(Original Email Version)

Newsletter for February 2016
Nota Bene! The Tuesday sits have a temporary new home for a while. Check out the article below the schedule.

Feb 2: Tues. Evening (UVic)
Feb 7: Sangha Sunday (Kokizan-ji)
Feb 9: Tues. Evening (UVic)
Feb 10: Wed. Zendo (Roseberry)
Feb 14: Mondo Zendo (Kokizan-ji)
Feb 16: Tues. Evening (UVic)
Feb 21: Half-Day Zendo (Kokizan-ji)
Feb 23: Tues.Evening (UVic)
Feb 24: Wed. Zendo (Roseberry)
Feb 28: One-Day Intensive (Kokizan-ji)
Special Events
• Feb 4, 11, 18, 25 (Every Thursday): Zenwest Chanting Choir 7—9pm Kozan & Seishin’s place (map) See the article below about this.
• Feb 13 (Sat) 10:00—2:00 Temple Officer Training Workshop (Kokizanji)
Feb 5—7 Eshu Osho in Vancouver for “Examined Life Weekend.”

New Practice Digs: Chapel Renos

By Rev. Soshin McMurchy
Buddhist Chaplin, UVic Multifaith Services

The New Year brings sudden change to Tuesday Evening Meditations at UVic. The Interfaith Chapel is undergoing renovations and is now closed. So after one farewell sit this year, we are now in our new temporary location of Wallace 150 for Tuesday evenings.

This is a cozy little room with patio doors and lots of windows overlooking a residence green space. UVic Buildings people have gone out of their way to make it usable and comfortable for us. The zendo team is stretching and growing as we meet the challenges of smaller space, little storage, wet floors, new form, and the interesting residence soundscape.

Our first sit (in chairs because of the newly-washed carpeting) was deep and strong. Rev. Doshu’s talk reminded us of both the impermanence of all situations, and the ever-present peace available through simply following the breath. He also reminded us to let go of control over our meditation, allow the meditation to follow its own path, to fall into it. This is good advice for life as well. Things happen we have no control over. No need to fret, for this too will change.

The chapel will be ready for us to move back in at the end of the semester.

The renovated chapel will have a new sound system, offices for the chaplains, student space, gorgeous, up-to-date washrooms (important for weddings), and foot washing stations for Muslim prayer; it will also retain the charm of the old building in its beautiful setting with its huge windows facing Finnerty Gardens.

We are extremely lucky to be able to sit with the warm and supportive Tuesday sangha. Location is secondary. Join us Tuesdays 7pm in Wallace 150. For a map, please click here.

Chaplain support is available to UVic students, staff and faculty through the UVic Multifaith Services office. Feel to free to email Rev. McMurchy at zen@uvic.ca   

The SMF Chanting Choir


The Zenwest Experimental Chanting Choir (now simply called the SMF, an acronym for “So Much Fun”) is now meeting—thanks, of course, to our Funstress, Seishin. We attended; we hummed; we ahhed; we sang; we laughed. On the first Thursday of January at Seishin and Kozan’s home, Eshu and his lovely, talented pianist daughter, Maggie, encouraged and guided.

Our next meeting was cancelled, as Eshu put it, due to the grunge, folks with colds, bronchitis and other ailments not conducive to singing or sharing air space. Our practice continues Thursday evenings from 7–9 at 247 Beechwood Avenue in Fairfield. Please bring a water bottle, and a binder or duo-tang for sheets we’ll be using.

Come chant with us!

Meet a Member: Janine Theobold

When did you start on the path?  And where?

The path is always there; we are on it whether we start or not. I have leaned toward being aware of the path for most of my life, never realizing it could for me too. Consciously trying to see it, to stop scratching my butt and rubbing my tired eyes, has been steady for getting closer to three years now. Now choosing to participate in this ancient form in its modern manifestation keeps me pointed to occupying the space between observing and reacting. I try to hang out there as much as possible. I am ever grateful to Sei-in for letting me know about the Zenwest Sangha and our teacher Eshu Osho.

Why do you continue?

I have no choice in the matter, which sounds constricting, but couldn’t be further from that. It’s liberating to trust in my experience and healing through Zen practice.

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

My challenge is the greatest reward. As much as I try not to spend my time and effort on myself, it keeps happening. All of the fear and anxiety that paralysed me, or worse yet, caused me to behave in a destructive manner, is still there, but I engage with it in a completely different way. I am able to recognize when I am stuck in narratives bolstering old thinking patterns and self-judgement. I have carried a brutal critic in my back pocket for my entire life; she called me unworthy and undeserving. I now know she needs the shining love of kindness and compassion. When I became interested in Zenwest I heard Eshu Osho say we practice for the benefit of all beings. This kept me coming back as I ache to see the suffering in the world, and I hope to be part of relieving it. Recognizing I am part of the all-beings equation is a gift, but like anything, it dissolves and arises; I forget and remember this over and over again. Challenge accepted!

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

Just do it; be brave, be gentle. Trust in the loving wisdom of the people who have walked before—they whisper a shout: it’s for you too.

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

Gateway to freedom.

Building Bridges with Amsterdam
By Richard Moore

My name is Richard Moore. I am a Brit living near Amsterdam, and I discovered Zenwest around five years ago after a decision that I could not continue to live in the same chaotic and desperate place I had arrived in. I came to Zen and Zenwest on the recommendation of the Dalai Lama. In one of his writings he gave the advice to take your time in investigating Buddhism and find a path that fits you, then find a teacher who is demonstrably genuine before choosing. I found that the binary nature of Zen was the perfect challenge for me, and after around a year of listening to podcasts, and with the emergence of Eshu on Facebook, I knew enough to commit to being a distance member (associate at first) and asking Eshu to be my teacher.

Being remote, the instruction on home practice is helpful; without a daily sitting practice it must be hard to grow in real life. I notice that the awareness of feelings, actions and the motivation for action on a daily level is becoming more apparent over the few years of mediative practice. This allows me to make choices on how a situation is addressed—it is a choice to become angry if threatened and a choice to love instead. I don’t always make the most skilful choice; however, noticing this allows the opportunity to grow. Letting go of desired outcomes is the most rewarding and challenging lesson of all. I work in a sales-oriented environment, and it brings many opportunities to practice in this area.

There have been many interesting times along the way; we all have these “crisis” moments—old difficulties and new challenges. I find that the support of practice helps keep perspective and allows me to let go of the smaller self here and there. Writing a practice report to Eshu is a great way to express yourself and gain that perspective you need to address the issue at hand. The written word exposes your inner feelings in a candid way, and you soon see pettiness and selfishness for what they are. I am very glad there is a delete function; it has saved me from myself and Eshu from some very whiney messages.

I have been able to meet one or two Zenwest members face-to-face in Amsterdam (if you are headed this way, do look me up) which has made the Sangha more real. I see the things you do—hikes, harvest celebrations, home sits—and although distant, I feel welcome to join, and so in spirit I do. Never underestimate the encouragement that comes from seeing others on the path, working hard at their practice. Each of you is an inspiration and a support, just by doing your practice. Being a part of Zenwest, you become a fellow on the way. I thank you deeply for this kindness.

Distance member Richard Moore

XYZen Upcoming Gathering

You are invited to the next meeting of XYZen!

When: Wednesday February 3rd, 7–9pm
Where: Inzen’s house, 1764 Lulie Street
What: Discussing and sharing stories, sharing food, making art.
What to bring: Your open heart, food, and any art supplies you would like to share.

We will be discussing the Hidden Lamp stories that Pola has chosen for us. These are short stories or koans from the Zen tradition that have almost, but not quite, been written out of history.

Ganji’s family (China, 9th Century)
The Old Woman Burns Down the Hermitage (China, period unknown)
Zhaozhou and the Old Woman’s Obstacles (China, 9th century)

XYZen is open to women, trans men and trans women. For more information and scans of the Hidden Lamp stories, e-mail Soshin at ruthmcm@shaw.ca.

Dare to be different.
Photo by Elder Hōyū

Sangha in the Streets

By Eko Joshua Goldberg

Skillful means in social and environmental justice work:
Sangha in the Streets

Over the years the question of what is ‘right action’ on social and environmental issues has come up a number of times within our community. Other sanghas are also asking these questions, through outlets such as monthly Meditation for Activists meet-ups at the Shambhala centre, or the local study group that formed around One Earth Sangha’s online EcoSattva Training.

In November 2015, Zenwest members interested in activism gathered to discuss our perspectives and ways to explore what is sometimes called ‘engaged Buddhism’: as Wikipedia puts it, how to “apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice”, or as expressed by Buddhist Peace Fellowship, how to “help beings liberate themselves from the suffering that manifests in individuals, relationships, institutions, and social systems”.

The conversation was a juicy one. For some people there is no rub between activism and Zen practice, but for others it is not so straightforward. Many of us had the experience of activism causing more harm than good, and questioned how we can make sure we are doing this work skillfully and getting to the root of societal problems.

Others were concerned that in working for change it is easy to get caught up in dukkha, the fundamental human restlessness and dissatisfaction with life. How do we move between the absolute and the relative, balancing the urgency of the Bodhisattva vow to liberate all beings with the wisdom that picking and choosing is the cause of much suffering? How do we practice equanimity without sinking into indifference, or withdrawal from real world problems? What is the difference between taking refuge in the Three Treasures and using Zen practice as a hideout to avoid huge challenges such as climate change, colonialism, war, and poverty?

We know that reading, thinking, or talking about Zen is not the same as practicing Zen; we are taught to actively investigate through direct experience. So, from that perspective we decided to create opportunities for Buddhists living on Lekwungen, W̱SÁNEĆ, MÁLEXEȽ, Scia’new, and T’Sou-ke lands to investigate our questions about activism by directly engaging together in social, environmental, and peace work.

Expressed interests were diverse, including climate justice, food security and sustainable agriculture, decolonization, support for immigrants and refugees, prison abolition and restorative justice, wilderness protection, and ending homelessness. Action ideas generated at the November discussion included  promoting awareness within Buddhist communities of what is going on locally so people can opt in to fit their interests and availability, going together to rallies and marches, doing something tangible to help people who are suffering, doing a pilgrimage to First Nations communities as part of relationship building and reconciliation, and taking elements of Buddhist practice into social and environmental actions (e.g., seated meditation at sit-ins, kinhin while holding a banner during marches).

And thus Sangha in the Streets (SITS) was born! SITS is not part of Zenwest, but is open to all Buddhists, including Zenwest members and associates, to practice finding compassionate ways to participate in and support movements for liberation. A listserv has been created to let each other know about local events, campaigns, and movements that might be of interest, and we are planning to get together periodically to talk about what we are working on, share resources, reflect on how Buddhist practice is shaping our activism and vice versa, and offer ideas for possible collective actions. Some actions that people have taken part in thus far include going to a climate justice march; taking part in “Wake up for the Walbran”, a breakfast outside the Ministry of Forests calling for an end to logging of old growth forest in the Walbran valley; participating in a rally in solidarity with Treaty 8 First Nations relating to the Site C dam; and chanting at Super InTent City to support homeless people carrying out a hunger strike.

Interested in SITS? Email jgoldberg@shaw.ca

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