Teaching roles at the Greater Boston Zen Center are designated by the following titles: Member(s) of the Spiritual Direction committee are teacher(s) elected by the membership to guide spiritual aspects of the Center. Sensei means “teacher” and indicates a teacher with full Dharma Transmission. A teacher who has been given only the first of two stages of Dharma Transmission is called a Dharma Holder. Assistant teachers are senior students who have not received Dharma Transmission. A Senior Assistant Teacher is authorized to give both Dharma talks and dokusan under the supervision of a transmitted teacher, while an Assistant Teacher may give talks. Practice Leaders are senior students who are knowledgeable about the forms of Zen practice and who may offer basic practice instruction to newcomers. Zen practitioners who ordain as priests, making a vow of service, may use the title Reverend.
To contact a member of the leadership, please email [email protected].
Spiritual Direction Committee
Julie Seido Nelson, Dharma Holder
Julie Nelson is the Interim Spiritual Director of GBZC. She has practiced Zen since about 2003. She is a professor of economics (emeritus) at UMass Boston; a writer on gender, ethics, economics, ecology, and Zen; the mother of two grown children. She received Denkai transmission from Kate Hartland in May 2021. Julie leads the Tuesday evening sits at GBZC (Cambridge) and organizes the teaching for Saturday mornings (Cambridge). Some of her writings on Zen are available on her blog. She has taken on the gold rakusu and ISD position on the understanding that the sangha will help her (in the words of another Zen teacher) be honest, try her best, follow the precepts, and not pretend to be anyone.
Additional Senior Teachers
James Myosan Cordova, Sensei
James Myosan Cordova, Sensei received full Dharma transmission in the Harada-Yasutani koan tradition (through Robert Aitken and John Tarrant). James serves as the resident teacher for the Benevolent Zen Sangha in Providence, Rhode Island and the Kalyana Mitra Zen Sangha in Worcester, Massachusetts. James is a Professor in the Psychology Department at Clark University, and a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice. He is the author of The Marriage Checkup, The Marriage Checkup Practitioner’s Guide, and The Story of Mu.
Kate Kagen Hartland, Sensei
Kate Kagen Hartland, Sensei is the Resident Teacher for Bright Sea Zen Sangha. Before coming to Boston, she had studied with both Philip Kapleau (Rochester Zen Center) and Toni Packer (Springwater Center) and has been practicing for a total of about 25 years. Kate received Dharma transmission (Denbo) from Josh Mu’nen Bartok, Roshi, in 2017. Kate is retired from the non-profit Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge. Now she has more time for hurtling herself down slopes on skis, or paddling one of her four kayaks, while documenting the evidence at her website.
Senior Assistant Teachers
Stephen Mutatsu LoPiccolo
Stephen LoPiccolo began his practice of Zen in 2006 and has been practicing regularly with this community since 2010. He frequently serves as Head of Practice for GBZC non-residential and residential sesshins and cares for elderly special needs pugs, giving them a loving home till the end of their days.
Fran Kainyo Ludwig
Fran Ludwig began her Zen practice in 2007. She’s been practicing with this community since 2019. She coleads, along with Brian Rarey, Mustard Seed Sangha, the GBZC affiliate practice group in Middletown, CT. She is active in the mental health community and serves on the board of a large mental health nonprofit in Connecticut. Fran has an interest in the work of Byron Katie, Ken Wilber, and Gerry Shishin Wick and the integration of western psychology into Zen practice.
Rebecca Behizadeh began her practice of Buddhism in Nepal and India in 2011, and lived for a year at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and worked for a number of years for Life Together, a leadership development program of the Episcopal Diocese of MA. She has served as GBZC’s coordinator for Racial and Social Justice, and currently serves as the president of GBZC’s board of directors.
Mike Koshin Behizadeh
Mike Behizadeh has been practicing with this community since 2008. He works in the technology sector, and has an abiding love for the outdoors, especially hiking the White Mountains, as well as a deep commitment to caring for the earth. He regularly organizes Sangha hikes through the Middlesex Fells, and serves as the Facilities Manager for GBZC—and he’s also a haiku poet.
Pierce Shinki Butler
Pierce Butler is an emeritus professor of English at Bentley College where he taught English literature and writing for 32 years, including a signature course entitled Literature of the Spiritual Journey. He's been a student of Zen for more than 20 years, he has practiced with this community since 2013, and is an Assistant Teacher at GBZC. He studied the work of G. I. Gurdjieff for many years in a 4th Way community in Massachusetts, and he is the author of A Child of the Sun, a historical novel about Katherine Mansfield's sojourn at the Gurdjieff Institute. He also leads prison sanghas at Northeast Correctional Center and MCI Concord.
Karen Kyoko McCormack
Karen McCormack is a founding practice leader of GBZC’s LGBTQIA+ sitting group and has been practicing with this community since 2007. She’s also a transition and employment specialist at Perkins School for the Blind who, along with her partner, is the loving parent of two dogs. Karen occasionally co-teaches GBZC’s Introduction to Zen Series.
Jason Junzen Pavel
Jason Pavel has launched and scaled numerous startups and has served on the boards of directors of several nonprofits, including, for many years, the board of GBZC. He is currently Vice President of Finance and Operations at Ten Percent Happier. In his spare time, he studies Chado, Japanese Tea Ceremony, and is an officer of the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Boston Association. He has practiced Zen with this community since 2011.
James Musoku Peregrino
James Peregrino has been practicing with this community since 2006. He currently serves as practice leader on Tuesday nights and co-practice leader for GBZC's POC sitting group. He has been working in IT at Harvard since before the dawn of the Internet and dancing Mexican baile folklorico all his adult life.
Brian Kenkan Rarey
Brian Rarey’s practice began approximately 14 years ago, and he has been practicing with GBZC for 7 years. He is currently co-practice leader at Mustard Seed Sangha. He loves this practice of one continuous mistake.
John Jinkyu Vetrano
John Vetrano currently leads the Wednesday evening practice period at GBZC. He is also the registrar for non-residential sesshins. John has been practicing with the community for about 10 years. In his professional capacity he runs the Clinical Trials Pharmacies at Massachusetts General Hospital. John enjoys music and reading in his spare time.
Cindy Bapties has been sitting with Buddhist groups at First Unitarian Church Providence and elsewhere for the past 30 years. She has been sitting with Benevolent Zen regularly since 2008 and took Jukai on July 25th 2009. Cindy is married to George Beshers, works in technical product sales, and enjoys their family including 6 grandchildren as often as possible.
George Beshers was born in Urbana, IL, and raised in and around NYC. George is a multi-generational Unitarian Universalist. Rev. James Ford, Roshi, the first Guiding Teacher of Benevolent Zen and Pastor at the First UU Church (2008–2014), piqued George’s interest in Zen Buddhism. George took Jukai in July 2011. George works as a software engineer and Energetics practitioner, and he competes with Cindy for grandchildren time.
Jill Gaulding is a Practice Leader on Saturday mornings, a member of the GBZC board of directors, lead for the Programming Working Group, and one of several co-leads for the LGBTQIA+ Group. A former attorney and co-founder of the advocacy group Gender Justice, she's currently a student at Harvard Divinity School, where she studies interfaith chaplaincy.
You’ll generally find Harry Gordon at GBZC on Saturday mornings, where he gratefully serves as a practice leader during our regular sit. If there's a Sesshin being offered, he's there. In his daily life he’s a freelance copywriter, comedian, and commercial actor.
Jim Lopata is a Practice Leader at GBZC. He loves the challenge of employing skillful means to slip Buddhist principles into his work as an executive coach. He holds a master degree from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied Buddhism. He’s fascinated by the concept and reality of Boston Common, where you may see him wandering around aimlessly, or with great intent.
Other Community Leaders
Vincent Togen Cho
Vincent Cho co-organizes the Persons of Color Sitting Group at GBZC with James Peregrino. He is an associate professor at Boston College in the field of educational leadership. He has two children and one dog. Although he has been scared off of Zen on more than one occasion in life, he has always come back.
Rebecca Doverspike works as an Interfaith hospital chaplain, drawing from Zen practice. She loves the ways poetry and Zen speak to one another (you can read her chapbook Every Present Thing a Ghost from Slapering Hol Press), and co-leads an Arts as Spiritual Practice group at GBZC. Rebecca is also involved in the Communications and Development Working Groups, and serves as a Clerk on the board. She loves the forest, swimming in lakes or sea, and making art for friends. She has found the GBZC community deepens her practice on this path.
Elizabeth (Libby) Fay is a Member at Large on the GBZC Board, and has been a GBZC sangha member since 2017. She is a professor of English at UMass Boston where she teaches British Romantic literature, is currently finishing her tenth scholarly book, and is also a series editor for UMass Press. She and her husband live in Cambridge, and are the proud parents of a daughter and an elderly miniature dachshund.
Cheryl Kinzen Morrow
Cheryl Morrow serves on the Board of Directors as the Treasurer of GBZC and is the head of the Finance Committee. She has been practicing with this community since 2011. For over 20 years she has run her own business as an engineering consultant with clients all over the world. She is now semi-retired and loves gardening and long walks with her dog in the woods.
*Note on Former Spiritual Director
Josh Bartok, former teacher and Spiritual Director, is no longer with GBZC. In December 2020 the GBZC board placed him on disciplinary suspension as a result of sexual misconduct and other abuses of power. Soon after that he resigned from all of his roles at GBZC.