The Path Taken: Kevala Deb Hoffmann

“Gratitude to all who made it possible for me to find this path, to those who walk with me, and who help me see the weeds in my way.” 

We are in sesshin at Yokoji Mountain Zen Center. Our meditation period has just ended, and everyone moves slowly, as one, while keeping silence. Kevala stands up and offers instruction to the group. Abruptly and unskillfully, I interrupt and correct her – some would even say, “contradict” her instructions. She stares at me intensely, choosing to say nothing, but I can sense, smart as I am, the emotional contraction in her. She remains calm. This calmness emerges as the fruit of a practitioner’s efforts. Deep Heart Clear Mind bears fruit in one’s life, fruit which surfaces when needed most. This and much more is Kevala’s reward for completing more than fifty sesshins.


Kevala started her practice in 2002, took Jukai in 2007, and received ordination as a priest in 2010. Along with many others, Kevala has contributed to the Mondo Zen Manual (yes, that manual) and led Cyber-Sangha groups. In fact, she has practiced in almost every role at retreats, including shared Tanto at the first women-led sesshin at Sonoma. This truth catches my attention, as I realize that men fill most senior roles. She proceeds to explain that at the very beginning of time, sesshins were open to men only. My feminist module emerges afresh; we reflect on our current progress as women and our future potential.

Back to Kevala … you might know her from the various roles in which she has served throughout the years in our organization – managing registrations for retreats, coordinating transportation/shared rides, communicating with sangha, handling donations, ordering retreat supplies, and many other tasks as registrar.


And now the dharma wheel continues to turn, and she is stepping out as registrar. As we reflect on her journey, she reveals that this practice has taken her to many places that her otherwise traditional Midwest life may not have offered: Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, Sunrise Ranch, Yokoji, Norbertine Center, Wild Goose Zendo, Pendle Hill, Venwoude in The Netherlands, and Dai Bosatsu. She relates that this practice has afforded her the opportunity to meet all sorts of characters – I wonder if she is thinking about me when she says that. Maybe I should apologize over the incident in Yokoji again.

On a final note, she adds, “Let the true dharma continue, let universal wisdom, compassion,  and awakening become complete.”

I’m in. Are you?  

Shoan Victoria Montanez

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