Charles River Zen moves

Charles River Zen, which is the name that we gave our group that meets in Watertown, has moved again – but not far from where the first meeting place used to be. The new location is in the Watertown Center for Healing Arts, 17 Spring Street, Watertown, Ma 02472. The schedule for the remainder of 2013, starting with September, has also changed and is Monday and Wednesday, 7:30 pm – 9 pm. Please visit the Charles River Zen website for the schedule and for directions.

Charles River Zen Schedule

Please visit the web site of Charles River Zen to learn about the latest events, schedule, and what is going on in our Watertown location.
The calendar of events on is supplied by the same source as CRZ, however, please have a look at the new site.

Feburary 2012 Update

Our new website is up at, please visit and have a look! The Unsui site will continue to exist and be updated, show the information about the schedule and so on and represent Dharma Cloud Hermitage as the mother organization of CRZ.

Sittings are Tuesday and Thursday evening, we have introduced specific days on which there will be a talk, chanting of the entire sutra book, a “casual” evening, and are planning on offering an introductory class. Our first retreat will be on March 11 in the afternoon.  For more information we invite you to visit Charles River Zen!

November 2011 Update

Since mid-September we have been meeting in the new location at 118 Main Street, in Watertown Square. We have not started to make our presence there known around town and the area, but we are working on it!

In the week of November 7th the Vice Abbess and the Abbot attended a 5-day Dai-sesshin with Sasaki Roshi at Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Roshi was in excellent spirits and good health, however, he contracted some kind of infection that completely took his energy away and he is currently resting – it is still amazing to see him during teisho and sanzen but it also lets most people forget that he is almost 105 years old and dealing with the issues coming with that age.

Clear skies at night let the temperatures fall into the low 20s in the morning, accompanied by some bone-chilling wind gusts. Bodhi Manda is a great place to practice and an interesting crowd assembled for the Fall kesseizen students from Austria, Norway, a monk from Germany, and many American students and ordained people.

The schedule followed the traditional Rinzai-ji style Dai-sesshin with a 3 am wakeup, three formal meals, twice a day chanting and closing at 9 pm; personal time was as usual limited to 20 minutes after each of the meals. Shuko served as the densu and took care of the Buddha hall, Dining hall, and the arriving guests and Dokuro served as the jikijitsu in the zendo.

Dharma Cloud Hermitage is about to unveil its newly branded practice offering as “Charles River Zen”. We will use CRZ to make our presence in Watertown and the Boston area better known and to start a campaign to acquire property for a dedicated practice center in the area.

All of this would not be possible without the teaching brought here by Sasaki Roshi, for which we all are deeply grateful. The future of Dharma Cloud Hermitage and Charles River Zen depends also on your interest and dedication, for which we thank you very much.

Elsie Mitchell

On Monday, October 17, 2011, in the early morning hours Elsie Mitchell passed away in her Cambridge, Massachusetts home.  Mrs. Mitchell was one of the founders of the Cambridge Buddhist Association, together with her husband John, D. T. Suzuki, Shinichi Hisamatsu, and a few others. The CBA offered continuous Zen practice from 1957 until the end of July 2011.

Mrs. Mitchell was a pioneer of Zen in America, many may remember her recordings of the chanting at Eiheiji, which came out in 1958 on LP. Recording together with her husband she was helped then by a young Japanese man, who introduced himself as Mr. Katagiri. I remember Mrs. Mitchell telling me this story several times, also noting that he smoked a lot. Dainin Katagiri, Shunryu Suzuki, and a number of other Zen masters knew her well.

In 1979 Mrs. Mitchell donated the funds to purchase 75 Sparks Street in Cambridge, where Maurine Stuart – Myo-on Chiko – taught until her much too early departure in 1990. Mrs. Mitchell was a continual and dedicated supporter of the Buddhist endeavors all over the United States. With her departure we are one step closer to the disappearance of the first generation of American Zen pioneers. Only a few are left.

We express our gratitude to Mr. Mitchell who supported the CBA for so many years, for her kindness, generosity, and her perseverance regarding the presence of Dharma in the American life and culture. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

No sitting on September 29, 2011

The evening Zazen on Thursday, September 29, is canceled. Please take note that there will be nobody at the Watertown meeting place that night.

We willr esume the schedule on Tuesday, October 4th.

We’ve started…

Our first evening in the new location went well – new surroundings, a somewhat demanding setup since the zabutons and zafus are stored on the top shelf and require one of us to climb up a ladder and hand them down one by one. The whole process happens in reverse at the end of the program.
Otherwise the place is quiet, spacious, and a few improvements such as the lighting are still underway. Kinhin (walking meditation) without the creaking floor boards is different, and the room allows for a more speedy movement.
We are in the market for a uniform set of tea cups for the sittings and will replace the full sutra books with laminated sheets that have the Heart Sutra on one side and Kozen Daito on the other. Every setup item, every optimization helps. We’ll also purchase a chest that is lockable to store some of the heavier items that we cannot carry in and out constantly.
Thanks to Shuko, Myoki, Jodo, Jamie, and Eldon who participated in our inaugural sitting. We hope the rest of the Sangha will have a chance to join us soon at this new location.

Update and New Beginning

On Thursday, September 15, we will stealthily start sitting in the new location. The first few times of the sittings will allow us to get used to the new place, develop the best way to accommodate the learning curve for setting up and breaking down the zendo. Once we have all the details worked out and established a schedule of responsibilities with our sangha members we will move forward with an advertising campaign that will introduce a new name for our endeavor in Watertown and make our presence known.

The vice-abbess and abbot just returned from a Dai-sesshin with Sasaki Roshi at Mt. Baldy Zen Center. Roshi was in good health, although it was clear that his energy at the end of the 3 months of Seichu and four Dai-sesshin was requiring a lot of rest. Nonetheless, it is still amazing with what vigor and dedication the 104 year-old master teaches. Four Sanzen and a Teisho everyday, seven days, with 38 participants in the retreat. The weather was mostly cooperative, although we had a few days in the upper 90ies, an early morning thunderstorm with lightning bolts hitting left and right, and the clear and definitive arrival of autumn after the last day of sesshin. Summer Seichu has ended and a full schedule of Roshi’s activities for the coming months is posted on the Mt. Baldy Zen Center site.

We look forward to seeing you at the new location!

Summer Break


The sale of the house at 75 Sparks Street has given us our first ever Summer Break. The activities are suspended until they resume in mid-September at our new location in Watertown. We will be meeting at the Body Mind Integration Center, 118 Main Street, in Watertown. Shuko, the vice-abbess, has arranged for this location and we are glad to have found such a convenient and appropriate venue for the continuation of our group practice.

After the last sit everyone pitched in to remove the remaining cushions and Zen paraphernalia from the house – cars loaded up to the roof with zabutons, zafus, support cushions, candles and so were the temporary storage for the items before we moved them into the new space. It will be quite different: there is the need to setup every time and completely dismantle the setup. A true expression of the floating nature of existence is manifest! The room will transform into a Zendo and back into a room, used by Yoga practitioners, Feldenkrais students, and other groups. Sangha member wearing robes are going to have to assemble their formal travelling kit and bring it back and forth. These are great lessons to learn.

We left after the last official meeting at the CBA without leaving traces. Following that very guideline we will come into the new space and leave it in better condition than we found it, yet without leaving any traces. This was one of the things that my first Zen teacher, Genro, was very fond of. His three practical instructions were: 1. Do not waste anything. 2. Do not leave traces. 3. Support harmony where harmony is manifest, create harmony where it is absent. Many dharma talks can be given on these three apparently simple instructions, yet a whole universe and depth of exploration is contained in the simplicity.

We will operate in Watertown under a new name, which we will publish here. will remain, Dharma Cloud Hermitage also. Please take good care over the summer and we hope to see you all back in the Zendo at the new location in September.

Nine bows,

Final Meeting: You are invited

On Wednesday, July 27, 2011, a tradition of over 50 years will come to an end with the last and final meeting of the Cambridge Buddhist Association’s Zazen-kai. It is also your very last chance to sit at 75 Sparks Street, the place that had been the home of the CBA since 1979.
Everyone is welcome to participate. At the end of the night we will have a formal sarei (tea), chant the Heart Sutra, and the last abbot of the CBA, Dokuro, will move the Manjushri statue from the Zendo’s altar into a box for storage. That will also mark the end of the house functioning as a Buddhist temple.
Please come and join us for this significant event.