A Zen priest in Ukraine

I would like to ask for metta where to sit for our tree sangha priest, Kaidō Washin, in Odessa, Ukraine. He continues to care for members of his local sangha under very difficult conditions. Currently, her community is connected by the internet, which is always available, and Washin also finds time to join our Treeleaf activities online. In fact, he is expected to lead a zazenkai on Sunday March 6, via Zoom (information below).

He wrote to me this week fearing that he would not be able to lead his group meditation.

The curfew is in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and it is strongly advised to avoid having lights on and making noise during the night. There are many groups of saboteurs in the area which are particularly active at night and it is better not to cause unnecessary attraction. These people can hardly know what these bells and drums are talking about. However, I continue to host my [online] Every day I rest in the morning… These days I feel like I need to be connected to the sangha more than ever… Three Russian battleships have arrived in the area and remain on the outer anchorages, ready to attack the city at any time. For the moment, however, it is calm. Thanks again for all of your support and that of Treeleaf.

Washin joined Treeleaf, an online sangha, in 2014, and was ordained a priest in our sangha in 2019. His house is not far from the beach, and the news says that a mass landing could take place in the next few days. I asked him to leave if possible. Until now, he will not leave those who depend on him in Odessa. Of course, as long as there is some internet, our sangha will be with him and his local sangha members wherever they go if they have to flee the city.

Kaido Washin Tsarenko | photo by Igor Golubyatnikov

Treeleaf Zendo is a practice location for Zen practitioners who cannot easily travel to a Zen center due to health issues, living in remote areas, or child care, work, or family needs. Treeleaf offers zazen sessions, retreats, discussions, interactions with teachers and all other activities of an online Soto Zen Buddhist sangha, available at any time. We give people the space to come together to practice when remote collection is the only option, whether due to physical disability or the pandemic, natural disasters, working in isolated areas of the world, and also now, unfortunately, from the war.

We started the Odessa Treeleaf sangha just a few months ago and it currently has about 15 people. Hopefully it will increase further when current circumstances change. Washin was born in Odessa, the same city where he now lives. He served two years in the military before working in the shipping and transportation industry. In his late teens and later twenties, he began to explore different philosophical traditions. “I became interested in the purpose and the meaning of life, sometimes looking at the stars to try to find the answer,” he told me. But it wasn’t until 12 years ago that he discovered Zen and started sitting. “There really isn’t a Zen group here in this part of Ukraine,” he says, “so after sitting around for a few years without much support, I found Treeleaf, a new home for my convenient, because we could be in contact online.”

In addition to her Zen practice, Washin plants trees near the seaside with a group of like-minded volunteers. “I love trees, they are good teachers, so we can learn a lot from them. Unfortunately, so many of these trees we have planted will be destroyed during the invasion. We will replant them.

To all victims of war, violence and natural events

To the wounded and to all the families affected by these tragedies

To the healing of hatred in all countries and among all peoples

To the wisdom and compassion of our world leaders

To the peace of the world and the harmony of all beings.

Sunday March 6 Virtual Zazenkai

Please join us for the Sunday Sit on March 6 starting at 6 a.m. PT; 9 a.m. ET; 4 p.m. ET. The sit will include a reading of the heart sutra, zazen, verses of atonement, and the four vows. Many practitioners have expressed interest in getting together, including some in Russian who wish to show their support. We invite anyone who wishes to be seated to join us. Find the link here.

To learn more, read how Buddhist leaders around the world responded to the crisis in Ukraine.

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