Zen Affiliate of Vermont (ZAV), a Zen Buddhist meditation group within the Society of Mountains and Rivers (SMR) has been a presence in Vermont for more than 30 years. It was founded in 1984 by the Rev. Robert Tokushu Senghas, then minister of the Burlington Unitarian Universalist Church, his wife, Dorrie Seishu Senghas and Henry Chigen Finney, a professor at the University of Vermont. Weekly sittings at the Burlington church began at that time. Originally named the Zen Center of Burlington, the organization formalized its ties to Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, NY., and the SMR in 1986 and was renamed Zen Affiliate of Vermont.
In addition to Burlington, there are now regular weekly sitting groups in Springfield, Rutland, and Montpelier. In July, 1987, the group began regular all-day sittings (Zazenkai). Those continue today on a monthly basis. A highlight of each year is the annual sesshin, an extended meditation retreat of several days. Sesshins have been held in Burlington, Stannard, and most recently at Farm & Wilderness in Plymouth.
ZAV’s aim is to provide a place and commu nity for authentic Zen Buddhist practice in Vermont. This function is strengthened immeasurably by the affiliate’s continuing relationship with the Mountains and Rivers Order (MRO), Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, N.Y., and Zen Center of New York City in Brooklyn, N.Y.
ZAV’s parent organization, the SMR is an international umbrella organization of Zen Buddhist centers and affiliate groups that receive guidance from MRO teachers and seniors, founded by the late John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009).
Spiritual leadership for the SMR is provided by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei, head of the MRO and abbot of the Zen Center of New York City in Brooklyn and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, N.Y. Both Zen Mountain Monastery and Zen Center of New York City offer a wide variety of programs and retreats to help individuals establish and deepen Zen practice.