How Buddhist Centers are Responding to Coronavirus

Due to the current outbreak of coronavirus affecting over 100 countries, many Buddhist centers are taking precautions to protect against the virus and its spread.

Lilly Greenblatt9 March 2020
Photo by Curology via Unsplash.

 

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

“Given the seriousness of the virus, and the increased health risk to certain populations, we have concluded that the best way to reduce potential harm is to suspend our residential courses as of Sunday, March 15th through April 23rd. For some of these courses we are going to offer a lower cost, online version through Zoom.” More information here.

Berkeley Zen Center

Berkeley Zen Center (BZC) in Berkeley, California has temporarily suspended their usual activities through Saturday March 14 in response to coronavirus. BZC will re-consider whether this suspension should last longer as the week goes on and will post any updated information on their website.

Boundless Way Zen

A March 15 email newsletter from Boundless Way Zen reads, in part, “At a (virtual) meeting on Saturday (March 14), the Leadership Council decided that our various Practice Groups and our Affiliate in Worcester should choose, at their own discretion, how best to move forward at this time, taking into account local conditions and city and state directives. All of the groups that we have heard from as yet, however, have decided to suspend “live” gatherings (involving the physical presence of members) either indefinitely or for at least the next two weeks. …We are exploring various ways to interact virtually during this period, and we will share what we learn with the leadership teams of our affiliate and practice groups.”

Buddhist Churches of America

From a message by Bishop Kodo Umezu: “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many temple and church services and events have been cancelled or postponed until further notice. Though you are not able to physically be at your temples and churches, you can listen to the chanting of Juseige, Sanbutsuge and Junirai on our website.”

Buddhist Temple of Toledo

The Buddhist Temple of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio posted a video to their Facebook page outlining the shifts they will be making in response to coronavirus. They say they will try to “suspend all in-person activities at the temple” and shift to virtual events, “not cancelling anything,” and will reevaluate on April 1. The temple is looking to “find ways to keep the dharma still accessible, vital, and connected.”

Cambridge Insight Meditation Center

Cambridge Insight Meditation Center (CIMC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts has announced that it will be closed for 6 weeks, and has announced an “online beginner’s drop-in.”

East Bay Meditation Center

East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in Oakland, California currently remains open and is promoting mindful handwashing at their center, saying it is a “a great 20-second practice all of the time.” They ask that those feeling unwell or who think they may have been exposed to flu or cold viruses stay home until they feel better.

“The practice of spiritual refuge and radical inclusivity at East Bay Meditation Center means, above all, the co-creation of safe space and mindfulness in order to keep ourselves and our communities protected from harm,” EBMC wrote in a recent newsletter addressing the coronavirus.

Greater Boston Zen Center

A message from center directors reads, in part, “[w]e have decided to temporarily close GBZC-Cambridge starting today, Wednesday 3/11, for a period of at least two weeks so that we may see how ongoing information unfolds, and re-open when we have necessary and more sustainable disinfectant/sanitizing supplies. …we are looking into virtual options for programming and sitting together remotely. (More information will follow.) ”

Insight Meditation Society

“We have concluded that the best way to reduce potential harm is to temporarily close the Retreat Center until April 14, and the Forest Refuge until April 30…. For the foreseeable future, we are offering a daily meditation on Facebook Live to help connect our community during this challenging period. All are encouraged to join in and support your fellow meditators, some of whom may be suffering with worry, stress, or health concern. Visit IMS’s Facebook page for information.”

Karma Triyana Dharmachakra

The website of the seat of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa has announced that “the Monastery will be completely closed to visitors for the foreseeable future. We will be arranging for video recordings to be made of non-restricted practices. These recordings will be made available for students to use as a “practice along with the KTD lamas” substitute for in-person attendance at daily practices.”

Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society

Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society, a Taiwan-based group of Buddhist monasteries founded by Chan Master Hsin Tao with a location in Flushing, New York, has asked all of their centers around the world to temporarily suspend classes and events. They will be applying health safety measures for any visitors, including wearing masks and sanitizing hands.

Nalanda West

Nalanda West, the Buddhist center founded by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in Seattle, Washington has made significant changes to their March calendar. There are currently 136 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 19 related deaths in Washington state.

The center’s weekly offerings including their Sunday Meditation and Open Meditation have been moved to online mediums including Zoom and Facebook, with links provided on their website. Their Interconnecting for Good fundraiser has been postponed until April.

New York Buddhist Church

From the NYBC website: “After careful consideration and recognizing that many of our regular attendees and visitors are elderly and may be particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, the New York Buddhist Church will be suspending all Church-sponsored group activities held at the facility including Sunday services until March 31. We will be continuously monitoring developments in order to assess future actions and the timing of re-initiating regular events and activities. We are hopeful that we can continue to serve our sangha (community) by using alternative communication channels.”

Padmasambhava Meditation Center

In-person gatherings are currently canceled. Visit the website for more details.

Plum Village

Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s practice center in France, has temporarily closed to the public until May 1st. They will be giving refunds to those already registered to visit, and will continue to take registrations for the month of May and beyond. The communal nature of Plum Village, alongside the fact that they attract a large number of international visitors, makes the center “unusually vulnerable to the transmission of this virus.”

“We recognise that, as a spiritual community and a place of refuge, we have a social responsibility to protect the wellbeing, safety, and happiness of our visiting guests and residential community,” they write. We should note, too, that in Plum Village, in partnership with Lion’s Roar, will launch a new virtual summit, In the Footsteps of Thich Nhat Hanh, running from March 25-29. In it, several teachers, all students of the famed Buddhist teacher, will present teachings from their tradition. Registration is free; sign up here.

Portland Insight Meditation Center

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends handwashing be done for a minimum of 20 seconds to best prevent yourself and your family from getting sick. The Portland Insight Meditation Center in Portland, Oregon shared the following 20-second handwashing loving-kindness (metta) meditation on their Facebook page:

As you wash your hands, you could practice loving-kindness.

“May all beings be safe.
May all beings be content.
May all beings be healthy.
May all being live with ease.”

That’s about 20 seconds, right?

Puget Sound Zen Center

Puget Sound Zen Center in Vashon, Washington will hold all services online via Zoom as a precaution against coronavirus.

Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism

Sakya Monastery in Seattle, Washington has suspended all public events including pujas, meditations, and caring for the monastery from today until the end of March. They are encouraging their members to continue their own regular practice at home. Before the end of March, Sakya Monastery writes, they will re-assess the situation and decide how to proceed in April. “In the meantime we pray that everyone remains healthy and safe.”

San Francisco Zen Center

San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) in San Francisco, California has suspended public events at City Center until further notice and Green Gulch Farm until March 20. Conferences, classes, and programs will still be offered at Green Gulch Farm will still be offered.

In a statement from from the abbots and leadership of SFZC, they write, “In times like this, our practice intentions include efforts to be well-informed, avoid harmful reactivity, engage in beneficial action, and support each other with love, patience, and diligent effort.”

Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California is monitoring COVID-19 situation as it unfolds and currently remains open. The center is promoting handwashing and sanitation, as well as bowing as greeting in lieu of hugging or hand-shaking. They have also temporarily updated their cancellation policies so that those feeling ill or uncertain of their health have the option of receiving a full refund, rebooking for a future program, or donating their fees.

Founding teacher Jack Kornfield wrote a letter to the Spirit Rock community addressing coronavirus concerns, writing “The need for the Dharma is stronger than ever. We can choose to live in our fears, confusion, and worries; or to stay in the essence of our practice, center ourselves, and be the ones on this beautiful boat of the earth that demonstrate patience, compassion, mindfulness, and mutual care.”

Tara Mandala International Buddhist Community

“We have decided to cancel our April onsite and personal retreats as of today…We are working on offering web-based solutions for some retreats. Please check our calendar for updates.”

Tibet House

The NYC-based Tibet House’s website states that “In light of the urgent need for social distancing, we are offering free online streaming programs of events hosted here at Tibet House,  including selections of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings organized with us over the years.” The center is currently closed until April 1.

White River Buddhist Temple and Seattle Buddhist Betsuin

The White River Buddhist Temple in Auburn, Washington and the Seattle Buddhist Betsuin in Seattle, Washington, two Jodo Shinshu centers belonging to Buddhist Churches of America, have cancelled services, temple programs, and activities through the month of March as a preventative measure. Private services with chanting and dharma talks by the ministers will be streamed on Seattle Betsuin’s YouTube page in lieu of their regular Sunday Service.

Upaya Zen Center

Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico has postponed their pilgrimage to Japan until next year, and has postponed their Chaplaincy events this month, continuing the training online. Though the temple is still open for meditation, future Wednesday night Dharma Talks will be livestreamed to Facebook.

Village Zendo

“The Village Zendo is currently closed in response to the Coronavirus emergency. We are offering online zazen and will be announcing online talks as well as the opportunity to schedule dokusan for formal students at the Village Zendo.” More information can be found here.

Zen Mountain Monastery & Zen Center of New York

From the organization’s Health and Safety page: “All scheduled retreats, sesshin and physical gatherings—such as daily zazen and the Sunday morning program—will be closed until it is safe for us to convene in person once again. In the meantime, we’ll be using the Internet to stay connected. We’ll be watching the situation carefully and sending frequent emails with news and updates. Please refer to this web page for updates announcing specific Livestream events and other relevant information.”

Zen Nova Scotia

Via their website as of March 14: “In response the current health concerns, ZNS will be gathering online, beginning this week. This Tuesday evening, we’ll sit together, chant together, and talk about the dharma—what we always do—but we’ll also be doing doing it in a new way and asking for feedback. (See site for online Zoom meeting link.)

Lilly Greenblatt

Lilly Greenblatt

Lilly Greenblatt is the digital editor of LionsRoar.com. You can find more about her at lillygreenblatt.com