Berkeley Zen Center

Hut Behind Zendo - 2

R and I went down to the Berkeley Zen Center (BZC) today. They have a regular Saturday morning sitting session (well, more than one) followed by a Dharma teaching from either the abbot, another roshi, or a priest from the area.

Today, Alan Hozan Senauke, the Vice Abbot, gave the teaching. He discussed racism and a number of other issues, quoting from Dogen at a couple of points. In April, he had gone to the 40th anniversary of the occupation of administration buildings by activist students at Columbia University in New York City. He had participated in the original occupation back in the day. At that time, there was a black activist group on campus and members of SDS had worked with them to jointly occupy several buildings. Hozan Sensei related how the white activists had been asked to find another building to occupy after the first night by the black group (which they did) and how he had never understood the reasons why at the time. At the 40th anniversary, this had come up during some discussion and it was finally explained to him. There had been a level of racism, both explicit and implicit, at Columbia, New York City, and in the country that, even as an activist who participated in Civil Rights work, he had just never understood. He related this to a quote from Dogen that expressed how rich, vast, and diverse the world is, even underneath our very feet, and how our eyes only see a portion of this. Hozan Sensei spoke of both his experiences, at some length, and related this to the teaching. I found it to be a very interesting teaching and I’m glad that we had the opportunity to her him talk (and show us the still visible scar on his head from when the cops took the buildings back and beat the students down). It was a bit more political than most talks but as a white American who does struggle with the explicit racism in our country and the implicit racism that I find in myself at times, I appreciated him frankly talking about these issues.

I also took a few photos while we wandered about during the tea following the sitting and teaching. I expect that we’ll go back there a bit. It is only about three houses over from the Thai Buddhist temple that so many in Berkeley go to on Sundays for brunch. BZC has been in the space for about 30 years and they’ve built a wonderful monastic setting in the middle of the city with several buildings with greenery throughout. It is nice to connect with Buddhists in the local community. Since my own practice, while related, is not Japanese Zen, Pure Land, or Tibetan Vajryana, I’m pretty used to working largely alone but a community to practice with is a wonderful thing.