Auckland Zen Centre Newsletter 14 December 2018

Coming Up in December and January

Sunday 16 December.  11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Temple Cleaning

After the usual 8:30 sitting with dokusan (and a hearty morning tea) we will be giving the Centre its annual "deep clean" inside and outside.

No formal sittings from 17 December until New Year's Eve. 
Members welcome to use the zendo at any time over the holidays.

Monday 24 December. Summer Sesshin application deadline.
Sesshin is at Bella Rakha, Oratia, 9-16 January (note the later than usual start date).

Monday 31 December. New Year's Eve Ceremonies 8 p.m. to after midnight.
A beautiful way to bring in the New Year.

The Centre will be open for an hour of informal sitting Sunday 8:30 a.m. (13th January) and Tuesday and Thursday evenings (7 p.m. the 15th and 17th) which fall during sesshin week.  
All sittings will resume on Sunday, 20 January.

From Sensei

Thank you for a Wonderful 60th Birthday Gift

Many thanks to everyone in the Sangha who contributed funds and/or labour to a wonderful 60th birthday gift -- the transformation of the unruly Sangha House garden into well-ordered flower and vegetable beds for summer harvesting. The garden is already providing Richard and me with a variety of fresh greens as well as contributing towards lunches for staff and volunteers at the Centre, and it will probably also add to salads in our January sesshin. People donated very generously towards the 2 cubic metres of earth, seeds and seedlings for the garden makeover, and the surplus -- nearly $2000 -- has been added to the altar fund.

Altar for Our Vietnamese Buddha

The Shakyamuni Buddha in our zendo needs to be a little bit higher than it is at the moment (Buddha figures, especially the faces, are designed to be viewed from below), and the base that he sits on needs to be deeper so there is a bit more room for the kyosaku and offerings. We plan to come up with a suitable design in 2019. We have already had an offer from Neil Piggott of some large pieces of kauri that were unearthed some years ago in Takanini, and we will look into whether they can be incorporated into the design. 

USA Trip

My annual trip to Rochester was full of rich experiences, not the least in terms of the weather. When I arrived in late September some days were still quite hot -- an Indian summer -- and it seemed like I had packed all the wrong (warm) clothes. But inexorably the days grew shorter and colder and the leaves began to turn. By the end of my stay many trees had lost their leaves, there had been several frosts, and just before I left a snowfall blanketed everything in white. I mostly stayed at Chapin Mill, the RZC's country retreat centre, where I enjoyed watching many changes in the fields and woods as temperatures dropped, and the dramatic departure of hundreds of Canada geese in great noisy raveling and unraveling V-formations. 

Besides leading the October sesshin with around 45 participants (more than double the size our average New Zealand sesshin), and then taking part in the November sesshin led by Roshi Kjolhede, I gave a teisho in Rochester, and travelled to two of the Centre's satellite groups, in Cleveland, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky. 

In Ohio I conducted a 2-day weekend intensive for the Cleveland Zazen Group, which has been sitting together for over 30 years, led by Susan and Larry Rakow. I also ordained Kathryn Argetsinger as a lay member of the Three Jewels Order. The ceremony was a culmination of Kathryn's seventeen years of Zen practice and many bouts of training both here at the Auckland Zen Centre and at the RZC, and her making many contributions to the life of the Sangha in both places. Kathryn played a huge role in the founding of the AZC, travelling here countless times to assist me and also continuing to support the Centre at a distance on projects such as creating our current website, choosing and setting up our database, and more recently helping me get the Pool of Radiance chant ready for chanting.  Such devoted and substantial work continues -- Kathryn is currently collaborating with me on a book project.

The ceremony was a public affirmation of the significance and prominence of the role of the Buddhadharma in Kathryn's life over many years. She received the name Brightfaith ("Shinko" in Japanese) in the ceremony as a way of marking her entry into the Order (lay members of the order continue to use their regular name in daily interactions, except perhaps with their teacher, while priests switch over to using their new Dharma name all the time. The name fits her well, capturing both her bright, incisive intellect and the faith that has sustained her through the many ups and downs of spiritual practice. Faith is also an old Puritan name which fits well with Kathryn's present location in Massachusetts and her involvement with a local church with deep Puritan roots. (Kathryn hastens to add that 'while we locals are proud of these roots, the denomination is now amongst the most progressive and open branches of Christianity.')

Kathryn and Sensei with the Cleveland Sangha.

The ceremony was a joyous occasion and the lay ordination felt like the right one for Kathryn's present direction, which includes spending more time at home (fewer migrations to the Southern Hemisphere), facilitating a meditation group at her church and singing in the choir, as well as working with Congolese refugees and taking care of her granddaughter Addie. Kathryn writes:

"In the course of the ceremony I re-committed myself to the Precepts as well as to ongoing service in each of the three aspects of the Buddhist path: ethics, meditation, and wisdom. In the life of a lay ordainee these three are expressed respectively through community service, through facilitating sitting groups or assisting at a practice centre, and through the study of sacred texts. For me, this work is now largely carried on at First Churches of Northampton, in particular as a facilitator of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina (a meditative approach to the Scriptures)."

After Cleveland I travelled to Louisville, Kentucky where I spent nearly a week working with the Louisville Zen Group, starting with a dedication ceremony for the group's zendo in the home of Jeanette Prince-Cherry, and including a public talk to about 60 people at the University of Louisville, an introductory workshop, a Sangha potluck and a half-day sitting. The finale was a small private ceremony to mark the beginning of Jeanette's novice period for the the priesthood. Jeanette is already a lay member of the Three Jewels Order, and has travelled many times to Rochester for sesshin and periods of residential training. She now wants to take a further step and dedicate herself full time to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. I will mentor Jeanette long-distance for the next 2-3 years as she "tries out" the life of a priest and engages in a course of practice, retreat, study and social service. As well as coordinating the weekly sitting programme of the Louisville group (which she began 19 years ago) she'll also spend a three-month period each year at the RZC in full-time training. 

Jeanette after the ceremony with Sensei, Alan Leiserson, Greg Lindauer and Anna Belle Leiserson, who were the witnesses at her novice ceremony.

NOTE: Recordings of the 8 teishos Sensei gave while in Rochester are available on the RZC podcast page.

EAR Committee

The EAR (Ethics And Reconciliation) Committee was set up a few years ago when we formulated our Ethical Guidelines document (available on our Governance page).  The members of the EAR Committee are:
Hamish Bartle (chair) /021646193 
Grant George / 0211618856
Sally McAra / 02102377475
Pilar Romero
0226854322  and
John Hennebry
Feel free to contact anyone on the committee if you have questions or concerns about an ethical issue at the Centre.


News from the Trustees 

Half-Year Financial Report from the Treasurer

The Trustees are pleased to present the financial accounts for the 6 months through to the end of September 2018. Over the last 6 months the Centre’s has continued to show solid financial health, and it is pleasing to note that the Sangha has responded well to the Trustees request for an increase in dana to help fully fund the Centre. A big thank you to everyone who has donated to the Centre this year. Points of interest to note over the last 6 months are:


Revenue has increased by 9.8% over the same period last year – this has been driven partly by a 14.12% increase in dana, but primarily by Robin and the Dharmagear team who have increased sales by 89%.

Same period costs are similar, up only a few hundred dollars.

Surplus (before depreciation and adjustments):

The Centre’s financials show an operating surplus of $16,28171, an increase over the same period last year of $5,663.12, or 53%.

Balance Sheet:

Continuing repayment of debt combined with the retained cash surplus has seen net equity increase by $38,141 over the period.

So overall a pleasing result, however these results mask two emerging issues:

  • Current revenue is insufficient to cover the Centre’s long term plans for funding the ongoing maintenance of what is essentially an old building, and our surplus reflects our having deferred about $14,000 of spending on planned maintenance.
  • The provisioning required to meet future PAYE liabilities as the Centre recognizes the need to provide a sustainable income to our two priests and faces a large increase in expenses in this area as we switch to employing staff, rather than paying clergy stipends, a method which was rejected by the IRD.
In summary:
Equity has increased, with revenue and net income growing. However the Trustees remain cautious in an environment of significantly increasing costs. Click here for more details.

--Peter Christensen, Treasurer

Sangha News

Hanya Returns

Hanya has been in Golden Bay, participating in a yoga teacher training course, and then doing a solo retreat outside Nelson. She is back now and plans to offer a yoga class at the Centre next year.

New Sangha Member

Following in the footsteps of Hamish and Lily's Joshua, Azar and Hamid's Aidan, and Martin and Aparna's Meru, another Sangha baby, Jacob (son of Annie and Karl Wills) recently arrived. Here he is visiting the Centre back in September.

On the Horizon

See the Centre's Calendar for up-to-date information on Centre activities.

Wish List

The Centre's vacuum cleaner, which has worked hard for us for a decade or so, cleaning floors as well as sucking copious kapok off cushions, is nearing the end of its life. If you have a spare vacuum cleaner in reasonably good condition please consider passing it along to the Centre.

Many thanks to Michael Franklin and Julie Alexander for the donation of a laptop and screen, which will replace some of our aging IT equipment.

Thanks also to Mei Foong for a range of useful as-new kitchen equipment from the warehouse clear-out of the importing business she works in.

Bulletin Board

Opportunity to give blood -- if you are not attending summer sesshin: 
10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Friday 11 January, Sri Lankaramaya Temple, 11 Pukeora Road, Otahuhu.