Monday, January 31, 2011

Dermot Mac Cormack: Untitled #11

Dermot Mac Cormack, Untitled #11, 2011, audio Priests, Monks and Pilgrims of Kyoto, reissued by lyrichord discs. Dermot Mac Cormack is an associate Professor at the Tyler School of Art, the creative director of 21xdesign, and a student of Shuzen Sensei at the Soji Zen Center.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Women's Lineage Papers

By Peter Levitt

As part of a concerted effort undertaken by certain North American Zen communities to redress a significant historical wrong, this was among the first lineage papers in Buddhist history that acknowledges and honours Buddhist women ancestors.  Relying on years of research, performed mostly by women scholars in the academic world, it was created on behalf of the Salt Spring Zen Circle in British Columbia through the efforts of Zen teachers Zoketsu Norman Fischer of Everyday Zen and Eihei Peter Levitt of the Salt Spring Zen Circle.  It was designed by Barbara Cooper from Los Angeles.  In November 2007, on Salt Spring Island, male and female students of these two teachers were given this women’s lineage paper as part of their lay ordination ceremony, thus helping to end an overwhelming historical silence regarding women ancestors in Zen. The women’s lineage paper was bundled together with the male lineage paper traditionally given at this ceremony, and the two papers were received by the ordainees together.

The wheel of women ancestor names begins with the name of Shakyamuni Buddha’s mother, Mahapajapati, at the bottom, just to the right of the space at what would be the six o’clock position.  The names then ascend in a counterclockwise direction.  Names of women ancestors from India, are followed by ancestor names from China, Japan, and North America.  Of note is that at the top of the enso, in what would be the twelve o’clock position, the words “unknown women” appear.  This is to acknowledge the countless women whose sincere practice helped to nourish Zen and Buddhism throughout history but whose names, for a variety of reasons, were forgotten, suppressed, or left unsaid.

At the bottom of the wheel a blank space was left so that each new ordainee could have their name written in, and thereby be embraced by the ancestors.


Alongside his work as a Zen teacher, Peter Levitt is an accomplished poet, and most recently published Within Within. You can visit his website here, and you can contact Peter Levitt directly at his email address, levgram[at]

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweetcake Enso opens at the Village Zendo this Saturday, January 15th!

Maria Wallace, Supercell, oil on canvas, 18x14", 2010

With ten new artists on board, Sweetcake Enso is on exhibit for one day at the Village Zendo this coming Saturday. Sweetcake Enso draws attention to the abstract circle as a symbol of presentness in daily life, and opens out the traditional calligraphy of the Enso to include the work, unlimited by media or training, of contemporary artists involved in strong Buddhist practice. Without motivation to define “Zen Art,” the interest here is in a shift from the monastic practice of Japan to a stronger emphasis upon lay practice in American Zen, and what this means for understanding contemporary art as Zen practice.   From cyclone to stillness, these works are individual offerings to the teachers that are with us now and who have come before.  In this exhibit sales will benefit the Village Zendo, and be met by a matching grant in honor of their 25th anniversary.

Emma Tapley, Water Reflection/Landscape Inversion, C-print, edition of 5

The third Sweetcake Enso exhibit opens Saturday, January 15th at the Village Zendo, 588 Broadway, suite 1108.  Viewing is from 11:00-7:00, followed by a panel discussion from 7:00-900 pm.  Artists in the exhibit are:  

Miya Ando, Sanford Biggers, Ross Bleckner, Sam Clayton, Robyn Ellenbogen, Noah Fischer, Carolyn Fuchs, Max Gimblett, Rodney Alan Greenblat, Gregg Hill, Anne Humanfeld, Phyllis Joyner, Erin Koch, Liz LaBella, Peter Levitt, Timothy Reynolds, Karen Schiff, Fran Shalom, Bridget Spaeth, Emma Tapley, Leslie Wagner, Maria Wallace, Maggie Wells and Michael Wenger.

Please join us at 7:00 pm for a lively discussion of how Buddhist practice inspires and informs contemporary art.  Panelists include:

Max Gimblett, artist teacher and lecturer
Emma Tapley, artist
Rodney Greenblat, artist
Robyn Ellenbogen, artist and art editor of Zen Monster
Catherine Spaeth, art historian and curator
Ross Bleckner, Four Locations, color spitbyte aquatint with chine colle, 39x30" 2007