50th Anniversary

Rochester Zen Center

October 1, 2016

Bodhidharma Ceremony, October 11

On the Tuesday after sesshin, the Center and the zendo will be set up for the annual ceremony that honors Bodhidharma, the “Bearded Barbarian” who founded Zen in China. We’ll sit for two short rounds, and the ceremony will follow. Beginners are welcome!

Term Intensive, October 13 – November 10

Two days later, on Thursday evening, we kick off our fall Term Intensive. This year’s will run for four weeks, rather than the usual three, since November sesshin has been pushed back to the week after the election. These intensives are an excellent and proven way to harness the support of others to step up your daily sitting and to get a solid start on whatever new disciplines you want to develop. Even if you’re new to the Center and feel your commitments may be too modest, don’t hold back! It’s a great way to strengthen practice, with the support of many others. Further information is available here.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, October 15

This is our last nagging e-mail: get your tickets for Jon Kabat-Zinn’s lecture while there’s room. To date, we have sold 693 of 842 tickets, and we’re hoping to sell them all! Further information is available here.

Sesshin Live!

Starting with the October 7-day sesshin, which begins this evening, October 1, we’ll be streaming audio live from Chapin Mill. Our plan is to stream each of the four blocks of sitting that make up sesshin, including Roshi’s daily teishos. The schedule for sesshin is posted here.

September 21, 2016

Axel 1, Reaper 0

Long-time local Sangha member Axel Kairies is home now after a pitched battle with a respiratory affliction that had left him on the ropes and his doctors baffled. After two weeks sick in bed at home and another two weeks in the hospital, he was diagnosed with a rare (non-viral, non-bacterial) form of pneumonia. He was discharged last Saturday and is now gratefully on the road to recovery.

It may be no exaggeration to say that Axel was eyeball-to-eyeball with the Grim Reaper – and the Reaper blinked.

This time.

Transitioning into the Zendo

Would you like to take part in evening sittings at the Center but feel unprepared yet to sit without moving? If so, you can sit in the dining room, just outside the zendo, and change posture as needed. And even if you can sit still for 35 minutes, if your schedule doesn’t allow you to sit all three rounds, you can leave after the second round if you sit in the dining room.

Every week we set up the dining room as a secondary zendo to allow for people facing such limitations, but very few have been taking advantage of it. If sitting attendance there remains very sparse, we’ll probably go back to using only the main zendo.

Roshi in Madison

Roshi will leave Thursday, September 22, for a two-day sesshin in Madison, and so won’t be here to give dokusan Thursday evening or teisho on Sunday. He’ll be back for dokusan Monday evening, September 26.

Get Your Flu Shot at the Center This Weekend!

Saturday morning, September 24, from 10:30 to 11:30 am, we’ll have a flu-shot clinic in the dining room at the Center. Bring your health insurance card or $40, and you can do your part to avoid getting (and then spreading) the flu this winter.

All-Day Sitting

We have an all-day sitting scheduled this Sunday, September 25, with zazen and chanting in lieu of talk during the usual block of sitting from 8:30 to 10:15. You’re welcome to come to any of the four blocks of sitting or to all of them. Here’s a full outline of the day:

6:15 am        Zazen

7:30             Breakfast (Center will provide)

8:30             Zazen and chanting

10:15            Brunch in the dining room

11:00            Zazen

12:50 pm      Lunch break (bring your own)

1:30-3:00      Zazen

New Sangha Directory

This year’s version of the local Sangha directory is printed and available to pick up in the Link. We’ll keep a supply on or under the table beneath the bulletin board.


With a smaller staff than we’ve had in some years, we could use help with weeding, lawn mowing, and other tasks around the Center. If you’d like to help, call the Center’s receptionist (585-473-9180) to let Tom Kowal or John Pulleyn know.

September 8, 2016

Welcome Back!

We resumed our regular schedule on Wednesday after our two-week summer break. This weekend, most of staff will be at Chapin Mill for the two-day sesshin led by Eryl Kubicka, while Roshi will be in Cleveland leading a weekend intensive. A week from Saturday is an introductory workshop, and Center members are welcome to attend at no cost as long as there’s room – call and check if you’d like a “refresher.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

To cap off our 50th anniversary celebrations, we host Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn on Saturday, October 15th, for a lecture and book signing at the performance hall of the Hochstein School of Music. Tickets are selling well for this event, so don’t wait too long! You can order tickets here.

We’ve designed a new flyer for the event (download here); feel free to download, print and post where you think it may get some attention. If you’d like to pick a color copy up at the Center, come on by.

Free Kindle Book

Center member Dennis Bradford has a newly published book entitled What Is the Purpose of Life? Living Well in an Age of Anxiety, available today only, Thursday, September 8, as a free download on Amazon.com. If you’d like to check it out, here’s a link:


August 23, 2016

End-of-Summer Break

Tonight (Tuesday, August 23) is our last formal sitting before our annual two-week summer break. Some of our residents will be here holding down the fort, and members are welcome to stop by anytime during the break to sit in the zendo or use the library. We resume on Wednesday, September 7, with early-morning zazen and dokusan.

September Sesshin

Eryl Kubicka will lead the two-day sesshin that begins Friday evening, September 9, and ends on Sunday, September 11.  Even though the September 1 deadline for applications falls during staff break, we will still receive them and e-mail decisions on Friday, September 2.

Seeking Employment

Former staff member Josh Kneer is looking for work. Having been the previous repair-and-maintenance (as well as gardening) supervisor on staff, there’s a lot of work he can do! You can reach him at joshuakneer@outlook.com or (516)-206-3400 (cell phone).

August 17, 2016

Zen Lexicon

Recently Roshi and some of his senior advisers took a fresh look at the Japanese Zen vocabulary we’re using at the Center, and decided that we can go further in dispensing with Japanese terminology.

The RZC has always tried to find suitable English equivalents for Japanese Zen words and phrases, in the same way that the Japanese and Koreans found their own equivalents for the original Chinese vocabulary. Not all Western Zen centers appreciate the wisdom of making these changes. It’s easiest simply to use the Japanese (or Chinese, or Korean) terms, and once having learned them, one can feel on the “inside” of the tradition – one of the cognoscenti. Your practice may be weak, but at least you know the special words.

Foreign words add to the cultural barrier that newcomers face in this tradition that offers plenty of challenges already. Some of these terms are still worth keeping. Words like Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, are so rich in meaning, and so central to the Buddhist tradition, that no English word would do them justice. But we’ll now generally be dispensing with the following Japanese terms (with the English version we’re switching to shown in bold face):

  • han          “block”
  • daisan      “private instruction” (with a senior student, not Roshi)
  • zafu (which has spread unofficially over the past few years)  “round cushion”
  • kyosaku   “stick,” or “encouragement stick”
  • zabuton    “mat”

Japanese words we’ll be retaining (for now) because of their specialized meanings include “teisho” (instead of “commentary”), “kinhin” (instead of “walking meditation”), “dokusan” (the one-to-one encounter with the Roshi), “tan” (instead of “raised sitting platform”), “rakusu” (instead of ”bib-like vestment”), “keisu” (the bowl-shaped bell used in chanting), and “mokugyo” (the wooden “fish-drum” used in chanting). And who knows – someday some of these may also be converted to their unwieldy English equivalents.

Founder’s Day

There’s a lot going on this coming weekend besides the Saturday picnic we mentioned in our last e-mail. On Sunday, we have Founder’s Day and an all-day sitting. Since we had such an extensive display of Kapleau-roshi’s photos and memorabilia at the 50th anniversary, Founder’s Day will be simpler than usual this year: we’ll have our annual display in the Link and a photo of Roshi on the altar.

All-day Sittings (Live Streaming)

We’ve heard so many positive responses about the live streaming of our morning and evening sittings (morning and Tuesday evening sittings also include chanting), that we’re now extending it to all-day sittings. The next all-day sitting will be this Sunday, August 21, when the live streaming will begin around 6:15 am and end at 2:55 pm with the four vows. (The schedule is posted here.) It’s great to get feedback, so let us know if you find it’s helpful.

August 12, 2016

Roshi Gone for the Weekend

Roshi is off to Rochester, Michigan, to reconnect will high-school friends from 50 years ago. This Sunday, August 14, we’ll have sitting and chanting. Monday evening, Roshi will be back in place, offering dokusan.

Interfaith Procession

Would anyone like to join the Little Italy interfaith procession this Sunday, August 14? Liza Savage-Katz is looking for Sangha members to march, as representatives of Zen Buddhism. Whoever comes needs to be at St. Theodore’s Catholic Church in Gates at 10:30 a.m. on this upcoming Sunday. For more details, you can reach Liza at 310-773-6387 or e-mail her at lizasavagekatz@gmail.com.

Annual Picnic: A Week from Tomorrow

It’s that time of year again! Come and enjoy Sangha, great food, and Chapin Mill; it’s wonderful to connect with other members and their families and friends and pets. This year’s potluck picnic is set for Saturday, August 20. Everyone is invited – Sangha, friends, children and dogs! Plan to arrive any time from 11 a.m. on (or earlier and help with set-up); lunch will be served from 1:00 to 2:00. Bring a vegetarian main dish or dessert to pass (enough for eight people); the Center will provide corn, fruit, beverages, and ice cream. Bring clothes for swimming, volleyball, and hiking. Also bring blankets or folding chairs if you’d like.

Safety note: If you’re planning to hike in the woods, please be aware that Lyme disease, a serious tick-borne infection, has become a problem in our area. Information is available online from the federal Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/lyme/.

If you need a ride or can offer one, give us a call at the Center (585-473-9180), and we’ll make it happen.

Gary Snyder in Ithaca

American Man of Letters and longtime Zen practitioner, Gary Snyder, will be giving a lecture at Cornell University on Wednesday, August 24, at 5:30 pm (www.cornellplantations.org/). His talk “will explore the concept of ‘bioregionalism’ through the literary works of Taoist and Buddhist hermits and other peoples of the land.” Sangha member Tom Weiler, who lives in Trumansburg (near Ithaca, on the way from Rochester), has offered to escort anyone who’d like to stop by his place. You can reach him at tomweiler5660@gmail.com.

August 5, 2016

Even More Pictures on the Website

We now have over 200 pictures from our 50th anniversary weekend, posted in the photo gallery. Big thanks to everyone who sent in their photos!

With Apologies

We had hoped to stream Roshi’s teishos live during the July 7-day sesshin, but encountered too many technical difficulties. We’re very optimistic that we’ll get them resolved in time for the next sesshin, which occurs in October. In the meantime, we just uploaded the July sesshin teishos to our podcast site.

Park Avenue Festival

The Park Avenue Festival is upon us this Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. As a result, the end of Arnold Park (at Park Avenue) will be blocked off during the festival. Parking in our lot or on the street shouldn’t be a problem if you arrive before 9:00 am. When leaving Arnold Park, however, ignore the one-way direction and head towards East Avenue. This is the one time a year we can legally defy our one-way street!