Meet Josho Pat Phelan Roshi

In the Spring of 1991, the Chapel Hill Zen Group asked the Abbots of the San Francisco Zen Center to send Taitaku Josho Patricia Phelan to lead the group. Pat was ordained in 1977 by the former Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, Zentatsu Richard Baker, who was Suzuki Roshi's successor. She has also studied with two of Suzuki Roshi's other disciples, Sojun Mel Weitsman and Tenshin Reb Anderson.

Pat began sitting zazen in Oregon in 1969. She moved into the San Francisco Zen Center in 1971, and from 1972-1975 practiced at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. Prior to her arrival in Chapel Hill in 1991, she was a Practice Leader and Director of Zen Center's residence facility in San Francisco.

In the Fall of 1995, she returned to Tassajara and completed her training by receiving Dharma Transmission from Sojun Weitsman Roshi. In October, 2000, Josho Sensei was officially installed as Abbess of the Chapel Hill Zen Center. In December, 2008, Josho Sensei traveled to Japan to participate in Zuise ceremonies at Eihei-ji and Soji-ji temples. She is married and has a daughter.

Josho Roshi's Talks
on Zen Practice

Josho Roshi has ordained several disciples as priests:

Zenki Kathleen Batson
Ordained 2015, Shuso for a Kessei Ango in 2019, and received Dharma Transmission in 2023. She was installed as Vice Abbess in September, 2023.
Zenki's Talks on Zen Practice.

Nyugen Elizabeth Moore (1943-2018)
Ordained 2003.
Nyugen's Talk on Zen Practice.

Kuden Paul Boyle
Ordained 2003, Shuso (Head Monk) 2009, received Dharma Transmission in 2023, and leads the Forest City Zen Group in London, Ontario.
Kuden's Talks on Zen Practice.

Jakuko Mo Ferrell
Ordained 2008, Shuso 2014, and received Dharma Transmission in 2023.
Jakuko's Talks on Zen Practice.

Choro Carla Antonaccio
Ordained 2010, Shuso 2016. Choro received Dharma Transmission from Rev. Konjin Gaelyn Godwin in 2021 and is now Abiding Teacher at the Austin Zen Center.
Choro's Talks on Zen Practice.

Senmyo Jeff Sherman
Ordained 2018. Previously, Senmyo practiced with Suzuki Roshi in San Francisco and Tassajara, and with Sobun Katherine Thanas at the Santa Cruz Zen Center.

Eden Kevin Heffernan
Ordained 2018, Shuso for a Kessei Ango in 2023, leads Richmond ZenRichmond Zen and is the Buddhist campus minister at the University of Richmond


Honorary Founding Teacher
Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi

In Remembrance of Hakuryu Sojun Daiosho
by Hozan Alan Senauke

Our dear teacher Hakuryu Sojun Daiosho (White Dragon / Essence of Purity) Mel Weitsman peacefully passed from this world to the Pure Land of Buddhas and Ancestors at home on Thursday, January 7, 2021. He was ninety-one years old.

Whatever words one can offer here on paper are inadequate to the expression of our loss, and the depth of our gratitude to Sojun Roshi. So, as with any attempt to put Zen into words, we must make a mistake on purpose, and hope that love shines through.

* * *

Sojun Roshi's ordinary, understated, and steady leadership made Berkley Zen Center (BZC) a beacon for Buddhist practitioners and other spiritual seekers in the East Bay and more widely in the U.S. With a strong circle of dedicated Zen students, as guiding teacher and abbot at BZC for fifty-three years, Sojun created a place where rigorous daily sitting practice was integral with people's life of family, work, and service. He often spoke of BZC as a kind of "one room schoolhouse," where each person could find the necessary teachings for their position in life. Anyone could knock on Sojun's office door and he would readily invite them in.

No matter where else he might travel, Berkeley Zen Center was his heart, his body. He knew every brick, every plank, every plant, every stone. Many of them he had placed there himself. Year after year he was with us for zazen, for every meal in the zendo, gardening and painting beside us, sitting through so many early morning meetings. His life was here.

Born in Los Angeles in 1929, Sojun Roshi's broad life experience included a stint in the Marines, years of art study and abstract expressionist painting, augmented by work as a house and boat painter, cab driver, and music teacher. When he met Suzuki Roshi his life work was transformed. He embraced the practice of zazen and the task of sustaining the dharma of Zen given to him by his teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.

At the request of Suzuki Roshi, Sojun founded Berkeley Zen Center in 1967. He was ordained a year later in the attic zendo he had established on Dwight Way in Berkeley.

Suzuki Roshi died in 1971. In 1984, Sojun received dharma transmission from Suzuki Roshi's son, Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi, abbot of Rinso-In Temple in Japan, and he was installed as BZC's first abbot in 1985. In declining health, he stepped down as abbot in October 2020, assuming the position of Founding Dharma Teacher.

From 1988 to 1997, Sojun also served as Co-Abbot of San Francisco Zen Center (where he had begun his Zen practice in 1964), helping to stabilize SFZC through a period of transition while still guiding Berkeley Zen Center. He continued as Senior Dharma Teacher at SFZC until his death. He was also one of the founding teachers of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association and the American Zen Teachers Association.

Sojun Roshi was deeply respected in the Zen community, both in the U.S. and in Japan. His own warm embodiment of Suzuki Roshi's "ordinary mind" was a path of steady and determined practice, the luminous quality of "nothing special." Although Sojun had more than thirty transmitted dharma heirs leading Zen centers around the U.S., and more than two hundred lay ordained Zen students, he was most at home in the community of Berkeley Zen Center, which continues to thrive.

Sojun is survived by his wife Elizabeth Horowitz, their son Daniel, and uncountable disciples and students across the United States and around the world. Cards and letters can be sent to Liz, Daniel, and the BZC sangha c/o Berkeley Zen Center, 1931 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA 94703. When the Covid-19 pandemic abates, BZC and San Francisco Zen Center will collaborate on a formal and widely-inclusive memorial celebration of Sojun Roshi's life and teaching.

The bulk of Sojun's audio lectures can be found at the BZC website. His forthcoming memoir and collection of lectures will be published by Counterpoint Press in 2021, as will a new collection of Suzuki Roshi lectures, edited by Sojun and Jiryu Rutschman-Byler. An additional archive is in process at the Asian Library at Stanford University.