New Sanctuary Vigil

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship hosted last night’s vigil for refugees and recent immigrants in our city. Every first Tuesday of the month, people from different congregations meet at Ascension Lutheran Church on Layton Blvd. with victims of violence, who had to leave their countries and seek sanctuary in the US. They often arrive here after staying in holding camps and are in need of basic necessities.

We share poems, songs and prayers, and listen to moving testimonies in English and Spanish. Sometimes, collections are made for food, clothing and furniture. Attorneys offer their services for free. But just showing up for support is highly appreciated.



Just returned from Green Dragon Temple, my spiritual home at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in California.

My teacher Furyu Doshin Nancy Schroeder asked me to do the 21-day Transmission Ceremony in the Soto Zen tradition with her. I had a faint idea of what was involved, but the physical and mental challenge was more than I could have imagined. At one time I said to her: “This is torture.” and she replied: “Yes, and when you are used to it, we’ll have more for you.”

I realized this is Zen practice: You receive small increments of stress, starting with zazen instruction, and gradually more is added. Eventually you learn to be quite comfortable with whatever the teacher demands, develop patience and let go of anxiety. The reward is amazing, and finally you are free!

On the last day at GGF I asked my Dharma grandfather Reb Anderson what his advice would be for me. He thought for a moment and then told me: “When I had finished this process that you just underwent, I thought I could fly. Three weeks later, the apocalypse happened at Zen Center, and I was thoroughly grounded. My advice to you is: Be careful!”

The beauty of the Japanese rituals is stunning, and I was sorry that nobody but my teacher, her attendant, the instructor and I myself could witness it. Transmission is a very private and secret process, the jundo (offering incense and making prostrations at the various altars in the temple) was done before the wake-up bell (starting at 3:45 am) and after dinner. The disciple stays in a remote place and has little contact with the rest of the community, works on the assignments, which are getting harder, and finally has intimate meetings with the teacher in a specially outfitted red room in the middle of the night.

An added bonus was the full moon on the last day, May 18th. Just as I was making the final grand bow on the zendo deck, overlooking the pond, invoking the vow to benefit all beings along with the frog chorus, the full moon rose over the Eastern hills. Later on, when the ceremonies were finished, we walked in silence back to our quarters in bright moonlight. Most of the days had been overcast and it had rained a lot, but that day was clear. From living many years at GGF, I remembered that wild animals are very tame at GGF. Quail and other birds abounded, the heron made daily visits, I saw deer, heard the coyotes howl, and found a mouse family in a drawer in my studio.

I feel grateful that I had this opportunity to be close to my teacher and experience the wisdom that has been handed down through the generations (I am supposedly the 93rd since Mahakashyapa). Somehow the difficulties added depth, and I felt Fu’s love when she commented on a mistake I had made: “It would not be you…” It’s nice to be known so well.

Now I am home again in Milwaukee; Michael Newhall will return to Jikoji, and life at MZC goes on. Work day on Saturday, planning the next board meeting, a new class and the Branching Streams Conference in September. Hope to see you all soon!


Tibetan Monks in Milwaukee

We were lucky to have a group of wonderful Tibetan monks here with us in Milwaukee. They created a sand mandala in City Hall over four days and “destroyed” it ritually on Friday afternoon. More than thousand people came to watch.

Last night, they performed rituals at the Tripoli Shrine Center. They actually just shared with us what they do in their normal daily life at Drepung Loseling Monastery in India.

Tripoli Shrine Center in Milwaukee

Tripoli Shrine Center in Milwaukee

Tibetan Monks
Mandala in City Hall, unfortunately the video of the deconstruction is too big to copy here.

Mandala in City Hall, unfortunately the video of the deconstruction is too big to copy here.

Social Action

Shakyamuni Buddha set out to find a way to relieve human suffering. He realized that it needs a major shift in consciousness. But before that can happen, basic needs must be met: food, shelter, and safety are necessary for peace of mind.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship is a national organization, and there is also a local chapter here in Milwaukee. We meet once a month to enjoy each other’s company, and make plans for peaceful events of social action. On the second Monday of every month a meal is cooked and served for homeless men at the Milwaukee Guesthouse.


On the first Tuesday of every month, we meet with other interfaith members at a vigil for refugees and immigrants at the Ascension Lutheran Church at 1236 S. Layton Blvd. The New Sanctuary Movement invites everyone to witness the stories of recent new residents in our city. We collect furniture, food, and clothes for people who often come with nothing. Every month a different faith group leads the program with a short service.

Last week I listened to a talk by Dr. Barbara Ransby, who is a professor of African-American studies and Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The event at Marquette University was well-attended, and there was a lively discussion afterwards.

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This Fall, Milwaukee Zen Center hosts the Branching Streams Conference, which happens every other year at a different place. Branching Streams is a network of Dharma Centers in the Shunryu Suzuki lineage. A Planning Committee has been formed, which recently met for the first time at Siena Retreat Center, where the event will take place. This is a great honor for our sangha, and we are looking forward to welcoming many practitioners from all over the country. The theme for this year’s conference is SOCIAL JUSTICE.

Annual Meeting

Today, March 31, we held the Annual Meeting for Milwaukee Zen Center.

After the usual Sunday morning practice, the Dharma talk concerning Sangha, we set up tables, enjoyed donated refreshments - thank you, Chiyoko, for home baked coffee cake and Japanese milk buns! … also Demitra for Vietnamese sweets!

Susan Winecki, President, and myself recalled the highlights of last year and put forth plans for the coming year, which include setting up the new library upstairs, a new altar, new practice opportunities and teacher visits.

We had a lively discussion about making slight changes to the schedule in order to be more accommodating to guests and at the same time allowing seasoned practitioners access to advanced teachings and practices. Nothing is going to change for now, but please keep checking the website.

As you may have already noticed, Shoho Michael Newhall will be the Resident Priest for a month in my place, while I am at my home temple for Dharma Transmission. This should be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to enjoy the presence of an experienced teacher in the Kobun Chino lineage. I met Chino Roshi at Tassajara and in Santa Cruz, when my daughter was babysitting his children. I think that Shoho has inherited his enigmatic teaching style, and I am just disappointed about not being here to witness it, while he is at MZC.

A small group of us is part of a Planning Committee for the Branching Streams Conference, which MZC is hosting in September. Since our temple cannot house the Gathering, we have reserved space at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine. I am going to keep you posted on how our plans are unfolding. It may in the long run be necessary to ask for more help from sangha members.

On a personal note I would like to share with you my happiness about a new grandson in California, who I will visit in a couple of weeks! He is a beautiful addition to my daughters family, and I just have to add a photo here…


March 2019

Hello Friends,

Welcome to my first blog post on this site! I will try to update it frequently and let you know about what’s happening at MZC and also personal stories that may concern the Sangha.

Most of you know that I live in an apartment on the second floor of this house that is owned by Milwaukee Zen Center. I am usually at home, and when you are in the area, please feel free to check in any time. You may sit in our beautiful zendo and enjoy the peace and quiet, even outside of the schedule.

Since September of 2015, I have been the Resident Priest at MZC, and I love the city and the Buddhist community here. After having lived for 35 years in California, I had to adjust to the Midwest. Maybe it was easy for me because of my being German. I enjoy experiencing the seasons and the clear light near Michigan Lake, especially now as the days are getting longer again and Spring is in the air!

You’ll hear from me soon again…

In gassho, Reirin