Upcoming Events

Dharma and Justice: Integrating Grief as Social Justice Work

March 2, 2023 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Zoom webinar
Peace Twesigye

Join us on Thursday, March 2 at 7:00 PM for Dharma and Justice: Integrating Grief as Social Justice Work, featuring Paula Arai, Sarah Dōjin Emerson, and Jefre Cantu.

The pain of loss is a key feature of the Buddha’s teaching of dukkha, one of the three marks of existence, an unavoidable truth of life. Loss, and the attendant grief are therefore not something to get over or through, but gateways into compassion and our shared existence. Even while grief is a universal truth, dominant culture in the US has historically and increasingly suppressed and cut off traditional ways of collectively processing grief. In this conversation we will explore the centrality of grief on the path of liberation, and how individual and collective practices and rituals in the Buddhist tradition can support, make space for and help reclaim how we integrate loss; and in turn be a part of reforming systems of oppression that depend on the denial and suppression of the vast histories of what we need to collectively grieve.

ASL interpretation will be provided.

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Paula Arai (Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies, Harvard University) is author of Painting Enlightenment: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra––The Buddhist Art of Iwasaki Tsuneo, Women Living Zen: Japanese Buddhist Nuns, and Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Buddhist Women’s Rituals. She is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Practice. Steeped in ethnographic research, she takes an embodied approach to her work and finds poetic immersive storytelling a potent medium for conveying the experiences of transformative healing she researches. Specializing in Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist women, Arai trained under the tutelage of Aoyama Shundō Rōshi at the Aichi Senmon Nisōdō nunnery in Nagoya and maintains decades-long relationships with her laywomen consociates in Japan. An active public speaker, Arai also leads workshops on healing rituals. She holds the Eshinni & Kakushinni Professor of Women and Buddhist Studies at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley.


Sarah Dōjin Emerson is a Zen Priest and Dharma teacher at the Brooklyn Zen Center. She experiences Bodhisattva Zen practice as deeply supportive to inquiring into, challenging and transforming systems of oppression, particularly racial inequities and the harm they cause within convert Buddhist sanghas, and in U.S. society generally. Sarah has also worked for many years in grief support- clinically, ritually and in community- specializing in child loss. Sarah’s formal practice in Soto Zen began in 1996. She lived and trained at Tassajara Zen Mountain center and other sites of the San Francisco Zen Center from 1997-2007. She received Dharma Transmission from Abbott Konjin Gaelyn Godwin of the Houston Zen Center in 2015. She has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies, and has worked in the fields of mental health and pastoral care with children and adults. She lives with her partner, Charlie Pokorny (who is also a Soto Zen Buddhist priest), their children (who are her most profound and constant teachers) and numerous pets in Brooklyn, NY.


Jefre Cantu is a Soto Zen Buddhist priest in the lineage of Shunryū Suzuki Roshi, and is a member of the Brooklyn Zen Center sangha. He is a graduate of Union’s BIE program (2019) and currently works as a hospice chaplain in New York’s Hudson Valley, where he lives with his family.