SZBA Newsletter - July 2016
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President's Report

Dear Dharma Sisters & Brothers,

Hope you are enjoying the long summer days with evening light and warmer weather. It is a good season here in Berkeley, even in the midst of the world’s sorrows and the raucous combat of presidential campaigns.
I’ve been SZBA president for about eight or nine months at this point. Though I had been on the board for three years and served as vice-president, working closely with Taihaku Gretchen Priest, I am now feeling that I’m finding my way to be of service to you. The president of SZBA is not handed a job description; the organization itself seems to be in a state of constant evolution. All of that, however, is a good thing. While our Zen tradition looks towards our Asian ancestors and the teachers who planted our way in the West, Soto Zen is emerging in a variety of forms and communities.
To my eyes the uniqueness of the Zen we are growing here is that it is a practice that one can do day-by-day for one’s whole life. That life may include work, family, creativity, politics, aging, and even illness. Zazen weaves these activities together in a fabric of everyday enlightenment. This is the project we are all engaged in.
Meanwhile registration is well underway for our 2016 SZBA conference — “Responding to the Cries of the World: Soto Zen Priests and Sanghas in an Age of Climate Change and Social Suffering.” With Bhikkhu Bodhi’s keynote on Buddhist approaches to climate change, workshops on fundraising, right use of authority, temple transitions, social justice, an update on the Tempyozan Soto monastery project, and more there will be a rich variety of offerings and discussions. Beyond the agenda, I know that the best parts of our gatherings are the opportunities we have to spend time with each other over meals and walks and talks. I look forward to seeing many of you there, enjoying the autumnal colors around Maple Lake, Minnesota.
I want to thank our old and new coordinators: Connie Cummings has ably taken up the reins from Domyo Burk. This newsletter and the constantly updated website are now in Connie’s hands.
Finally, I appreciate SZBA members’ encouragement, criticism, and detailed attention that have gone into our two recent public statements:
• Last month’s statement on the Orlando tragedy.
• April’s join ASZB/SZBA statement on the climate emergency. The climate statement is now available for download in booklet form for members to share in their communities. See:
See you in Minnesota.
Hozan Alan Senauke


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. 
2016 SZBA Conference

Mark your calendar for the 2016 SZBA Conference


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


Camp Courage Conference and Retreat Center

Maple Lake, 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, the 2016 SZBA Conference will be held in the midwest. The theme of the conference is "Responding to the Cries of the World: Soto Zen Priests and Sanghas in an Age of Climate Change and Social Suffering".
The conference's keynote speaker will be Bhikkhu Bodhi speaking on "The Four Noble Truths of the Climate Crisis". 

Featured Workshop:  The Right Use of Power

Presented by Peg Syverson

The SZBA Board and Conference Committees are working hard on putting together a conference that will feature content that will be relevant to its members and to provide a space for members to meet, interact and share with one another. 

The 2016 Conference will feature workshops and member led talks. Peg Syverson will be presenting a workshop on the Right Use of Power. This workshop introduces the Right Use of Power training developed by Cedar Barstow. It provides teachings and experiential activities to explore our own experience of and relationship with power—our own and others’. 
Power is the capacity to have an influence, effect a change, or transform situations.

A common misunderstanding associates power with unwanted oppression, control, and violence. However, power can also be expressed as wanted and enabling responsibility, guidance, support, empowerment of others, and care. It can reflect core values of compassion, wisdom, clarity, and connection. 

Like any form of energy, power can be used skillfully, consciously, responsibly, and with care, or carelessly selfishly, and destructively.  

We are often ignorant of our own power or unskillful in its use because we have not been taught how to use it appropriately. We are also suffering from experiencing or witnessing abuses of power, large and small. This makes us afraid of power, or alternatively, grasping of it. 

We can learn how to use our power skillfully and appropriately. We can learn to meet the power of others skillfully and appropriately. In situations involving power dynamics, we can cultivate more humane and intelligent power relations in the service of the larger good. 

Our clarity around the use of power is often complicated by special, overwhelming mind states, including non-ordinary states and shame. (I would add terror and scarcity to this list of overwhelming mind states.) These mind-states prevent us from accessing either our own wisdom and self-care or the supportive resources around us. They create barriers to connection and care and cloud our judgment. We all need skillful, compassionate help from others when we are captured by such mind states. 

Feedback is a critical component of learning to use our power skillfully and with heart. Without it, we are generally blind to our impact on others. We need to learn how to request feedback, how to integrate it, and how to provide it for others in ways that nourish and support their learning. The capacity to deal appropriately with shame is essential to this work. 

Mistakes in the use of our power or our response to others’ power are inevitable and unavoidable. Fortunately, these mistakes can afford an opportunity for us to deepen trust in the relationship and foster honesty and intimacy through skillful repair. Our mistakes are humbling, but the skills for repair can be learned. 

Our lives as social beings mean that the dynamics of power will always be part of our human experience. We have the power of creativity, courage, compassion, connection, care, wisdom, clarity, energy, generosity, vision, and their opposites. The unskillful uses of power have been abundantly demonstrated over millennia, with each other, with other species, and with our planet. We are in our infancy in studying the appropriate uses of our human power. We have the capacity to evolve more mature and wise uses of power that support all life on the planet and provide care for all beings. But time is running out. We need to learn faster and more comprehensively how to use our human power in globally beneficial ways. We are the seeds of this evolution.

 Call for Speakers!

We still have space in the schedule for member led talks! This is your chance to help make this conference an alive, dynamic experience for all members, by adding your voice and sharing experience.

You can submit a proposal for either a 10 minute TED style talk, or a workshop proposal for a 1 or 1 1/2 hour breakout session. The TED talks should be directly related to the conference theme, while workshop proposals may be varied. Member led talks in the past have included a wide range of subjects, including:
  • Baika
  • Social Media Skills
  • Buddhist Chaplaincy
  • Robes Training
  • O-Fuda
  • Discussions on Succession Planning
  • Zen and Economics
.

With 7-8 slots for each - TED style speakers and break-out sessions - please send a title and a short description of what you'd like to present. The program committee will work to choose a balance of topics. 

If two or more speakers offer the same or similar topics, we could invite them to co-present as a panel. If this comes up, we'll definitely talk with you.

Some examples of TED talk topics that the board has generated are:
  • "The Cutting Edge of Buddhism, Social Justice"
  • Activism on environmental issues 
  • Something specific about our theme "Appropriate Response to Cries of World"
  • Responses to racism, gender issues, violence, economic injustice, society
  • Your ideas here

Some additional topics for break-out sessions might be 
  • Ways you have attracted (relatively) young practitioners
  • A fundraising approach that has worked for your sangha
  • Council process
  • Body-based practices (experiential please)
  • Zen arts or creative practices; Zen and education
  • Innovative use of technology for sharing the Dharma
  • And the official topic: 
    • addressing climate change
    • social justice activities
    • community engagement
    • racial and other diversity
But please do not be limited by these suggestions. Write something that you would like to share, tell us just enough so we have an idea what you are doing. 

Send proposals by July 20th  to

In Memoriam

Shunbo Zenkei

Spring Full Moon  Inconceivable Joy
Blanche Hartman[1]

                                Photo: Renshin Bunce
I have been asked to write something for our newsletter about my dear friend, mentor and dharma sister, Shunbo Blanche Hartman Roshi. She tried to use Shunbo or Zenkei but always we called her Blanche; because she was always herself, unassuming and present and funny and deeply devoted to the Dharma, but always simply Blanche. I think some folks missed her teaching because it was so very integrated into her being and because it was simply demonstrated moment after moment by her activity, her devoted activity.
Blanche was my preceptor when I received Dharma Transmission from our teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi. Her devotion to the precepts and Dogen’s way was palpable in that room when she offered them to me. She asked that the Ryaku fusatsu be read to her immediately after she died, and it was done. I don’t think she separated the precepts from zazen nor from Buddha’s robe.
Blanche loved zazen. She often spoke of Antai-ji and their practice of just sitting for sesshin. No toys: no lecture, no dokusan, no service, just zazen. When she became Abbess, she instituted this practice. We were scared at first but then found that it was a very powerful practice. Here, at Clear Water Zendo in Vallejo, we continue to sit this way at least once a year. Blanche also loved the practice of sitting all night for the last night of a sesshin and continued doing so into her 80’s.
Blanche’s other dharma-love was sewing Buddha’s robe. This is ironic given that she was a red-diaper baby and fierce feminist from early in her life. She refused to take typing in high school so as to be sure she would not ever be a secretary. She was lousy in sewing in her required home economics sewing course. She was asked to spend her time, instead, on refurbishing the machines because the second project was with expensive fabric. Needless to say, she was delighted.
Irony manifested years later when she heard that there was a woman teacher coming from Japan. Blanche was thrilled and made sure she could get time off to study with the first woman teacher she had encountered. Imagine her chagrin when she learned that what this amazing person taught was…sewing! Blanche loved to tell this story on herself and found it both funny and ironic. She did study sewing and the teacher who came from Antai-ji to teach was Joshin-san. Blanche worked with her and eventually was asked to be Joshin-san’s assistant, because she understood the engineering of rakusus and okesas. Blanche became more than an assistant. She became Joshin-san’s disciple, likewise devoted to this practice. In the years since, Blanch taught many many sewing teachers and Joshin-san’s simple organic style has spread throughout the west.
Blanche remained a social activist all her life. She left radical politics, in part because, she said, she came to think that Marx had not taken the three poisons into account. Even so, Blanche always marched in peace marches and was foundational in San Francisco Zen Center diversity efforts. I too come from radical politics. Every May 1 (May 1 is Labor Day in much of the western world), I would wish her Happy Labor Day and she would sing the Internationale: “Arise you prisoners of starvation…”
Blanche loved zazen, sewing, the dharma, her family, especially her husband Lou, and us, all of us, all around without limit. I loved her and miss her. And, she is right here with me now.

- Zenki Mary Mocine
[1] Should you want basic facts and a wonderful family obituary, please go to

Senior Associate Members Now Included on ListServ

In May, the SZBA board passed a motion to welcome "senior" associate members onto what has (up to this time) been referred to as the 'Full member listserv'. A "senior" associate is a new term to describe a priest who has been ordained for five or more years and has not yet received Dharma Transmission. Additionally, these members will require a recommendation from their teacher in order to participate in the listserv. This motion is the culmination of a year and a half long process of thoughtful discussions at both the board and full-member levels. 

-Ryushin Hart

Using the SZBA Websites

I get many questions about some of the SZBA Resources on the web. It is a little confusing. SZBA actually has two websites for members to use. We also have two 'listservs' for full and associate members, that are separate from the websites. At some point we will need to consolidate some of this into a more easy to remember configuration, but for now here are some hints.
  • This is our formal original website. It contains more up-to-date information in terms of announcements, board activities, and SZBA issued documents.
  • This site is for members and the general public.
  • It contains information on members and temples. Please have a look at your information and let us know if it needs to be updated.
  • You can not update your own member information directly in this site - but you can fill out a form that will send an email to the coordinator who will update your information for you.
  • Although members of the public can search for temples near them it does so in an unusual way, and I receive many emails from members of the public wanting to know where a temple near them is.
  • This is our Membership Tracking software site. We use this to track membership, event attendance, and manage finances.
  • This site is for members only. You were issued an individual login id and password when you became a member.
  • The membership information is the latest the SZBA has, as it comes directly from the database.
  • Members may login to this site and update their own information!
  • You can search for information on any field listed - such as all Temples in a given state, province or country that has members of the SZBA.
Yahoo 'Listservs'
  • There are two Yahoo Groups set up to provide a place for members to discuss relevant issues. 
  • One Group is for Full Members and Senior Associate Members, who have been authorized by their Teachers to participate.
  • One Group is for Associate Members
  • To participate in either group you must create a Yahoo ID, and email it to the coordinator so that you may be added to the list. 

I hope this helps a little to clarify the SZBA Websites and listservs. If you have any questions or issues, please don't hesitate to email me at

Connie Cummings
SZBA Coordinator
Board & Committee Reports

Nominations Update

Thank You for all those who submitted nominations for new Board Members, to replace outgoing members. We received over 28 nominations to fill the slots of the two outgoing Board members. Many thanks to Daishin Mcabe and Ryushin Hart, both of whom are stepping down in October after serving on the board for six years. The Nominations committee (Joen Synder Oneill, Josho Pat Phelan, Meiran Valerie Szymanski), will review the nominations, interview the nominees and submit their recommendations to the board. Those chosen by the board from the list will take office at the conclusion of the 2016 national conference meeting.

To learn more about the SZBA nomination process go to  Nominations Process.

Board Minutes

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

Member Announcements


Nonin Chawaney to Retire  

I'll be retiring as abbot of Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple and will be Descending the Seat on July 31st. My dharma brother, Dosho Port, will be succeeding me as abbot and will be Ascending the Seat shortly thereafter.

I thank all my good friends in the SZBA for their support and good will over the years, and I hope that they will extend the same to Dosho.

Hands palm-to-palm,
Nonin Chowaney .

Tampa Zen Center to Celebrate 10th Anniversary

Tampa Zen Center will have its TENTH anniversary in December, this year, having offered a Soto Zen practice center (weekly) in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. We rent a space at the Aikido Chuseikan center in the Ybor City subdivision of Tampa, Florida. We keep our cushions, bell and instuments, altar, candle and incense in a large cabinet that the Aikido teachers built for us. We are formally affiliated with San Francisco Zen Center as part of Branching Streams.

Submitted by Suzanne Suarez Hurley, Director.

Events & Opportunities

Sponsor a Tenpyozan Roof Tile    

The physical and organizational structures of Tenpyozan, an international Soto Zen training and retreat center being constructed 3 hours north of San Francisco, continue to grow. Under the guidance of Rev. Gengo Akiba, head of Sotoshu's North American office, its mission is to support, encourage, and facilitate the international transmission of Soto Zen Buddhism by offering training for Soto Zen clergy and opportunities for formal practice, cultural and religious study, and community fellowship for both clergy and laity. A board of directors has now been created, governance documents are in place, working committees (including a fundraising team) have been formed, and construction of the sodo is underway. The roof is tentatively scheduled for completion by this winter.

Supporters now have the opportunity to sponsor individual roof tiles. The tradition of kawara-gaki ("roof tile writing") allows individuals and families to share in the merit of building a temple. The name of each donor, or the person or organization in whose name the donation was made, will be inscribed on the back of a tile before it is placed on the roof. (To sponsor a tile, please visit Tenpyozan here.)

Tenpyozan's activities are mainly carried out by volunteers and more are always needed; one might help create information packets, write text for our website, work on the land, lend carpentry skills, or help raise money. For a current list of volunteer activities, please contact Tenpyozan at

For the latest information about Tenpyozan, you’re invited to sign up for its monthly e-newsletter. The latest issue is available here.



founded and edited
by Eido Frances Carney

Temple Ground Press has a new website: Shinshu Roberts of Ocean Gate Zen Center is the featured author through July. TGP is dedicated to publishing the teachings of Soto Zen Buddhism and texts inspired by Soto Zen practice. Our specialty is promoting the teachings of Dharma Transmitted women priests. We invite women priests interested in publishing a book manuscript to submit a query letter explaining the subject of the book and its general content. Submission information can be found on the website. A general call for submission of essays for the next anthology of teachings will be posted in the near future.

Submitted by Eido Frances Carney

Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life Care

Dear Friends,
New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care Announces our first book, Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life Care

“Marvelous. Awake at the Bedside is a compilation of essential treasures exploring the face and feeling of utter engagement, compassion, and wisdom in turning toward death.” —Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are

We are delighted to share the publication of our new book, Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teaching on Palliative and End of Life Care. This book isn’t about dying. It’s about life and what life has to teach us. It’s about caring and what giving care really means. In Awake at the Bedside, pioneers of palliative and end-of-life care as well as doctors, chaplains, caregivers and even poets offer wisdom that will challenge, uplift, comfort—and change the way we think about death. Equal parts instruction manual and spiritual testimony, it includes specific instructions and personal accounts to inspire, counsel, and teach. An indispensable resource for anyone involved in hospice work or caregiving of any kind. Contributors include Anyen Rinpoche, Coleman Barks, Craig D. Blinderman, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Joshua Bright, Ira Byock, Robert Chodo Campbell, Rafael Campo, Ajahn Chah, Ram Dass, Kristen DeLeo, Issan Dorsey, Mark Doty, Norman Fischer, Nick Flynn, Gil Fronsdal, Joseph Goldstein, Shodo Harada Roshi, Tony Hoagland, Marie Howe, Fernando Kawai, Michael Kearney, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Stanley Kunitz, Stephen and Ondrea Levine, Judy Lief, Betsy MacGregor, Diane E. Meier, W. S. Merwin, Naomi Shihab Nye, Frank Ostaseski, Rachel Naomi Remen, Larry Rosenberg, Rumi, Cicely Saunders, Senryu, Jason Shinder, Derek Walcott, Radhule B. Weininger. To order a copy for your sangha, go here:

Submitted by Koshin Paley Ellison

The Eightfold Path

A new book from Temple Ground Press, The Eightfold Path, edited by Jikyo Cheryl Wolfer, and with an Introduction by Byakuren Judith Ragir will be available for purchase in August. Other writers include: Myoan Grace Schireson, Zenki Mary Mocine, Tonen O’Connor, Shodo Spring, Misha Shungen Merrill, Teijo Munnich, Hoko Karnegis, and Pat Enkyo O’Hara. The book will be celebrated at the upcoming SZBA meeting in October.

Submitted by Eido Frances Carney

o seguir el rastro del sacerdote Zen Ryokan

Kakurenbo Or the Whereabouts of Zen Priest Ryokan by Eido Frances Carney has been translated into Spanish: Kakurenbo o seguir el rastro del sacerdote Zen Ryokan. The translation was initiated by and undertaken by Tesshin Sanderson and his sangha, El Centro Zen de Mexico, A.R. and La Comunidad Budista Zen Jardin de Luz, Madrid. Final editing was completed by Shotai De La Rosa. The book is published by Temple Ground Press and is available online or at your local bookstore. This publication makes the book accessible to another of the five largest language groups on the planet.

Submitted by Eido Frances Carney

Trust, Realization
and the Self
in Soto Zen Practice

Daijaku Kinst’s new book - Trust, Realization, and the Self in Soto Zen Practice starts with the simple question “What works to support the practitioner of Soto Zen practice?” In particular, what can help us to understand how to encourage and challenge practitioners to fully and fruitfully encounter the most demanding aspects of the teachings – Dogen’s radical teachings on the nature of the self, reality, and realization? Solidly anchored in the Soto Zen teachings, and drawing on both traditional Zen teachings and insights from contemporary psychology, the books takes up the central role of trust in the development of the self, the capacity to sit still, and the ability to allow the teachings and the practice to transform our selves, our relationships, and our experience of and participation in the world. Daijaku also discusses dimensions of practice environments that can effectively support and challenge practitioners in their efforts to embody the Soto Zen way with others. 
 “Perceptive and discerning, this book is a gem for any serious practitioner.”

Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly
This book is the voice of an experienced Zen teacher who invites us into the world of Zen practice with humility, humor, and plain speaking and allows us to consider how we might make this way our own.
Available now on University of Hawaii Press website
(Search “Author” “Kinst’). In the future will be on Amazon.

Selection from Trust, Realization, and the Self in Soto Zen Practice.  
Soto Zen practice is rooted in Buddhist teachings that challenge the very foundations of our usual, lived experience: the self. It asks us to enter each moment whole heartedly, let go of the self as it has been habitually experienced and allow a different subjective experience to emerge. This is not an abstract, disembodied process but one that is lived out in detail day by day and reverberates through every dimension of a practitioner’s experience. From the perspective of Soto Zen, releasing the hold on the self is a necessary and radical event that is liberating. The practice requires a willingness to allow everything one has relied on - that is the self and one’s notions of reality - to shift and change. If we look closely at this process, we find that…this requires deep trust, not only in the practice and the teachings but in one’s capacity to realize them. Ultimately it requires an abiding trust in life itself.
Daijaku Kinst is a dharma heir of Sojun Weitsman and co​-​teacher with Shinshu Roberts of the Ocean Gate Zen Center, Capitola​,​ California. She is the Hanyu Professor of Buddhist Chaplaincy at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, an affiliate school of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley California, where she teaches classes in Zen Buddhism and Buddhist pastoral care and is also a member of the GTU core doctoral faculty.

Submitted by Daijaku Kinst

All announcements are submitted by members. Topics to submit include:
  • 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!)
  • 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.
  • Publications by SZBA members
  • Special Requests - Appeals to your fellow SZBA members
Submit announcements at any time to Listing here does not imply any endorsement by the SZBA.
Copyright © 2016 Soto Zen Buddhist Association, All rights reserved.

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