SZBA Newsletter - December 2015
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NOTE! There are weblinks throughout this newsletter to the SZBA website. Much of our website is password protected so it can't be accessed by the public. 
Click one of the links and then log on with your member's username and password. If you don't remember the username and password, email the coordinator (
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President's Report

Dear Zen Friends,
As the season turns and a new year begins, I am grateful to share practice with all of you. The light of Zen burns bright and clear even in our troubled and miraculous world. Joanna Macy speaks about The Great Turning. This is her name “…for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.” It seems to me that the essence of zazen—in its deep stillness and in its everyday activity—moves towards the life-sustaining culture we yearn for.
From the beginning I have felt at home in SZBA. Many of us at the first conference in 2004 were old friends. As years go by and a generation of students matures into the role of teachers…and these teachers nurture a next generation of teachers and the circles widen, we may not know each other as well. What began as an “association”—with a sense of connection and fellowship in practice—is understandably moving towards organization.
Some will miss a kind of intimacy of former times. At the same time we have an ever-wider community. My best effort as SZBA president will be to preserve our connections, to keep in mind the roots of Soto Zen and Buddha’s way, while building an organization that fits this time of the Great Turning.
This newsletter highlights various aspects of SZBA’s direction for 2016:

  • Membership Standards continue to be clarified or sent to membership for consultation and, hopefully soon enough, for approval.
  • Assessment is a necessary element of any Standards process. The excellent and thoughtful work of our Assessment Committee has designed a pilot plan for Standards assessment.
  • It seems clear that along with ethical guidelines and principles, as an organization in formation, SZBA needs to have further clarity and useful processes for addressing grievances and ethical issues within our Soto Zen community.
  • Recognizing the maturity of practice and understanding of many Associate Members, we are looking at how to include these priests on the listserve and in other critical issues that affect their future participation.
  • We look towards next autumn’s 7th SZBA Conference, with keynote speaker Bhikkhu Bodhi presenting on “The Four Noble Truths of the Climate Crisis.” Conference planning is beginning, with consideration given to the balance of organizational matters, practice, and environmental concern.
  • At the request of our sister organization ASZB (Sotoshu’s Association of Soto Zen Buddhists) and of Sokan Gengo Akiba Roshi, I have been collaborating on a position paper on the climate crisis. I hope that this will evolve into a statement from western Soto practitioners that can be commonly held by SZBA and ASZB.

 It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the tasks in front of us, and by the scarcity of resources on hand. But if we take the long view and understand the boundless resources of buddhadharma, there is a lot we can accomplish together.
                                                                         In peace & dharma,
                                                                         Hozan Alan Senauke
                                                                         President, SZBA Board

Proposals or Questions for your Board?

The SZBA Board is committed to listening to the membership and being responsive. Email the SZBA coordinator ( The Board will consider whether/when to put the item on the agenda for an upcoming board meeting. Board meetings which are held about every 6 weeks, so please be patient. Thanks! Who are your board members? Click here for profiles. 

SAVE THE DATES for the 2016 SZBA Conference


Wednesday, Sept 28th - Sunday, October 2nd, 2016


Villa Maria Conference Retreat and Conference Center

Frontenac, Minnesota (one hour's drive from Minneapolis and St. Paul; charter busses will be arranged)

In the interest of making SZBA conferences accessible to our members across North America, extensive research was done on eight potential conference venues in the midwest and on the east coast. Consideration was given to many things including venue cost, average flight costs to nearby cities, transportation from the nearest airport, lodging and food availability for at 125-150 people, meeting space, and of course the presence of a large, beautiful hall for the Dharma Heritage ceremony. Possible venues for future conferences on the east coast have been identified as well.

The conference's keynote speaker will be Bhikkhu Bodhi. The theme of the conference, still to be decided, will something around the Buddhist response to the various environmental and social crises of our time. As in past years, however, a wide variety of offerings will be available. Click here to read about the 2014 conference, and click here to view of schedule of events at the 2014 conference. Stay tuned over the coming months for more information on the conference - and if you're interested in serving on the planning committee, let the SZBA Coordinator know! (

Results of Survey on 3-Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard

As described in detail here (the full history of the development of SZBA membership standards can be found on our website here), the SZBA recently board created a “Three Gateway” Formal Practice Intensive standard that, in combination with the other training standards, was designed to create a space where current members and their dedicated students could feel at home and be included in our growing and evolving SZBA. 

In order to get feedback from the membership on this proposal, the board created an online survey and sent out links to it in late November/early December 2015. Both full and associate members were asked to give their opinion on the following proposal:

To replace the current Formal Practice Intensive Standard as it is set out in “Proposed SZBA Membership Standards” document (last revised April 2014):

  • Standard: A full SZBA member has substantial experience with intensified periods of formal residential practice with sangha.
  • Training: At least one 90-day formal practice intensive that meets the criteria established by the SZBA training committee. Priests-in-training who demonstrate an inability to fulfill the 90 day requirement may alternately complete three one-month formal practice intensives that also meet the criteria established by the SZBA training committee. [Current proposed Formal Practice Intensive Standard]

with a Three Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard:

  • Standard: A full SZBA member has substantial experience with intensified periods of formal residential practice with sangha.
  • Training: Recognizing different paths and resources available to trainees and teachers in the West, the SZBA recognizes three practice gateways, any one or more of which can fulfill the Formal Practice Intensive Standard:
    • Honoring a more “traditional” Soto monastic training path, two 90-day formal practice intensives, meeting criteria established by the SZBA.
    • One 90-day formal practice intensive that meets the criteria established by the SZBA. If necessary, this standard many be met with multiple shorter practice intensives of at least three weeks’ duration.
    • Acknowledging members and groups where monastic training is uncommon or unavailable, 200 full days of sesshin practice.

SURVEY RESULTS: Out of 164 full members, 116 (71%) completed the survey, and out of 124 associate members, 71 (57%) completed the survey.Click here to view the results of the Full Members’ Survey on the Three Gateways Proposal, and click here to view the results of the Associate Members’ Survey. In summary:

Yes, I support the adoption of this Three Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard as part of the Proposed SZBA Membership Standards:

  • 66% (76) of full members, 75% (48) of associates

No, I do not support the replacement of the current Formal Practice Intensive Standard with this Three Gateway Standard:

  • 22% (26) of full members, 17% (11) of associates

I am undecided about whether to replace the current Formal Practice Intensive Standard with this Three Gateway Standard:

  • 12% (14) of full members, 8% (5) of associates
The survey also included multiple choice options for people’s reasoning, plus spaces for written comments. Explanation and comment were not required, but the most commonly chosen explanations are below... Keep reading...

Job Opening: SZBA Administrative Coordinator

For the last two years, Domyo Burk has served as the SZBA Administrative Coordinator. She has enjoyed the job very much, but within the next few months will make the shift to devoting herself full-time to serving her Zen Center. She will miss regular correspondence with all of you!

This means the SZBA needs a new Administrative Coordinator position within the next couple months (ideally hired and ready to work in February or early March). This job requires:
  • Being highly organized and detail oriented.
  • Strong communication skills in working with Board members, committees, SZBA members and the public.
  • Ability to work with the Board, committees, and members in a positive, collaborative spirit.
  • Excellent, proven computer skills and complete comfort with learning new programs and troubleshooting on your own: Wordpress (website maintenance and management); Word (conference brochure, address labels, etc), Excel (annual budget), Quickbooks Online, Paypal, Google Apps (Gmail, Drive), Doodle (meeting scheduling), online programs for membership management (we use Wild Apricot), email newsletters (we use Mailchimp), surveys (we use Survey Gizmo), and teleconferencing (we use Zoom).
  • A fairly flexible schedule - availability for hosting board teleconferences every six weeks about 3pm Pacific time; availability to travel to twice-yearly in-person board meetings lasting 1.5 days; ability to spend as much as 20 hours a week preparing for the biannual conferences and then attend those conferences.
  • Event planning skills - the coordinator works closely with the board and the conference committee to plan and administer conferences, does most of the administrative work (registration, accommodations, schedule, etc.)
  • Prior experience as a member of the SZBA as well as knowledge of, and strong interest in, current SZBA organizational issues is ideal.
This job is ideal for an underemployed priest who wants to support the Dharma, earn some money, and have the flexibility to do things like attend sesshin. The job averages about 8 hours a week but varies between 2 and 20 depending on what's going on (preparation for board meeting, conference, or annual dues renewals). Salary is $12,683 a year. For a full job description and instructions for applying, click here. Deadline for applying is Jan 31st, 2016.

Member Resource Section of the SZBA Website Updated

Our newly updated Member Resource page can be accessed by clicking the far right menu tab "For Members." Check it out for access to:
Past SZBA Newsletters
June 2015
November 2014
April 2014
November 2013
Other Member Resources
SZBA Directory of Intensive Practice Places
Lineage Materials
Ordination and Precepts
Services and Chants
Texts and History
2014 Conference Report and Resources
2012 Conference Resources
2010 Conference Resources
2008 Conference Resources
2007 Ango Lectures

List of All Soto Zen Centers in the U.S.

Earlier this year, SZBA Board member Ryushin Hart put together a directory of Soto Zen groups across the United States. He says:

“My intentions were to present a snapshot of the landscape of Soto Zen Buddhism in the US in 2015, and to start a comprehensive directory for our members' use. I gathered data by performing state by state Google searches using keywords such as “Soto” and “Zen.” I tried to create categories of information that might be helpful such as whether a group’s teacher is lay or ordained, if the teacher/group is associated with a larger organization (e.g. SZBA, LZTA), and the group’s lineage (e.g. Branching Streams, White Plum). I decided to limit the current directory to groups in the US, but I have faith that our Canadian and Mexican dharma brothers and sisters will provide information to expand this list in order to include all North American Soto Zen groups.  

Given the limits of what information can be gathered exclusively through web searching, I recognize the data provided is not complete, and there may be information which has changed since this directory was created in January 2015. I offer it in the hopes that our members will correct any misinformation they see, provide data on groups who have been unintentionally overlooked , and generally make it a valuable resource for all.”

Click here to view the List of [all?] Soto Zen Centers in the US. If you find information that needs to be changed or added, please contact the SZBA coordinator. 
NOTE! There are weblinks throughout this newsletter to the SZBA website. Much of our website is password protected so it can't be accessed by the public. 
TO ACCESS LINKS TO OUR WEBSITE: Click one of the links and then log on with your member's username and password. If you don't remember the username and password, email the coordinator (
Once you log on, all of the password protected links will work for you.
Board & Committee Reports

Update from the Assessment Committee

Since being established at the October 2014 at the SZBA General Meeting, the Assessment Committee has focused on issues around developing an assessment model for the SZBA Standards for Full Membership. The committee consists of Tenku Ruff (Co-Chair and Board Liaison), Shinsen Couillard (Co-Chair), Tomon Marr (Secretary), Dosho Port, and Mugaku Zimmerman, and has met regularly via phone since February 2015. Their discussions have been rich, addressing deeper issues related to the correlation between standards, assessment models, and the role each plays in the SZBA.

The Assessment Committee’s early meetings produced important threshold questions:

  1. Do the standards function primarily as a benchmark against which priests pass/fail or as a roadmap and curriculum for priest development?
  2. How do we uphold the Soto Zen tradition and affirm and honor the teacher-student relationship, while still providing a set path to full membership?
  3. What will the assessment model mean for the candidate, and what will it demand of the SZBA and its membership at large?
  4. What is the relationship between the standards and the method we use for assessing whether an individual has met them?

In June 2015, the Assessment Committee sent a letter to the SZBA board recommending using the Standards for credentialing, rather than as a gateway for full SZBA membership. The board deeply considered the committee’s recommendation and, after much discussion, clarified that the goal of adopting standards and creating an assessment process is to have an organization of qualified and well-trained Soto Zen priests, as defined by the Standards. To this end, the board decided that the current set of standards should be used as a requirement for full membership in the SZBA and not only for credentialing selected members. The board asked the Assessment Committee to move forward in creating an assessment process and the committee agree to do so.

At this time, the assessment committee has turned its attention to creating an assessment model which requires a candidate to show evidence for meeting the competencies outlined in the Standards. The assessment committee recommended to the board that the SZBA take the time to create an assessment process that honors the richness of the standards as they have been developed over the last six years and creates the desired outcomes for which the SZBA standards were originally developed.

As part of the assessment development process for candidates for full membership it is important to test the process and garner feedback. We plan to do this by using a pilot process. The committee is currently working on developing the process and hopes to start testing it by early 2016. Having members try out the assessment process with their students and give feedback will inform the committee about what works and what does not. Click here to read the full history of the Development of Membership Standards.

Membership Report

As of December 2015, the SZBA has 167 Full Members and 123 Associate Members (290 members total). These numbers change as associate members receive Dharma transmission and become full members. In 2015, however, 5 full members and 10 associate members joined the SZBA for the first time.

Board Minutes

All SZBA board minutes are available, after approval, on the SZBA website:

Member Announcements
All announcements are submitted by members. 
  • In Memoriam - SZBA Members or their students or teachers who have died since the last newsletter
  • Priests Needed - Soto Zen temples in need of priests and teachers
  • News - Major news about things like new temples, abbots/guiding teachers, etc. (we're limited in terms of space, sorry!)
  • Publications by SZBA members
  • Events and Opportunities - In the interest of space, listings are limited to events and opportunities of special interest to priests, or that provide an aspect of priest training that members may not have available in their area.
  • Special Requests - Appeals to your fellow SZBA members
Submit announcements at any time to Domyo at Listing here does not imply any endorsement by the SZBA.
NOTE! There are weblinks throughout this newsletter to the SZBA website. Much of our website is password protected so it can't be accessed by the public. 
TO ACCESS LINKS TO OUR WEBSITE: Click one of the links and then log on with your member's username and password. If you don't remember the username and password, email the coordinator (
Once you log on, all of the password protected links will work for you.

Priests Needed

Priest Needed at Nebraska Zen Center

Because of age and health issues, I need to step down as Abbot of Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple in Omaha Nebraska. The Board of Directors needs to find a replacement. For information about the temple, please see our website at For further information about the position, contact me, Nonin Chowaney, directly at
Submitted by Nonin Chowaney


Milwaukee Zen Center Finds New Resident Priest

Reirin Alheidis Gumbel comes to Milwaukee Zen Center from the Shunryu Suzuki lineage of Soto Zen. She received ordination from Furyu Nancy Schroeder in 2007 at Green Dragon Temple of San Francisco Zen Center, and was head student there for the spring practice period in 2012. Before becoming a resident at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in 2003, she was lay-ordained in 1993 by Tenshin Reb Anderson and practiced as a lay student at the Santa Cruz Zen Center. Her positions at GGF included guest manager(shika), head of the kitchen(tenzo), and head of the zendo(ino).

During her years at Green Gulch, Reirin headed the Sunday children’s program, and was mentor for the coming-of-age program. She served as secretary on the board of the Marin Interfaith Council, and has for many years held correspondence with various prison inmates. Prior to her monk training, Reirin owned a fiber arts business in Santa Cruz, where she taught countless children and adults to enjoy their creativity. During that time she raised two daughters.

Born in Germany, Reirin studied music and English and became a high school teacher there. She also completed the Waldorf teacher training in England.

Submitted by Tonen O'Connor

New Guiding Teacher at Empty Hand Zendo

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Konin Melissa Cardenas, of San Francisco Zen Center, as the new Guiding Teacher in residence at Empty Hand Zen Center in New Rochelle, NY. Konin will take up her position on August 16th. Konin brings a set of skills and experiences that will be of particular benefit to our Center, as we seek to express the Dharma in our diverse urban setting.
Following the death in early 2014 of my teacher and founder of our Center, Jion Susan Postal, and the recurrence of my illness shortly afterward, we began a search for a new Guiding Teacher. The search and selection process has been the result of months of hard work by our sangha members and the support of Teachers within the Branching Streams network of SFZC-affiliated communities; they all have my profound gratitude. With Konin's arrival, I will be stepping down from my current responsibilities as Teacher and Head Priest.

                                                                    Submitted by Dennis Myozan Keegan

Two Zen Centers in Twin Cities Open New Temples

This is an exciting time for Soto Zen Centers in Minnesota. Compassionate Ocean Dharma Center in Minneapolis and Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul have both opened new temples in the past year.

Compassionate Ocean Dharma Center opened their new temple with rohatsu sesshin, December 1 – 6, 2014. This was a joint sesshin with Clouds in Water Zen Center, as it has been for the past 11 years. All participants delighted in the new space.

On March 29, 2015, Clouds in Water Zen Center held two mile walk from their old location to their new temple, and held their first Sunday service at the new temple on April 5th, 2015. On April 29 – May 3, they held a multi-sangha sesshin led by Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi from SFZC.

                                                                    Submitted by Sosan Flynn

New Executive Director at Brooklyn Zen Center

Dear Sangha and Friends,

I am writing to formally announce and welcome Danielle SaintLouis as Brooklyn Zen Center's new Executive Director. As many of you know, Danielle has been transitioning into her responsibilities for a few weeks and I am very happy to report she has fully taken up the duties of her role.

 Danielle brings to Brooklyn Zen Center extensive executive leadership in both socially conscious for-profit and non-profit environments. She is a co-founder and facilitator of Love Circle Sangha, adding much-needed sangha leadership experience to her role. Her positions to date have resulted in a broad background in operations as well as community-based development, networking and organizing that provide important insight into many aspects of BZC's organizational needs.

In addition to her rich and wide-ranging experience, Danielle's heart is clearly devoted to the dharma and the Zen tradition. Moreover, she maintains a strong commitment to the mission and vision of Brooklyn Zen Center as a place of training for Suzuki Roshi's lineage, a community-engaged dharma center, a refuge for young people, and a truly inclusive sangha committed to love, compassion and equity in our interdependent world. 

I encourage you to send an email or stop in and say hello and welcome her to our sangha and her role. Thank you, Danielle, for agreeing to serve our community and the dharma! You are already doing an amazing job!

With love and appreciation,
Greg, President, Brooklyn Zen Center

                                                                         Submitted by Teah Strozer

Events & Opportunities

Third Latin American Zen Encounter
Bogota March 7th to March 13th, 2016 

The Encounter

Brings together teachers, practitioners and the general public from various corners of the world, interested in promoting the tradition of Zen in Latin America, through different disciplines such as: spirituality, art, philosophy, literature and culture in general, to provide alternatives for change, alleviate suffering and to help  build a peaceful society.


Although Zen came to some South American countries before other countries in the West, its development as a practice took longer than in Europe and the United States. Even though it had a remarkable influence on Latin American culture through writers such us Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz and Julio Cortazar, its spread has been very slow, reserved for small groups.

For a long time the various communities that have driven its expansion were working in isolation, unable to provide the practice as a relevant tool for transformation and development of society.

For this reason, during the celebration of the 110th anniversary of the arrival of Soto Zen to South America in Lima, in 2013, the missionary teachers of the school agreed on the need of organizing an annual meeting, to join and provide Zen to a broader public, beyond the walls of the practice centers, including all other traditions and lineages that promote Zen in this region of the world. The purpose of this meeting is to disseminate the knowledge of the teachings of Buddha and Zen practice to a large number of people without distinction of race, nationality, bloodlines, creed or religion, to promote the development, evolution, welfare and prosperity of the community. Click here to view the full description and details about the Third Latin American Zen Encounter!
                                                                            Submitted by Denshō Quintero

90 Day Residency at Atlanta Soto Zen Center Available

A​tlanta ​S​oto ​Zen ​Center​ offers residency accommodations in 90-day segments (practice periods) for qualified, serious students of Zen​. SZBA teachers who do not presently have  facilities to offer extended residential retreat for their​ students ​may contact STO BOD Chair and Facility Director to arrange a suitable training schedule, etc. Tuition ranges from $400 to $600 per month depending on accommodations.

Special Requests

Documentary on the Life and Teachings of Soyu Matsuoka Roshi

The Silent Thunder Order lineage is announcing efforts to create a Documentary on the life and teachings of our Founder, Soyu Matsuoka Roshi.   Please take a look at the supporting fundraising efforts and video from the recent STO trip to Japan.  Please spread the word and help us increase awareness of his project.
Bows of gratitude to Silent Thunder Order’s Founder Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi for his efforts to bring Soto Zen to the West!

Please join us in celebrating Matsuoka Roshi’s life and legacy. Click here to learn more about the Matusoka Roshi Video Documentary Project:

                                                                    Submitted by Zenku Jerry Smyers
Copyright © 2015 Soto Zen Buddhist Association, All rights reserved.

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