Auckland Zen Centre Newsletter
25 August 2016


Sittings at 52 Princes St During Sesshin

  • Last formal sitting before sesshin Thursday 25 August
  • Morning sittings at the usual times (all for one hour -- no sitting Monday)
  • Evening sittings 7:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, also informal
  • Regular schedule resumes 6:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, 6 September 

Dharma Talk Tuesday 6 September

  • By Kathryn Argetsinger 
  • Followed by discussion and tea

Kannon Day Sunday 11 September

  • 8:30 sitting
  • 9:25 chanting including 108 recitations of the Kannon Sutra
  • Refreshments and letter-writing for prisoners of conscience

From Sensei


Each year I try to spend at least a week in solo retreat and if possible I also sit a sesshin in which I don't teach. The latter doesn't always happen, but both are very necessary supports for my teaching practice -- ways of renewing and refreshing by spending time in silence and stillness, free of major duties and concerns. 2016 is my 13th year of teaching in New Zealand; and it feels like it is high time for a more sustained retreat. So this year from mid-September to mid-December I will take a 3-month sabbatical in order to do a longer solo retreat. I'll do the first two months in seclusion at home, and then spend the last month in a retreat cabin at Sudarshanaloka, a beautiful mountainous retreat centre just outside Thames run by the Triratna Order. I plan to mostly sit, but will also do some Dharma study, chanting and other devotions. It will be primarily a time to slow down, stop, and take stock. It can be hard to tear oneself away from one's responsibilities, especially in order to "do nothing," but thanks to the presence of Hanya and other capable people now helping to run the Centre, I'm confident I can leave it safely in their hands while I am away.

Head of Zendo

I have asked Hanya to take over as acting Head of Zendo. Though Richard's SI joint injury is getting better very slowly, he probably won't be able to do a full 2-hours of sitting for quite a while.  

EAR Committee 

Back in July I got together with the five members of the EAR (Ethics and Grievance) Committee to review our grievance procedure and clarify how the committee would function if it were called upon to deal with a formal or informal complaint. It was a great meeting with all participants bringing a wealth of experience to the process. The EAR Committee members are Grant George, Sally McAra, Hamish Bartle, Pilar Romero, John Hennebry.  The Centre's Ethical Guidelines are available on the governance page of the website.

Sangha News

Sangha News is a new feature in our newsletter, to allow other voices in the Sangha to be heard besides mine. If you would like to report on your experience of a Centre activity (1-2 paragraphs), please send text (and/or photos) to me for consideration. We send out e-newsletters 3-4 times a year.

-- Sensei

Sangha News

Above left: Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede at the Rochester Zen Center's 50th Anniversary. Above right: He is joined by teachers in the Kapleau lineage (l to r) Karl Kaliski, Rafe Martin, Robert Goldman, Karin Kempe, Taigen Henderson, Amala Wrightson, Gerardo Gally, Kanja Odland, Sante Poromaa, Mitra Bishop, Lawson Sachter, Sunya Kjolhede and Sunyana Graef.

Rochester Zen Center's 50th Anniversary

Roshi Kapleau’s grave at Chapin Mill is covered with thymus albus, white thyme. Bees and bumblebees are busy taking nectar from the small white flowers. If you listen closely, you can hear the grave mound humming, just as the Chapin Mill Retreat Center itself is humming in preparation for the Sunday picnic that forms part of the Rochester Zen Center’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. Over 400 guests will be attending the picnic. There is a mat on the stone rim of the grave, facing the plaque, and Amala-sensei and I put a table with a large incense pot ahead of the mat so that people can make an offering of incense before doing a prostration.

It was wonderful for us to reconnect with Sangha friends who were part of our lives during our years of training at the Rochester Zen Center, and a little overwhelming as well when familiar faces were seen across a throng of people, all talking intensely. A sort of human kaleidoscope was formed with individual pieces continually forming new patterns. However, Chapin Mill easily absorbed all the guests, and there was always the still presence of the mill pond. The following day, after the great marquee had been taken down, the hundreds of chairs folded up, and all the cars had driven away, we immersed ourselves in the pond. A non-venomous king snake swam nearby, making its own serpentine patterns as it moved through the water.

-- Richard von Sturmer

Wasteland Restoration Project

Notes from the garden: I was out in the back garden today in blustery weather and the newly planted windgrasses were living up to their name, swirling with each gust of wind. Sensei, Zoe (who designed the garden for us) and I planted the windgrasses and the plum tree a few Sundays ago, which finished off the first phase of planting. Some of the manuka we planted on our earlier work days haven't survived, but others are thriving, putting out flowers already. There was one cheerful calendula flowering too. In the phase two planting we will be putting in more flowering plants around the plum and I'm looking forward to that. I was so skeptical initially about this project -- the area seemed like an irredeemable wasteland -- but Zoe's vision and the work of many hands on our planting days has really begun to change the area into something lovely.


-- Robin Gardner-Gee

Receiving a Rakusu

When did I really start sewing my rakusu? Officially, several months before the mid-year Jukai, 2016. Spare time was a gratefully accepted ally when creating this delicate cloth square by hand. I needed to grant myself time to double-read instructions, double-measure fabric, and triple-stitch each piece as I lacked any sewing experience. Rich with contemplation, every stitch is now embedded with this experience. Each prick of the needle was followed by "I take refuge in...." and then each of the Three Treasures. What are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha? What am I doing? Always bowing, chanting, and paying homage. What does this actually mean to me?

As time rolled by my rakusu took shape... fond memories and wonderful peaceful nights with a cup of green tea by my side. Cup after cup, stitch after stitch, often I would be sewing late into the evening. Deeper and deeper my contemplations developed. The Three Treasures were everywhere. My entire experience began to be embodying the questions, embodying the onions I chopped, the steps I took, the food I ate. Today I gratefully chant with the rakusu on my head and with powerful sensations of joy and wonderment. The last night I was sewing my rakusu, I just kept sewing. Right into the early hours of the morning. No intentions of finishing yet I didn't stop, just more tea. Finally, with the last stitch of my bag completed, I wept. No longer did I worry, "Should I go here or there, should I train this way, or that way?" I felt OK to practice where I am, wherever this may be. Robes or not. Working at the AZC or in an ordinary workplace. Before then my wandering mind hadn't quite committed to a single method, school, or maybe even teacher -- hard to say. Then it just settled a great deal, as though the rakusu signified a commitment I felt comfortable and willing to make.  An incredible sense of relief overwhelmed me. Just here.

Thank you,

Jared Elliott (Bodhicloud)

Note: The chant to which Jared refers is the
Verse of the Rakusu, which is recited three times before putting the rakusu on for the first time each day.

Wondrous is the Robe of Liberation
A treasure beyond form and emptiness
Wearing it I will unfold Buddha's teaching
For the benefit of all sentient beings

Anyone who is Sensei's formal student may sew a rakusu to be received from the teacher, along with a Dharma name, at Jukai in June or January. Kits with the pattern, ring, fabrics, etc. are available at the Centre for $40. If there is sufficient interest group rakusu-sewing may be organised during the Term Intensive in October.

"Support Group" for Long-Distance Practitioners

For those of us living far from Auckland, maintaining our home practice as well as our connection to the AZC can present special challenges. To offer practical and spiritual support in this process is the mission of the newly-forming AZC Home Practice Support Group. The group will offer opportunities for online discussion, for reviewing practice commitments together, and for participating in the new live-streamed sittings from the AZC (see below) -- followed by a virtual tea-time via group chat! We may also use Skype or other technologies as the need arises.

If you live too far from the Centre to attend sittings regularly, you can request to join the group by going to!forum/auckland-zen-centre-home-practice-support-group/join

or contact the coordinator, Kathryn Argetsinger, directly at

Now! Live Streaming Comes to the AZC

Want some "company" in your home zendo? Starting the week after sesshin (week of 5 September) the AZC will be coming to your home or mobile device LIVE! In response to the survey we conducted last year, which identified a desire for more support for practice at home, we are experimenting with live streaming audio from the zendo, so you can connect with the Auckland Sangha even if you live out of town, are traveling, or just can’t brave the Auckland traffic. To begin, we will stream sittings on Sunday mornings (sitting starts at 8:30) and Tuesday evenings (sitting starts at 7:00; includes teisho some weeks). The stream will begin approximately 10 minutes before the sitting starts.

You can join us directly from the podcast page of our website:

Or, if you prefer, you can listen through Mixlr at If you sign up for a free account at Mixlr, you will be able to access additional features, such as becoming a follower and chatting.

The Rochester Zen Center began streaming daily sittings earlier this year, and long-distance students have found it very inspiring to sit at home with the sounds of the zendo all about them. RZC sittings are also available through Mixlr for anyone interested.

Questions or feedback about the AZC livestream? Contact

On the Horizon

Daisan and Talks While Sensei is Away

While Sensei is away sittings will continue as usual, and we will continue to offer, roughly every two weeks on a Tuesday night, either a live Dharma talk by a Sangha member or a recorded teisho. Hanya will offer group discussion on Tuesday nights when there is no talk, and private instruction (daisan) on Sundays. 

AUT Sittings

Every Wednesday there is a lunch hour siting at AUT City Campus, Room WB112, noon to 1. There is also a Thursday group starting on the South Auckland Campus. Contact Hanya for details.

Qigong Workshop

On Saturday 5 November, 10 a.m. to noon, Orlando Morales will offer a 2-hour workshop at the Centre -- a kind of pilot to see if there is interest for a class in 2017. The workshop will be an introduction to the principles of Qigong 氣功 practice. It will include the definition and classification of Qigong methods and the study and practice of the first routine of the Tian Quan Gong 天泉功. This routine is beneficial for the regulation and balance of the three main bio-electromagnetic fields in the body. There is a sign-up sheet at the Centre. Please book your place early as space is limited. 

January Sesshin and "Training Week"

January sesshin is a bit later than usual next year, 7-14 January, so we are going to try something new. If there is sufficient interest, the 4 days leading up to the sesshin (Tuesday 3 to Friday 6 Jan), will be offered as training days. There would be an early morning sitting, and a work day that included lunch, sitting and chanting, finishing at 4:00. Let Hanya know if you would be interested in coming to all or part of it.

Bulletin Board

Pilgrimage to China?

There are a few people at the Centre keen on traveling to China in 2017. The trip would be a pilgrimage to visit some of our ancestors' temples. There are a few tours available in autumn and spring, plus the option of creating our own trip. If you are interested please contact Hanya at

Research Project Needs Volunteers

We recently received the following request:

I am currently undertaking a Ph.D. research project exploring the experience of stillness within meditation and its relationship with mindfulness and well-being. For this project, I am seeking a combination of meditators and non-meditators to participate. This research project received approval from the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee.

I am seeking participants to assist by (i) participating in the study and (ii) forwarding this email/survey link among your networks in order to invite others to participate in the project. I hope that you will be able to help. Your assistance is of course voluntary and anonymous.

For those who choose to complete the survey, you will have the option of leaving your email address, which will go into the running to win one of two $100 gift vouchers for an online bookstore (Booktopia).

For more information on the study, or to access the online survey, please go to:

I thank you in anticipation of your assistance.

Dominic Hosema