Part IV: To Meet A Teacher
In 2002, Katherine invited Zen priests Daijaku Kinst and Shinshu Roberts (at that time known as Kokai) to teach at Santa Cruz Zen Center. They moved to Santa Cruz, and taught at Santa Cruz Zen Center in 2003-2004. During this time they received Dharma Transmission from Sojun Mel Weitsman. They later moved to Capitola and opened Ocean Gate Zen Center on 41st Avenue.
In 2009, Kokyo Henkel, also known as Luminous Owl, was invited to serve as head teacher, so Katherine could partially retire. Kokyo practiced for almost twenty years at San Francisco Zen Center and other temples, including Bukokuji in Japan. He was also a student of Reb Anderson, Katherine’s own transmission teacher. Kokyo brought increased scholarly activity, and new ceremonies and forms. He also facilitated the development of guidelines for priest practice at Santa Cruz Zen Center, as the cohort or ordained priests continued to grow.
Then, in 2012, Sobun Katherine Thanas died at 85 years old. After a fall in her home, she was found unconscious by a student. She would never regain consciousness. After a few days in the hospital, she was moved back to her own home for hospice care, in accordance with her wishes. She was accompanied at all times and in a remarkable show of inner vitality, she managed to live unconscious, without food or water, for almost a week. A sesshin had coincidentally been scheduled and was beginning at this time, and each day a procession traveled from the zendo to her bedside to sit in the morning and afternoon. On June 24, 2012, the abbot died, and the sangha continued to sit with her for the traditional three days following.
In the summer of 2013, Katherine Thanas’s ashes were distributed at the Tassajara ashes site. Then-San Francisco Zen Center Central Abbott Steve Stucky acted as doshi in the formal ceremony with almost twenty friends and students in attendance.
By now the center had many leaders, both priest ordained and lay, who had accumulated decades of study with the temple, in addition to a strong head teacher. In 2015, the Board of Trustees asked to move away from the traditional, hierarchical models of temple leadership, and teaching council models were explored. In 2018, the center officially transitioned to a shared teaching model, with Patrick Teverbaugh, Gene Bush, Dana Takagi, and Cathy Toldi joining Kokyo as teachers. A Practice Leader Council was also formed. Please learn more about all of our teachers. The same year, the new dokusan hut was completed and dedicated to Katherine Thanas.
A decades-long conversation on what it means to practice here and now continues, even as here and now moves beneath our feet. On any given Santa Cruz afternoon, the zendo quietly waits, bathed in light. Even on the stormiest evening of the year, the walls stand firm.