Auckland Zen Centre Newsletter
10 December 2019

Coming Up Soon

Buddha's Enlightenment Ceremony this Tuesday, 10 December

Come and join us for this beautiful ceremony to mark the Buddha's great awakening under the bodhi tree. We start as usual at 7:00 with zazen and celebrate together after the ceremony with milk rice and strawberries. More information here.

Temple Cleaning next Sunday, 15 December

Every December, in preparation for the New Year's Eve ceremonies of purification and renewal, we give the Centre building and grounds a thorough spring clean. Sitting and dokusan will be offered as usual 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and at 11:00, after a hearty brunch, we'll get to work. Put your name down at the Centre or contact Hanya so we can plan food and work.

Yoga Classes

The last yoga class for 2019 will be on Saturday 14 December.

Opening hours over the Christmas/New Year Break

The regular schedule of sittings will end with the Sunday 15 December sitting and dokusan followed by temple cleaning, and will not resume until we reopen after sesshin on Tuesday 14 January 2020. The Centre will be open at various times over the holiday period for ceremony and sesshin prep. Keep an eye on Friday emails for the details. Members are welcome to come and sit informally at any time.

On the Horizon

  • New Year's Eve Celebrations 8 p.m. Tuesday 31 December 2019 to 1 a.m.Wednesday 1 January 2020. 

  • 7-Day Sesshin at Bella Rakha 4 - 11 January 2020. N.B: Deadline for applications is 14 December.

From Sensei


Many of you will know that Hanya has been struggling for years with trigeminal neuralgia, an acutely painful disorder affecting the three branches of the facial nerve that serve the eye, upper jaw and lower jaw. The pain can be abrupt and intense, like an electric shock, or more continuous, and it can be triggered by something as gentle as a breeze on the cheek, or by normal activities such as chewing, drinking, or even smiling or talking. The cause seems to be the thinning of the myelin sheath at some point along the length of the nerve, and there is no reliable treatment. Hanya has worked with her condition with much skill and great forbearance, and has enjoyed periods of relative ease, but she has got to the point where she feels unable to continue as the Centre's Manager.  She is often not able to attend early morning or evening sittings, and sesshin is also out of the question at the moment, with no clear prospect of improvement. Although we are a work environment which can offer a lot of flexibility, the internal pressure of wanting to participate more fully adds extra stress. 

Hanya hopes that a complete break will allow her to find a more healthy equilibrium. She plans to stay in Auckland for now and will be helping part-time with the handover of her many duties for the first 3 1/2 months of 2020. Robin Gardner-Gee has stepped into the breach, and the Trustees have approved an interim plan to employ Robin for a three-month transition period while we reassess and reorganise our operations. After the Trustees take a preliminary look at the possibilities for the Centre's organisation early next year, they will seek Sangha input.

 USA Visit

It is good to back after a flying visit to the States, which packed in a lot in a short amount of time -- a wedding ceremony for Ananta Bruckner and John Botsford, leading a 7-day sesshin, and trips to Louisville Kentucky and Cleveland Ohio to offer public talks, an introductory workshop, a Jukai (precepts) ceremony, all-day sittings and Sangha gatherings. There was some time for R&R -- including a wonderful concert by the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall and a trip to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. The highlight of the latter visit was an encounter with a Madagascan chameleon, pictured here.  Next year I'll visit during the northern summer, offering two sesshins at Chapin Mill, 6 - 13 June and 25 July - 1 August.

Climate Emergency

Recently, while reorganising some files, I came across material for a talk I gave in 2004, the first year of the Centre's existence, which mentioned human-generated mass extinctions and global overheating. Fifteen years later I'm still talking about these evermore pressing crises, but it does feel like there has been a major shift in awareness in 2019. Recently Robin wrote a summary of highlights from the past year for the Green Network (an email list of people who wish to stay in touch about climate action) and the report is available here. If you would like to join the Green Network, contact Robin. Or see the Facebook Page called Dharma Rain.

While I was away Robin ran a series of events with the title Onehunga Rising: Exploring climate change in our local community, to coincide with spring king tides and the strike 4 climate marches. One of the actions, "Not sure / foreshore" involved an installation of sea creatures on the edge of the water at Taumanu Reserve and early morning sittings there as the sun rose. A small group of hardy sitters braved the elements each morning for a week to raise awareness of the local impact of projected sea level rise. See the pictures below or visit this page.

Jellyfish and fish/squid banner at the foreshore, and sitters Ian, Kate, Robin and Emma.

Religious Diversity in Aotearoa

Last February I attended a four-day facilitator training course for religious diversity and anti-discrimination workshops. Since the attacks of 15 March there is increased interest around the country in learning about people of different faiths and in becoming aware of one's own unconscious biases around religious belief and practice. So far I've co-facilitated two workshops with a colleague, University chaplain Ricky Waters, one in Mt Roskill attended mainly by local school principals, and one for Auckland Council community services staff. This work will be ongoing and is one aspect of our building resilient and cohesive communities as the climate crisis unfolds. Religious diversity and climate change may seem unrelated, but xenophobia can arise in societies which are anxious about change or under economic pressures of various sorts. Minorities very often become the targets for discrimination and demonisation, as we are seeing in Europe and the USA at the moment. 

In my capacity as chairperson of the New Zealand Buddhist Council I attended a post-15 March meeting of religious leaders, hosted by the Prime Minister and Minister of Ethnic Affairs. The purpose of the meeting was to build on the aroha generated in repose to the attacks, encourage collaboration between religious leaders, and explore what can be done to prevent religious hatred. One of the recommendations was the teaching of religious literacy in schools as part of the social studies curriculum. The hope is that if young people have greater understanding of and familiarity with people of different faiths they will be less likely to fear or hate them. Meetings are ongoing.

-- Sensei

Sensei with Jocelyn Armstrong, Jacinda Ardern and Jenny Salesa

News from the Trustees

Members' Meeting Reports Available

Every year around September the Trustees present the Centre's end of year accounts to our members and Sensei gives a report on the activities of the past year. If you missed the meeting you can read Sensei's report, which is available as a PDF at the bottom of the Governance Page, and the annual accounts which are available on the Charities Register.

Six-Monthly Update on the Centre's Finances 

The Trustees are pleased to present a summary of the provisional financial accounts for the 6 months from 1 April 2019 to 31 October 2019. With the switch to salaried employees the Trustees had budgeted for a loss for the 12 months to 31 March 2019, however the interim financials show a small surplus. This surplus results from a combination of increased dana and a strong focus on minimising costs. A big thank you to everyone who has donated to the Centre.

A drop in sales by Dharmagear has been offset by an increase in dana, with an important component of the increase being donations to the AZC repatriated from Rochester following Sensei’s secondment to the RZC.

Same period costs are down – with a contributor being a deferral of maintenance expenses.

Currently  – however the Trustees anticipate that this will move lower in the second half as unpaid expenses are paid out and the one-off donation receipt from Rochester averages out over the remaining months.

 (before depreciation and adjustments)
Currently $19093.33 – however the Trustees anticipate that this will move lower in the second half as unpaid expenses are paid out and the one-off donation receipt from Rochester averages out over the remaining months.

Balance Sheet
Whilst the cash balance has improved, the improvement is partly a reflection of the Trustees being able to suspend repayments of our long-term debt.

So overall a sound result, although a little overstated due to timing issues.

--Peter Christensen, Treasurer

Sangha News 

Jared Maybeck (formerly Elliott), who has been at the RZC for a couple of years working as their bookkeeper, married Margo Maybeck in August. He will remain on staff at the Rochester Center until his three-year commitment is up in October 2020. We wish Jared and Margo (left) all the best for their life together.

Congratulations to Nikki Nemet on completion of her PhD at Auckland University. Nikki and her partner Peter will be returning to Hungary in February. 

Also, we have two new babies in the Sangha! Laura Devcich gave birth to Mariana Isabella 6 weeks ago. 

Laura writes:

Labour went really well. I started light contractions at 5 p.m. on my due date and we headed into the hospital at midnight, she was born the next morning. Meditation had prepared me superbly for the experience (I half wonder how people without the training cope though!). It's all breath work and opening to pain. As we got into it I started thanking my uterus and cervix for opening after every contraction which was an idea that came to me at the time and helped keep my mind and body in a state of gratitude. I think as a result of that I dilated really quickly for a first time mum and after 2.5 hours of very hard pushing, Mariana was born...

Also, one of Sensei's long-distance students, Rory McCarthy in Paris, has just become a dad --  he too remarked on the role that breathing plays in the birth process and how helpful his Zen practice proved to be, having breathed along with his partner Sarah all the way through the labour.

Ven. Sudama Ngo, who helped us purchase the fine Buddha figure on our altar, recently took bikkhuni ordination in the Vietnamese Mahayana tradition, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Congratulations to Sudama (now Ven. Thien Chanh).

Laura and Luke with Mariana (right) just hours after her birth, and Rory and Sarah's Moss (below left)

                                                                                                     Ven. Thien Chanh with Roshi, Ven. Trueman and Ven. Wayman at the RZC's recent Jukai ceremony

Coming Next Year

Visiting Monk

Our friends at the Auckland Centre of Mindful Living have asked if they can host a public talk by a visiting monastic, Thay Phap Hai (Dharma Ocean), at the Centre. Australian by birth, Thay Phap Hai is a senior brother at Deer Park Monastery in California and was ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh in 1997 and sanctioned to teach in 2003. He's known for his ability to share complex teachings in an accessible and humourous manner. He will be speaking at the Centre Tuesday evening, 14 January. The Centre of Mindful Living will be collecting dana for the event, suggesting $10 per person, to cover their costs.

Dharma Discussion

We are happy to also be hosting a visit from Ron Hogen Green, Sensei, and his wife Cindy Eiho Green, of the Mountains and Rivers Order on Sunday 9 February. Hogen-sensei has practised Zen since 1978 and spent 12 years in residential training at Zen Mountain Monastery before returning to lay life in 2007. He received Dharma Transmission from Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi, in 2014.  Hogen-sensei and Eiho-san were both students of Philip Kapleau Roshi prior to training with John Daido Loori, Roshi. There will be sitting 8:30-10:30, morning tea, then a panel discussion on the topic of Zen and marriage, with Hogen, Eiho, Richard and Sensei speaking on the topic and then a Q & A. We will conclude with a shared lunch with the Greens and Auckland members of the MRO.