Taiun Roshi and I went to the recent Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference near Minneapolis Minnesota from 9/28 to 10/2. I want to share this with all STO Disciples and Priests to increase interest in SZBA and for your information. I highlighted in blue the areas that I thought we should pursue further within STO.
The conference was held at Camp Courage alongside a charming lake north of Minneapolis MN. The theme of the conference was "Listening to the Cries of the World". There were about 120 Zen Priests in attendance. Nearly and equal number of men and women. The conference consisted of 3 days of presentations and workshops looking at our conference theme from numerous perspectives. We had early morning zazen and morning service each of these 3 days. Spending time meeting with old friends and getting to know new ones was one of the key highlights of the conference.
Taiun Roshi encourages us to take some lessons from this conference, and added that we begin to more closely model our STO conference along these lines. If we can use the annual meeting to set the tone, and even some goals and objectives for the coming year (which SZBA did not), we can develop a more consistent sense of progress from one conference to another.
Taiun Roshi also made a brief presentation of the Matsuoka Roshi documentary, showing the new and powerful trailer that Chase put together for that purpose. We also showed this at the farm retreat. 2017 is a marker for us as the 40th anniversary of the incorporation of ASZC, and so should represent a celebration and culmination of our Sangha.
STO, is one of the largest and most active Sanghas in the SZBA, and has a lot to offer others who are struggling to develop their own centers and membership. We also have a lot to learn from others. For this reason, we want to encourage all black- and brown-robes to join SZBA and plan to attend the bi-annual conference. I have become convinced that it is one of the best outreach and training venues available to us.
Conference Daily Activities & Presentations
SZBA President's welcome and opening statement.Hozan, Alan Sanauke kicked off the conference with opening remarks regarding the conference, the SZBA, and the challenges we face regarding our global change.
Right Use of Power Workshop.Zen Priest Peg Syverson led everyone in a workshop that sensitized everyone regarding the power we wield and its implications. Very good session with many implications regarding Sangha building.
Tenpyozan Presentation.Akiba Roshi gave a talk regarding the Tenpyozan Monastery project history, status, and future. His hope is that it will give people outside Japan an experience with traditional Buddhist Monastic environment. Akiba Roshi indicated that from start to finish this will be a 100 year project. They are currently getting started with erecting the Sodo (monks hall) Some activities will begin as soon as it is finished. Fund raising was discussed. Google Tenpyozan and go to the web site if you would like to donate and have your name written on the roof tile. We could donate individually and also from STO.
Memorial Ceremony. Special ceremony for Priests that have passed since our last conference.
Sangha Environmental Practices Breakout. I attended this one of 3 offered breakouts. Chozen Bays from Great Vow Monastery shared their ideas and strategies for reducing their footprint on the planet. An inspiring session encouraging a closer look at reducing our water footprint, reducing use of plastic bags and bottles and generally reducing our adverse impact on the planet. This session included recommendations on video and readings that were most effective and the idea of creating practical personal vows to spur concrete changes and lessen our impact on the planet. I plan to do more research in this area and suggest steps we can take individually with our Sangha.
Keynote Speaker, David Loy.
David Robert Loy is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
He isa prolific author, whose essays and books have been translated into many languages. His articles appear regularly in the pages of major journals such asTikkun and Buddhist magazines includingTricycle,Turning Wheel,Shambhala SunandBuddhadharma, as well as in a variety of scholarly journals. Many of his writings, as well as audio and video talks and interviews, areavailable on the web. He is on the editorial or advisory boards of the journalsCultural Dynamics,Worldviews ,Contemporary Buddhism,Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, andWorld Fellowship of Buddhists Review. He is also on the advisory boards ofBuddhist Global Relief, theClear View Project,Zen Peacemakers, and theErnest Becker Foundation.
David gave a very insightful presentation on the challenges we face in our current global change challenge and the causes and implication from our Buddhist perspective. We hopefully will be able to make his presentation available on the SZBA web site to share with all.
Planning Session, Developing SZBA Vision led by Peg Syverson. Peg introduced the Appreciative Inquiry process in a workshop that we all participated in to help develop a clearer vision concerning SZBA purpose and direction.This will be followed up on by an new SZBA committee being developed.
Fundraising for Zen Centers Workshop. This session was led by Thomas Bruner of the Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland. Thomas is a professional fund raiser who helped Dharma Rain move to a new property and develop it in Portland. He had some very good ideas that I will share with our STO Finance Committee and Board. He indicated that he would be willing to work with other centers as needed.
Breakout Discussion with David Loy. We continued the discussion regarding our social and climate challenges and we began to talk about the best way forward.
Ananda Ceremony. This was a women only ceremony honoring and thanking Ananda for his role in influencing the Buddha to beginning the Women Buddhist Order and give ordination to women.
SZBA Business Meeting. 2018 SZBA Conference committee was formed. Taiun Roshi is one of the members. The SZBA Board Nomination committee was formed. Zenku is on the committee. There will be a committed formed to take up the issue of our refined mission statement and next steps to address climate and social challenges.
Taiun Roshi volunteered to join the conference 2018 committee to hopefully effect the gap between conferences as representing more development along lines indicated by the presentations, and to help design what I feel may be a more effective approach to the conference itself. Those ASZC practice leaders who attended the Watershed Farm Fall Retreat discussed the possibility of hosting the SZBA conference here, namely at the hotel and conference center in Hiawassee, as a potential program for bringing wider awareness of ASZC Atlanta and Watershed as a retreat center, with both as residential opportunities for Ango for students of other Soto teachers and lineages. One senior teacher at SZBA expressed an interest in this offering.
Hogen Bays - "Nothing is Amiss: the Foundation of Social Action"
Koun Frank - "Race, Privilege, and a Tradition of Conformity"
Tenku Ruff - "Cultural Competence: Communicating Across Generations"
Ben Connelly - "Working with Police Departments with Mindfulness and Meditation"
Breakouts. I went to the session led by Taigen Leighton titled"Joining Social Protest Movements as Bodhisattva Practice". In this tumultuous time, racial and economic injustice have inspired social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Climate Justice movement. Our samadhi practice can be helpful, not only in zazen but by joining in protest marches and actions. Our samadhi both sitting and zazen and walking in kinhin, gives us the ability and responsibility to help settle and inform those working for justice and peace. Our on practice can also be deepened by such activity. Taigen also presented perspectives on civil disobedience as a Bodhisattva practice. We also discussed has we are going to actively help in these challenging times.
Dharma Heritage Ceremony and Closing Ceremony
Dharma Heritage Ceremony is welcoming newly transmitted priest to SZBA full membership.
ClosingBanquetand Evening Cultural Sharing
A very warm and lively closing dinner and entertainment. Members shared, songs, poetry, stories, skits, etc. Taiun Roshi withaccompanimentfor other member presented his musical rendition of the Metta Sutra to close out the evening.
The SutraSuite™ project was received with enthusiasm, and we signed up about 20 members of SZBA who want to participate, some just to listen to the recordings, others to add voice and instrument tracks to the settings. We hope to accumulate an album of Soto Zen liturgy as music, and to be able to celebrate by singing over the annual holiday season.
Please follow up with Taiun Roshi or I, if you have any comment or question.