November 27th, 2016
The Board of the SZBA leads the organization, develops and finalizes policy decisions, represents the membership, and gives thought to future directions for the organization.
The Board seeks to embody a balance of various factors including gender, lineage, geography and approach to training.
The Board members of the SZBA include:
July 27th, 2016
Click here to register!
Members of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, full and associate, are cordially invited to attend the 7th biennial SZBA conference. If you are a Soto Zen priest but not a member of the SZBA, please consider joining the organization!
One of the themes for this conference will involve exploring the many creative and compassionate ways Soto Zen priests and sanghas are responding to pressing concerns beyond their temple walls. While a priest’s core mission may be to nurture community and support the spiritual practice of individuals, this mission takes place in world with ever-increasing climate disruption, environmental degradation, violence, and social and economic injustice. As Soto Zen Buddhists working in our sanghas and with each other, how can we address the cries of the world to create positive change in society?
David Loy, PhD was the Besl Family Chair of Ethics/Religion and Society at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH from 2006 to 2011. Before that he served as professor of philosophy at Bunkyo University in Chigasaki, Japan from 1991 through 2005. He is an authorized teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Zen Buddhism, having studied with Robert Aitken Roshi and Koun Yamada Roshi.
David’s lectures focus on ecological and social issues, and on the encounter between Buddhism and modernity—what each can learn from the other. At our conference, David will speak about “Healing Ecology” to Zen teachers, sharing tools for working with our sanghas, and exploring what Buddhist practice today says about our personal and collective predicament in relation to the rest of the biosphere. David is co-editor of A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency (Wisdom Publications, 2009).
David’s books include, among others: Nonduality: A study in Comparative Philosophy; Lack and Transcendence: The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism; Money Sex War Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution; The World Is Made of Stories.
Guest Presentation – Successful Fundraising: From Hesitance to Confidence
by Thomas Bruner www.brunerstrategies.com
From CEO of a scrappy start up in Texas, to Vice President with the nation’s largest humanitarian organization in Washington, D.C., to volunteer at a Buddhist temple in Portland, Oregon, Thomas Bruner has been helping businesses and organizations do great work for decades. As a fundraiser, Bruner has helped an array of organizations across the country raise $300 million to advance their missions – including the successful completion of the first phase of Dharma Rain Zen Center’s capital campaign.
Thomas will facilitate an interactive, hands-on workshop about how we can raise more funds in our Sanghas in ways that are consistent with our values and principles. We will learn how we can be more successful in our fundraising through following topics:
After many conferences on the West coast (and only one on the East coast!) the SZBA conference will be held at Camp Courage, which is a little over an hour from the Minneapolis/St.Paul airport (charter busses will be arranged).
The conference is open to SZBA members who have paid 2016 dues. Full member dues are $125, associate dues are $40, although you can pay less as necessary. The conference fee for full and associate members is the same. Contact the SZBA Coordinator (coordinator(at)szba.org) if you want to apply for membership or have any questions.
The SZBA makes every effort to keep conference fees low in order to make the conference as accessible as possible, including to the many priests on limited incomes. There is some scholarship money already available, so if you can’t afford the full conference cost be sure to inquire with the SZBA Administrative Coordinator (coordinator[at]szba.org) about your interest in attending and how much you would be able to pay.
Please contact the SZBA Coordinator (coordinator(at)szba.org) if you have any questions! Thanks.
Remember: if you’ve forgotten how log on to the member’s section of the SZBA website, contact the SZBA coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2014 Conference resources, including:
June 21st, 2016
Click here to view a downloadable version of the statement
Soto Zen Buddhist Association Statement on the Orlando Tragedy
As members of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association — along with communities and practitioners of all faiths — we stand in solidarity with those who seek to live in peace and nonviolence, and grieve for the loss of life in Orlando. In particular we extend our heartfelt compassion to Orlando’s Latino and LBGTQ communities, their friends and families.
In the Dhammapada Shakyamuni Buddha, says: “Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time. Hatred ceases by love. This is an eternal law.” While we cannot untangle the thoughts and emotions of the shooter, quite aside from political dimensions, this is a crime motivated by delusion. Our world will never be free from conflict, but we yearn for a human culture in which one person’s views will not lead to another’s death.
We reflect, too, that mass shootings in Orlando, Paris, San Bernardino, Aurora, Newton, and throughout the world are facilitated by the ready availability of assault-style automatic weapons. These weapons, designed for military application not for sport, do not belong on our streets.
In the name of those below, and all victims of gender violence, hatred, racism, and homophobia — our sisters and brothers — we call for people and our elected leaders to wake from delusion and vow to resolve our differences with the strength of nonviolence. In this spirit we call the names of the dead in Orlando:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Amanda Alvear, 25
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Cory James Connell, 21
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Kimberly Morris, 37
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Omar Mateen, 29
With palms together,
Hozan Alan Senauke
President, Soto Zen Buddhist Association
To see photos and read brief stories of those who died at Pulse:
April 18th, 2016
PRESS RELEASE on
A WESTERN SOTO ZEN BUDDHIST STATEMENT ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS
April 18, 2016
Today it is our responsibility as Buddhists and as human beings to respond to an unfolding human-made climate emergency that threatens life.
The statement below offers a Zen Buddhist perspective on the climate emergency, expressing deep concern and pointing towards actions to halt and reverse climate change. It is a first step.
This statement is a unique collaboration among Soto Zen Buddhists in the west. Soto Zen, with its Japanese roots in the 13th century teachings of Eihei Dogen, emphasizes zazen, or seated meditation, developing a down-to-earth awareness of one’s own mind as expressed in all areas of daily life — at home, at work, and in society.
Among the largest of Japan’s Buddhist denominations, Soto Zen was brought to the west by teachers like Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Dainin Katagiri Roshi, Jiyu Kennett Roshi, and other spiritual pioneers creating Zen centers throughout the continent. The members and teachers of these centers are deeply concerned about the fate of the earth, of our children, of their children, and all beings. The statement argues:
There is an uncontestable scientific consensus that our addiction to fossil fuels and the resulting release of massive amounts of carbon has already reached a tipping point. The melting of polar ice presages floods in coastal regions and the destabilization of oceanic currents and whole populations of sea life…Severe and abnormal weather bring devastating hurricanes and cyclones around the world. Eminent biologists predict that petroleum-fueled “business as usual” will lead to the extinction of half of all species on Earth by the close of the twenty-first century.
This statement is signed by Rev. Gengo Akiba, who serves as sokan (or bishop) of the Japanese Sotoshu (or School) in the U.S., and as head of the Association of Soto Zen Buddhists (ASZB), representing more than 100 Zen priests authorized by Shotoshu headquarters in Japan. It is jointly signed by Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke, president of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA), representing western Zen priests recognized in North America. This is the first time these organizations have collaborated on an urgent social issue.
Coming on the heels of the December 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris and Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, this statement intends to spur a wider discussion in Zen centers and communities, as well as encouraging denominations and religious communities of all faith traditions to express themselves about the fate of the earth.
September 5th, 2015
From Wednesday evening, October 1st, through Saturday evening, October 4th, 101 SZBA members gathered at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon, for the 6th biannual SZBA conference. In attendance were 72 full members and 29 associate members, and the schedule was full! SZBA 2014 Conference Schedule
One of our members, James Ford, did us the favor of live-blogging throughout the conference, so for a personal account of the conference, click here to read his blog (make sure to click the arrows at the top or bottom to read about subsequent days). Note that this is a personal blog, not an “official” SZBA report.
Many photos were taken as well. Click here to access the photos so generously taken and shared by Hoko Karnegis and Shinsen Troy Couillard. (Please email email@example.com if you don’t know the member login information.)
Hoko Karnegis also made a lovely slideshow of her photos, including music, that you can view below.
Click here to access the audio files from the conference (please email Domyo at firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t know the login information), including:
The same link works for all of the audio, they reside in the SZBA Dropbox.
October 1st, 2014
The Question of Standards
First Committee and Membership Survey
Outcome from 2012 Conference
Revisions Based on Member Feedback
Presentation of the April 2014 Version of the Standards to the Membership
Survey to “Take the Temperature” of the Membership Regarding the Standards Document
Discussion at the 2014 SZBA Conference
Committee to Development an Assessment Process
Proposal of a “Three Gateway” Formal Practice Intensive Standard
Currently, Soto Zen Buddhist priests are eligible for full membership if they have received ordination and dharma transmission in a recognized Soto Zen lineage. A recognized Soto Zen lineage is one that can trace ordination and dharma transmission from teacher to disciple back to a Soto Zen priest that was/is recognized by the Soto Shu in Japan, although the lineage may no longer maintain an active standing with the Soto Shu. It is expected that ordination and dharma transmission ceremonies occur in-person and according to the traditions of the lineage.
Further requirements for full membership are as follows:
1. Submission of an application and registration fee;
2. Payment of annual dues;
3. Agreement to abide by and be held accountable to the SZBA Ethics Statement, and
4. Submission of an Ethics Statement to which the member agrees to abide and be held accountable, and which meets the criteria listed in the SZBA Ethics Statement.
Since the SZBA became active in the early 2000s (click here for a history), there have been many discussions about adding standards for membership that would achieve the following goals:
There has been much heated discussion about this topic, given that each Soto Zen priest in the west tends to function more or less independently, with the exception of conformance to the expectations of one’s immediate sangha, or to voluntary lineage organizations. Lineages and individuals vary widely in terms of the training they have received, and the training they feel is essential for their novice priests to receive. The adoption of any standards in addition to the ones listed above were seen by many as potentially divisive.
After a discussion about standards at the 2010 national conference, a Standards Committee was formed to study the matter. The committee was composed of four priests representing what was identified at the conference as the four primary modalities of training: monastic (represented by Kokyo Henkel), residential (Domyo Burk), temple-centered/non-residential (Meiren Val Szymanski) and ministerial (Myoan Grace Schireson). Over the next two years, this committee met via teleconference many times to frankly and honestly debate their differing views on priest training, and find a way to move toward additional membership standards that would respect the training of all current SZBA full members.
The Standards Committee first conducted a survey of the membership that presented an exhaustive list of different types of training and asked members to indicate whether they would require that kind of training for their own ordained students. Ninety-one of the 103 full members at the time participated in the survey (click here to review the survey results). The committee then drafted a set of membership standards, including only those trainings or skills that at least 70-75% of those surveyed indicated they require of their novice priests (or would require, if they did not yet have ordained students).
At the 2012 conference this first draft of Membership Standards was discussed extensively by conference participants. A facilitated session allowed members to choose small groups focused on their area of greatest interest, and then meet and draft suggestions for changes and additions to the standards. A second committee was formed to incorporate suggestions that came out of the conference. Jikyo Wolfer chaired the committee, and other committee members were Jerry Tenku Smyers, Zuiko Redding, Hozan Alan Senauke, Tonen O’Connor, and Domyo Burk. This committee presented a draft of the Standards for Board review and edits in early 2013, and after additional revisions presented a final draft to the Board in October of 2013.
After approval by both the Standards Committee and the Board, a draft of the Membership Standards was sent to all full SZBA members via email in early January, 2014, for a final, 5-week period of review and suggestions. Extensive feedback was received from eight members and discussed by the Standards Committee; many suggestions were incorporated into the document, and other concerns regarding the assessment and implementation phases were addressed via personal emails and phone calls from the Board president. A revised document from the Standards Committee was reviewed at length by the Board at their in-person meeting in March 2014, resulting in a document ready for the next phase of the process.
The Proposed SZBA Membership Standards (click here) were mailed to full members and emailed to both full and associate members in April 2014. Along with them was a letter that stated the board was on the “threshold of ratifying” the standards, but that members who found the standards problematic were encouraged to provide feedback and be intimately involved in the next phase of the process of adopting membership standards.
Subsequently there was discussion via the full member listserve and email as members raised questions about how the final decision to adopt the standards would be made, and expressing concerns that the standards as they were written might exclude some current priest trainees from full SZBA membership. In response, the Board sent an email to the membership inviting participation in development of the procedures for assessing future applications for full membership, which would have to address the following questions:
– How will the SZBA support priests in meeting the standards?
– What forms of training meet a standard for full membership?
– Which aspects of the evaluation process will benefit from flexibility while still ensuring a fair and uniform evaluation process for all applicants?
– How can we streamline the evaluation process?
– What should be the standing membership committee’s procedures?
– When will the standards become effective?
– Will the standards be phased in over time or go into effect all at once?
– To whom do they apply and who will be grandfathered in?
In a continued effort to be responsive to the membership, the Board sent out a survey to full members in June 2014 asking one question: “How do you feel about moving forward with the SZBA Membership Standards as they are currently written?” Respondents could indicate (5) I enthusiastically support them; (4) I think they’re a good idea; (3) I’m neutral; (2) I’m opposed to them, but I won’t block them from moving forward, and (1) I’m against them and would considering leaving the SZBA if they remain as written. Through follow-up emails and phone calls to members who had not responded to the survey, a 91% response rate was achieved (142 of 156 full members).
Results: 28 respondents (20%) answered (5); 72 respondents (51%) answered (4); 23 respondents (16%) indicated they were neutral or abstained; 14 respondents (10%) answered (2); and 5 respondents (4%) answered (1). In summary, then, 70% of respondents were in support of moving forward with the standards as they were currently written, while 13% were opposed. Comments were also collected, and most of the concerns of those who were opposed centered on the possible exclusion of good, qualified priests from the SZBA because of the membership standards.
There were two sessions at the October 2014 SZBA conference to involve members in further development of standards for full membership. The results of the survey (above) were shared. Discussion was not so much about the details of the standards as currently written, but more about how the standards might be used or applied. It was generally agreed that until an assessment process – the process by which someone would apply for full membership and demonstrate how they have met the standards, and how applications would be processed and assessed – has been clarified, further fine-tuning of the standards as written would be very difficult and of limited usefulness.
An Assessment Committee was formed, including some SZBA members experienced with educational assessment processes: Tenku Ruff (Co-Chair and Board Liaison), Shinsen Couillard (Co-Chair), Tomon Marr (Secretary), Dosho Port, and Mugaku Zimmerman.
Since being established at the October 2014 at the SZBA General Meeting, the Assessment Committee has focused on issues around developing an assessment model for the SZBA Standards for Full Membership. The committee has met regularly via phone since February 2015. Their discussions have been rich, addressing deeper issues related to the correlation between standards, assessment models, and the role each plays in the SZBA.
The Assessment Committee’s early meetings produced important threshold questions:
In June 2015, the Assessment Committee sent a letter to the SZBA board recommending using the Standards for credentialing, rather than as a gateway for full SZBA membership. The board deeply considered the committee’s recommendation and, after much discussion, clarified that the goal of adopting standards and creating an assessment process is to have an organization of qualified and well-trained Soto Zen priests, as defined by the Standards. To this end, the board decided that the current set of standards should be used as a requirement for full membership in the SZBA and not only for credentialing selected members. The board asked the Assessment Committee to move forward in creating an assessment process and the committee agree to do so.
At this time, the assessment committee has turned its attention to creating an assessment model which requires a candidate to show evidence for meeting the competencies outlined in the Standards. The assessment committee recommended to the board that the SZBA take the time to create an assessment process that honors the richness of the standards as they have been developed over the last six years and creates the desired outcomes for which the SZBA standards were originally developed.
The assessment process will to be developed gradually, with strong member input through a pilot process. Having members try out the assessment process with their students and give feedback will inform the committee about what works and what does not.
While the Standards document has met with general approval in polling of membership and at our last conference, it was clear that there were unresolved issues around the Formal Practice Intensive Standard.
The SZBA Board discussed at great length the possibility of significant numbers of current SZBA members resigning if the SZBA adopted a Formal Practice Intensive Standard that required prolonged periods of residential training (longer, that is, than one experiences in sesshin).
The board created a “Three Gateway” standard that, in combination with the other training standards, was designed to create a space where current members and their dedicated students could feel at home and be included in our growing and evolving SZBA. The board recognized that monastic training is a traditional path and for many people has been an invaluable element in their priest formation. At the same time, after visiting centers and witnessing the practice of our diverse communities, the board also recognizes that here in the west there are other approaches to priest practice in which well-trained teachers are developing. This proposal was the board’s attempt to affirm this variety of practice, allowing for all of us to learn widely from each other.
In order to get feedback from the membership on this proposal, the board created an online survey and sent out links to it in late November/early December 2015. Both full and associate members were asked to give their opinion on the following proposal:
To replace the current Formal Practice Intensive Standard as it is set out in “Proposed SZBA Membership Standards” document (last revised April 2014):
with a Three Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard:
SURVEY RESULTS: Out of 164 full members, 116 (71%) completed the survey, and out of 124 associate members, 71 (57%) completed the survey. Click here to view the results of the Full Members’ Survey on the Three Gateways Proposal, and click here to view the results of the Associate Members’ Survey. In summary:
Yes, I support the adoption of this Three Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard as part of the Proposed SZBA Membership Standards:
No, I do not support the replacement of the current Formal Practice Intensive Standard with this Three Gateway Standard:
I am undecided about whether to replace the current Formal Practice Intensive Standard with this Three Gateway Standard:
The survey also included multiple choice options for people’s reasoning (see the full survey results here and here), plus spaces for written comments. Explanation and comment were not required, but the most commonly chosen explanations are below:
I support the adoption of this Three Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard as part of the Proposed SZBA Membership Standards because it is inclusive:
I support the adoption of this Three Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard as part of the Proposed SZBA Membership Standards because it gives teachers more freedom to determine the nature of their students’ training:
I support the adoption of this Three Gateway Formal Practice Intensive Standard as part of the Proposed SZBA Membership Standards because substantial sesshin practice is sufficient for training priests; prolonged residential practice is not necessary:
I do not support the replacement of the current Formal Practice Intensive Standard with this Three Gateway Standard; having multiple gateways is unacceptable because prolonged (non-sesshin) residential practice is a necessary part of priest training:
Other explanations for not supporting the Three Gateway Standard were fairly even distributed among multiple choices indicating the Three Gateway Standard requires too much or too little residential practice, or requires too much or too little sesshin practice.
Most respondents added free-form comments, and these covered many topics. Some of the most commonly expressed questions were about implied equivalency between the second and third Gateway, the numbers of practice days involved in the different Gateways relative to one another, and the reasons for inclusion of a two ango option. The board will be carefully reading and discussing all comments in the coming months before deciding next steps to take with respect to the Formal Practice Intensive Standard.