Zen Study Offerings
Eco Sit in Santa Cruz
How To Engage with Zen Study
There are many ways to engage with Zen practice. The primary way of our tradition is zazen (meditation). On this page you will find short descriptions of various practices and information on what is available.
“If you do not pass the barrier of the ancestors, you are like a ghost clinging to bushes and grasses.”
In Person or Zoom Zen Practice
Zoom Zazen – Monday to Saturday at 6 am Canberra time. We sit for 30 minutes and then have a short 10 minute service, followed by discussion for those who would like to stay on. It is fine to join late or leave early, as it is better for you to be there just a little than not at all. Just click on the link on the Home page. There is a time converter if you are in other locations.
Dokusan – in person or on Zoom – Neti is offering dokusan in-person in Canberra or on Zoom. Email her to make a time. Topics can include zazen, practicing with the challenges in daily life, koans, and Buddhist studies.
Study and online classes – Neti is available to advise and direct your Buddhist study, offering suggested resources and where to find them. She is also available to meet to study with people individually. In the future she plans to offer online classes.
Twining Vines Zen Centre – Neti is currently establishing a zen centre in Canberra, Australia. Twining Vines Zen Centre will hold weekly zazen on Sunday Mornings from 10am until 11:30am AEDT in Fraser. A 40 minute period of zazen is followed by a talk and discussion. The event will be offered both in-person and online for those that can’t make it physically. If you wish to attend in-person, please email in advance to confirm that there is space, as we are currently limited by COVID restrictions in the ACT. We ask that people wear masks when they attend.
Sangha – Building friendships and connections through the community (sangha) is an important part of practice. This can be done even on Zoom.
Retreat Hut at Land of Calm Abiding
Generally speaking, our days are filled with mental and physical movement. Zazen is an opportunity to drop this activity and settle into a quiet and peaceful space. Even five minutes of zazen a few times a day can bring feelings of ease and centeredness. Traditionally a period of zazen is from 25 to 40 minutes, but what is more important is to try to find a way to do zazen daily, so if 10 minutes works for you then 10 minutes is best. You will naturally lengthen the time as you feel the benefits.
A simple, but powerful, meditation practice is called “Breath Awareness”. Simply become observant of the breath. Don’t try to do anything to it. It will naturally slow down and deepen. When your mind wanders (which it frequently will) just gently bring it back to observing the breath. Each time you notice yourself wandering and you come back, you are training your mind. This mind training helps us in our emotional world, and it opens us up to hearing the Buddhist teachings on the cause of suffering, liberation from suffering, and the cultivation of compassion for all beings. There are many other meditation practices that serve the same purpose and lead to a more subtle, and encompassing understanding.
Dokusan is a private one-on-one meeting with the teacher to discuss your practice, or in the case of students studying koans, a time to present your understanding. Anyone is welcome to request dokusan. You do not need to be a long-term practitioner to wish to talk with the teacher. For beginner students it is a way to deepen practice, ask questions, and receive guidance. The meetings are short (usually 20 minutes) and are quite formal, in that the conversation is specifically to assist the student in their Zen practice. Students can meet on a weekly, monthly, or as needed basis.
It is said that the Zen tradition is a special tradition outside of the scriptures, not dependent on words and letters, directly pointing to reality, and realizing our true Buddha Nature. Nevertheless, there are great benefits to studying the teachings of the Buddha, and the many great practitioners throughout the centuries, in India, China, Japan, and across the world, who have translated and conveyed these teachings in ways that are accessible for people.
In Zen practice we aspire to awaken to reality, and deepen this realization for the benefit of all beings. There are many Zen classics – both for beginners and for more experienced practitioners that Neti can point you toward if you wish to study. You can study independently or on a weekly basis with Neti by Zoom or in person.
Neti’s teacher, Kokyo Henkel Osho, has a website with a wide range of study materials including downloadable books, articles, talks, audio class series, videos, and recommendations for further study. Most of Kokyo’s resources are for experienced practitioners, but if you are a beginner you can still plunge in at the deep end and see if it inspires you.
His website is: kokyohenkel.weebly.com
Koan study can begin after a practitioner has spent some time becoming familiar with their mind in either breath awareness or shikantaza practice. Not all practitioners want to study koans. They are unusual, and only a small number of people are inspired by them. If you are one of them, ask a teacher if you can discuss working with them – or more accurately, ask if a koan can be taken up that will work on you. The teacher will give you a koan to rest with in zazen and to contemplate in daily life. Each week you would meet with the teacher – in person or virtually, to present your understanding of the koan. Koan practice is a long-term commitment and a student will often study with them for many years. If you are interested in learning more about this practice please contact Neti.
“When you become you, Zen becomes Zen.”
— Suzuki Roshi