Ancient Dragon's sewing teacher, Hogetsu Laurie Belzer, participated in an intensive sewing retreat (fukudenkai) to assist in the creation of a ceremonial buddha-robe (21-jo okesa) to honor former Zen Center Abbess and Senior Teacher, Zenkei Blanche Hartman. The true nature of the interconnectedness of every being and place was especially evident as the robe took shape in an atmosphere of friendly community, compassion and diligent effort. Yuko Okumura of Sanshin Zen Community and Jean Selkirk of Berkeley Zen Center kindly organized this effort so that Zen practitioners from all over the country contributed stitches to express their gratitude for Zenkei's tireless teaching and her deep effort in establishing the practice of sewing buddha's robe in America. Yuko Okumura is the wife of Shohaku Okumura, ADZG Dharma teacher Taigen Leighton's long-time translation collaborator on a number of works by Dogen, and Zenkei Blanche Hartman was Taigen's teacher when he was head monk at Tassajara in 1990. While Kaaren Wiken, ADZG's sewing friend and Hogetsu's sewing teacher, was unable attend the California sewing, she visited Yuko-san in Indiana to assist in sewing and preparations. Kaaren-sensei received dana from Ancient Dragon sangha members, which helped to fund her trip.
This wonderful event was hosted by Green Gulch Farm, one of San Francisco Zen Center's three monastic training sites, where teachers, Meiya Wender and Christina Lehnherr, were simultaneously guiding Zen students in sewing their own Buddhist robes in preparation for ordinations. Sewing retreat participants ate all meals together and intermingled - sharing stitches and comraderie. While a small of core of stitchers sustained the effort, dharma friends drifted in and out of the sewing room greeting Zenkei Blanche, and also joined in, adding stitches.