Category Archives: News

Spring Equinox & Higan-e (currently)

In Japanese, there is a proverb that says “Hot and cold weather last until the equinox”. This week-long ceremony takes place on the spring and fall equinoxes, the middle of an important week when the weather is usually very good.imagae

Higan is the teaching that leads people from the world of delusion to the world of awakening. There are six components of this teaching: giving, precepts, perseverance, diligence, zazen, and wisdom. It is taught that if we carry out these practices we will be blessed with happiness and good fortune.

On the day before Higan, it is the custom in a Japanese home to clean the Buddha altar, to straighten up the various Buddha implements, and to change the flowers on the altar. It is also customary to make offerings of rice dumplings on the first day of the week. On the equinox (the middle day of this week) rice cakes covered with bean jam called ohagi or botamochi are offered. And once again on the final day of the week, dumplings made from rice flour are offered. During this time, offerings of food, special sweets, and fruit are also made.

Visiting the temple

It is customary at this time to visit the temple to present offerings of pounded-rice cakes (mochi), sweets, fruit, and so on to the principal image of Buddha as well as the family ancestors.

It is also the custom at Higan to visit the family grave to express our gratitude to the family ancestors. For those people living far away from the family grave, it is especially good to visit the temple and family grave during Higan. This is a good way to learn the warm-heartedness customarily expressed during Higan of giving rice cakes covered with bean jam to the neighbors and one’s relatives.

Visiting the family grave

A visit to the family grave first begins with cleaning the grave stone and grave site. It is particularly important to scour places that easily become dirty such as water basins and flower vases. Older wooden stupas are mindfully removed and disposed of according to temple instructions. Once the grave has been cleaned, fresh offerings of water, incense, and favorite delicacies of the deceased ancestors’ are made. The temple priest is then asked to chant a sutra at the grave, at this time, we join our hands in wholehearted prayer.

Following the visit to the gravesite, it is proper to remove the food offerings. No one likes to see spoiled offerings and they are also unsanitary. It is also good to clean up the special gravesite for graves that are no longer tended by family members and offer incense and flowers. In Japan, this is thought to express the beauty of one’s heart and mind.


Today’s latest hszc newsletter

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14 February – Multiple events: Parinirvana, Sangha Council & Guest Speaker!

In addition to St Valentine’s day , we will have a morning and early afternoon packed full of events:

Regular Saturday Scheduleparinirvana.jpg.w300h360

Guest SpeakerRev. Ryuei Michael McCormick is an American Nichiren Shu convert to and longtime practitioner in the Nichiren Shu school of Buddhism, who has written prolifically on the topic asking us to look deeper at this path and is also a long-time practitioner of zazen (seated meditation) and a student of the writings of Dōgen-zenji.

Following the talk we will commemorate in a ceremony  the passing of the Buddha to nirvana known as Parinirvana

We then go on to have social time, tea and cookies and suggest folks grab a quick lunch. So at 12:30pm we can reconvene for the Sangha Council and run for 90 minutes with a break mid-way — We’re  continuing this format that is flexible enough for a diversity of needs. The scaffold we’ll be working from is based on the Council process developed by the Ojai Foundation.

You do not need to have an ‘issue’ or overt concern to attend.  Council is sangha building, connection and healing.  All are welcome and invited to all of these events!


Wed, 11 Feb @7pm hszc member annual meeting

On Wed @ 7pm, we will meet in lieu of a board of director meeting with the full membership of hszc to have our annual meeting for the year 2014. Please all members and to be members join us, and please also see the letter below the image from the board of directors:


Dear Sangha (hszc community) Friend,

We hope this finds you doing well.

HSZC is expanding the membership of its Board of Directors, and seeking board members both inside outside of our immediate ‘temple family.’

This coming Wednesday (February 11) at 7 p.m., we’ll hold our annual Board meeting; it’s an opportunity for those interested in participating to observe, and ‘meet and greet.’

Our sangha and friends have a wide and varied depth of experiences across it’s membership, so I’m making a sales pitch to you…

HSZC is an active, intimate temple with 5 full time residents and twice daily zazen and service. 2015 holds an ambitious agenda for us; a nascent capital campaign, plans for a symposium to mark the 25th anniversary of our founder- Issan Dorsey’s- passing and celebrating the ongoing practice today, expanding our relationship to Maitri Compassionate Care, etc. We also host Meditation in Recovery (MIR) on Fridays, HIV and HIV Caregiver’s meditation groups, and monthly Women’s and Men’s MIR evenings.

Being a board member is a very meaningful way to ‘practice in the world.’ We care deeply about Issan-ji, and we all work with the ‘primary purpose’ of it’s well being as our intention.

So, think about being part of the HSZC Board of Directors: we’d be grateful to welcome you. And come visit this Wednesday, 11 February, at 7 p.m.

In gassho,

Hartford Street Zen Center Board of Directors


Sat. January 24 – Dogen Zenji’s birthday

DogenZenjiDogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen School as well as of Daihonzan Eiheiji, was born on January 26, 1200 CE. This was during the Kamakura Period of Japanese history, the year following the death of Minamoto Yoritomo. It is said that his father was Koga Michichika, a government minister, and that his mother was Ishi, the daughter of Fujiwara Motofusa. Presumably, young Dogen Zenji lived in comfort. However, at the age of thirteen, he climbed Mt. Hiei, and the next year he shaved his head and became a monk. It is said that he became a monk because he felt the impermanence of the world on his mother’s death when he was eight years old. (more here)

As the founder of our school of Zen Buddhism, we would like to offer a bit of a celebration after the Dharma talk of his life and contributions to Zen & Buddhism in Japan and study and practice in China. Every Saturday we offer early morning zazen (seated meditation) at 6:30am, morning service, a brief drop-in meditation instruction at 8:30 am. And again zazen at 9:25 am. We wrap up with a Dharma talk at 10:15 am (followed by ceremony if applicable) and then socializing,  tea and cookies.


Happy New Year & Welcome to 2015!

Untitled-1Please note we will be closed Jan 1, 2015. See you soon!


Balance of 2014…

islam_buddhism_73Please keep an eye on the weeks ahead, schedule, there are several adjustments. Easiest way is the newsletter and easiest access to that is our twitter page ( ) You dont have to sign up to access this just “x” out of the sign up window.

We also are still asking in time for your 2014 taxes, for your financial support! Please support the temple and its lay community offerings, residential student and priests programs!

Easiest way to give:

Deepest gratitude!


Please support HSZC!

monk-beggingGreetings and best wishes for the New Year to all of you, with many thanks for your continuing support. The new year will bring us to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passing of our founder, Issan Dainei. Through his original vision, along with the work and support of many people since, Hartford Street Zen Center has been offering the Dharma in the Castro for more than thirty years.

We ask that you help insure the practice of the Buddha Way in the Castro through your generosity. (click here for full annual appeal for donations letter)


Sat. Dec 13th Guest Speaker – Kokyo Henkel @ 10:15am

Please join us this Saturday for Guest Speaker Kokyo Henkel
Kokyo is currently Head Teacher at Santa Cruz Zen Center. He has been practicing zen since 1990 in residence at Tassajara, Green Gulch Farm, No Abode Hermitage in Mill Valley, and Bukkokuji Monastery in Japan. He was ordained a priest in 1994 by Tenshin Anderson Roshi and received Dharma Transmission from him in 2010.
Kokyo’s interests include looking at how the thclassic original teachings of Buddha-Dharma from ancient India, China, and Japan are still very much alive and useful in present-day America to bring peace and harmony to this troubled world.
Every Saturday we offer early morning zazen (seated meditation) a bit later at 6:30am, morning service, a brief drop-in or by appointment meditation instruction at 8:30 am. And again zazen at 9:25 am. We wrap up with a Dharma talk at 10:15 am (followed by ceremony if applicable) and then socializing, along with tea and cookies.

It is NOT too late to join the Study Period & now Winter Light Sesshin!

Here is general info

*Here is the schedule for tonight and of the next 4 days


*There will be some adjustments to fit in a Full Moon Ceremony on Saturday, the Founders Memorial, the Bodhi Day Celebration, end of the retreat and Study period closing ceremonies and ends at noon on Sunday with the Shuso ceremony!