May Message from AZC Head Teacher Doshin Mako Voelkel

May 6th, 2020

Thank you for your ongoing support of the Austin Zen Center. We feel very fortunate that we are able to continue offering a robust schedule of zazen, services, dharma talks, and study groups throughout the week, as well as a few new offerings and special guest speakers coming up this month and beyond – all online!

Since our Governor reopened Texas on May 1st we have received a number of inquiries about when we plan to reopen the building to the public. Through deep consideration of our residents and sangha members, as well as current recommendations issued by the CDC and WHO, we feel strongly that it is far too early in the course of the pandemic to reopen. Ideally, we would like to see local jurisdictions (like the City of Austin) given the ability to create local mandates to help keep people safe. If you agree, please read & sign our online petition, and/or read more HERE.

We are doing our best to balance our deep wish to practice together face-to-face again with our intention to keep each other safe from harm, and will continue to provide updates month-by-month as the COVID-19 situation in Austin unfolds.

In the meantime, we encourage everyone to continue practicing social distancing, along with many other Bodhisattva practices of helping those in need (ex: AZC Mutual AidAZC Emergency Relief FundDharmaRelief.orgCCU’s Racial & Economic Solidarity NetworkAZC Volunteer Team), as well as to participate in our growing online offerings: like tonight’s Full Moon Ceremony!

May all beings be at ease and free from suffering,
Rev. Doshin Mako Voelkel
AZC Head Teacher

April 2nd, 2020

Dear Friend in the Dharma,

Although the AZC temple building is currently closed to all but residents & staff, please know that we are committed to our Bodhisattva practice of staying present with what is, and to being open and available to meet the needs and concerns of our community of practitioners during these unprecedented and formidable times. To this end, we are developing and maintaining a number of ways to retain our community practice of sitting together, as well as to nourish and deepen connections with other sangha members. Here’s a brief list of some of our offerings/efforts:

1. Join us for any part of our full weekly zazen schedule in our ONLINE ZENDO, and read the guidelines.

2. Join the AZC Web Forum Discussion Groups by contacting the AZC Webmanager.

3. Join the newly formed AZC Chat Room (on Discord App) by requesting a link from AZC Resident Cole P.

4. Participate in one or more of the ongoing groups and/or meetings Tuesday Zen Writing, Wednesday Conversation Cafe, Thursday Dharma Discussion that are now meeting online.

5. Schedule a one-on-one practice discussion with one of our teachers/practice leaders:

Head Teacher Rev. Mako Voelkel
Director Tim Kroll
Incoming Tanto Rev. Choro Antonaccio
Practice Leader Pat Yingst

6. Join our growing volunteer team.

7. Give to -or- receive from our newly forming Emergency Relief Fund: please read this letter from AZC Board member Josh Kopin.

8. Stay tuned to the AZC website for further news, announcements and updates.

May all beings stay safe and at ease,
Rev. Mako Voelkel
AZC Head Teacher

March 19th, 2020

Dear Sangha members,

May this newsletter find you and your family & friends healthy, safe, and at ease amidst the ongoing uncertainty and upheaval of the CoVID-19 spread and its successive effects on our spiritual, material, social, and community life. We understand the deep impact it may be having on your well-being and are committed to finding ways to be of service, as well as to provide opportunities to be of service for those who are able. Similarly, we are committed to the health and well-being of our residents, staff, and wider community, and are closely monitoring recommendations issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other local and regional public health and healthcare agencies. Our own mitigation and prevention attempts have led us to keep our doors closed to the public for the time-being, and to encourage the practice of social distancing (of at least 6 feet) for our residents as well as those members and supporters who have continued work in our garden and grounds. That said, we also know how vital it is for us to be able to practice together and to meet one another face-to-face! It is our wish, to the best of our ability, to find ways to continue to offer the Dharma and practices that inspire, encourage, and support us in meeting each moment after moment with wisdom, compassion, and equanimity. To this end, we offer the following opportunities to connect:

  • AZC Web Forum – AZC’s website contains a back-end forum open to anyone who wishes to access it. Besides having zen training instructions and board meeting minutes, the forum allows our members, supporters, and visitors to communicate with one another by sharing messages on a variety of different topics. To receive login credentials, contact the AZC Web Manager. Once you have login creds, simply click on the “Member Login” button on the upper right corner of the Home Page. There is no anonymous posting on the AZC web forum. 
  • Mutual Circle of Support – Those who would benefit from some extra care & support are encouraged to contact Admin Julie with any requests for running errands, resources, a listening ear, etc. Those who are available, asymptomatic, and interested in volunteering for such services should send an email to: [email protected]. We are looking into ways to streamline this process, and are taking suggestions.
  •  Weekly Groups Online – Several of our weekly groups are continuing to meet online via Zoom conferencing. So far this includes the Zen Writing Group and Precept Study Group.
  • Dokusan/Practice Discussion Online – AZCs teachers and practice leaders are available for meeting face-to-face through Zoom. To schedule a meeting, send an email directly to:

Head Teacher Rev. Mako Voelkel
Director Tim Kroll
Incoming Tanto Rev. Choro Antonaccio
Practice Leader Pat Yingst

  • Weekly Well-Being Ceremony – We are moving our 6:15pm Wednesday eve Well-Being ceremony online. This chanting service of the En Mei Juku Kannon Gyo (10-Verse Compassion Sutra) is dedicated to friends, family members and loved ones who may be in distress, or could otherwise benefit from receiving kindness and compassion. All are welcome to submit names to Bruce Smith, the AZC Ino (Head of the Meditation Hall). Download the text of the chant from the AZC Website HERE.
  • Online Zendo – We are committed to find ways to continue to sit together as a community. Check the website for information on how to join us for zazen and Dharma talks. You can find the Online Zendo Forms & Etiquette HERE.
  • AZC Chat Room – To participate in our experimental AZC Chat Room you will first need to download the Discord App onto your computer, tablet, or phone. Once you have access to the app, contact AZC Resident Cole Packingham to request the join link. Cole has also volunteered to assist anyone who wants help setting up Zoom.
  • Online Community Meetings – times to be determined. Please check the website for updated information.
  • Suzuki Roshi on the Buddha’s First Teaching (transcript of Dharma Talk from Saturday, August 2, 1969, on Cuke.com)

During these unprecedented times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) we each have the opportunity to deepen our practice both individually and collectively – for the great benefit of the whole world and all beings. As one of our residents recently put it, “There is such a fundamental need for Dharma it is unbelievable.” How rare it is to receive a human body and mind in this Sahā world, and yet we cannot avoid the reality of birth and death. That being so, may each of us discover boundless gratitude in the marvelousness of our deeply interconnected, yet fleeting, existence. 

Please take great care in the coming days, weeks, and months, and stay connected!

With warm bows (from a safe distance),

Head Priest Mako VoelkelRev. Doshin Mako Voelkel 

Austin Zen Center Head Teacher

A Few Practice Suggestions (from our source temple, San Francisco Zen Center):

  • While washing hands, consider chanting the En Mei Jukku Kannon Gyo (Life-Extending Ten-Line Kannon Sutra) or Sho Sai Myo Kichi Jo Dharani (Dharani for Removing Hindrance) once or twice through (instead of ‘Happy Birthday’).
  • Engage in a Metta Practice, extending well-wishes to all beings.
  • Recite gathas during other routine activities throughout the day. The following are some traditional gathas from the Flower Ornament Sutra which can be posted in your residential or communal bathrooms and food serving areas.

When washing the hands with water
may we with all beings
have pure clean hands
to receive and hold Buddha’s teaching.

When washing the face with water,
may we with all beings
attain the pure teaching
and be forever free from defilement.

When going to sleep at night
may all beings
attain physical ease
and undisturbed minds.

  • Join the SFZC Online Zendo for expanded opportunities for sitting at our source temple in the bay area.