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.


21 March, Saturday – Guest Speaker Renshin Bunce @ 10:15am

Renshin Bunce was a resident of SF Zen Center from 2001 to 2008, first for three years at Tassajara and then for four more years at City Center. She has helped hundreds of students sew their rakusus in Untitledthe SFZC sewing room, where she currently leads a class with Tim Wicks every other Saturday afternoon. And she is an author of the book Entering the Monastery.

She is a great caring support in the process of the sewing of Buddha’s robe (rakusu) and a tremendous good humor and a very warm heart. She is also known for her photographs, and her page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/renshin/ has been called “The Zen Center Yearbook.”

Ren made jukai with Myogen Steve Stücky in 1996, when he gave her the name Renshin Jiko (Lotus Heart/Mind, Boundless Compassion); was priest ordained with Zenkei Blanche Hartman in 2003; was Shuso with Myogen-roshi at Tassajara in 2008; and received Dharma Transmission from him in 2013. She lives on the Peninsula, where she works as a hospice chaplain.

Every Saturday we offer early morning zazen (seated meditation), 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.


TONIGHT! tea & conversation with a zen scholar- Taigen Dan Leighton 7:30pm, friday 20th of march

Taigen will be in the SF, Bay Area and has graciously accepted our invitation to tea. Taigen and Rev Myo share the same teacher and Dharma predecessor Tenshin Reb Anderson and he has a new book coming out and agreed to join us for casual conversation for an hour or so…j4

Taigen began his Zen practice in 1975 at the New York Zen Center, training under Kando Nakajima roshi. He studied at Columbia University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies. Leighton worked as a television and film editor in New York, and then San Francisco.

In 1978, he moved to California and eventually became a resident at San Francisco Zen Center, where he worked at Tassajara Bakery and other of Zen Center’s businesses. In subsequent years, Leighton practiced in residence at all of the San Francisco Zen Center facilities, including Green Gulch Farm Zen Center and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. In 1986, Leighton was ordained as a priest by Tenshin Reb Anderson (in the latter’s first ordination ceremony).

He lived in Japan from 1990–1992, translating Dōgen texts with Shohaku Okumura and training under various masters. In 1994, Leighton founded the Mountain Source Sangha in Bolinas, San Rafael, and San Francisco, California (of which Ancient Dragon Zen Gate is a sister temple).

In 2000, Leighton received shiho, or Dharma transmission, from Tenshin Anderson. He taught for four years at Loyola University, Chicago and has taught since 1994 at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, part of the Berkeley Graduate Theological Union, from which Leighton has a Ph.D. degree.

Please join us to have tea and casual conversation as he tours the bay area to also promote his new book being released in early April. Just This Is It: Dongshan and the Practice of Suchness


14 March – honoring the first Buddhist nun and mother

220px-Prince_Siddhartha_with_his_maternal_aunt_Queen_Mahaprajapati_GotamiNext Saturday is the annual observance of  Mahapajapati‘s life as well as a great opportunity to celebrate women in Buddhism through the first female nun. It is also shortly after international Women’s day.  Mahapajapati Gotami, the first woman to be ordained from the Buddha and to join the Sangha. She was the Buddha’s maternal aunt and adopted mother after her sister, Queen Maya (Mahāmāyā), the Buddha’s birth mother, died.

Every Saturday we offer early morning zazen (seated meditation), morning service, a brief drop-in meditation instruction at 8:30 am. And again zazen at 9:25 am. Dharma talk at 10:15 am followed by ceremony (when we have one) and then tea and cookies. We also have a regular schedule 6 days each week.

Please join us this Saturday for this celebration and we hope to see you often!


7 March, Saturday – Full Moon Ceremony 11am

It is our renewal of our Bodhisattva vows this upcoming Saturday morning after the Saturday Morning Dharma talk.

The ceremony takes about crowmoona half-hour and involves some thirty full prostrations, but simple standing bows are also all right if prostrations are too strenuous. All are welcome to join in this ceremony/celebration.

March is the full worm moon, as the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. the more northern tribes knew this moon as the full crow moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the full crust moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. the full sap moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. to the settlers, it was also known as the lenten moon, and was considered to be the last full moon of winter.

Every Saturday we offer early morning zazen (seated meditation), morning service, a brief drop-in meditation instruction at 8:30am. And again zazen at 9:25 am. We wrap up with a dharma talk at 10:15am followed by ceremony when applicable and then right to social time, tea and cookies. Please join us!


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Saturday, 21 February a Chinese New Year Event!

Please join us for the third annual event for a Chinese (lunar) New Year Celebration and remembrance to those who have gone beyond. This is the year of the Sheep, Element Wood (also sometimes called goat or ram).

Untitled-1Join us this Saturday for our normal program including a talk by our Abbot Rev Myo Lahey, followed by some Chinese New Year décor, treats and the symbolic call to our deceased loved ones, followed by offerings to make their current state a more enjoyable one and just remember them and send loving intentions through joss paper offerings.

It is also the event we recognize our completed goals and wishes by offering our Daruma  to the beyond in the joss paper fire and installing a  new Daruma by coloring in one eye as setting the goal (traditional Darma process).

Every Saturday we offer early morning zazen (seated meditation), morning service, a brief drop-in meditation instruction at 8:30 am. And again zazen at 9:25 am. Dharma talk at 10:15 am followed by tea and cookies.

Please join us this Saturday for this celebration and we hope to see you often!


16 Feb, Monday – HSZC closed for President’s day

Please have an enjoyable holiday, take care and we will see you Tuesday morning.Mount-Rushmore-Presidents-Day



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