Auckland Zen Centre Newsletter
11 November 2020

Coming Up Soon

Buddha's Enlightenment 

We'll celebrate the Buddha's reopening of the Way on Tuesday 8 December, with sitting from 7:00 p.m., the story of the Buddha's awakening, and special sweetened milk-rice after the ceremony.

Temple Cleaning

Each December, in preparation for the fresh start of the New Year, we spend a couple of hours after the Sunday sitting deep-cleaning the Centre inside and out. Come and join in on Sunday 20 December. Sitting and dokusan will be offered as usual 8:30-10:30, followed by a hearty brunch, before we get down to work.

On the Horizon 

New Year's Eve Ceremonies

New Year's Celebrations start 8:00 p.m. Thursday 31 December, and ending around 1 a.m. on Friday 1 January 2021. 

7-Day Sesshin

Summer Sesshin 8-15 January, in person at Bella Rakha, karma willing (deadline 18 December).

From Sensei  

What a year it has been for human beings! Forced by the pandemic to slow down, sit still and take stock, and faced with ongoing uncertainty and multiple challenges, in our recent election New Zealanders chose, as Anne Salmond put it, "amity over acrimony, generosity over self-serving and reality over deception". What good karma to have collectively made such lifegiving choices! The challenge now is the follow-through by all of us, as we contend not only with the global pandemic, but with ongoing inequality and deprivation in our society, and the now urgent need to put an end to our lethal habits of consumption and exploitation in the face of the climate crisis and other imminent threats to the biosphere. 

During lockdown many of us were reminded what a great boon our practice is in the face of enforced isolation and an unpredictable future. As Master Mumon says in the commentary to Basho's Staff (Mumonkan #44) : 

It helps you cross the river when the bridge is broken down. 
It accompanies you when you return to the village on a moonless night.

Whatever the situation, this "staff" is right where we are. When the pandemic struck we quickly discovered that even when we can't gather in a zendo we can still come together to do zazen. Sittings over the internet became a lifeline for many people. After having to cancel the April sesshin, the RZC's first virtual sesshin happened in June, and was enormously popular, with over 80 participants. Unable to go to the USA as planned, I offered to teach the RZC's July sesshin from Auckland, and it worked remarkably well. That experience was invaluable when our own August sesshin at Bella Rakha had to be cancelled because of Covid restrictions. We moved to an online format and were very grateful that two of the RZC online monitors, Jeanette Prince-Cherry and Kathryn Argetsinger, agreed to join us and tutor Hanya, Robin and me in how to run a remote sesshin, as well as further refining the process. Jeanette and Hanya also acted as remote monitors for our recent 2-day "hybrid" retreat (some people sitting together in the zendo and others participating from home) -- which we learned was even more demanding to organise than a purely online gathering.  

The need to adapt to Covid restrictions took us online (and created a lot of extra work), but a number of wonderful silver linings have emerged from the move. The primary one is that our far-flung Sangha is now more closely knitted together. What a joy it has been to work with Kathryn, Hanya and Jeanette on the art of running sesshin, and to do dokusan with people in other parts of New Zealand and across the globe who are now able to participate more fully in the life of our Auckland-based community. As a result of the pandemic many people have realised more fully that their home is their zendo. We want to continue to support this as much as possible, so we are committed to ongoing experiments with offering sittings and some retreats/sesshins which may be joined remotely. Our summer sesshin will require physical attendance (karma allowing!) but we'll plan for further hybrid and online-only retreats in 2021. From the same case quoted above, Master Mumon goes on to say about Basho's "staff":

The depths and the shallows everywhere
are all within my grasp.
It supports the heavens and sustains the earth,
and promotes Zen Truth wherever it may be.

Survey of the Sangha 

It is five years since we last did a survey of our members. That survey led to a number of changes in the way we delivered our services, including introducing audio streaming, which has, during and after lockdown, become such an integral part of how we connect as a Sangha. The findings of that 2015 survey were also among the things that motivated me to pursue writing a book with Kathryn, so as to provide people with information all in one place about the ins and outs of practicing at the Centre. So, please participate in our 2020 survey -- your input really makes a difference. Here is the link to the survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete. 

And there is a bonus -- everyone who completes the survey by Friday 27 November will go into a draw to win a copy of Finding Your Seat

-- Sensei

From the Trustees

2019-2020 Financial Report from the Treasurer

The Trustees are pleased to present a brief summary of the financial accounts for the 12 months from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. Despite budgeting for a small loss we are very happy to advise that the Centre ended the financial year with a surplus of $6,881, a result of strong Sangha support combined with a focus on minimising costs.

In the Centre’s financial planning for the present 2020 – 2021 financial year the Trustees had forecast a small surplus, although the impact of Covid and subsequent lockdowns initially suggested otherwise. However the provisional financial results for the first six months of the current financial year (2020-2021) show that whilst our income is down so too are costs, suggesting that we are on track to meet the forecast budget surplus. This is a very pleasing result and shows how important the support of all Sangha members are to the financial survival of the Centre.

Points of interest to note over the 12-month period to 31 March 2020 are:

Revenue has shown a small increase of 5% over the same period last year –$138,902 versus $132,189.

Same period costs have shown a 16.70% increase, reflecting the full impact of the shift from the stipend model to salaries for our staff members.

Surplus (before depreciation and adjustments):
The Centre’s financials show a surplus of $6,881. This is a reduction over the same period last year of $ 12,000 or 64%, but as mentioned above, is less of a reduction than we had forecast.

In summary:
The full impact of the shift to salaried staff was reflected in the full year accounts resulting in a significantly lower surplus compared to previous years. Once again tight cost controls and deferred maintenance kept the Centre in the black. However, maintenance can only be deferred for so long. The Trustees welcome any feedback from members and once again express our thanks to you all for your regular dana.

-- Peter Christensen, Treasurer

EAR Committee 2020-2021

EAR stands for Ethics and Reconciliation, and also points to the EAR Committee's role as a listening post for the Sangha. We aspire to make the Centre a welcoming place for all, but sometimes something hurtful or unethical may happen in a community that needs to be addressed, such as bullying, harassment, or abuse of power. Any member of the Sangha with a concern is encouraged to speak with one of the EAR Committee members for consultation, support or advice. 

The Centre’s Ethical Guidelines, which include informal and formal grievance procedures, are reviewed each year by the EAR Committee and the Trustees, and are available on the governance page of the Centre’s website.

The EAR Committee is appointed by the Trust and consists of five senior members of the Centre, one of whom is a Trustee. The 2020-2021 EAR Committee members are:
Hamish Bartle (Chair) 
Sally McAra
Pilar Romero
John Hennebry
Grant George (Trustee)

See the Centre's notice board for EAR Committee members' contact information.

Sangha News

New Arrivals

Niki Nemet and her partner Peter Jeszenszki, who moved back to Hungary in February, welcomed a baby girl, Zoe Hanna, in August. Zoe had a rocky start to life but is now thriving. Niki writes, "No days are the same anymore, no minutes are wasted." 

Khasha Rafie and his partner Tessa de Vries also have a new baby, a boy called Taika, born just over a week ago. Khasha says, "We are super grateful and happy to be blessed with this little human."  

Finding Your Seat Book Launch

Finally, after a recent Sunday sitting, Sensei's and Kathryn Argetsinger's book Finding Your Seat, A Zen Handbook was launched. Auckland people gathered for the celebration, joined by Kathryn on Zoom. Finding Your Seat is designed as a comprehensive step-by-step guide for the serious Zen practitioner, starting with detailed instructions for the physical and mental aspects of zazen, and including chapters on working with the teacher, koan practice, sesshin, and Zen in daily life.  Each chapter includes a transcribed talk which shines a light on some aspect of the topic addressed. The majority of these are teishos, one is Dharma talk by Richard von Sturmer, whose photographs also grace each chapter. Kathryn's husband Mark did the book design.