Spring of 2008
Westside Zen was started by Domyo Burk in the spring of 2008 as a sitting group accessible to people “on the westside,” or the far west side of Portland, Oregon, plus the cities of Beaverton, Hillsboro, Aloha and surrounding communities. Westside Zen met twice a month, generously hosted at the Christ United Methodist Church in Cedar Mill. In the fall of 2009 Lisa So’on Mann started to lead the group about once a month. So’on is a lay disciple of Kyogen Carlson Roshi of Dharma Rain Zen Center.
In October 2011, the group was incorporated as a nonprofit in Oregon renamed “Bright Way Zen.” Domyo resigned from her long-time staff position at Dharma Rain Zen Center to focus on Bright Way. The group began to meet weekly, and to grow in size and maturity of practice.
On February 25th 2012, Bright Way held its first one-day meditation retreat at the Leedy Grange in Cedar Mill. Since then it has held a one-day retreat every few months.
On May 13 2012, at the end of one of those one-day retreats, Bright Way held its first “Jukai” ceremony, where five members formally became Zen Buddhists. Around this time, the Zen center started the option of pledging membership in order to have regular financial support.
On October 18 2012, Bright Way Zen’s first Board of Directors met and reviewed the Sangha’s finances and a draft of our bylaws. By the end of the year we had 15 pledging members.
On February 1st, 2013, Bright Way Zen signed a lease for a space of our own at 12020 SW Barnes Road, Portland OR 97225 – just 0.7 miles from where we had been meeting for almost five years. Domyo and the Board had identified as a high priority having a space of our own, where we can meet any time we want to and do not have to completely set things up and take things down every time. Click here for pictures and description of moving to our Barnes Rd space.
Having grown substantially over the years (to 35 pledging members, and an average attendance of 13 on Sundays and close to 20 on Tuesdays), Bright Way had the opportunity to expand our Zendo by over 35%, plus start utilizing other areas of our building. We added the traditional Soto Zen ceremonies of Nehan and Segaki (in 2015) to our annual liturgical calendar.
In 2017, we obtained official 501(c)(3) status from the IRS and continued to grow. We held our first traditional Soto Zen ceremony of Wesak in April, and our first multi-day overnight meditation retreat (sesshin) in August, in collaboration with Wy-East Zen Center. By the end of the year we had 50 pledging members.
Before COVID we reached about 75 pledging members and our attendance at the Zendo on Tuesdays and Sundays often reached 30 people. We started to think about a need to move to a bigger place, primarily because of the limitations of our 17-space parking lot. Before lockdown we had held three annual sesshin in collaboration with Wy’East.
However, in March of 2020 we moved all of our operations online and did not meet in our physical space for over a year and half. During that time our membership did not drop off, but it did change. Because Domyo’s podcast has an international reach, many people found Bright Way and started participating with us from different states and even countries. By the time we started meeting in three dimensions again in October 2021, about a third of our members were not local. It was clear that we needed to be a hybrid Sangha, offering online participation that is as fully involved and meaningful as participating in 3D. Thus was born our vision of Dirt Zendo – Cloud Zendo – One Sangha.
As of September 2023, Bright Way has 95 pledging members, close to half of whom are not local to the Dirt Zendo. Attendance in our Dirt Zendo remains much lighter than before COVID, averaging 10-15 people on Tuesdays and Sundays, but this is complemented by another 15-20 participants in the Cloud Zendo.