Visiting Family: A Trip to Dai Bosatsu Zendo 2/21 – 2/23

Due to the snow situation in the Catskill Mountains we have postponed out visit to Dai Bosatsu Zendo. The access road to the center is currently only passable by snow cat. We will reschedule the excursion within the upcoming months when the access is easier. Please stay tuned!

Charles River Zen (CRZ) invites you to join us in a weekend of practice with our Rinzai Zen Dharma cousins in the Catskill mountains. Rinzai-ji and the Zen Studies Society (ZSS) trace their lineages back to Gasan Jito (1727–1797), a dharma heir of Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (1685-1756). Gasan had two successors, Inzan Ien (1751-1814) and Takuju Kosen (1760-1833). CRZ’s dharma lineage follows the Inzan branch, while the ZSS lineage is traced back to Takuju Kosen.

Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji is a residential facility dedicated to formal Rinzai Zen training. For the opening ceremony on July 4, 1976, both Joshu Sasaki Roshi and Genro Seiun Osho were present, along with the founder Eido Roshi and many other Buddhist teachers.

The Abbot of DBZ, Kongo-ji is Shinge Roshi, who has offered to give a talk during the weekend. The program will include morning and evening zazen (meditation), chanting, communal meals, and samu (work practice). Accommodations are dormitory style, rooms are shared with same gender participants. There will be a full formal schedule in which all visitors are expected to participate.

February in the mountains calls for appropriate clothing, including long underwear. Practice robes are required and DBZ will lend robes to those who do not have their own set. While there is heat in the buildings, the temperature is lower than commonly expected (55-60). Some outside work may also be assigned and everyone should bring appropriate winter gear.

The group will carpool – the ride is about five hours each way. We plan to leave between 12 pm and 1 pm on Friday, February 21, 2014 and leave DBZ in the early Sunday afternoon. The total cost is $175 and a $100 deposit is required to secure a space in the carpool. Please respond as soon as possible to allow us to arrange for the appropriate transportation.

Should the weather conditions interfere with safe travel or cut off accessibility to Kongo-ji, we will postpone the excursion and refund the deposits. Please contact us through the contact form or call 617.800.9585 with any questions you may have.



October 2013 Update


Time flies – just as it is said in the Last Admonition by the National Teacher Kozen Daito: 光陰箭の如し(ko in ya no goto shi) “time flies like an arrow”. We have found our new home on Spring Street to be a nice and welcoming place. The spacious room with the wood floor leaves plenty of space for newcomers to add to the line of cushions that are occupied by the steadfast members of the sangha.

We have the great pleasure to welcome Patrick from Vienna, who moved to the Boston area to take up teaching at one of the local universities. Patrick has trained at Mt. Baldy Zen Center and Rinzai-ji in California and also spent some time in Montreal. Welcome Patrick, we are so glad to have you here!

On October 16 Dokuro participated as a Harvard Chaplain in the twice annual Silent Vigil for Peace. Three hours of seated meditation in front of the Science Center, sitting with fellow chaplains from a variety of traditions and with students who joined – quite an experience. The bustle of a vibrant and busy university campus, streams of students, faculty, staff, and visitors… flowing effortlessly around the vigil.

For November 13 we have planned a public talk “What is Zen” – please mark the date and invite anyone who you think may be interested!

On July 21 the new Business Abbot at Rinzai-ji was installed, Hoju Eshin, Osho. On October 18, 2013, Sasaki Roshi has officially retired from direct teaching of students and disciples. Joshu Roshi’s advanced age has kept him de facto from direct teaching since early 2012 but his retirement makes this step official. Our sangha will continue to practice and is looking at more opportunities to “manifest into the ten directions” while keeping the core of Rinzai Zen practice vibrant and alive. The leadership and the long time practitioners are continuing to attend retreats, give retreats, and set up these opportunities locally as well.

Rinzai-ji is finding its way after the retirement of Sasaki Roshi, and the community is in the process of maturation. The analogy of the stone tumbler comes to mind: all sangha members are thrown into this process, tossed around, tumbled, but with the continued movement and development sharp edges will disappear and some polished outcome emerge. Patience, compassion, and willingness for change and forbearance are needed.

Earlier this year Dokuro participated in a sesshin at Dai Bosatsu International Zendo, in the Catskill mountains, where our “cousins” in the Rinzai tradition practice. There are two major lineages after Hakuin Ekaku 白隠 慧鶴 (1686-1768), who is a common ancestor in all living Japanese Rinzai lineages. At the bifurcation stand the notable masters Inzan Ien 隱山惟琰 (1751–1814) and Takujū Kosen 卓洲胡僊 (1760–1833). Sasaki Roshi’s lineage traces back to Inzan, Eido Roshi’s ancestry is from the Takuju lineage. The opportunities to train and experience Rinzai Zen in America are rare, and both the disciples of Joshu Roshi and Eido Roshi are continuing to pass the practice and heart of Rinzai Zen into the future.

Please come and join Charles River Zen, bring someone who is interested, or make them aware that there is a place to practice. We will receive anyone willing to join the communal practice with open mind, open heart, and open arms.


April 2013 Update

April has come and finally we were able to get some three hour long retreats scheduled before the summer. The first of the retreats is on April 28 from 2 – 5 pm at Namo Yoga, 21 Belmont Street in Cambridge. Please consider joining us for the sit – there is so little opportunity to practice together and we appreciate each participant.

Shukō has suggested that we “formalize” our “casual” sits, and they will be shown on the calendar as such. For these casual sits sitting will be informal, no need for robes or ceremonial opening and closing. This is an opportunity to just come by and sit in comfortable clothes, without the formality of traditional form. The number of periods of Zazen will remain the same, three sits of 20 minutes.

The Body Mind Integration Center will close its location at 118 Main Street at the end of June 2013. At that date Charles River Zen will change its meeting location to the Watertown Center for Healing Arts (www.watertowncenter.net) at 22 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown. The WCHA is the sister organization to the Body Mind Integration Center and is just around the corner on Mt. Auburn Street. For those riding the trolley bus #71 it will be one stop closer to Harvard Square. We’re glad that the management of WCHA is giving us the opportunity to continue our sittings and we will keep the same schedule of Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

April 8 is the Buddhas’s birthday, and we also wanted to acknowledge Joshu Roshi’s 106th birthday which we commemorated on April 1st. We all look forward to seeing you at the sittings and hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to practice in a supportive environment.


December Update

On December 8 and 9 we held a Rohatsu retreat at The Center at Westwoods. Great weather and dedicated practitioners made this event a memorable experience for all who attended. We were joined by Zen students coming all the way down from New Hampshire. Thank you for attending!

Retreats at Mt. Baldy Zen Center

Since Sasaki Rōshi has stopped teaching Mt. Baldy Zen Center has continued to offer 7 day retreats, Sesshin, and training periods. The senior disciples of Sasaki Rōshi are pitching in an attending the retreats, which follow the intense and traditional schedule. Zen students are offered the opportunity to meet with a Zen teacher during the retreat to discuss their practice.

The January retreat will be led by Seigaku Kigen, Oshō, and Dokurō will be attending the Febrileebruary retreat, from February 8th through the 15th. If you ever wanted to attend an intense Zen retreat, please consider a Sesshin at Mt. Baldy Zen Center. Please inquire with us or contact Mt. Baldy Zen Center (www.mbzc.org) directly.


November Update

October Retreat

Charles River Zen held a day retreat on October 21 at the Center at Westwoods. The retreat lasted from the morning until late afternoon and included a lot of zazen, outside kinhin, the opportunity for a private meeting with the teacher, and a Dharma talk. We had a good group of seasoned practitioners as well as some for whom this retreat was their first. The grounds at the Center at Westwoods are beautiful and natural and we had a day of sunshine and mild temperatures.

Sangha News

With great sadness we are announcing that Shugetsu Mary Reinhart passed away on October 31, 2012. Shugetsu was one of the pioneers of Zen practice on the East Coast and studied with eminent Zen masters including Soen Nakagawa Roshi, Hakuun Yasutani Roshi, Eido Shimano Roshi, and for the last thirty years Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Shugetsu was an ordained member affiliated with Charles River Zen through Dharma Cloud Hermitage.

Shuko and Dokuro knew Shugetsu well and visited her often. For most of her life Mary lived in Manhattan where she practiced at the First Zen Institute and Shobo-ji. When she retired from her occupation as a psychotherapist she moved to Hightstown near Princeton NJ to be near a Rinzai-ji Zen Center. In search for a more moderate climate Mary moved to Irvine, California, where she married Richard Baynes, who remained her faithful spouse and meditation partner until the end. Shugestu Mary Reinhart was walking her 98th year.

We will hold a memorial service for Shugetsu which will be announced on the site. Please plan to attend.

Brown University: An Introduction to Rinzai Zen

On November 3rd Dokuro was invited to lead an introductory session on Rinzai Zen at Brown University in Providence, RI. Kendo Hal Roth, a long time student and ordained monk of Joshu Roshi, is establishing a program on Contemplative Studies which exposes students to contemplative traditions from not only an academic point of view, but also by directly engaging in the contemplative practices.

The program drew about 30 participants who assembled in the chapel at the Hillel House to receive basic instruction in the posture of zazen, the approach to the attitude for the meditation, some instruction and practice in chanting, walking meditation, and other aspects of the formal Zen training.


Dharma Talk: October 21, 2012 (retreat)

Center at WestwoodsMajushri

Good afternoon. Please feel free to sit comfortably.

Today I would like to briefly speak about our friend who sitting on top of the butsudan (仏壇) here. He looks rather fierce; he has a sword in his hand: it is the image of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, Monju Bosatsu (文殊菩薩), that’s what his name is in Japanese. In many Japanese Zen monasteries inside the Zen Hall, the zendō (禅堂), there often is a statue of Monju Bosatsu as the main image. There is a Japanese version of the statue which is a little different than the one we have here: Monju is standing up, he stands versus being seated, and he holds his sort straight up.
Monju BosatsuSo what is that sword business about? What kind of image is that? You may remember that Monju Bosatsu is the bodhisattva who uses the sword to cut off illusion, to cut through delusion. He personifies the awakening from the dream state into the state of being awake – discriminating wisdom. If you ever heard a little bit about the teachings of Tathagata Zen, the Zen that Jōshū Rōshi teaches, you know about aitairitsu no hataraki (相対立の働き), about the two mutually opposing forces, mutually opposing activities. We can name them plus and minus, we can name them male and female. And what comes into existence from the working of these activities is what we experience as time and what creates past, present, and future. Mañjuśrī is deeply involved in all of this because it is his sword that cuts every “now” off and turns it into past, that cuts each moment of the future off and turns it into now. We are dealing with Mañjuśrī, that means we’re dealing with impermanence (anitya, 無常 mujō), the activity that always changes, that does not fixate, and that does not leave traces: it is just happening at this very moment. Impermanence often makes people feel in a way that is associated with the feelings of loss, but through understanding of the activity of impermanence we realize that loss and gain both are fueled and driven by the activity of impermanence, the activity of change, the activity of time, or even as Rōshi sometimes says “the activity of nature”. Without holding on, without will and desire this activity moves on: clear-cut, no traces. The sword of Mañjuśrī is so thin that it is undetectable, it is so sharp that it constantly cuts the new emerging now.

Today is a wonderful day of the manifestation of impermanence. We all sit here, we experience our activity of breathing, inhalation and exhalation, we experience the activity of thinking “Ah, what am I doing here? I should be somewhere else…”  We experience the activity of future, hoping for being somewhere else than where we are; the activity of past by recollecting a better place where we had been in the past. But what Mañjuśrī tells us is that you have to cut through the illusion of past and future and to become able to be in touch with the very cutting edge of his sword. The moment before future turns to present, the moment before present turns into past: that is the true dynamic of anitya, of impermanence. Without impermanence, without the separation into the three realms of past, present, and future, there would be no experience. Some people try to teach what others hope for: a state where we have the experience of completeness. But the Buddhist teachings and the teachings of Zen, and Tathagata Zen in particular assert that such an experience is not the true state of completeness. As long as there is separation, as long as there is discrimination between past, present, and future, between subject and object, it is only an illusion.

Zen practice tries to teach us how to break through that delusion, that is where all the wonderful Zen actions come from. [loudly:]“Hello! Where are you?” Where are you, that is the question. When you hear this sound, the Rōshi always says, and then he makes some kind of sound, “where are you?”  That is the tame version – the really fierce version is Mañjuśrī, swinging his sword; you will find it nowhere else than in your own life, every day. Every day you will encounter the sword [makes cutting sound through the air], cutting through your ideas, slashing your hopes, turning the present into the past. The more you attach to the ideas of the future and the past, the more you will actually miss the sword and not be at the cutting edge. “Cutting” sounds so fierce, it sounds very cold, but truly as a bodhisattva Mañjuśrī is the bodhisattva of wisdom. If we want to be a bodhisattva just like Majushri, it is our calling to gain that understanding. To be able to share it with others, to be able to go out to those who are suffering and to help them, not by telling them that it’s all an illusion, but by helping to facilitate that they are able to cut through the delusion themselves. Introduce them to the sword of Mañjuśrī, introduce them through your being, through your being able to go from moment to moment without leaving any trace. When there is no delusion to cut off, when there are no illusions left, the sword of Mañjuśrī rests and he sleeps. But in the next moment he wakes up again.

This is the activity of our consciousness, the activity of nature, of time, the activity of Dharma, without discrimination. On the han (板), the wooden board, which we don’t have here unfortunately, it says “time does not wait for humans” (時人不待). The sword will move; illusions, delusions will be cut. With each breath, in every moment of our lives as a Zen practitioner we are called to not get stuck, to stay here and now, at the very edge of Mañjuśrī sword.


Summer Update 2012

During summer we continued our once a week sittings alternating between Tuesdays (in July) and Thursdays (in August) which gave everyone a chance to participate.

Some of the sangha were able to attend Sesshin at Mt.Baldy Zen Center in California. The President of the Board Peter, Shūkō, and Dokurō represented Charles River Zen at Kyōzan Jōshū Sasaki Rōshi’s 50st Anniversary Celebration at Rinzai-ji in Los Angeles. We contributed a display of photos and timeline depicting our group’s activities.

The celebration on July 21 began in the morning with a ceremony at Rinzai-ji. The Heart Sutra and the Dahrani of the Great Compassionate one was followed by a special anniversary Ekō to dedicate the occasion to Sasaki Rōshi’s 50 years of teaching Zen in America; Dokurō had the honor to serve as the Ino (chant leader) for the ceremony. Sasaki Rōshi gave a talk reminding everyone of the importance of recognizing our sameness, our true equality with one another. A delegation from Japan was present and their leader, Shunan Noritake Rōshi from Reiun-ji (a subtemple of Myoshin-ji) honored Sasaki Rōshi with a poem, a brief talk, and several gifts. The ceremony concluded with a round of “banzai” shouts (万歳, Ten Thousand Years) to wish Rōshi a long life, followed by the recitation of the Four Great Vows.

The ceremony was followed by a luncheon and an afternoon of musical entertainment at the Clark Library (UCLA), which is located across from the Zen Center. Many Zen Centers from around the world set up displays for viewing by the guests. A timeline of Rōshi’s teaching and lineage  in America was created by a number of volunteers, and a number of Rōshi’s calligraphies were on display. Members of the Charles River Zen sangha contributed three wonderful works to this exhibit.

The musical program in the afternoon included Japanese Gagaku performed by a local Japanese ensemble from a Pure Land temple nearby, a chamber music work by Rōshi’s student Paul Humphreys with poetry by Steve Sanfield, who is one of Rōshi’s oldest students. The final performance was a number of songs written by Leonard Cohen and performed by Perla Batalla, a friend and protege of Jikan’s. Dokurō served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. He gave us a historical overview of traditional Japanese music, and entertained the audience between the performances.

There were more than 200 guests in attendance who enjoyed the fine food, music, company of long time fellow practitioners, and surroundings. There was a wide array of students of Zen, some with Sasaki Rōshi for almost 50 years, others from nearby temples of other Buddhist traditions. It was a festive occasion and a manifestation of the vitality of the Rinzai-ji sangha which would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of Soko Paul Humphries, Susan Crozier, the Rinzai-ji Board of Directors, Jikan, Myoren, Roshi’s Oshos, and the staff of Rinzai-ji and Mt. Baldy Zen Center. Everybody contributed to make this an unforgettable event.

Fall Schedule

The full fall schedule began this week, resuming Tuesday and Thursday evening sittings. This fall Dokuro plans to resume to offer individual meetings with students as soon as we secure an appropriate space at our current location. We are planning to offer these meetings once a month.

We currently have plans for three retreats with the possibility of adding a fourth. The first retreat is on September 16, a three hour sitting in Cambridge at the Namo Yoga Studio, 21 Belmont Street.

For October and December we offer longer opportunities for practice, a day-long retreat in October and a day and a half retreat to celebrate Rōhatsu, Buddha’s enlightenment. Both of these retreats will be held at the Center at Westwoods. Please see the retreats calendar page for a most up-to-date schedule and information.

Please sign up for the retreats as early as possible so we can plan accordingly. Please take advantage of these unique opportunities to deepen our understanding.


Summer Schedule & Events

Zendo Schedule July & August

During the months of July and August the Charles River Zen group will meet once each week. In July we will convene on Thursday evenings at 118 Main Street in Watertown from 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm. During the month of August we will meet on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm. The zendo is closed from July 30th  through August 3rd. The calendar on this site reflects the actual schedule. Please be sure to check before you head to the zendo in case there is a last minute change.

 June 23 Zazen-kai in Westwood

Please note that the hours for the retreat are from 9am – 5 pm.  This will be followed by an informal supper. Please respond as soon as possible if you are planning to attend.  We are in need of 10 participants in order to hold the event. Volunteers are requested to assist with transportation of cushions etc. If you are able to drive or offer someone a ride, please let us know by contacting Shuko or Dokuro at 617-800-9585.

Please sign up using the Contact form or by calling us at 617-800-9585.

Roshi’s 50th Anniversary of Teaching in America

On July 21, 2012 it will be exactly 50 years that Joshu Sasaki Roshi has been teaching the Dharma in the United States. The Rinzai-ji home temple in Los Angeles will be sponsoring a ceremony and reception in honor of this occasion. The celebration will be held at Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles.

We hope that some of you will be able to join us in Los Angeles as we celebrate and honor Roshi’s 50th Anniversary and his 105th birthday! For those of you who may be interested in attending, please check your email for an invitation to this event. Any further questions can be directed to us through the Contact form.


May 6, 2012 afternoon Zazen-kai (座禅会)

Please join us for our second retreat of 2012 which will be held at our Watertown Square location on Sunday, May 6  from 1 pm – 5 pm.

The afternoon will include a Dharma talk and the opportunity to engage in different aspects of formal Zen meditation practice. These include seated meditation (Zazen), walking meditation (Kinhin), and chanting. Formal tea (Sarei) will be served. Please join us!


The cost for the afternoon is $40/$35 for members.  Please make checks payable to Charles River Zen. Arrangements can be made for a sliding fee.

Transportation & Arrival

You can see the directions, multiple ways to get to Watertown Square, and parking information on the Location page. Please arrive by 12:45 pm.

Sign up & Questions

To sign-up or to ask questions please use the Contact Form or telephone Shukō or Dokurō at 617-800-9585.
Instruction is available for those who are new to this practice or who would like a refresher.

What to bring

If you have a favorite cushion, feel free to bring it along. Loose fitting clothing or robes are suitable. The room is air-conditioned, but if the weather is nice we will open the windows and let the fresh air in.


March Retreat Report

Our first retreat at the Center at Westwoods was well attended with 17 participants. The weather was mild and outside walking meditation (kinhin) made this an even nicer experience. The Center is a great place with lots of natural light, fresh air, and also close to the city.

Shuko and Myoki served as the Jikijitsu and Joko, the time keepers, Jodo and Taigen helped out as the Shoji and Shoshoji, our tea servers. In a concerted effort we transported 20 sets of cushions, the mokugyo and gongs, a full setup for the butsudan (altar), tea cups, sutra books, food and much more from various locations to the center. A big thank you to everyone who made space in their vehicle to take some of the equipment and to those who shared their ride with other participants.

[lightbox style=”modern” image_path=”http://www.charlesriverzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/511-575×1024.jpg” popup=”/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/511-575×1024.jpg” link_to_page=”” target=”” description=”The meditation hall at The Center at Westwoods” size=”portrait_thumb”]

We will be back at Westwood in June with a longer retreat. For April and May we are planning a similar four to five hour retreat at the Watertown location where we have the weekly sittings. We won’t have the great outdoors like in Westwood, but it will nonetheless allow for some extended sitting, chanting, and all the formal aspects of Zen practice.

Building a sangha that sustains the practice opportunities is an important development of a Zen community. We are grateful for all who participated and contributed to this effort. One day we will be able to raise enough funds to establish our own place for daily practice and longer retreats, which is Charles River Zen’s goal. If you have ideas or can make a contribution to this important work, please let us know.

The retreat also offered the great opportunity for those who can’t attend the weekday evening sittings to reconnect with the group. We were pleased to welcome back a number of our friends who had been unable to join us since we had to discontinue our Sunday schedule. Everyone is looking forward to the next announcement for the series of retreats we are planning and which will be published shortly.

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