Auckland Zen Centre Newsletter
25 May, 2018

Coming Up Soon

  • Vesak is this Sunday from 9:30, preceded by sitting at 8:30 and a mini mindfulness workshop for children aged 10 and over, and grownups. Hear the story of the Buddha's birth and encounter the not-to-be-missed Sleeping Sage (if we can wake him up.) There'll be birthday cake as well as face-painting, drumming and other fun activities. See here for the details.
  • Introduction to Zen -- two workshops on the 9 and 16 June. Please let your friends and family know. The registration form is here.
  • Buddhism by Numbers is a basic Buddhism course developed by Richard von Sturmer when he was in training at the RZC. It is a quite a few years since we have offered it in Auckland, and it is a really helpful way to develop right view, which is essential in guiding us in our zazen and in our daily practice off the mat. The course will be offered on three consecutive Sundays after sitting and tea, starting on 10 June, and will include presentation of material, Q & A, and small group discussion. Participants will also receive a PDF of course material.

From Sensei

Winter Practice

Our house is a single field, clean, vast, and lustrous, clearly self-illuminated. When the spirit is vacant without conditions, when awareness is serene without cogitation, then Buddhas and ancestors appear and disappear, transforming the world. Amid living beings this is the original place of nirvana. How amazing it is that all people have this but cannot polish it to bright clarity.

-- Master Hongzhi

For the past few days here in Auckland the air has started to have a bite to it , and there's a sense that autumn is giving way to winter. Deciduous trees are losing the last of their leaves and their branches are fully revealed. In our gardens we are clearing out spent plants, raking leaves and composting all that we remove. In Zen winter is greatly appreciated as a time of stripping back to bare essentials, a time of hunkering down and turning inward, so our true home, that "single field, clean, vast, and lustrous" is revealed to us.  We are so fortunate to have encountered a practice that actually equips us to uncover that empty field right in the midst of our lives. There is a Zen saying, "From a withered tree a flower blooms." When we allow all thoughts to drop away there's room for new life and creativity to flare forth into existence.  

Shakyamuni Buddha from Vietnam


People who attend sittings at the Centre will have already met our new zendo Buddha figure, which arrived from Vietnam in March. It is wonderful to finally have in our meditation hall a seated Buddha figure with a straight back, serene face and hands in the zazen mudra, to model our sitting practice for us. The figure and base are carved from jack-fruit wood, polished to a rich chestnut colour. Many, many thanks to Ven. Sudama Ngo (a priest at the RZC) for negotiating with the sculptors in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as making a substantial contribution toward the cost. And many thanks to others here and abroad, who also contributed. The final step will be to design and build a suitable altar for the figure, when causes and conditions align themselves.   

Sangha Brainstorm

At the beginning of each year the Trustees and I review our strategic plan and develop an annual plan and budget for the coming financial year. About every two or three years we include a Sangha brainstorming session in the mix, and one was held this past February. People were asked three questions: What's working well? What could be changed for the better? and How can we make it all happen?

The main things that came out of the discussions were that people really value the Centre's core activities -- sittings, dokusan, sesshin and want to support those to continue. There was a request for more information about the Centre's finances so people could contribute what was needed to keep things running (see below). More Dharma study, more specialist workshops and bodywork, and retreats with a schedule that is less physically demanding than sesshin were among the many suggestions received. In response, we've scheduled a pre-jukai Dharma study course in June and a 2-day urban retreat in July, and Hanya is back offering mindful exercise on Tuesdays before the sitting.


A couple of weeks ago we had our autumn 7-day sesshin at Aio Wira. In spite of very small numbers, just 10 of us including several part-timers, people sat strongly throughout the week. We don't expect such small numbers in September (for this one an unusually large proportion of sesshin regulars were overseas for various one-off reasons), but it was a reminder that we are reliant on quite a small pool of people to make our sesshins viable. Besides attending sesshin yourself, another way you can assist is by contributing to the Teacher's Scholarship Fund (TSF), which subsidises people who cannot afford the full fees.

Sesshin Survey

As part of our efforts to understand sesshin attendance, in March we conducted an online survey of sesshin participants. Thank you to everyone who took part. We got 35 responses, 30 from people who had been to one or more sesshins and 5 from people who planned to come in the future. The main factor that affected people's decisions to attend sesshin was annual leave, followed by proximity to Auckland and cost (please do check with Sensei about the TSF if cost is an issue). Our current venues, Bella Rakha in Oratia and Aio Wira in Swanson, were enjoyed by most people (although the mosquitoes at AioWira in January generated quite a few comments). Crowding at Aio Wira was also mentioned. Unless we find another suitable venue not too far from Auckland, from next year we plan to get into a rhythm of using Aio Wira in the autumn and spring when numbers tend to be lower (and there are hardly any mosquitoes) and Bella Rakha for the summer sesshin, which is usually the largest of the year.  Our Spring sesshin, 1-8 September, is at Bella Rakha.

Pool of Radiance Chant

Since our last newsletter, and after months of the staff practicing it regularly and refining the pronunciation guide, we have started to include our new Pool of Radiance chant in services. Many thanks to Kathryn Argetsinger who helped with some of the research and with preparation of the text, and thanks also to her husband Mark Argetsinger for designing an easy-to-read booklet. 

The chant contains the names of many female teachers about whom we know more and more thanks to the work of a number of women scholars. Having this new chant to acknowledge the efforts of female masters, we have removed the words about "unsung women" from our Ancestral Line, as our female forebears are no longer completely unsung! The Pool of Radiance also contains the names of some of the most well-known masters who appear in our koan curriculum but are not found in our direct "genealogy" which we chant in the Ancestral Line.  We will continue to chant both sets of names, as each chant expresses our connections to our Dharma ancestors in different but equally important ways. I've started a series of talks on the people whose names we chant in the Long Ancestral Line --  Upagupta was last Tuesday so there is a long way to go! A pdf of the names in the Pool of Radiance Chant, with live links to biographical material will be available here shortly.

Nine bows,


Sangha News

Earth Day

Our Earth Day ceremony in April went beautifully, with strong chanting and a lot done (in delightful autumn weather) during our working bee at the Royal Oak community garden. Work was followed by a delicious lunch, including homemade sourdough bread and soup made from pumpkins grown in the garden. $325 was pledged by participants in the ceremony to (At Ceremonies of Aid we are continuing to no longer collect actual cash offerings from participants, but instead invite people to pledge to donate to a designated organisation if they wish. 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 want to.)

News from the USA

I'm writing this from the second floor of the building in Rochester Zen Center which overlooks the back garden and the street, well, if I get off the seat and actually look!

I'm relieved to report my significantly improved mind and body state. Before I came here I was really stuck. Emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. The practice environment here has been the last needed push for some deep healing. I am overwhelmed right now if I just reflect on it for a moment... so grateful!!

I feel as though I have come back to life after being dead for years. Once again I play music, rock climb and exercise, form meaningful relationships, and smile a great deal with joy arising spontaneously throughout the day and night. Even a bit of dating!

Wishing inspiration for you all, 

-- Jared Elliott

Jared practiced for several years with us before heading over to Rochester for full-time residential training at the RZC.

More Departures

At the end of this month Kate Paulin and Robin Gardner-Gee will also be heading off to Rochester -- we are expecting them back, though -- Kate after 3 weeks and Robin after a couple of months. 

Sasha Maher and Ange Dimery are also in the USA, having relocated to Florida for the next couple of years or so.  Sasha has already signed up for an RZC sesshin in the northern autumn.

News from the Trustees

In the last newsletter we said goodbye to Wayne Frecklington, who has moved to Nelson. His place on the Board has been filled by Peter Christensen. After a few short months as a Trustee Peter agreed to take over as Treasurer from Grant George, who has been been in the role for many years. Warm thanks to Grant for his long and faithful service to the Sangha, overseeing major changes as we have grown, including the purchase of our own building and the major renovations needed before we could occupy it.

Financial Report 

As Sensei mentioned above, the consensus at the Sangha brainstorming was that people were keen to know more about the Centre's finances and  wished to assist in fully funding the Centre's operations through dana rather than by having separate fund raising activities. The charts provided below are a summary of last year's income and the forecast expenses for the new financial year. This is the information that was sent out with members' tax letters, so some readers have already seen it.

In August 2014 we moved into our own building, and in February 2016 Hanya joined Sensei as an ordained priest. Both of these changes are momentous and we are still catching up with their financial implications. This year for the first time we aim to completely cover our two priests' living costs, and we have a long-term building maintenance plan in place now, so that we have funds set aside for major repairs -- we became aware of the need for this when we had to replace 3/4 of our roof sooner than expected. 

Where did the Centre's income come from in 2017-2018?

The bulk of our income comes from dana, and the dana from supporting members is especially important (80% of donations). Supporting members who donate regularly give on average $983 per year and contribute almost half of the Centre's income.

(Note: "Other income" includes Dharmagear sales, retreat fees, workshop fees and rent)

What costs will the centre need to meet in the 2018-2019 year?

(Note: "Other expenses" include Dharmagear costs, workshop costs, retreat costs and administration)

How much extra does the Centre need to meet its expected costs in the 2018-2019 year?

If our income is similar to last year, it is likely there will be a shortfall of about $12,293. Unless we increase our income, we will face a similar shortfall each year. Based on our current 60 supporting members who are contributing regularly, each person would need to increase their dana by $3.94 a week for us to meet the shortfall. An increase of this amount by all supporting members will allow us to fully fund our two priests, cover ongoing building maintenance costs, and continue to offer our full programme of sittings, sesshins and Dharma teachings. We would of course also welcome new supporting members from among those of you who presently are casual contributors.


In April 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 2017-18  should have received their receipt by email or post. If you are in New Zealand and made a donation to us but have not received a receipt, please contact Hanya ( so she can check that we have the correct contact information for you. She can also provide an electronic receipt if you need one.

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.

-- Richard von Sturmer (Chairperson), for the Trust

Full accounts for 2016-17 may be accessed at the bottom of our governance page, and we expect the 2017-18 accounts to be there by September.

On the Horizon


Taking-the-Precepts Ceremony 5:30 p.m. Sunday 1 July

Urban Retreat

2-Day Midwinter Urban Retreat 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 14-15 July at Princes St

Wish List


...are needed for a number of weekly tasks, including cleaning, vacuuming and laundry. Please contact Hanya if you are willing to take on a job.

Bulletin Board

Chaplaincy Training Course 2018

A Level 1 NZ Buddhist Chaplaincy Course will run for the fourth time, 3-5 August at Amitabha Hospice, 44 Powell St, AvondaleLevel 1 focuses on skills needed to assist the sick, elderly and dying. Apply by June 22, following the application procedure outlined on the New Zealand Buddhist Council website. For AZC Sangha members who have already been through the course, it looks like enough people will have completed their 200 hours of experience to reach critical mass for a Level 2 Course in early 2019.