AZG Will Sit Online Only in January: Please Join Us

Please join us online this month. We’re looking forward to seeing you again.
(Photo: Kari Shea)

3rd January, 2022

What a beginning to 2022.

Adelaide Zen Group was planning to begin in-person sitting this Thursday, the 6th of January.

But… with the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in South Australia, and the ongoing uncertainty about case numbers and community spread, AZG will not sit in-person, but will meet online on Thursday night and Sunday morning through to the end of January.

At the end of January, we’ll reassess the situation based on the information that’s available to us at the time. At that point, we’ll let you know how we will continue sitting in February and beyond.

This, of course, is not the way we would have liked to begin 2022. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity for us to sit together online and to make AZG available to those of us who can’t be with us in person for whatever reason.

How to Sit Online With Us In January

Thursday night sitting will begin at 7PM Adelaide time (NOT the usual 730PM for in-person sitting)

Sunday morning sitting will begin at 9am Adelaide time

All our sittings will take place on Zoom.

If you are already on the AZG mailing list, an email with the link and more details will go out to you in the coming days. Also, please check the Calendar for any other updates.

If you’re not on the list and would like to join us online, or if you have any questions about the plans for the future, please contact us and we’ll keep you updated.

Thanks for your ongoing support. We look forward to seeing you in ways that are available to us as we move through January.

Thank You For Being With Us in 2021

Photo: Chris Liverani.

Thank you to everyone who has joined us in person and online from Adelaide, around Australia and across the world.

This challenging time has reminded us of the importance of our zazen practice. It’s also reminded us that zazen is only one part of the path, and that the connections we make in our community are just as important. We show each other how our practice affects not just us but those around us. Thanks to everyone who has been part of the group; whether setting up the zendo, helping to organise sesshin and intensives, being part of the committee, or joining us for a coffee after practice, you help us and the practice enormously.

The AZG plans to be back in person on Thursday the 6th of January at 7:30PM at Hutt Street.

Have a safe and regenerating break. We look forward to seeing you in 2022!

Encouraging Words from Robert Joyner Roshi

Photo: Faye Cornish via Unsplash.

December 23 2021

As we approach the holiday season, we asked Bob Joyner to offer some thoughts about practice and its importance not just on the cushion but in every day life.

I am often encouraging students to take their practice, that is what they have experienced on their cushion daily in zazen and during Intensives and Sesshins, into their daily lives. Unless we do this, we are not really endeavouring to fulfill the fourth Great Vow of embodying Buddha’s teaching. If we do not do this then at best our Zen practice becomes a hobby. Of course, occasionally I am asked how do we do this? This brings to mind the following well known story.

One day a man approached Ikkyu and asked him to write down some maxims of the highest wisdom to help him in his efforts. Ikkyu took up his brush and wrote “Attention”. “That’s not much,” the man responded. “Please add more.” With this Ikkyu again wrote ‘Attention.” The man said that he still didn’t see much depth written there, so Ikkyu wrote “Attention” a third time. This upset the man who angrily demanded what does that word “Attention” mean? Ikkyu gently responded that “Attention” means attention!

We should all take this to heart and pay attention to all we do for attention is no other than mindfulness which goes to the very heart of Buddhist practice. This paying attention should be included in all we do and if we follow this advice, we will find for ourselves that work and tasks become lighter and easier. Be warned that this is not easy to maintain. When we begin this practice, we will discover how difficult it is and at the start of our conscious efforts if we can maintain attention for a few percent of our time then that’s alright, that’s good, for you have planted an acorn. Now with continual nourishment (effort) a mature oak will grow. It just takes time as Wumen cautions us in MU Case 1 – slowly we purify ourselves – the same injunction applies here.

Our efforts will result in more simplicity in our lives and a focus on our practice. You will discover that this includes the Grave Precepts, for everything is woven and not interwoven whilst each thing stands in its place. Unless we carry our practice into our daily lives, we have not really taken up Buddha’s teaching in its complete fullness.

Just begin and do your best, see where it takes you in your overall practice. When we shop, we will find ourselves asking whether the purchase is actually necessary, and if needed whether an alternative might aid in the fight with Climate Change? When traveling, will we use public transport, car, rail or even air? Do we actually need a car and if so what size, what fuel, etc.? Thus, our attention filters into all we do, whether our view is narrow on a particular topic or of an encompassing width of awareness. Now we can begin to understand attention and the importance that Ikkyu knew and thus conveyed a practice that could be undertaken at any time anywhere.

Steve Wigg Becomes an Apprentice Teacher at AZG

Congratulations to Steve Wigg, who is taking the big step into an Apprentice Teacher role with the Adelaide Zen Group.

Steve, who took jukai with Robert Joyner Roshi, has been a longstanding member of the group and on top of his intense years of dharma training has served in almost every role the group has to offer, and has also organised many AZG in-person retreats and hosted weekend intensives at his house with its beautiful garden and lotus pond. Steve has also been serving as President of the group, and will step aside from that role to focus on his teacher training.

We’re looking forward to meeting Steve in dokusan and experiencing his own personal flavour of the dharma. Congrats Steve!

Listen to Zen Talks @ AZG

We are uploading audio talks from AZG teachers as a way of sharing Teisho and Dharma Talks with all of you and especially those of you who are not able to attend in-person events with AZG.

Our Talks Page includes several recordings of Allan Marett Roshi and a series of talks ranging from Allan’s work on the Book of Serenity and other talks on subjects including the Heart Sutra. We’re recording and uploading more and more talks by our teachers and we’re looking forward to building our online resources.

Reflections on Sesshin by David Edwards

No mud, no lotus.

Sesshin is a core practice of Zen schools across the world and is offered twice per year by the Adelaide Zen Group (along with 3-4 shorter weekend intensives). Sesshin has been described in various ways including; the essence of Zen practice, an opportunity to collect one’s heart and/or mind, a vehicle to drive a life of peace and comfort, a powerful tool for spiritual transformation and even a gruelling “meditation marathon”. Most people find sesshin a rewarding, as well as challenging, part of their practice.

In early October 13 people who practice with the Adelaide Zen Group gathered at beautiful Goolwa Beach for up to 7 days of practice. The group’s initial work is to create the unique sesshin container: creating an atmosphere of support for each others’ practice. This includes a commitment to no talking or eye contact. This allows our attention to turn inward, away from the world’s distractions, in fierce but compassionate scrutiny of the fiction that is the self. Sesshin provides a rare opportunity to practice this difficult work.

The days become a flow of zazen (sitting meditation), kinhin (walking meditation, including two longer walks each day one along Goolwa beach), chanting, teisho (formal Zen talks given by a teacher), Encouragement talks, and dokusan (private interviews with a teacher). Each participant has several opportunities a day for Dokusan.

Part of the power of sesshin comes from the personal instruction given during these meetings. The intensity of sesshin comes from the potent combination of zazen, silence and frequent Dokusan. The schedule also includes a brief period of daily work practice, rest periods and three vegetarian meals a day but mostly it’s about zazen with around eight hours out of each day, beginning with wake up at 4:45am and ending with lights out at 9:00pm. There is virtually no free time except for breaks after the meals. When the body is perfectly still and the senses have nothing to play with, the mind’s activity is the only show in town.

Experiences that might arise during sesshin include seemingly prolonged periods of frustration, fruitless striving, sleepiness and dullness, boredom, profound stillness and peace, exquisite appreciation for just-this-moment, tremendous aversion to just-this-moment, deeper concentration than is usually possible outside of sesshin, and periods of having to endure compulsive thought patterns that repeat endlessly like broken records. There can be periods of great physical or emotional discomfort or pain, and periods when we settle so completely that this pain is transcended.

What keeps us coming back to sesshin, despite the sometimes gruelling nature of it? It’s not the moments that are peaceful and pleasant, although those are very nice. It’s the overall effect on our Zen practice and our life. Spending a week in sesshin is like spending time in graduate school, or in an intensive training course, the subject matter being your own mind. You may learn a great deal studying in your spare time, but nothing compares to setting aside the time and energy to delve as deeply into a subject as you possibly can.

David Edwards is a member of the Adelaide Zen Group and a frequent leader at our regular sittings. If you’d like to join us to learn more about Zen and meditation practice, please come and sit with us.

An Update On the AZG COVID Safety Plan from the AZG Committee

Monday, 22nd of November, 2021

Dear Sangha
South Australian borders open this week after a long period of closures and restrictions due to COVID-19. These changes lead us to ask questions about how best to proceed as a group.

As a sangha, we are interdependent upon each other to maintain dharma practice, and the environment for our ongoing safety and wellbeing. We believe that vaccination has a key role to play in this, both as individuals and as a group.

At this stage, from Tuesday the 23rd of November, sitting in person with AZG will be open to people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

For those who are not vaccinated or preferring not to attend in person events, we are establishing a regular online sitting practice. We’ve had great success stepping into the world of online sangha in the last eighteen months and look forward to offering this option to you on a regular basis. We will update you soon on details.

If you have a medical exemption from the vaccine, please contact us.

To help us with this policy, we ask that you send evidence of your vaccination status to Jak Baddams at jak.baddams@gmail.com or Ros Schmidtke at ros.schmidtke91@gmail.com.  Questions and concerns can also be raised with Jak and Ros as the welfare officers.

It’s also possible for you to bring evidence of vaccination to the Hutt Street Zendo instead of emailing, as any zendo leader can cite your evidence, and you will only need to show us once. Please arrive ten minutes early so we can confirm your status and be able to start on time. If you are still setting up your myGov record, the post vaccine paper record is fine to bring.

We have a QR code in place for checking in, and hand sanitizer is provided. We’ll continue to ask our sangha to wear masks while in the zendo for the foreseeable future, and we’ll update the sangha of our ongoing precautions as the SA COVID situation develops.

Also, we ask that if you have any presenting cold or flu symptoms to please stay home and practice with us online until you are well.

We look forward to sitting with you when we see you next.

Adelaide Zen Group Committee

AZG CHRISTMAS PICNIC: SUNDAY 5TH DECEMBER AFTER SITTING: 11AM ONWARDS

🎅
It’s beginning to look a lot like….

You are invited to an informal picnic on Sunday 5th December 2021 after sitting at Hutt St.We are planning to go around the end of Gilles Street to Victoria Park (Pakapakanthi).Bring everything that you need, and invite anyone that you would like.


We pass the IGA on Hutt Street on the way, so you can pick up a platter or something impromptu as well. The AZG Committee hopes to see you there.

Congratulations Matt Williams on his Jukai ceremony!

On Sunday, 14th of November, AZG held a jukai ceremony for Matt Williams who accepted precepts with Bob Joyner Roshi. This ceremony marks Matt’s ongoing deepening into the practice of working with the precepts with Bob as his guiding teacher, and making a public declaration to the sangha that this journey is an ongoing part of his life and practice.

Matt has kindly let us share his personal vows, a personal response to the precepts that he has developed over several months through deep inner consultation with himself and with his teacher. Congratulations Matt!

If you’re interesting in knowing more about the precepts and understanding Jukai, why not try this article from Lion’s Roar.

Also, if you’d like a taste of how to work with the precepts in person, this coming Thursday, 18 November, evening Zazen at Hutt Street will comprise a Full Moon Precept ceremony led by Allan Marett. We will be taking up the precept of Not Discussing Faults of Others. Please join us!

MATT WILLIAMS: JUKAI VOWS

THREE VOWS OF REFUGE.

I take refuge in the Buddha.

The Buddha lead the way and showed that for all beings, realisation is possible. The Buddha’s example encourages me to keep working at my practice.

I take refuge in the Dharma.

The Buddha’s teaching highlights the path so that when I struggle to see it, the teachings show me the way, in this I take refuge and strength.

I take refuge in the Sangha.

The Sangha as a group of people on the same path provides encouragement and support to me when things are hard.  Without a strong support any building finds it harder to stand, likewise without the sangha to support, my practice becomes harder and shakier.

THE THREE PURE PRECEPTS.

I vow to maintain the precepts.

The precepts guide us and provide the signposts for our journey, they outline a way to behave and act that helps us with our practice and to actualise our buddha nature.

I vow to practice all good Dharmas.

Practicing good Dharmas is not separate from maintaining the precepts and helps us saving the many beings, it is through our words and actions that we express buddha nature to the world and help others to realise it also.

I vow to save the many beings.

I save them all by including, nothing left out.  When I fall back into concepts and ideas, I leave things out and cause separation.   By practicing on my cushion and letting go of concepts and ideas I include all beings. 

THE TEN GRAVE PRECEPTS.

I take up the way of NOT KILLING.

Killing has many forms it’s not just physical killing. 

To stop or hinder someone’s journey in search of empty oneness, which could be through physical death, or it could take a myriad of other forms. To express the truth that there is no separation between you and I we should support and nurture all beings.

I take up the way of NOT STEALING.

Stealing encourages the belief that self and object are separate, and supports the ego centric mindset.  By being generous with the dharma assets we support all beings. 

I take up the way of NOT MISUSING SEX.

This body (all bodies) is none other than a complete presentation of the whole – it should be honoured and respected as such. Misusing sex is not separate from stealing or killing, it is simply another form of perpetuating concepts and ideas, and not promoting realisation.

I take up the way of NOT SPEAKING FALSELY.

To use lies enhances the perception that you are in here and I am out there.  It reinforces the separation that self and other are different and encourages ideas and concepts.

I take up the way of NOT GIVING OR TAKING DRUGS.

An occasional drink is pleasant but escaping to either it or drugs separates us from realisation and enforces concepts and ideas.  To misuse alcohol or drugs is no other than stealing and killing.

I take up the way of NOT DISCUSSING FAULTS OF OTHERS.

All things, and all phenomena are an expression of empty oneness.  To see faults and errors is to fall into concepts and ideas separating ourselves and others.

I take up the way of NOT PRAISING MYSELF WHILST ABUSING OTHERS.

All beings are to be valued and supported, to praise oneself or speak ill of others reinforces the separation and delusion that we strive to see through on our cushions.

I take up the way of NOT SPARING THE DHARMA ASSETS.

All things arise in the moment, nothing is mine, there is no me or other, hanging onto the delusion that I can amass wealth just helps to enforce concepts and ideas, nothing is mine so what is to not give freely.  In doing so we also help others awaken to the truth.

I take up the way of NOT INDULGING IN ANGER.

Anger arises, let it rise but do not hang on it, in doing so we separate ourselves and fall back into delusion, stealing from ourselves and others the opportunity to see the reality just as it is expressed in the moment.

I take up the way of NOT DEFAMING THE THREE TREASURES.

Our Sangha is a key support and one that needs to be treasured.  A group of likeminded people to help us in our practice is something to be valued and nurtured, talking negatively of the sangha encourages and breeds mistrust and will not help to nurture and support our practice or the practice of others. The Buddha showed us the way and the Dharma is our guide if we defile them we help separate ourselves from them and breed delusion.

Coming up: the AZG Spring Intensive, November 5-7

The AZG Spring Intensive is coming up on the weekend of November 6 and 7. If you’ve been sitting for short periods, coming along to an intensive for a weekend or a day or even a half-day is a good way of dipping your toe into sitting for longer periods. If you’re curious about attending one of the AZG’s 5- or 7-day sesshins, intensives are a fine way to test the water.

But – the Spring Intensive filled very quickly! Only a few days after the mailout, all places were taken.

We’re already planning intensives and events for 2022. If you’d like to be on the mailing list and be among the first notified for upcoming intensives, retreats and other AZG events, please contact us at azg@azg.org.au and we’ll be in touch.


Zazen and Coffee this Sunday, October 31st @ Cibo Hutt St.

Please join us for our bi-monthly coffee catchup this Sunday the 31st of October at Cibo on Hutt Street. We’ll sit as usual from 9-11AM and then head on down. Join us for sitting first or meet us at the cafe just after 11am.

Looking forward to seeing you!


Encouraging Words from Imelda Carlson

From time to time, we publish short articles from AZG teachers, who talk about aspects of practice we might not otherwise consider, and to encourage us to continue. Here, AZG teacher Imelda Carlson writes to us about practice in life as well as on the cushion.

September 18, 2021.

When we look at Adelaide Zen Group’s program for the year we may make plans for the coming year’s practice: which sesshins we’ll go to, how regularly we’ll sit with the Sangha, how attentive we’ll be in our daily life practice. All commendable and praiseworthy plans.

But as the year goes on we may find that work and family and perhaps a pandemic get in the way of these plans and we can’t fulfil them.

What we can always fulfil is our daily life practice.

Daily life practice is the complement of sitting practice but it is a hundred times harder to do. Its rewards, however, are immense, as it is the path to living in peace and harmony with all beings. If you want to truly engage with the world then balance your sitting practice with a regular practice in daily life. Without a daily life practice, zazen won’t bear fruit. It becomes like a green plant that is confined to a dark cupboard. It pales and has no direction in which to grow. Eventually, the question will be asked: Why am I doing all this sitting, and there will be no clear answer.

To begin a daily life practice, start small, and it is best to choose an activity that you quite enjoy doing – after all, why make it hard for yourself? An activity that uses the hands is ideal as the movements of the hands and fingers are precise and small and the eyes naturally follow such movements.

The kitchen is a good place to start. In fact, the kitchen is rich in opportunities for practice; ask any tenzo (the sesshin cook).

So suppose, for example, I set myself to fry onions, a simple kitchen task that I enjoy doing. I plan to do that task just as it needs to be done, nothing extra. I put the onions in the hot oil and there is sizzling and steam and aroma. One hand stirring the onions. Ah, this is the way to cook!

There – I’ve strayed in the first ten seconds. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is the return to the practice. Back to the stirring, sizzling, steam and smell.

No one practices all the time, continuously.

Practice involves a lot of straying and then returning. Straying from the path doesn’t matter – it is the return that builds strength. The more often you return the better you get at returning. Nor does it matter how long are the intervals between straying and returning. The intervals may be minutes, hours, or even days. Only the return matters. Gradually, the repeated returns wear a well-worn path that one willingly treads.

You may have tried a daily life practice and found that you couldn’t keep it up and you let it lapse with the thought that it was too hard, and it would be best to leave it to a later date after you have done more sitting. Or you may think that it is too hard for beginners and it is only for senior students. You are getting in your own way with such ideas.

Just keep returning to the task as it needs to be done. No separation from it. Straying from the task is not a failure, but with the return you are the master. Each return, each coming back home builds strength and perseverance and habit and reveals a place of rest within our daily chores.

The key is to keep at it. You will be surprised at how quickly daily life practice bears fruit.

No Sitting at Hutt St. on 29/8/2021

(Post: Wed, 25/8/2021)

A note that there’ll be no sitting at Hutt Street this Sunday, 29th of August. The AZG weekend Intensive, which was delayed due to lockdown and restrictions, has been rescheduled to this weekend.

See you all again next Sunday, the 5th of September

Jiki Training – Sunday August 15.

On Sunday August 15, Craig Behenna will lead a training session for the Jiki leadership role. If you’ve wondering how to get more involved in the zen group and what a leadership role involves, this is a perfect way to dip your toe into the waters.

If you’re interested in learning how the role works, if you’re curious about how the sound of the bell and the role of timekeeping can help your own practice and also help those around you, please join us! Training will at 11am after Sunday sitting and will last around 1 hour.

Sitting In-Person Is Back!

We’re back! We’re now sitting again on Sunday mornings (9am-11am) and Thursday evenings (7:30pm-9:30pm).

Please wear a mask when you attend. Checkin QR codes and paper sign-in options are available. We’re also following SA state government guidelines re the number of people in the zendo at any one time. These numbers will very a bit as conditions change. If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be in touch.


SA Lockdown: No In-Person Sitting at AZG For 7 Days

Dear friends,

You may have heard that South Australia has gone into Stage 5 restrictions for seven days from 6pm on July 20, 2021.

This means there’ll be no sitting at Hutt Street on Thursday 22/7 or on Sunday 25/7. If you’re on our mailing list, you should have had an email to confirm this.

We hope things return to some sort of normal after our week of isolation. At this stage plans remain in place for our in-person weekend intensive at the end of the month, but we’ll be in touch once we get through this seven days. Watch this space and keep an eye on your emails for further info.

Please stay safe and we look forward to seeing you all soon.

Welcome to the Adelaide Zen Group Blog!

Photo: Xuan Nguyen

Welcome to the first post of the AZG blog!

If you’re involved with the Adelaide Zen Group, if you’re interested in what we do, or if you’re just curious about Zen and want to know more, check back here regularly for updates and articles about the AZG and what we’re up to.

On the blog, we’ll feature:

  • Encouraging words from our teachers
  • Updates on events
  • Info about our regular weekend intensives and sesshins (longer retreats)
  • Important updates from the AZG committee
  • Other things we’re finding interesting in the group and the wider world of Zen practice

The blog is an evolving project, so stay tuned – and let us know what you’d like to hear about.

Gassho

Craig Behenna