(in Mahayana Buddhism) a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings.

Does a dog have Buddhanature? How about a cat?

Ryūshin: Cat Cuddler, Dog Deputy, Nursery Nanny

Bodhisattva Service at the Maryland SPCA


In Feburary of 2019, Hoshi Ryūshin began volunteer work at the Maryland SPCA. Although he had intitially intended to begin his service as a Dog Deputy, a broken foot precluded him from walking for long distances. Instead, he received training as a Cat Cuddler and, shortly after, as a Nursery Nanny which allowed him to work with both adult cats and new born kittens. After getting 9 months under his belt as a volunteer (and once his foot healed), he also received  training as a Dog Deputy. As an SPCA volunteer, Hoshi Ryūshin helps to socialize cats and dogs to get them used to the idea of living with new humans. He also has the distinct honor of introducing the temporary residents of the shelter to people who are looking for new canine and feline companions. As of March 2020, Hoshi Ryūshin has been able to assist over 50 cats find their new “forever home.”


Click for more information about the MD SPCA

Dana Paramita in Practice

Backpacks for the Homeless

Hoshi Seichō recently announced the start of the Clare Sangha “Backpacks for the Homeless” service project.

Here is the full announcement:


The Concept:

To fill backpacks to be given away to homeless people or others in need, for free, which contain basic living and survival items.  Examples of the kinds of things included are:

  • A few specialized clothing items – watch caps, gloves, socks, etc.
  • Survival gear – duct tape, emergency ‘space’ blankets, hand warmers, etc.
  • Hygiene items – toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hairbrush, etc.
  • Food – eating utensils, cans of food, power bars, bottled water, etc.

In Practice:

All of the above plus much more (the full below) is packed in a medium-sized, nondescript backpack and given, for free, to those in need who we meet along the way. We would keep backpacks in our cars at all times to offer to anyone who is obviously lacking. There is no proselytization or even a requirement for the receivers to interact. Social intercourse is often difficult for people in dire straits and this should not disqualify them from receiving a pack.  We simply explain that it is a totally free gift and contains good, useable stuff which they can keep or pass on, no strings attached. Not everyone opts to take one but once they do, we don’t hang around to monitor what they do with it. Respectfully, we give them their space and go on our way.

Personal safety and self-respect are two things which dominate the lives of the disadvantaged. Homeless people must remain inconspicuous in order to survive in society and in places like hostels and shelters. Bright, showy or expensive items will be stolen or could cause worse trouble for them. Consequently, the packs and contents must be of subdued colors and look as much like street fare as possible while still being practical and of good quality.

Self-respect is probably the most important gift we can give them. This means no junk in our packs. While they have to be made inexpensively, it’s important to take time to find and choose the best quality items we can afford, items which will not break, which will do their job and not disappoint.

Your Assistance:

We fund this project ourselves as a practice of dana paramita (free giving). We can invest in it a few dollars at a time until we have enough to make a few packs.

As winter is setting in, these packs are even more valuable to those without homes, many of whom sleep outside. We’d like to get as many packs as possible out there this winter so we are inviting anyone in the sangha or extended sangha who would like to help to do so.

It only costs $30.00 to purchase and fill a backpack with helpful items for those in need. Donations of any amount can be given at zazenkai(s), sesshin(s), or mailed to our treasurer:

Mike Shanahan,

11 Mission Wood Way,

Reisterstown, MD 21136

Please make checks payable to ZCB/Clare Sangha. Indicate on the check that the donation is for: “Backpacks for Homeless.”

Note: Please do not donate other things without contacting Seichō or Ryūshin first. It’s taken some time to come up with a concise pack list which works for everyone and obviously, space is limited. If you have any questions about anything, of course, contact us. We will use money donated to purchase these items in bulk.

Palms together,

Jon Seichō McCollum, Hoshi

Andy Ryūshin Santanello, Hoshi

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