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Newsletter for August 2015

Last month saw two big events: The 2015 Jukai Ceremony (Committment Ceremony), and the Summer Sesshin (7 day intensive). Scroll down for more news about the Jukai and Sesshin.

Also be sure to scroll down for our new  interview feature: Meet A Member. The first Zenwest member interviewed is Reverend Dōshu. (Editorial comment from Kyōkū, your resident noisy enthusiast: I’ve known this cat for some years now, and he is truly an excellent, interesting, and groovy cat. Scroll down and read!)

August Sits
Aug 4: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Aug 9: Mondo Zendo (ROSEBERRY! Not Kokizanji this month.)
Aug 11: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Aug 12: Wednesday Zendo (Roseberry)
Aug 16: Half-Day Zendo (Kokizan-ji)
Aug 18: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Aug 23: One-Day Intensive (Kokizan-ji)
Aug 25 Tuesday Zendo (UVic)
Aug 26: Wednesday Zendo (Roseberry)
Aug 30 Sangha Sunday (Kokizan-ji)
August Special Events
Aug 15: Zenwest Workday (Kokizan-ji 9:00am—12:00pm)
Aug 1—16 Member survey response requested by Aug 16
Abbot’s holiday until Aug 13



With the practice of self-realization, we learn that words come nowhere near the depth that zazen offers. On Sunday, July 12, 2015, five members gathered to dive deeper by committing as initiates and postulants. Before they became Egen, Seizan, Kanshin, and Hakuun, they affirmed loudly to the first five Sila (vows or virtues). Each name was carefully considered and came with personal meaning relating to character, qualities, or suggestions for practice opportunities.

First Sila: Affirm life; do not kill.
Second Sila: Be giving; do not steal.
Third Sila: Honour the body; do not misuse sexuality.
Fourth Sila: Manifest truth; do not lie.
Fifth Sila: Proceed clearly; do not cloud the mind.

Further, postulants Hoyū Tommi Boulter and Kidō Geoff deRosenroll accepted five more Sila to become elders of Zenwest.

Sixth Sila: See the perfection; do not speak of others’ errors and faults.
Seventh Sila: Realize self and other as one; do not elevate the self and belittle others.
Eighth Sila: Give freely; do not be withholding.
Ninth Sila: Manifest non-duality; do not be angry.
Tenth Sila: Experience the intimacy of things; do not defile the Three Treasures.

Buddha • Dharma • Sangha

The Commitment Ceremony was followed by a tasty potluck spread offered by the freshly committed members. As in all things Zen, you had to have been there. Perhaps next year you will be!

Fun! Fun! Fun!

“Have fun on your retreat!” they say.

I say, “It’s not exactly fun.”

I try to explain. Words tumble out. I splutter. I stumble. 

I give up. Shrug shoulders. Regain balance.


Elder Hōyū

Summer Sesshin ~ Sitting With Sun and Thunderstorm

Zenwest annually offers a summer seven-day (sesshin) retreat.  This year’s began July 19th with Sangha Sunday, through Sesshin and ended on the following Sunday with a one-day (Zazenkai). 

Take a Zazenkai from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. multiply it more then sevenfold and you may (or not) come close to describing the super powers of Sesshin. As Aristotle wrote, “the whole is greater then the sum of its parts.”  

Rising at 4:30am, zazen begins at 5:00am, followed by chanting, kinhin (walking meditation), formal meal service (three), chores, personal practice periods, interview (two), dharma talk, yoga or hiking until at 9:30pm we either fall into bed with a relief or lay down in wonder or grief. The next day we do it all over again. 

Everything comes and goes in sesshin practice.  

Sesshin provides an opportunity to do all the important work, that sometimes eludes us in our work-a-day worries and self absorbed concerns. Here now, each moment is “devoted to the fundamental activity of self”. Here now, with each precious breath, we can begin to understand and actualize “this dharma, incomparably profound and minutely subtle”. Here now, we begin to catch a glimpse that “nirvana is openly shown to our eyes.” 

The schedule of Sesshin does the “thinking” of what, where and when to do. Our opportunity is to sit be, as one, both offering and accepting support, both acting and refraining from action. 

And as in the “Final Instruction of Daito Kokushi”, we are encouraged to “Work hard. Work hard!”

(For S)

S and I sought stillness in a forest sigh.
Up, up, up, we climbed. Scrambling up supported by ropes,
Thoughtfully secured for travellers reaching for the stars.
Spent a little time on the mountain gazing out to the sea.

A turning word, then we followed the way down, down, down.
Breaking silence to help with noble speech.
Sliding on loose rocks, a slippery slope, a helping rope,
Stepping under branches, over roots, logs, the forest floor soft, yielding.

Now under a canopy of green, looking up, craning eyes to the blue.
We “saw” trees dancing in a circle, waltzing to a forest concert.
No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind.
Bowing to each other, reaching out a limb, one broken at the trunk leaning on another.
Swaying, together. Alone, rock-a-bye baby.

Us, empty, speechless. Prajnaparamita.

“A sangha of trees,” whispered the breeze.

Explain to me how we are more important than a mountain, a species, a forest.

— Elder Hoyu Boulter

Meet a Member


Rev. Doshu Rogers

When did you start on the path? And where?

I became interested in meditation in the early 1970s when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto. At the time, the practice of Transcendental Meditation was popular and readily available, so I signed up, was initiated, received a mantra, and began practising regularly on my own. A few years later, when I had moved to Victoria, I happened upon Roshi Kapleau’s book The Three Pillars of Zen, and was ‘set on fire’ with zen practice.  It seemed that there was nothing more worthwhile for me to do than to sit! I abandoned the mantra-based TM, took up zazen, and joined an informal sitting group which later (in 1980) formalized itself into the Victoria Zen Centre.

What, in terms of life challenges, brought you to the practice of meditation?

I grew up in a stable middle-class family in a Toronto suburb. My parents were teachers; they were active members of a local Unitarian congregation, politically very left-wing, had traditional values of hard work and thrift, and scorned the use of alcohol and tobacco. I thrived in an environment of intellectual stimulation and rational pursuit of my interests, which were mostly in the areas of mathematics and ‘hard’ sciences.

When I moved downtown to attend university, I realized that my experience and horizons were very narrow, and I eagerly embraced the new possibilities that were all around me, including (but not limited to) ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’. Psychoactive drugs were everywhere (late 1960s), and were pivotal in my opening up to a broader world view. I saw many folks around me suffering from profligate drug use, but for me the experiences pointed to rich expansive possibilities and kindled my interest in meditation as a natural way to explore my inner workings.

Why do you continue?

Here I am at age sixty-four, having had zazen practice as a thread throughout my life for the last forty years or so. I continue with it because it is the single most powerful formalism that I have encountered for opening to a broader, natural fulfillment of life.

What do you find, at this time, is your greatest challenge in walking the way?

A major challenge for me is in getting out of my own way. I am an inveterate ‘doer’, and finding a balance between doing and being is an ongoing challenge.

If you could share one bit of practical advice about sitting zazen, what would it be?

Just sit every day, whether you want to or not (particularly if you don’t want to!). Say YES to life and to practice.

Finally, in three words can you express what Buddha, Dharma, Sangha means for you?

Original deep fulfillment.

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