I would like to ask for metta or sitting for our Treeleaf sangha priest, Kaidō Washin, in Odessa, Ukraine. He continues to tend to the members of his local sangha under very difficult conditions. Right now, his community is connected by internet, which is still available, and Washin is somehow also finding time to join our Treeleaf activities online. In fact, he is scheduled to lead a zazenkai on Sunday, March 6, via Zoom (information below). 

He wrote to me this week, concerned that he might not be able to lead his group meditation. 

The curfew here is in force from 7pm until 6am and it is strongly advised to avoid having the lights on and making noise during the night. There are many groups of saboteurs in the area that are particularly active at night and it’s better not to cause unnecessary attraction. Those people can hardly know what these bells and drums are about. However, I still continue to host my [online] daily sits in the morning…These days I feel I need to be connected to the sangha more than ever…Three Russian battleships have arrived to the area and remain on the outer anchorages, ready to attack the city any time. So far it is quiet, however. Thank you again for all of your and Treeleaf support.

Washin joined Treeleaf, an online sangha, in 2014, and was ordained as a priest in our sangha in 2019. His house is not far from the beach, and the news says that a massive invasion landing may occur in the coming days. I have asked him to leave if possible. So far, he will not leave those who depend on him in Odessa. Of course, so long as there is some internet, our sangha will be with him, as well as his local sangha members, wherever they go if they must flee the city.

Kaido Washin Tsarenko
Kaidō Washin Tsarenko | photo by Igor Golubyatnikov

Treeleaf Zendo is a practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or childcare, work, or family needs. Treeleaf offers zazen sits, retreats, discussion, interaction with teachers, and all other activities of a Soto Zen Buddhist sangha online, available any time. We give people the space to come together to practice when remote gathering is the only option, whether that’s because of a physical disability or the pandemic, natural disasters, work in isolated regions of the world, and also now, sadly, war.

We started the Odessa Treeleaf sangha just a few months ago and it currently consists of around 15 people. Hopefully, it will grow more when the current circumstances change. Washin was born in Odessa, the same city where he lives now. He served two years in the military before working in the shipping and transport industry. In his late teens and later in his twenties, he started exploring different philosophical traditions. “I became interested in the purpose and meaning of life, sometimes looking up to the stars trying to find the answer,” he told me. But it wasn’t until 12 years ago when he learned about Zen and started sitting. “There is really no Zen group here in this part of Ukraine,” he says, “so after sitting for a couple of years without much support, I found Treeleaf, a new home for my practice, because we could be in touch online.”

In addition to his Zen practice, Washin plants trees near the seaside with a group of likeminded volunteers. “I love trees—they are good teachers—so we can learn a lot from them. Sadly, so many of those trees we planted will be destroyed in the invasion. We will plant them again.”

To all victims of war and violence and natural events

To the injured and to all families touched 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 harmony of all beings.

Sunday, March 6 Virtual Zazenkai

Please join us for the Sunday Sit on March 6th beginning at 6 am PT; 9 am ET; 4 pm EET. The sit will include a reading from the Heart Sutra, zazen, verses of atonement, and the four vows. Many practitioners have expressed interest in coming together, including some in Russian who wish to show support. We are inviting anyone who wishes to sit to join us. Find the link here.

For more, read how Buddhist leaders across the world have been responding to the crisis in Ukraine.

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