Auckland Zen Centre Newsletter

23 May 2020

Coming Up Soon

Vesak in the Time of Covid-19

At the time of writing gatherings at the Centre are still subject to a number of restrictions which make it difficult to conduct group activities. The guidelines are sensible and understandable in the circumstances, but do mean that much of what we usually do at Vesak is not possible. We have therefore moved the day for the celebration to 31 May, by which time the rules may be slightly relaxed. We'll let people know what the plans are once we know what is allowed, but it is likely that this year festivities will be more geared towards adult participation.

Dharma Study and Matariki

Since Sensei's planned June-July trip to the States has been called off, our winter schedule has been rearranged somewhat. We will be able to offer a 4-week winter Dharma study series on the Heart Sutra in the lead-up to Matariki Jukai, starting Sunday 14 June.

Matariki Jukai will now be held on Sunday evening, 12 July, followed, we hope, by a meal together. 

On the Horizon

August Sesshin

Karma willing, we will still hold, with some modifications, our winter 7-day sesshin at Bella Rakha, 21 to 28 August.  It may be necessary to limit the number of participants.

Spring Term Intensive

We plan to do TI a bit differently this year, with a strong focus on practicing at home. Dates TBA, for four weeks around September-October.

From Sensei

The Gods Laugh...

On 1 March, when the Trustees and I sat down to do our annual review of the Centre's strategic direction, I quoted an old Japanese proverb, "The gods laugh at those who plan for next year", a favourite saying of Roshi Kapleau. Since we met the world has been turned upside down and the convulsions are by no means over. Planning even a week or two in advance has become fraught with uncertainty. That said, the Centre's fundamental purpose remains unchanged: to nurture the practice of Zen Buddhism in urban Auckland and beyond, taking refuge in Buddha (our awakened and awakening mind), Dharma (the laws we are governed by), and Sangha (harmonious community). Among the comments that were recorded at that 1 March Meeting were the following: 

"We face huge unknowns regarding social change and the climate crisis and disease spread. People will increasingly need somewhere they can find their centre of gravity and stabilise. In these time the Centre offers an island of sanity, somewhere open, accessible ... and dependable."

"It is possible that global financial systems could collapse..."

"... it is a valuable thing to have a place dedicated to  practice."

We identified 2025 as a major point of transition, with Kate and Robin planning to move that year to Christchurch and my possibly wanting to reduce my hours around that time (having turned 65 in 2023). 

Although many of us were reminded during lock-down that Sangha transcends physical location, we continue to feel that our present space, though not perfect, serves us well at the moment. However, a centre which includes some accommodation emerged as an ongoing shared vision for the future, as it would strengthen our ability to support staff, trainees and visitors. Over the years we've made extensive investigations into accommodation options for 52 Princes Street but the combination of cost and a lack of green space and open outlook means that we have not been able to come up with any acceptable, affordable plans. So we agreed to continue at our present location, as is, for the next four to five years, and then take stock of the Sangha's needs at that point.  

The Trustees also committed to undergoing a carbon audit this year; to reducing emissions where we can; and to including $500 in our 2020-21 budget, for the (estimated) cost of carbon offsetting for the current year.

In Going and Returning We Never Leave Home

One of the outcomes of being in lock-down has been a new appreciation of home and the beauties of a slower, simpler way of living. I've heard this not only from practitioners but also from many other people (see for example I've also heard from a number of out-of-town members that they feel much more a part of the Sangha since we shifted to online sittings only. Under lock-down we've all been "at home" and all "afar" at the same time. Location has not been a barrier to participation, with people joining our sittings around New Zealand and from as far away as Kentucky and Italy. As we return to coming together physically once more I'm keen to explore ways in which Centre can continue to include our far-flung members in the practice life of the community, and how we can maintain an appreciation of home as the centre of our Dharma practice.

Finding Your Seat

After about two years of Kathryn Argetsinger and my working closely together across the oceans, Finding Your Seat is here. It is designed as a practical guide to the basics of Zen practice and training, specifically as we undertake them at the AZC; each chapter consisting of introductory material coupled with a transcribed talk that illuminates some aspect of the topic. Reserve a copy to pick up at the Centre ($30) by emailing Robin ( or we can post it to you (add $5.50). Also available from Amazon and Fishpond.

-- Sensei

News from the Trustees

Change in Trustee Lineup

Kate Paulin stepped down last December after nearly four years of service on the Board.  She was the Board's Secretary for most of that time. Her close reading of Trust documents and sharp eye for detail will be missed.  Many thanks, Kate, on behalf of the Sangha. Celestyna Galicki was appointed to the Board at the beginning of the year, and Adrian Croucher has taken on the role of Secretary.

2019-2020 Provisional Financial Report

The Trustees are pleased to present a brief summary of the accounts for the 12 months from 1 April to 31 March 2020. As noted in last year’s financial report, the Trustees had been forecasting a small loss, however we are happy to report that the Centre is able to show a small surplus, primarily because of the great support of our members, who generously maintained or increased their dana to the Centre during the year. Keeping a close eye on expenses has helped, supplemented by a delay in some non-essential maintenance.

In the Centre’s budget for the 2020 - 2021 financial year the Trustees were forecasting a small surplus, however recent upheavals due to the Covid-19 pandemic have put some question marks over this. The Trustees are working on solutions for this matter, and once again everybody's ongoing donations are central to the financial health of the Centre.

Points of interest to note over the 2019-20 12-month period:

Revenue has shown a small increase over the same period last year – $142,000 versus $136,000.

Same period costs have shown a 22% increase, reflecting the impact of reporting a full year of salaries (a result of the 2018 move to full-time salaried priests and the resulting PAYE and Kiwisaver liabilities). This also reflects the transitional costs of Hanya's staying on to complete the handover of the role of Centre Manager to Robin.

Surplus (before depreciation and adjustments)
The Centre’s financials show a reduced surplus of $18,500, a reduction over the same period last year of $6,500 or 26%.

The results were ahead of the Trustees expectations and reflected the generous support of the members as well as a focus on keeping our running costs down. However we live in an ever-changing world full of surprises and the Trustees now have the challenge of minimising the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the viability of the Centre.

-- Peter 
Christensen, Treasurer

Sangha News

Panel Discussion

Back in February the Centre hosted Sensei Ron Hogen Green, his wife Cindy Eiho Green and members of the Auckland Mountains and Rivers Zen Group for a lively panel discussion on Zen and Marriage, followed by a shared lunch.

Comings and Goings

Robin and Sensei successfully shifted to working from home during lock-down, keeping in touch each day by phone or Zoom. They are now transitioning back to working at the Centre.  Hanya was able to get on one of the last Auckland to Christchurch flights before we went into Level Four restrictions, and is now living in Cashmere. She has been staying in close touch and helping with running streamed sittings and hosting online Sangha catch-ups. Because of Hanya's unexpectedly sudden departure, we did not have the chance to farewell her and thank her for her years of dedicated service to the Centre. We hope that we will be able to organise a party and thank you for her in the future.  Nine bows!

Rochester Zen Centre

We may feel that we have been through a lot lately, but spare a thought for all our Dharma brothers and sisters in the USA, where there have been over 1.5 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, 93,000 deaths, including one member of the Cleveland Sangha, and no end in sight. Many people have been self-isolating without any sense of when it might be safe to emerge, and although the number of new daily cases in New York State has been going down and seems to have reached a plateau, everyone at the Rochester Zen Centre is still in isolation, either in the city or at Chapin Mill. Things are so uncertain that the RZC trustees cannot say whether there will be any sesshins at all offered this year. Roshi and the staff are at the moment planning a 4-day online sitting, to be held during the week of the cancelled June 7-Day, which Sensei was supposed to be teaching. A silver lining -- about 50 people are joining each of the RZC's morning sittings via Zoom, creating a powerful sense of community across vast distances.