300 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Description of Organization
San Francisco Zen Center is a nonprofit religious organization that was established in 1962 for the practice of Zen Buddhist meditation and teachings. Today, Zen Center is the largest Buddhist community outside of Asia and it offers many, varied programs in the Bay Area that make these teachings available to all members of the broader community.
The San Francisco Zen Center received a $2,500 grant from the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation under the Women in Buddhism grant program. The grant supported a staged reading of the play, "The Fourth Messenger," by playwright and Buddhist practitioner, Tanya Shaffer, on September 14th, 2013.
The play is centered around the question, "What if the Buddha was a woman?" It considers both the roles women play in Buddhism as well as how we, as practitioners, are impacted by the gender of our spiritual teachers, within a unique framework. With this non-traditional focus and the play's ability to appeal to a diverse population, it was an ideal project for the Women in Buddhism program and a great fit for the Lenz Foundation's broader goals to fund nonprofit organizations that are "reshaping their fields by applying and disseminating transformative Buddhist principles and practices." In particular, San Francisco Zen Center has been at the forefront of American Buddhist institutions in developing the role of women in spiritual leadership.
The "Fourth Messenger" aligned well with the Women in Buddhism program because of its feminist content and because it was written by a Buddhist woman and playwright. The audience for this performance included the leaders of many of San Francisco Zen Center's affiliate sanghas from many parts of the United States and helped shape their vision of what is possible for Buddhist women.