Namu Dai Bosa – 2021 in Review

I learned the chant Namu Dai Bosa this year, as I joined the ceremonial kinhin lines walking to the small cemetery on the land at Dai Bosatsu Monastery in Livingston Manor, NY. A line of 25 of us were chanting our way to the central shrine, a monument for Soen Nakagawa Roshi and Eido Shimano Roshi, the founders of Dai Bosatsu. We offered water and incense to the patriarchs of our lineage before we then interred Junpo Kando Denis Kelly Roshi alongside them. I’ve been chanting Namu Dai Bosa daily ever since. Go ahead, try it out. Namu Dai Bo Sa, Namu Dai Bo Sa, Namu Dai Bosa. Dwell in the Great Bodhisattva. Perhaps this is the shortest, most compact version of the Four Awakened Vows!

This was July 5th, 2021, 49 days after Junpo passed away, a ritual period for grief and mourning. So began our next phase of Hollow Bones Zen’s development. Things took shape quickly. The nine Roshis got together and acknowledged taiso Byran Bartow Roshi as the new Abbot of Hollow Bones Zen. With Covid seemingly on the decline, we were able to return to in person retreats. Fugen Tom Pitner Roshi led a Mondo Zen Intensive at Yokoji Mountain Zen Center in Southern California. Taiso Roshi led a week long silent sesshin at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in Northern California. In December we held a hybrid Rohatsu at Zen River Sangha with 16 in person and 34 attending online. As I write this, Covid is still making life challenging for in person gatherings. Luckily, we have developed a highly functional online presence.

In 2021, we offered 10 retreats online and 3 in person – with Rohatsu as both online and in person. 135 individuals participated in these 13 events. We offered 7 different training programs hosting 81 people. Our third cohort of the Mondo Zen Facilitator Program began with 11 students, after 8 completed the second cohort in May, 2021. The second cohort of clergy training started this past fall. As I write this, three second year students are preparing for novice ordination this June of 2022 at Dai Bosatsu.

Ordination will be a special time together, not only because it will be our first eight-day sesshin at Dai Bosatsu since the pandemic, but because it marks the three-year anniversary of the last sesshin Jun Po Roshi led. That sesshin, too, included an ordination of new priests at Hollow Bones – Umi no Nami Dan Rotnem, Bussho Martin Boroson, Zuiken Scott Rebellon and Gangyo Larry Gagler. Several of which have taken their seats in the current leadership, notably Umi no Nami Dan Rotnem, director of clergy training, and Bussho Martin Boroson, who recently joined the board of Friends of Zen (See the Priest Spotlight on page 5). Equally essential about this sesshin & ordination in June is the fact that the three candidates taking part have never met in person. Jimon Don Sorterup, currently living in Maine, has been on many sesshins with us. Kenshin Cian Whalley, a Canadian by birth is currently living in Costa Rico, Jozen Jonathon Fielder will be arriving from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Jozen has only participated in Hollow Bones Zen online!

Of all the new programs that we launched in 2021, I have to make a shout out to Zendo Hours. The idea of the a ‘virtual watercooler’ came from a news show I was listening to. We started a weekly one hour causal meeting online with the clergy leadership. Currently this is staffed by Reishin Denise Leong, Fugen Roshi, Umi Dan Rotnem, and myself. Stay tuned to see who else might show up!

Our sangha is robust and healthy – our board grew to six this past year with the addition of Vicara Mary Connelly Roshi and Bussho Martin Boroson. Our staff grew to seven with the hiring of Marie Rodgers as the registrar. We are close to 250 sangha ‘members’ and our fundraising is robust with 218 donors giving a total of $139,536. We gave out $17,440 in financial assistance to 95 participants in our programs over the course of 2021.

This past year was filled with joy and sorrow, new members joining the sangha, and past colleagues and friends making transitions of all kinds. Our leadership team and staff continue to weave together a robust dharma blanket based in affirmation, loving generosity, celebration and respect. We give compassionately as we steward this world with the clarity of this Way – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Namu Dai Bosa,

Ekai Joel Kreisberg
Executive Director