Zendo books,  videos, obits, other

 7-day sesshin  May 1 to May 8. Guest House at Dai Bosatsu Zendo in Livingston Manor, NY. Partial attendance is allowed, though of course we encourage people to experience the full 7 days if at all possible. Zoom participation is an option.The fee for the full retreat is $600, or $86 per night. Zoom participation is $200/full, or $29/night. Financial assistance is possible in special cases.

Mail  $100 refundable deposit made out to "Zen Studies Society", to Carl Viggiani, 20 North Broadway L355, White Plains, NY, 10601.  <carlviggiani@gmail.com> Please note that deposits need to be received by February 1st.

 Information concerning participation of other teachers will be announced as it comes in.

We will follow the relevant CDC guidelines for Covid safety.

The second edition, revised and updated by Susan Efird, of Roshi Kennedy's seminal work, Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, is available for purchase on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Zen-Spirit-Christian-Revised-Updated/dp/163557997X/

The Chinese translation by  Sensei Amy Yee may be purchased directly from the publisher: http://www.kcg.org.tw/detailbook.php?id=859 

and on  Amazon, click here.

Both may also be purchased from MSZ for $18 each.
Contact morningstarzen@gmail.com

The DVD Jesus and Buddha: Practicing Across Traditions (Old Dog Documentaries, John Ankele) may be purchased from MSZ for $10.

The CDs When God Disappears (John Main seminar) (MedioMedia) may be purchased from MSZ for $20.

To purchase directly contact morningstarzen@gmail.com

Zen Entry Points by Sensei Paul Schubert is available through Amazon.

A Forest in his Pocket by Sensei Ray Cicetti is also available through Amazon.

Robert Hesse's new book Faith and Science – A Journey into God’s Mystical Love (with review by Roshi Kennedy) is available from Crossroad Publishing and Amazon. http://www.crossroadpublishing.com/crossroad/title/faith-and-science  


Extended sangha sittings on Zoom:

Sensei Tim St. Onge  M-F  9 am, noon, 5 pm

Roshis Chas and Ellen Birx Wed. 7.15

Sensei Tim Butler Thurs. 6 pm

Fr. Michael Holleran Thurs. 7.15

and more TK



A treasure trove of videos, courtesy of Empty Cup Zendo, Christopher Smith, at St. Boniface, the Brooklyn Oratory:  

Facing the reality of war, political fanaticism, racism, mass shootings: Ram Dass, describes how he keeps an open heart when life seems like hell. Listen here.

Listen to Thich Nhat Hanh, who died in January 2022, describe in his own words, his origination, who he is, and where is his now.

In this dynamic TEDx talk, Fr. Robert Kennedy, S.J., Zen Roshi  points to the flesh, bones and marrow of Zen practice.

This "Korea Today" TV vignette features Rev. Bernard Senegal, a Canadian Jesuit priest who teaches Buddhism in Korea.

Fr. Tom Hand, S.J., who spent 29 years in Japan, reflects HERE, on the the influence of Zen meditation on Christian contemplative practices, and considers the evolution of Japanese Buddhist Zen into American Christian Zen.

Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast talks about the significance of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Listen here.

Meet Sister Elaine MacInnes, a Catholic Nun and a Zen Roshi trained in Japan and fully accredited, HERE

Here, Catholic theologian, Richard Rohr's insightful account of "Original Sin" parallels Buddhism's First Noble Truth: the unsatisfactoriness of life; that something is missing.

Episcopal priest and renowned leader in the Christian contemplative prayer movement, Cynthia Bourgeault, describes 'objectless awareness' in prayer.

This biopic features Hugo Makibi Enomiya-LaSalle, S.J. (1898 - 1990), an influential bridge builder between Zen and Christianity, and Jesuit priest who was 1,400 yards from ground-zero when the atomic bomb leveled Hiroshima.

Ilia Delio, OSF, PhD is a renowned theologian, Franciscan Sister, authority on Teilhard de Chardin, and specialist in the area of science and religion. HERE, she reflects on "the overwhelming wholeness of being at the heart of cosmic life."

Step into the colorful family dynamic of famed Zen teacher, Shohaku Okumura, here. Powerful family values are expressed mainly in action rather than via words or letters.

Non-dual insight is the theme of Hsin Hsin Ming (Affirming Faith in Mind). Listen, here. Read the text, here.

Theologian, Rev. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, draws on the ancient contemplative spirituality of the Desert Fathers, and distinguishes between true and false "self-discovery". Listen here.

The universality of sacred chant is expressed by a Gregorian chant ensemble here, and by Japanese Buddhist monks, here. The harmony and non-duality of sacred chant is embodied and expressed in simultaneous Gregorian and Buddhist chant, here. (Skip the ads!)

Listen HERE to Christian theologian, Paul Knitter, talk about the urgent need for inter-religious dialogue, and the increasingly common experience of dual religious belonging where believers follow more than one religious path. (Conference sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Australian Catholic University.)

Other Voices:

     Passionist theologian, Fr. Joseph Mitchell, click here

     Zen Master Bon Yeon (Jane Dobisz), click here

     Alan Watts, click here

    J. Krishnamurti, click here

    Eckhart Tolle, click here


RIP 2022: Sister Elaine MacInnes, beloved teacher of Roshi Seiryu Blackman, passed away in Toronto on November 29, 2022; she was ninety-nine years old. Many in 0ur sanghas have worked with the koans in her book The Flowing Bridge, and her teishos have been inspirational to us. If you are interested in learning more about this remarkable Zen teacher and Catholic nun, please refer to: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind/2022/11/recalling-the-catholic-nun-zen-master-sister-elaine-macinnis.html.

Bruce Blackman was a Zen teacher in the White Plum lineage. He began meditation in 1981 and studied Zen several years in Southeast Asia with Sr. Elaine MacInnes-roshi of the Sanbo Kyodan, and later with the Diamond Sangha of Robert Aitken-roshi. He joined Clare Sangha in 1996, becoming a student of Janet Richardson and Bernie Glassman-roshis. Named a dharma holder in 2001, Bruce was installed as Sensei in 2004. He is the guiding teacher with Clare Sangha and lay preceptor for transmitting the Bodhisattva precepts. 

Sensei wrote an article in Pearls of Ash and Awe (2015) on bearing witness at Auschwitz. He has compiled a story collection of “People in A Pinch Getting Free.” Stories that correspond reduce the gravity and lighten us up, he says of their value in Zen training. His dharma name is Seiryu (“clear stream”). He was installed as Roshi in 2020 by Janet Richardson and Robert Kennedy-roshis.

Bruce worked for 25 years in East Asia and Latin America, specializing in economic program development. A Spanish speaker, he received his BA from the University of Oregon, and masters degrees from UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins U. Since his work overseas, he transports special needs children to school, and works with a restorative justice agency - mentoring and teaching awareness to inmates. Sensei was also elected to the board of an international adoption agency. He and his wife Joan resided in Northern Virginia.


From Sophia Zendo, Oceanside NY (Madeline Larson): 

God can be loved but he cannot be thought. He can be grasped by love but never by concepts. William Johnston, SJ

Speak only if it improves upon the silence. Mahatma Gandhi

Contemplation builds on the hard bottom of reality--as it is-- without ideology, denial, or fantasy.  Richard Rohr, OFM


and from Neil Smith, Inisfada zen:

We are not a discussion group or pursuers of relaxation. We are not a religion. There are no sermons selling fixed ideas or narrow moralities. Preconceptions, opinions and expectations (always and everywhere) are a barrier to seeing further.

We are serious practitioners learning to awaken to ourselves, and therefore to everything else. We are a non-denominational practice that will (if you wish it to) deepen any faith you espouse.

Zen is simply life study, nothing special. There is no dogma or belief, only personal experience. In silence we allow ourselves to open to the 'real' behind the blizzard of stultifying internal blather.  Zen grows slowly, like grass - let it.  Don't expect anything the first day, or ever. 


Review by William Skudlarek, monk of St. Johns Abbey, Collegeville, MN, July-December 2020  Monastic Interreligious Dialogue

One does not have to read very far into Ellen Birx’s insightful and accessible book on the interspiritual practice of Zen and Christianity to recognize that this is an author who is worthy to stand among other fine writers— Aelred Graham, Hugo Enomiya LaSalle, William Johnston, Ruben and Maria  Reis Habito, Tom Chetwynd, Elaine MacInnes, Robert Kennedy, and so many others—who have given testimony to the way their Christian faith and practice has been enlightened and strengthen by the practice of zazen. What sets this book apart is her insistence that if you do decide to incorporate another religious tradition into your spiritual practice, do not pick and choose. As she says at the end of her book, “In my life I have focused on these two spiritual traditions because it is difficult to go deep enough into more than two traditions, and depth is of the essence” (p. 190).

 Birx’s concluding comment echoes a statement made by Father Pierre de Béthune, first Secretary General of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, in the 2016 documentary film “La voie de l’hospitalité” / “Strangers No More.” I quote here from the subtitles of the English version, beginning at 23’36”:

 If you are deeply rooted in your own tradition . . . you don't have to be afraid of immersing yourself in another religion. It’s not a question of compromise, saying I’ll accept this, but not that. No. I accept everything!  But I accept it with all that is mine. It's a meeting from faith to faith or, more exactly, from fidelity to fidelity.

 Virtually every page of this fine book indicates just how deeply rooted Ellen Brix is in the spiritual and doctrinal tradition of Christianity. As a dharma successor of Roshi Robert Kennedy SJ, she has also gone deep into the Zen tradition, not only that of the Sanbō Kyōdan, the lineage of her teacher, but of “all Zen teachers and practitioners back to Buddha who kept this practice alive to this day” (p. xi).

 The theme that runs through the entire book is that the essence of Zen is the experience of nonduality, “seeing through the illusion of a separate ego self to directly experience ultimate reality, which manifests as you and the whole universe, from which you are not separate (p. 51). What Zen offers those seeking this illumination is training in practices that can prepare one for this life-altering experience, especially meditation, but also rituals, chanting, and working with koans.

 How to conceive of or even recognize the experience of nonduality is often difficult for those formed in a Western culture that is so focused on individual dentity and distinctiveness. Birx’s reference to what the Council of Chalcedon (451) said about the hypostatic union of Jesus is helpful. In him  divinity and humanity are distinct but not separate realities. Her own practice of zazen led her to the experiential realization that this teaching applies to us as well. We are “already one and not separate from ultimate reality, or God. Yet we are distinct; we do not merge like a drop into the ocean—at this time, nor in the future” (p. 45; emphasis added).

 Early in her book, Birx recognizes that Zen terminology such as nonduality can seem abstract and confusing. “However,” she continues, “before I was a nurse, a nursing professor, or a Zen teacher, I was a first-grade teacher, so I am confident that I can make Zen terms clear and simple” (p. 3). She then goes on to clearly describe and explore the various ways in which “the Zen awakening experience did not negate [her] previous Christian awakening to God’s love [but] expanded it” (p. 17), organizing her reflections  under five headings: “Entering Interspiritual Practice,” “Experiencing Nondual Spirituality,” “Discovering the Nonseparate Self,” “Meditating and Praying,” and “Embodying Loving Action.”

 Embracing the Inconceivable offers the reader an extended and compelling reflection on the ways Zen can aid Christians in the fulfillment of their vocation to recognize and experience that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, as Saint Augustine so memorably put it, that we are one in Christ and one with the world we serve through works of compassion, justice, and truth.

 As a Benedictine monk who has long admired the courageous and eloquent witness that the French Benedictine, Henri Le Saux  (Swami Abhishiktananda) gave of the nondual spirituality that Birx describes and elucidates so masterfully, I cannot help calling attention to her mistaken reference to him as a Dominican priest (p. 110). However, since he believed that “You will only find yourself in the total loss of yourself” (diary entry for February 3, 1960 in Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, p. 231), he probably would not have minded in the least.