer Work Practice application [PDF] [Word]. Applications can be sent to

Tassajara will offer a Fall Practice Period led by Senior Dharma Teacher Ryushin Paul Haller, from September 13 to December 12.

The intense schedule and atmosphere of a traditional Zen Ango (Practice Period) support practitioners to go beyond their usual sense of self and enter the wide open life of the Buddha. Kindness and love for one another will be our watchwords as we negotiate the way together for these precious few months. Read more


Branching Streams Flow On

Bell and striker

Photo by Florian Brody

by Tova Green

A line in the Sandokai (Harmony of Difference and Equality) of Sekito Kisen (700 – 790), one of Suzuki Roshi’s favorite poems, reads”the branching streams flow on in the dark.” Branching Streams has become the name for the network of Zen Centers and Sanghas in the United States and 9 in other countries in the Suzuki Roshi lineage.

These groups, which vary greatly in size, age, and location, are led by teachers who trained at San Francisco Zen Center and departed to found or to join fledgling Zen groups. The earliest are Bay Area groups: Berkeley Zen Center, founded by Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1967 in the attic of an old house, and Haiku Zendo Meditation Center, started by Suzuki Roshi in 1966 in a private home in Los Altos, which later became Kannon Do in Mountain View, led by Les Kaye. Read more


Receiving the Precepts in the Spring

Jukai group

On Wednesday, April 21, in a ceremony at Green Dragon Temple/Green Gulch Farm, three initiates received the precepts and Dharma names from Tenshin Reb Anderson. Drew Schaffer was given the name Hi Ryu Zen Ho/Compassion Dragon, Complete Liberation; Sam Ridge was given the name Ho Ko Myo Chi/Dharma Light, Wondrous Wisdom; and Julian Minuzzo was given the name San Rai Shin Ki/Mountain Thunder, True Refuge. This is the second jukai initiation ceremony since the Covid-19 restrictions were put into place. The earlier ceremony was held outdoors and required social distancing and wearing masks; this one was also outdoors, but distancing and masks were not necessary.

Congratulations to the initiates! Read more


Dario Girolami Organizes Buddhist Chaplains in Europe

Dario Girolamiby Tova Green

One of the activities that has engaged Dario Girolami, Abbot of Centro Zen l’Arco in Rome, during this year of the pandemic has been developing an organization for Buddhist chaplains in Europe. Dario received Dharma Transmission from Eijun Linda Cutts and practiced at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center during his training.

The first event, sponsored by the European Buddhist Union, was a daylong online meeting on Sunday, April 25. This event brought together Buddhist chaplains from at least ten European countries. The chaplains serve in hospices, hospitals, prisons, and armies, all places of great trauma. They came together to talk about their experiences, create a network, share materials, and support one another in their roles. Read more


Priest Ordination in a Time of Pandemic 

by Tova Green

On March 21, a clear, cool Sunday morning, two residents of Green Dragon Temple (Green Gulch Farm) were ordained as priests by three preceptors: Abiding Abbess Fu Schroeder, Eijun Linda Cutts, the teacher for Kristin Diggs, and Tenshin Reb Anderson, the teacher for Valerian Hauffe. Read more