2017-07-14 Newsletter

Auckland Zen Centre Newsletter
15 July, 2017

Coming Up Soon

  • Sensei is heading overseas this Tuesday evening, returning 24 August. Sittings will continue as usual, with daisan offered Sundays and group Q & A on Tuesdays when there is not a talk. Grant George will give a Dharma talk on Tuesday.
  • There is now an informal lunchtime sitting at the Centre Tuesday through Friday from noon to 12:50. All are welcome to attend. This is instead of the mid-morning sitting.

From Sensei 

It is hard to believe that it is nearly a year since we sent out the last Newsletter. How quickly time passes! We do plan to have just two or three Newsletters a year now that we are sending out weekly announcements (easy and quick to read, we hope), but the lag has been particularly long this time because of number of things, including my being away on an extended retreat last spring and Hanya being out of action quite a bit too. Also there have just been a lot of things on our plate lately.

I'm very grateful for the fantastic team we have at the Centre, not only Hanya as both Manager and Head of Zendo but also Robin running Dharmagear, overseeing our flourishing wasteland garden and managing the kitchen, to name just three of her many duties. Kathryn Argetsinger's input over the past year or so has also made a huge difference, especially her stepping in to help organise sesshin while Hanya was convalescing from her surgery.  The Trustees' job has also become more onerous as we navigate the many rules and regulations we must comply with. On top of this core group, many of you volunteer your time and and energy in so many different ways to keep the Centre running smoothly. 

I'd like to make special mention of John Allan, who has been our accountant almost since the Centre began and who will this year step down from his duties. He feels that now he has been retired for some time, and the Centre's operations are becoming more complex, we have reached the point where we need to work with a chartered accountant who is more up-to-date on the latest laws and accounting practices. John has cheerfully and enthusiastically helped us, right from the days when we kept a simple cashbook in a spread sheet, through setting up accounting software and now operating in the Cloud. Your help has been priceless John. Nine bows! We are presently looking for someone to take over from John by the end of the year.

Thinking on the generosity of so many of you reminds me of an exchange between a student and Master Dazhu Huihai:

Q: By what means can the gateway of our school be entered?

A: By means of the Dana Paramita.

The questioner goes on to ask why, when there are six Paramitas, does the Master mention just one. The Master replies that all the perfections flow from dana (giving), and that dana means relinquishment.  He says, "By a single act of relinquishment, everything is relinquished." Especially our division of the world into self and other. Through our gifts of time, energy, skill, attention, food or funds we affirm our interconnectedness, and notions of self and other drop away. Robert Aitken calls generosity the hallmark of human maturity.  The most ordinary tasks done in a spirit of unselfconscious service are the essence of our practice.

Winter Donations

Also on the topic of dana, the Centre will be collecting non-perishable food for the City Mission over the next couple of weeks. Please place in the basket before the end of July.

For Our Overseas Supporters

When we first purchased our current building we made a short video to accompany our appeal for funds for the remodeling, with the idea of showing to friends and supporters overseas what we were trying to do. Now Sally McAra has made a new video, to show those same supporters what has changed. To watch the video click here -- and a special thanks to those of you who contribute to the Centre from afar.

Earth Day

Our Earth Day ceremony in April went well, with $395 pledged by participants to 350.org. This was the first Ceremony of Aid where we tried out our new policy of not collecting actual cash offerings, but inviting people to pledge to donate to a designated organisation. Many people don't carry cash these days, and this system also means people can get an individual receipt and claim the tax rebate if they wish.


Water flows humbly to the lowest level.
Nothing is weaker than water,
Yet for overcoming what is hard and strong,
Nothing surpasses it.

-- Laozi

The Centre has had two recent encounters with the power of water.

Right before a Thursday evening sitting a large and growing pool of water formed in the Centre's bathroom and entrance foyer. A pipe inside a wall had developed a hairline crack and a fine spray of water at high pressure had been soaking into the surrounding structures for some time. Repairs to the walls and floor, and installation of a pressure-reducing valve, will be happening in the next month or two.

It has been a wet winter. Heavy rains a while back were too much for some sections of our aging roof, and a few leaks developed over the back warehouse space. When we bought the building we replaced the worst areas of the roof (about a quarter of the total) and were told by the roofers that the rest could wait. The leaks have meant that we are going to replace the remaining three quarters of old corrugated iron earlier than anticipated. This will push the total cost of repairs and maintenance around the Centre this year to about $22,000. 

-- Sensei

Sangha News 

Hanya's Health

Thank you to everyone who has helped cover the cost of my acupuncture over the last few months. The treatment has been very beneficial and has also helped in recovering from the surgery in May. I will continue to go to acupuncture weekly as my health gets back on track.

Hands palm to palm,


John Seed

Rainforest activist John Seed was in New Zealand in April and we hosted an evening talk from John at the Centre. The title of John’s talk was “Buddha Touched Earth” and in it John explored the ways that Deep Ecology and Buddhism inform his work as an activist. The Deep Ecology approaches that John has developed, along with Joanna Macy and others, can be thought of as collective meditations that aim to widen and deepen our sense of connection with the world. We will be continuing to explore the approaches that John introduced, drawing particularly on Joanna Macy’s books Active Hope and Coming Back to Life (both will be in the Centre library soon).

-- Robin Gardner-Gee

My First Jukai

For a long period of time I have been interested in meditation and the meaning behind it. So to find myself preparing for the precept ceremony was natural way to go and it felt right. Studying The Sixteen Precepts was time for self-examination, mindfulness, compassion and acceptance.

The precept ceremony was for me a way of reinforcing our intentions, aspirations and bringing awareness in our everyday life. During the ceremony I had very strong feeling of unity. It is a commitment and I choose it to be my path.

--Mirjana Latinovic

Wasteland Garden

The growth in the garden over the last year has been exciting: the two photos showing people at work are from our first planting day (June 2016), the other two photos show the same spots one year later.


We've put a lot of mulch around the garden which has helped build soil structure and improved water retention in summer. The hibiscus plants in particular have really come away, after sitting without much growth for a year before we began mulching. There are now two benches in the garden and they are being regularly used by the public.

-- Robin Gardner-Gee

"Support Group" for Long-Distance Practitioners

The AZC Home Practice Support Group has been "meeting" for one year now. This is a group offering practical and spiritual support for those of us living far from Auckland as we work to maintain our home practice as well as our connection to the AZC.

We communicate with each other via an app called "
Slack," introduced to us by group member Paolo Andrizzi of Rome. The app offers a way for us to post or chat about various topics. Most recently we have participated, via podcast and discussion, in the Jukai prep sessions offered at the centre, and in an interest/reading group focused on practicing with lojong (mind training) slogans.

If you live too far from the Centre to attend sittings regularly, you can request to join the group by contacting me at kathryn@aucklandzen.org.nz.

-- Kathryn Argetsinger

From the Trustees

Changing of the Guard

The Trustees will soon farewell Wayne Frecklington, who is moving with his family to Nelson. Wayne has served on the Board since 2010 and has been our chairperson for much of that time. His cheerfulness, warmth and positive attitude will be missed at Board meetings. Many thanks to Wayne for his 7 years of service. We wish Wayne well and look forward to brushing sleeves with him in sesshin. Peter Christensen, who has been active on the Building and Revenue Committees, has agreed to join the Trust and will attend his first meeting in August. Peter has been working in the field of finance, up till recently and has helped us explore building options at the Centre, we look forward to his contribution at a Trustee level.

Members' Meeting 

Back in February we had our annual meeting to report to members on the finances of the Centre in 2015-16.  PDFs of the Director's and Treasurer's reports and the full accounts for 2015-16 may be accessed at the bottom of this page.


At the end of May we sent out our annual tax receipts which may be used to claim the 30% rebate from the IRD. Everyone in New Zealand who has made a donation to the Centre in 2016-17 (and who has identified themselves and given us their address) should have received a hard copy of their receipt in the post. 

If you are in New Zealand and made a donation but have not received a receipt, please contact Hanya (info@aucklandzen.org.nz) so she can check our records to make sure we have the correct postal address for you.

If you have not donated to the Zen Centre in the past year and would like to support the Centre’s efforts to offer Zen teaching and Zen community in Auckland, please consider either a one-off contribution or a regular donation. The Centre’s bank account is 38 9005 035812500.

In our strategic planning earlier this year we realised that we need to steadily increase our income over the coming years if we want to maintain the Centre, move closer to fully supporting our two priests, and in the future be able to help others to train as well. We see these goals  as being vital to the Centre’s long-term viability. The cost of supporting trainees in Auckland is high, given our limited ability to provide suitable lodging ourselves. We have the sleepout at the Sangha House, but it is best suited for short-term stays -- more of a "retreat hut" than a home. And our investigations have not revealed affordable and acceptable options for additional housing at Princes Street at this time. So at the moment if someone wants to participate more fully in the Centre's daily schedule of work and sitting, then she or he needs to find lodging nearby and have some source of income or savings to draw on. This can be particularly hard for young people. So if you would like to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the Centre, a donation would be much appreciated.

-- Richard von Sturmer, for the Trust

On the Horizon

Body Work

Weekly 45-minute Pilates classes will be resuming on Wednesday 18 October at 6:00 p.m. Note the change to Wednesdays instead of Mondays, and that classes will be offered during school term only.

Kannon Weekend

Kannon Day is on Sunday 17 September and we may offer an extra event, a half-day workshop on Saturday (see above). Details to follow.

Seven-Day Sesshin

The dates for our Spring sesshin at Bella Rakha are 30 September to 7 October. The deadline for applications is Friday 15 September. 

Labour Weekend Writing and Zen Workshop

Over Labour Weekend Richard von Sturmer will teach a 2-day workshop on writing and zen, with a focus on haiku and tanka poetry. The workshop will be open to anyone interested in writing; no previous experience of Zen is necessary.  

Wish List

Rack for Robes

With the move of the changing area to the garage the sorry state of two of our three clothes racks for robes has become more apparent (if it weren't for the stretchies holding them together they would be no more). If you have a sturdy clothes rack that you are not using, it could be useful at the Centre, at least until we come up a long-term design for the changing area.

Bulletin Board

Mindful Shopping -- Choose to Refuse

We re in the midst of Plastic-free July. Everyone is probably aware of the massive gyres of plastic waste in our oceans and how damaging they are to marine life. It has been predicted that if we continue at our present rate of plastic use there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. The aim of Plastic-free July is to raise awareness and lower consumption of single-use packaging. Take a look at the website for suggested ways to get involved, and see here for some handy hints.