What We Offer

The Dunedin Zen Group offers authentic training in Zen Buddhist practice and meditation. We offer guidance instruction and support in Zen meditation, from beginners orientation onward.

The Dunedin Zen Group was set up to support and foster the practice of Zen Buddhism in Dunedin. We provide a place to practice Zen meditation and train in Zen practice with others. Our resident teacher offers instruction in beginning practice right through the full syllabus of koan study and the rigorous practice of
Shikantaza.

There is regular opportunity for Dokusan (private meeting with the Rōshi), to hear Dharma talks, to attend Zazenkai (extended Zen sitting mornings), and to attend Sesshin (Zen practice intensive usually up to 7 days residential).

For committed students there is the opportunity to do Shoken (formally taking a teacher), and for those who wish to integrate practice into their life through the Zen Precepts, the ceremony of Jukai. There is also a study group where we help each other flesh out the wisdom that we encounter in our chanting, readings and practice form that we take up.

The group meets weekly for Zazen (Zen meditation) together. Sitting with others is not only inspiring, it is expressive of harmony whilst utterly being our self. Sitting with others also is encouraging and generally a deeper experience than sitting on ones own. There are two periods of 25min each for Zazen, with Kinhin (walking meditation) in between. We then do a little chanting and finish off with dedications and bows. The evening usually concludes with a cup of tea and the opportunity to ask questions and catch up with friends.

Once a month we offer Zazenkai, extended sitting. We gather by 8am and sit 25min periods with walking meditation in between until about 11am. During this time the Rōshi is available for Dokusan. After this we chant Sutras and then join together for a shared lunch.

Twice a year we hold Sesshin, a Zen intensive. Sesshin is residential (unless it’s a ‘Town Sesshin’), and is an essential part of lay Zen Buddhist practice. Sesshin is the place where we can safely settle into our depths and uncover the bare fact of our own Buddha Nature. This is the sole purpose of Sesshin.

Beginning Practice:

People start Zazen by taking up the practice of breath counting. This is an essential foundation for the practice and can be a point of refuge and steadying through difficult times. The purpose of breath counting isn’t to perfect concentration or to banish thought, but to be completely intimate with the present moment of breath of count exactly as it is.

After a period of months or a year or so this practice naturally migrates into following the breath. This is a practice where we’ve left behind the activity of counting and don’t fill that space with anything, we learn to sit bare to what is present, anchored through the breath.

Shikantaza:

One of the two paths of practice that we can embark upon through our training lineage is Shikantaza, or ‘just sitting’. Shikantaza is the mature practice of sitting with absolutely no doing whatsoever, no points of relativity to hold onto, experiencing the whole universe on our cushion, exactly as we are. It is a sharp alert presence completely live to this very moment. It is a practice where self and ego get lost without any move or need to conjure them up. Gradually we see into our habits and tendencies and become wise to our own suffering and to the suffering of others.

When we completely drop away there is the experience of insight, or at its most profound realisation.

Koan Study:

This is the other great path of practice, the way of taking up the Zazen of deep inquiry; Inquiry into this one here who reads these words, who experiences their own wonderful and difficult unique life. This is the path of realisation through plumbing the depths of the theme a koan brings up. Here the theme though isn’t an intellectual point but a live point where the implication is you. There are typically no real answers to koan work, it is simply not approachable intellectually, logically or with great intelligence, that just doesn’t do the job. It takes practice and steadiness to come to the point of resolution with a koan, and that resolution it is you who is resolved. In this way each koan is a peak experience.

In koan study we start with a first barrier koan, a koan that specifically works at the fundamental delusion of me inside here, this skin, and everything not me out there on the other side of my skin. Upon resolving that first koan there are traditional koan collections that can be taken up to deepen experience and give it live-ness in our daily life, where it is after all most relevant.

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