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February 9, 2021

Remembering Sojun Mel Weitsman

These contributions [see full documentWithout Words] were gathered, edited, and arranged by Shosan Victoria Austin, Basya Petnick, and Diane Miller.

Sojun Mel Weitsman (July 9, 1929 – January 7, 2021) was Abbot at San Francisco Zen Center from 1988 to 1996. He emphasized practicing the Dharma with his every action.

People who practiced with him at San Francisco Zen Center while he was abbot during those years (1988 to 1996) were asked:

How did Sojun teach you—without saying a word?

How has this developed in your practice?

How do you practice it today?

For Zen students the answers sometimes couldn’t fit the questions. Each person spoke to the moments that they still carry in their “beyond words” memory.

Excerpts from the full collection

Shosan Victoria Austin

Some of Sojun’s face-to-face teachings:

1975: “Come sit.”
1977: “If you are practicing Buddhism to resolve Judaism, practice Judaism.”
1987: 89 days in a row, bowing with me as Shuso: “No, fold your zagu like this. Like this.” 90th day: “Hmph.”
1993: Bowing to me as Tenzo: “What do you want me to do? How do you want me to do it?”
1999: Bowing to me as Deshi: “The rice is long cooked.”
2009: “Your contribution is priceless. Beyond this book.”
2020: “No. Don’t write my obituary. Write my legacy.”

Jusan Edward Brown

In 1995 Sojun and I worked together putting rocks in place at Tassajara. I worked with Sojun. Sojun worked with me. As far as I know, the rocks are still there.

No worker, no boss, no leader, no follower. No hiding, no show, nothing special, exactly so.

Kojun Gil Fronsdal

It was quite touching for me to be at my old teacher’s stepping down … that’s really what’s in my heart, my mind. He was a formative teacher for me, and remains a reference point for me in the Dharma. Part of what I teach when I teach comes from his teaching, and even more, how he lived in the world.

He never related to Zen Center as if there was ever a problem. There were never problems, only some things that needed to be addressed. He would wake up in the morning, and he would not see a problem. He would get up, someone would come to him with a problem to be addressed, and he would address it, and take care of what needed to be taken care of, whether it was washing dishes, or talking about fundraising, or talking about institutional issues of the Zen Center as a whole. He didn’t seem to walk through Zen Center assuming there were problems, rather he lived as if there were something to fully be present for, and meet—to really meet the situation, be present, find your way, do what needed to be done, but without seeing it as a problem, without any sense of hurry, without any sense of crisis, without any sense of hesitation. He would be present, in the middle of all circumstances, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world to do, and take care of what needed care.

I trusted him implicitly. I had complete trust in him as a person. However, I didn’t always feel aligned with his Dharma, with how he taught. This is a little strange to say to a Zen teacher, but it was in response to him asking me about this. His response was so powerful. We were walking side by side when I told him this. He immediately pivoted in front of me, and brought his hands together like this (clap) and said “And that’s where we’ll meet.” For him, this was a meeting place. Just to meet whatever is there, not make it a problem, but just meet it.

Keido Les Kaye

Mel brought a quiet presence to the practice. Students felt comfortable being with him. His calm demeanor reflected confidence, helping to provide the foundation for Zen practice in its early days in the U.S. He was a perfect successor to his teacher: Suzuki Roshi.

Josho Pat Phelan

What strikes me about Sojun Roshi’s practice is how deeply rooted it is in his presence, his steady presence. Over the years of practicing with him at the City Center and hosting him for his many visits to our zendo in North Carolina, I don’t remember him ever rushing or communicating pressure or worry. He is and has been always right here, in this moment attending to it without any need to rush or worry about what comes next, just taking one thing at a time. His grounded presence never changed with circumstances, or with who he was with, or where he was. It was always clear and clearly right here, rooted in his authentic self.

Sojun Roshi’s practice to be who he is without a persona or added charisma, without needing to change depending on who he is with, has been a strong example for me. Just to be authentic, grounded in deep intention, squarely facing what and who is in front of me is how I try to enact this in my life and in presenting the Dharma.

Dairyu Michael Wenger

Meetings were always more peaceful when Sojun was present with anything being said. When we were in Japan and Sojun was not wearing robes, he completely blended in. You could not tell what nationality he was.

His teaching … Imperturbability.

Diane Miller

For seven long years I didn’t get Mel’s teaching—the words wandered, lost in some invisible sound barrier.  I just sat there, waiting.

Then during the winter of my first practice period at Tassajara, Mel demonstrated the instruments. I finally heard the teaching.

I learned to listen to the true sound hidden behind the words. I learned to listen to what’s unsaid.

My practice is filled with quiet—no need for idle chatter.

Ever present gratitude for the teachings passed from Suzuki Roshi, to you, to Blanche, to me.

Basya Petnick

Ordinary Mel is the Way (I have been watching him for many years)

The way he is with short people
The way he is with tall people
The way he is with important people (there aren’t any important people)
The way he is with unimportant people (there aren’t any unimportant people)
The way he is with dogs

The way he with Buddha
The way he is with Dharma
The way he with Sangha

The way he is illness

The way he teaches—open-handed, patient, kind
The way he teaches—close-handed, strict, exacting
The way he shows up for ceremonies
The way he shows up at work meeting

The way he is with Hoitsu
The way he is with Okusan

The way he is with cooking
The way he is with tea

The way he is with lineage
The way he is with text

The way he is with Buddha
The way he with Dharma
The way he is with Sangha

The way he is with breath

FULL DOCUMENT: Without Words


Page 8, photo caption: … Idilio Ceniceros receiving his robe from Sojun Mel Weitsman

Page 15, photo caption: Gengetsu Jana Drakka’s Shuso Ceremony … Shinshu Roberts

Addendum: Kyoshin Wendy Lewis


An obit for Sojun written by Alan Senauke and shared with Lion’s Roar

Berkeley Zen Center website and Remembering Sojun Roshi

A Tribute to Sojun Roshi: Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi’s three Green Gulch resident Dharma Heirs—Steve Weintraub, Sara Tashker, and Jiryu Rutschman-Byler—share their reflections on their late teacher’s teaching.

A YouTube photo tribute to Sojun Mel Weitsman created by Barbara Wenger

October 9, 2020

Remembering Yvonne Rand

Yvonne Rand

Yvonne, Winter 2020

Yvonne Rand
Jikai Myo-ōn / Ocean of Compassion, Luminous Sound
September 23, 1935 – August 19, 2020

no wind, yet the windbells
keep on ringing
—Kokan Shiren

By Jisho Warner

Yvonne Rand (née Boye), a member of the first generation of American Zen teachers, died on August 19, 2020, shortly before her eighty-fifth birthday. Her life was as rich as it was long, and lived at full intensity. She brought to the world a wide range of gifts and a compassionate mind.

Suzuki Roshi-Yvonne

With Suzuki Roshi

She grew up in California and graduated from Stanford University in 1957, having already turned her attention to Eastern religions. A young, pioneering Yvonne began to study the teachings of the Buddha Dharma in 1954 and soon entered Soto Zen study and practice. She became a close student of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in 1966, served as his secretary and personal assistant and, with his wife Mitsu Suzuki, cared for him through his dying and death in 1971. She was a founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, was ordained there, served on the board of directors for many years, and continued to practice and teach there for many years, primarily at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center.

She studied with Dainin Katagiri Roshi and received dharma transmission from him in 1989. She renounced formal titles, including roshi, the traditional term for a senior priest and teacher like her, and under her own name signaled her commitment to rooting the dharma in Western soil. She described herself as a lay householder priest, emphasizing the importance of the world of family and daily life in dharma practice.

Yvonne-Tara Tulku

With Tara Tulku 1990s

Her profound interest in the Dharma led her to study with notable teachers in various Buddhist traditions, including Rinzai Zen with Maureen Stuart Roshi and Shodo Harada Roshi; Theravadin Buddhism with Ven. Henepola Gunaratana and her friend Achan Sumedho; and the Himalayan Buddhist tradition with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tara Tulku Rinpoche. Her extensive work with Tara Tulku Rinpoche led to her active support of the Tibetan Buddhist community in diaspora and to recognition of the deep connections between Vajrayana and Soto Zen insights and practices.

For many years, beginning in 1970, she studied with Harry Kellett Roberts, a widely recognized California native plant specialist trained in the Native American tradition of the Yurok People, who lived with Yvonne’s family in the last several years of his life. An early and enduring dedication to horseback riding had first taught her to be fluidly settled in her seat, mindful and aware in the moment. Rand’s ability to weave together so many strands of teachings carried through her decades of teaching and echoed the diversity of her interests.

At Green Gulch Farm

At Green Gulch Farm 1973

Yvonne Rand established a Buddhist practice center in Marin County with a focus on Zen and taught there for many years; she named it Goat-in-the-Road, typical of her vivid sense of humor and her generosity, deriving from her efforts to save young goats destined for an Easter auction. In 2005 she moved Goat-in-the-Road (also known as Bodaiji, Buddha Mind Temple) to Philo, Mendocino County, where she continued to teach and to lead retreats. Throughout her career, she hosted visiting teachers of different schools, and she taught widely throughout the United States, in lectures, workshops, conferences, and retreats.

Rand stayed close and attentive to the natural world. An environmental activist and leader, she served on the early board of The Trust for Public Land from 1974 to 1984, the last five years as board chair, working closely with trailblazing environmentalist Huey Johnson, the Trust’s founder. Her activism extended through both the natural world and the world of social concerns. An avid gardener, she brought plants, animals, clouds and water into her teachings.

Trust for Public Land

At Trust for Public Land – 1970s*

Her creative explorations were wide-ranging, rooted in her long training in weaving and ceramics. Among the directions her creativity took were studies in Noh theater chanting and tea ceremony with Yaeko Nakamura Sensei, and the formation and study of an extensive collection of Tibetan Buddhist art. She was centrally involved in a research program called AWAKE: Art, Buddhism, and the Dimensions of Consciousness. Artists and writers gravitated to her as a teacher, for her understanding of and interest in the arts and the relationship between Buddhist meditation practice and the creative process. Her aesthetic sense permeated everything she did.

Rand focused on “portable” real life practices and emphasized focused observation: “You can’t change what you don’t notice,” she declared. An ongoing and most portable focus was speech as a window to the mind, and the impact it has on others. She shared tools for aiming to be clear and accountable for everything one says, and for, as she said, “studying conditioned mind in service of dismantling conditioned patterns.” While dedicated and intense, she also taught the importance of rest and ease, saying, “One does not enter the field of wisdom unless there is the deeply developed capacity for ease.”

Rand was instrumental in developing a ceremony of remembrance in the West called the Jizo Ceremony (after a Japanese bodhisattva) for children, born and unborn, who have died. This ceremony continues as part of her Dharma legacy, as numerous other Buddhist teachers have taken it up. Her understanding of the inseparability of life and death led her to sit with and tend people in end-of-life care over many decades, with the same attentiveness she brought to all her encounters. She also taught and counseled extensively both professional and volunteer caregivers working with the terminally ill.


Bill Sterling and Yvonne at their wedding at Green Gulch Farm in 1983

Yvonne was married for four decades to William Wallace Sterling, who predeceased her by nine months. Bill was an attorney, a classics scholar, an amateur ornithologist and botanist, and a Buddhist practitioner. He served on the board of Tibet House in New York and on the board of the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, and he joined her in welcoming and nurturing a stream of guests from all over the world. Together they founded the Callipeplon Society, a nonprofit organization created initially to provide support to Lama Anagarika Govinda and his wife Li Gotami. The Society later centered its efforts on widening the understanding of Buddhism in the United States and on adapting traditional Buddhist teachings for the lives of lay practitioners.

Yvonne and Hilary

With daughter Hilary

Yvonne leaves two children, Christopher and Hilary Rand. Also Christopher’s wife Francesca Stauffacher and her daughter Isabella Bertaud; Hilary’s partner Helen Berggruen; and Bill’s two children, Alinor and Maury Sterling. An earlier marriage to Kendrick Rand, father of her two children, ended in divorce in 1968. She also leaves many devoted students and friends, and a legacy of abiding connection with them. She was a teacher, friend, and mother who looked so openly and closely at the people in her life that they felt most deeply seen.

In her last years, she gradually became ill with Alzheimer’s disease. She was open about her progressive condition and was able to continue teaching, not despite but with it, taking it into account. As her losses became more apparent, a student noted that she had never witnessed her reacting with frustration or self-criticism to her diminishing capabilities. When asked about this, even in advanced Alzheimer’s, she observed with clarity, “I am in the moment as it arises.” The day before she died, she said, “No form—we just say thank you.” A strong and fearless explorer, Yvonne Rand had unwavering curiosity and force of spirit and a steady onrush of vitality and passion. There was no drawdown of this tide. The depth of Rand’s teaching continues beyond her lifetime.

Contributions in Yvonne Rand’s memory may be made to The Callipeplon Society, 645 J Street, Davis, CA 95616, or to The Trust for Public Land, P.O. Box 399336, San Francisco, CA 94139. Both are 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organizations.

A memorial service will be held when it becomes safe to congregate.

See additional related postings by clicking on For Yvonne Rand.

A YouTube video of a talk given by Yvonne Rand

*Big ideas cooking during the mid-1970’s with  (L to R) Si Foote, Doug Ferguson, Yvonne Rand, Founder Huey Johnson, Greg Archibald, and Bob McIntyre in the #SF national office — Twitter link


Martin Rosen, Yvonne, and Huey Johnson, Trust for Public Land


Yvonne at GGF

At the wedding reception at Green Gulch Farm in 1983


Bill and Yvonne

With Bill in 2010

March 25, 2019

Remembering Seido Lee deBarros

Seido Eishu Lee de Barros
Clear Path, Constant/Endless Effort
November 5, 1936 – March 6, 2019

“Let your practice be a celebration of life.” —Seido Lee deBarros

Seido Eishu Lee Lüssen deBarros passed away peacefully on March 6, 2019, surrounded by family, friends, and sangha.

Lee was ordained a Soto Zen priest in 1989 at Green Gulch Farm by Sojun Mel Weitsman, receiving the Dharma name Seido Eishu, “Clear Path, Constant/Endless Effort.” He received Dharma Transmission at Tassajara in 1998 from Zoketsu Norman Fischer.

Lee was a long-time meditator whose practice was first influenced by the teachings of Eknath Easwaran. Along with his wife, lay Zen teacher Martha deBarros, he lived for over ten years at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara. He filled senior staff roles at Green Gulch and served as tanto (head of practice) at Tassajara.

In 1999, responding to a call from inmates interested in starting a Zen group, he founded the Buddhadharma Sangha inside San Quentin State Prison. He went on to serve diligently and with great heart as the Sangha’s Head Teacher until his retirement in 2015. Since the day Lee founded it, the San Quentin Sangha has met nearly every week, bringing the lineage of Dogen Zenji and Shunryu Suzuki Roshi behind the prison walls and touching the lives of hundreds of inmates and volunteers.

Lee conferred the Bodhisattva precepts on many Zen students, including over thirty inmates and several non-inmates lay ordained inside San Quentin over the course of four jukai (lay initiation) ceremonies between 2002 and 2015. He performed one priest ordination, for Jiryu Rutschman-Byler, held at Green Gulch Farm in 2002.

Lee at San Quentin

Lee was deeply involved in and much beloved by the Marin County Interfaith community. He was active in the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, serving as street chaplain, board member, and eventual board chair, and also in the Marin Interfaith Council, where he served on the board. In addition to teaching at Green Gulch Farm and San Quentin, he taught regularly at Dharma Eye Zen Center, Dominican College, and the Redwoods Retirement Community.

Lee was born on November 5, 1936, in Brooklyn, NY, the son of Leo and Catherine deBarros. He grew up in lower Manhattan and Rye, NY, and attended Harrison High School and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In his youth, Lee developed a reputation as an accomplished chess player and, after overcoming polio, became an excellent tennis and basketball player. At 20, he relocated to Pasadena, CA, and then moved north to attend graduate school at University of California at Berkeley. He spent time working as an elementary school teacher, and in the 1970s and 1980s served as the senior director of Marin County Rehabilitation Services. He is survived by his wife, son, three stepchildren, and six grandsons.

He was an avid birder, reminding friends and family, “If you are feeling lonely, fill the bird feeder.”

As Norman Fischer put it, “Lee was a true priest and a good one. He liked to keep things light and modest but underneath that was a fierce and deep spirituality.”

A memorial for Lee will be held at Green Gulch Farm at 4:00 pm on April 27, 2019. If you plan to attend, please RSVP at Evite.

These are a few of Lee’s Dharma Talks given at Green Gulch Farm:

Lee with Sojun Mel Weitsman


Jiryu Rutschman-Byler, Lee, Christina Bryant at Old Fig Zendo 2001




January 8, 2019

Remembering Jack Weller

Shunryu Suzuki with Jack Weller at Tassajara 1970

Jack Weller

1939 – December 17, 2018

By Laura Burges; edited by Mary Watson, David Chadwick, and Andrew Main

Jack Weller’s study and practice with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi was one of the most important times of his life. The deepening of his understanding of Suzuki Roshi’s way continued throughout his life. Jack passed on December 17, 2018, at the age of 79.

Jack grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was brought up to be Jewish. His father had a large chain of candy stories in England before emigrating. Later, when they moved to Santa Monica, his mother took a class in World Religions. She told Jack that if she had her life to live over again, she would be a Buddhist. When Jack was 11 or 12 years old, she introduced him to a radio program by Alan Watts. “My mother was more than my mother,” Jack would say, “She was my teacher.”

Jack came to the San Francisco Zen Center in 1967 when he was in his late twenties. He had recently had open heart surgery and was under stress at UC Santa Barbara working on his PhD in philosophy. He knew he needed a radical change. A friend sent him about an article about Tassajara Zen Mountain Center from the Village Voice. It described Suzuki Roshi and the newly founded Buddhist Monastery near Carmel Valley. Jack intuitively knew this was where he needed to be.

After a brief period as a student at Tassajara before it had officially opened, he went to the city, At first he stayed in a hotel on Van Ness Avenue near Bush Street and went to zazen (meditation) on the balcony overlooking the main hall inside Sokoji, a Buddhist temple. Zazen was for 40 minutes with a 10 minute walking meditation and another period of zazen. Everyone else then got up to do the chanting service, but he continued sitting in the balcony in full cross-legged lotus position. The next day someone told him to join the service, so he did. He first met Suzuki Roshi as he bowed to him when leaving morning service, as was the custom. He felt that Suzuki Roshi really looked at him and saw him. Jack continued coming back.

It wasn’t long before he found a place to stay across from Sokoji. One of his roommates was Reb Anderson, who later went on to become an abbot of the Zen Center. They would go to early morning zazen together.

He also met Katagiri Sensei, who was an assistant teacher with Suzuki Roshi. Katagiri recommended that Jack finish his PhD oral exams (which would give him an MA) before going to Tassajara. Thus, Jack returned to Santa Barbara in the Spring of 1968, studying and working as a teaching assistant. At the end of the summer he was able to pass his exams and go to Tassajara that fall.

His first work there was to organize the few shelves of books into a Buddhist library. Then he worked in accounting, and later became the person in charge of the baths, a position he jokingly referred to as the “bath girl,” as it had come to be called due to having been filled by women up to that time. The next summer he was the guest manager

He moved back to San Francisco, not having the funds to continue at Tassajara, and started looking for part time teaching positions. At the same time he was working on his PhD thesis in philosophy.

In September of 1969, while the building was still in escrow, Jack was the first person to stay overnight at the Zen Center’s City Center at 300 Page Street. The first night, Jack lit incense from Eiheiji in Japan, one of the two main temples of the Soto Zen sect. He walked around each floor of the building with the lit incense, and then sat zazen. Bob Halpern and Niels Holm soon moved in, joining Jack before the day in mid-November when the whole building was ready for occupancy.

Suzuki Roshi came to visit when the sale was finalized and Jack showed him around. On the third floor they looked across at the building on the corner and Suzuki Roshi said, “We should buy that building, too.”

Suzuki Roshi died on December 4, 1971, on the first day of the zazen intensive seven day Rohatsu Sesshin. Jack had just moved into the nearby apartment building at 340 Page Street and was the first Zen student to live there. Gradually, as the other tenants moved out, Zen students and their families moved in. One such student was Mary Watson, who met and talked to Jack as he was doing his house job of vacuuming the halls. A few years later, they were married and lived together at 340 Page for over 38 years. Their son Daniel played with other children living in the building, sliding down stairs on mattresses and playing baseball in the hallway of the third floor.

At City Center, Jack taught courses in Zen and Buddhist art. Katagiri, now called Roshi, asked Jack to teach a course on the Self and Not-Self teaching in early Buddhism, which he was studying for his PhD, and he taught a course on Abhidharma with Kazuaki Tanahashi.

Though tempted to be ordained as a priest, Jack felt strongly that his path was to be a different kind of teacher. During his academic life, he had the opportunity to study with Edward Conze, Huston Smith, and Paul Wienpahl. Jack has taught philosophy and Buddhist Studies at San Francisco State, the California Institute of Integral Studies, Mills College, The University of California Extension in San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, and John F. Kennedy University. He was the founding director of the Arts and Consciousness program at JFK for 10 years. At the California Institute of Integral Studies, Jack created a master’s degree in Expressive Arts Therapy which he ran for 20 years. This unique MA program combined all of the arts—dance, music, art, sculpture, poetry. Thus, a student would graduate as a therapist skilled in using these modalities according to the needs of their clients.

Jack searched for teachers who embodied the same lovingkindness and compassion as he’d found with Suzuki Roshi. He practiced with two women teachers, Tseda Lehmo from Tibet and Rina Sirkar from Burma. In the last years, he was a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and peace activist. He, Mary, and Daniel attend his retreats in various parts of California.

Jack was an avid San Francisco Giants fan. When Daniel was about six years old, they started going to games and spring trainings in Arizona together. He and Mary went backpacking in the Sierras, sometimes with Daniel. One of their favorite places to go was to Lake Eleanor in Northern Yosemite. Starting when he was three, Daniel would ride a small horse which also carried much of the gear.

In order to get a break from the stresses of Jack’s work, they would go for a weekend a month to such places as Inverness, Downieville, a gold mining community in the lower Sierras, Pescadero, and the Bay Area Delta. When Daniel was four, they went on a trip to see relatives in Manchester, England, and then visited in Belgium and France. Other trips included going to Bali, Scotland, a number of the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, to Costa Rica with Daniel, and a trip Mary and Jack took to France to follow the footsteps of Jack’s favorite artist, Van Gogh.

Although Jack was sociable and enjoyed traveling, he also had the ability to be content just being at home, reading and studying. He was truly present in what he was doing and in where he was. He accepted the lessening ability of his body to function well with grace, but he also was fearful of what would happen next. It was a deep practice for him of being out of control of his body. He first was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and a few years later with congestive heart failure, the latter being the cause of his death.

Jack has written a great deal about his time at Tassajara and early Zen Center, which include stories of his teacher Suzuki Roshi. He was close to finishing a book with these writings and recently gave a talk at the City Center in which he read from the manuscript and talked about it. Listen to that talk and read the transcript.

Jack said of Suzuki Roshi, “His stature wasn’t always apparent, he appeared very ordinary: extraordinarily ordinary! I was moved by his presence, his smile, his kind intensity and the connection I felt with him.” Of life, Jack said, “There is brightness in darkness. The darkness is non-verbal. You can be in that darkness and be alive. The most important things in life, you can’t know in words.”


July 18, 2018

Remembering Jordan Thorn

Photo by Shundo David Haye

Shokan Jordan Thorn

January 13, 1953 – June 10, 2018

With great sorrow, we announce the passing away of Shokan Jordan Thorn. Jordan was a constant warm presence at San Francisco Zen Center, welcoming and caring for students, staff and employees, visitors and Board members, and overseeing many areas of SF Zen Center practice and administrative operations.

Posting on by David Chadwick.

We take refuge in Buddha, we take refuge in Dharma, we take refuge in Sangha.

From Scott Wren:

I met Jordan at Green Gulch in the late ’80s. I was new to practice and he had returned to Zen Center after living for a number of years in Berkeley. I remember the time I first heard him in Reb’s Book of Serenity class. Somebody erupted in laughter. The sound was big and expansive. Fresh and lively. Nothing was being held back. You could feel the breadth and depth of it.

Flash forward a few years: I was on the San Francisco Zen Center Board, and Jordan moved to City Center. I was chair of the Finance Committee and Jordan became Treasurer. We worked closely and shared our love of practice and sitting together. We also soon discovered that we shared an interest in wine. Eventually we started a tasting group that met a couple of times a year for dinners and tastings. To say Jordan liked to drink wine would be true, but would miss what I came to appreciate was the main point of his appetites. Jordan loved everything in life. From food and wine to sci-fi and sports—he embraced it all. He often struck me as the modern day equivalent of Zen bon vivant and poet Ikkyu, who famously wondered, “Why is it all so beautiful, this fake dream, this craziness. Why?”

Jordan didn’t waste a lot of time trying to answer such “why” questions. He was too busy enjoying and sharing his life with friends and students. I found him to be a wonderfully inspirational dharma friend and teacher. I’ll never forget one lecture he gave a few years back where he invoked Spiderman as a model for Zen practice. After all, Spiderman was just an ordinary, slightly weird guy who developed super powers. So he started saving people. No big deal. Just doing what came naturally. Nothing special. But, in fact, it was very special. Just like Jordan.

I count myself as very, very lucky to have known Jordan and I loved him dearly. He wasn’t bigger than life—he was life itself.

Jim Fitton with Jordan after his jukai initiation ceremony in April 2012.


July 18, 2018

Shokan Jordan Thorn’s Funeral

Jordan at Greens Restaurant. Photo by Shundo David Haye.

Zoketsu Norman Fischer will officiate for Shokan Jordan Thorn’s funeral on Sunday, August 5 at 10 am.

The ceremony will be held in the Buddha Hall at San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

For practical queries, call the Front Office at 415-863-3136.

Program for Funeral Ceremony (PDF).


December 5, 2017

Junsei Jana Drakka’s Funeral

Gengetsu Junsei Jana Drakka / Mysterious Moon, Pure Spirit
October 21, 1952 – October 27, 2017

Funeral Ceremony – Friday, December 15, 2017, 4 pm

Hosshinji – Beginner’s Mind Temple
San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center, 300 Page Street, SF

For more information, call 415.863.3136.

Funeral Ceremony Program
(Will be available at the ceremony.)

There is an accessible entrance.
The event will be Livestreamed to accommodate those who are not able to attend.


November 14, 2017

Remembering Del Carlson

Still from video by Frazer Bradshaw

December 1923 – November 7, 2017

From the Facebook post of San Francisco Zen Center, courtesy of Linda Galijan and Sachico Ohanks:

Del Carlson passed away on the morning of November 7 in Sarasota, Florida. Del came to Tassajara in 1969 at the invitation of Yvonne Rand and spent many summers working in the Tassajara kitchen. He also regularly joined the community at Green Gulch Farm for practice periods. We hold him in our thoughts.

“Sooner or later we may die, and we will go to the same place we go when we sit.” —Suzuki Roshi, July 30, 1965

This video by cinematographer Frazer Bradshaw opens with Del working diligently in the Zen kitchen at Tassajara. page on Del Carlson

Still from video by Frazer Bradshaw

November 7, 2017

Remembering Junsei Jana Drakka

Gengetsu Junsei Jana Drakka / Mysterious Moon, Pure Spirit
October 21, 1952 – October 27, 2017

Memorial service at San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page Street, Thursday, November 9, 6:10 – 6:30 pm

Funeral Ceremony at City Center on Friday, December 15, at 4 pm in the City Center Buddha Hall. There is an accessible entrance. The event will be Livestreamed to accommodate those who are not able to attend.

From the Facebook page hosted by Rev. Joko Mira Ingram and Shishin Junsei Benn Meyers:

Reverend Gengetsu Junsei Jana Drakka departed her body on October 28 at 9:16 pm. Please join us for a memorial in her honor at San Francisco Zen Center on Thursday, November 9 at 6:10 pm sharp. With her “Zendo Without Walls,” Rev. Junsei Jana Drakka brought the Dharma to many of San Francisco’s poor, houseless, and marginalized communities. She created and taught Harm Reduction Meditation to support people facing great stressors. She could often be seen on the streets of San Francisco giving comfort to people who were suffering, and her presence will be greatly missed.

Jana wanted you to know that loving you was a great joy in her life. Like her teacher, Zenkei Blanche Hartman, she felt that kindness is one of our most important practices. She said, “There is never such a thing as too much love.” This is a basic realization that has sustained her in the past difficult days, freeing her to do her inner work despite the pain.

Prior to the memorial, there will be the usual evening period of zazen/meditation starting at 5:40 pm (please arrive by 5:30 pm). Anyone who is attending the memorial is welcome to join the period of zazen beforehand. The memorial will begin promptly, and parking is scarce, so please allow yourself extra time to park if driving.

This event is wheelchair accessible. San Francisco Zen Center is at 300 Page Street at Laguna. Entrance to the memorial will be at the Laguna Street double-door entrance (enter through right-hand door).

Junsei Jana Drakka dies at 65 by Lilly Greenblatt posted October 30, 2017 on the Lion’s Roar web site.

September 25, 2017

Remembrance of Hilary Parsons and Lin Zenki

by Diane Miller and Basya Petnick

Hilary Parsons
Shin Ke Rei Gen
Deep River―Spiritual Source
January 1, 1949 – August 19, 2017

Lin Zenki
Kan Shin Zen Ki
Generous Heart―The Whole Works
October 28, 1951 – August 28, 2017

Hilary Parsons and Lin Zenki were passionate women. They were lovers―loving each other, their community of friends, and their lives in practice. They were also fighters―New Age warriors fighting for social justice as nurses, political activists, and as practitioners.

Hilary’s practice began with martial arts and then evolved when she became a student of Ruth Dennison. Lin’s practice began in her college years with Francis Cook at UC Riverside. It was the night shift on an oncology ward where Hilary and Lin’s relationship began and so did their joint devotion to the dharma. They lived and practiced together at San Francisco Zen Center for many years.

Their nursing careers followed the course of the AIDS epidemic. Lin was one of the first nurses to care for patients with this mystery disease. She, along with other UCSF nurses, were recognized in And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, a book by Randy Shilts that was made into a film. Lin later worked with HIV prevention programs for heroin addicts. But as her health weakened and she could no longer do hands–on nursing care, Lin transitioned to a case management program for patients with complex medical problems. However, taking her difficulties in stride, she kept working and learning and earned her MSN in nursing from Holy Names University.

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