(Original Email Version)

Newsletter for January 2016

A Brief Word From Your Newsletter Team

Ho, ho, ho! The end of 2015 is only a few hours away, which lends itself well to a bit of reflection. What have we done? Have we connected more as a Sangha? Have we found a consistent, stable practice on the cushion? Have we experienced an opportunity to take the practice off the cushion? Have we stepped out of our comfort zone? Are we continually opening up the gifts of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha?

Wherever you are on your path, we are honoured to be walking it with you, and wish every one of you the very best—now and in the year to come.

Your editorial team,

Kyōkū, Hōyū, and Renée

But of course we stray out of our rôles from time to time.

Jan 3: Sangha Sunday (Kokizan-ji)
Jan 5: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Jan 10: Mondo Zendo (Kokizan-ji)
Jan 12: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Jan 13: Wednesday Zendo (Roseberry)
Jan 17: Half-Day Zendo (Kokizan-ji)
Jan 19: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Jan 24: One-Day Intensive (Kokizan-ji)
Jan 26: Tuesday Zendo (UVic)
Jan 27: Wednesday Zendo (Roseberry)
Jan 31 Half-Day Zendo (Kokizan-ji)
Special Events
• Jan 7, 14, 21, 28 (Every Thursday): Zenwest Chanting Choir 7—9pm Kozan & Seishin’s place (map) Scroll down to find out what this is about.

• Jan 9, 16, 23, 30 (Saturdays) Orientation to Zen 101 9:30-11:30am Location TBA Check the website: zenwest.ca

Building Bridges
By Grace from Mauritius

Hello everybody,

I am Grace, from Mauritius, the home of the now extinct dodo bird! I am 49 and have four children: Kamlesh (33) and Anoushka (31), who adopted me as their mom after I took care of them when they were kids, as well as Angel (23) and Jordan (19). Aaliyah, my granddaughter, was born in August last year, the same month I joined Zenwest Sangha.

How did I reach you? It occurred to me quite early that the hope of paradise and the fear of hell were somewhat limited. Then, life’s events acting as catalysts kept me searching for a deeper meaning. Out of all I came across, Buddhism glowed like a gem. At some point, reading was not enough, and while looking for tips about how to practice meditation, I came by the zenwest.ca website.

Joining a sangha is a major turning point for me—one I had not planned; it just happened.

So far I am still struggling with my meditation cushion; progress is slow, but I really enjoy what I am doing. In addition, as practice becomes a steady and regular part of my daily activities, I come to notice subtle changes in the way I respond to people and situations, foretelling growth.

I wish to thank the whole team for the warm welcome, especially Eko and Soshin, and Eshu for his advice, teaching, and support.

Grace and granddaughter Aaliyah

What Is the Shika Role All About, Anyway?
By Reverend Doshu Rogers


The role names and functions that we use come from traditional Japanese monastic practice. The Shika role is that of ‘head monk’, who has responsibilities as ‘knower of guests’, or ‘guest manager’, as well as other administrative duties.

At Zenwest Buddhist Society we don’t have a monastery, but we certainly have a large number of guests! Our weekly Tuesday night sits at UVic, which are open to all, attract about 200 new first-time guests each year. Our Shoji team meets these newcomers at the door, and assists them in getting oriented for the evening practice. The Shika helps greet new and returning folks, and hosts the tea circle, which is aimed at supporting all in feeling included in our sangha (community of practitioners). The following day, Shika emails all the sit participants, and for the first-time guests, explicitly invites comments and questions, and then follows up with those who respond.

In a similar vein, for our regular member sits, Shika finds out who is planning to attend, ensures that everyone has access to transportation to and from the sit, plans the zendo seating arrangement, communicates with the Abbot, and generally ensures that the events run smoothly. For intensives, Shika works with the Tenzo (cook) to ensure that the planned menus are appropriate, organizes the work periods, and provides whatever logistical support is required in advance or during the practice.

As ‘head monk’, Shika has overall responsibility that our practice events are effective and supportive for all participants. Shika reports to the Abbot, and works closely with (and at the same organizational level as) Ino, who is responsible for training and overseeing the zendo officers. During practice sessions, Shika may offer corrections to members or to officers where appropriate (as may Ino, or the Abbot), and is in charge of sits when the Abbot is absent.

Behind the scenes, there is a fair amount of record keeping and reporting to the Abbot in support of these activities, including keeping attendance records, a seniority list which determines zendo seating order, and a general database, whose entries are important for our Religious Authorization formalism, such as determining if members qualify for the Jukai, or other ceremonies. Shika also keeps minutes and other records (policy decisions, etc.) for the Practice Council, which provides direction to our community in practice matters.

Ceremonies often involve the Shika, who heads the officer team at Commitment ceremonies, leads new members in the Zendo Entering and Shokenko ceremonies, and may assist at weddings, funerals, and the like.

As the only Zenwest member to have held the Shika role so far, the role and my practice have grown together over the years. Being retired and having a flexible schedule, I have been able to undertake progressively more responsibility, and devote more time to it, without becoming too overloaded.

The role has kept me near the ‘centre’ of the community, well informed generally about Zenwest activities, and connected to sangha members and their situations. These personal connections have been a particular boon for me, as I tend not to be very socially outgoing. Sometimes the duties seem relentless, even overwhelming, but being Shika also provides me with a direct way to give back to this practice, and to repay some of the debt of gratitude that I owe to the many people who have assisted me along the way.

Reverend Doshu Rogers

Meet a Member: Hõyū Boulter
Elder Hōyū Boulter with son Fraser
When did you start on the path? And where?
Since coming out backasswards (frank breech birth) into this world, I have always been on the path. Maybe not always walking, but definitely meandering along strange crossroads and foraging through fields of uncertainty—yet still this path has beckoned. Since I was in my mid-teens I had yearned to go to Nepal. In 1985–1986, I, and the father of our three children, went travelling abroad to southeast Asia looking for self. I got it, to some degree, understanding that wherever I went, there I was.
What, in terms of life challenges, brought you to the practice of meditation? 
Life seems to always have been a challenge, foremost the death by suicide of my mother, who was young (45 years), and then not many years later the death of my father in a car accident. At age 25 I was an orphan. I think I was stunned for many years, but as I have aged, I am realizing that these comings and goings are fertile ground for deeper growth.Why do you continue?
Simply said, I see the change in the way I feel at home in the world. The way I respond to the basic truth that “everything comes and everything goes”.

What do you find, at this time, is your greatest challenge in walking the way?
Still a residual lingering of my own doubting mind that THIS is enough.

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

Finally, in three words, can you express what Buddha, Dharma, Sangha means for you?
Gratitude. Service. Support.


Rohatsu Sesshin Reflections

On Saturday November 28, five companions on the Way boarded the Black Ball ferry for an inner journey. Rohatsu, a retreat, honours the historic Buddha, Shakyamuni’s spiritual awakening under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. Our retreat was sponsored by Chobo-ji, our sister Rinzai Zen Temple in Seattle. Located on the Puget Sound across from Seattle, we congregated at Camp Indianola, a Christian summer camp, until December 6.

Words cannot describe the beauty of the location, and as the days went by, this writer felt a peace and inner exploration that was all things. We witnessed a Jukai ceremony and, on the last day, two new priests took their vows.

Genjo Osho, the Abbot of Chobo-ji, daily offered Teisho on “The Hidden Lamp”, “Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women” as well as a daily reflection by Hakuin Ekaku, often called “Rohatsu Exhortations”. We chanted. We sat. We took dokasu (interview). We sat. We ate.We took kinhin (walking meditation). We sat.

As one, we turned inward, dove deep, and sometimes surfaced spluttering, then diving again, over and over being directed to be with what is. We listened to the cries of a bald eagle, torrential rain, and wild winds beating against the windows and deck. We sat as sunlight burst through the clouds, warming our backs.

When we five returned home eight days later, short on sleep, there was an agreed sense that we had experienced something that . . . well, you had to have been there.

Below, four of our group try to share in words:

From Reverend Doshu Rogers:

Rain on the roof
does the heavy lifting.
We just settle down,
and show up.

From Egen Kelly:

Just sitting, one day.
Hearing joy and feeling fear,
Is the eagle’s noble life.

From Terry Nathan:

“I was very nervous about going to Rohatsu. I had only done one sesshin so far, and it was at Kokizan-ji this past summer, a very comfortable place for me; I was unsure how I would be able to handle the increase in the amount of sitting as well as the longer days with a sangha I had never met. But when I arrived, I found out the jikijitsu was in her 70s and had only started practicing two years ago. She was there the whole time and completely rock solid; it was a great wake-up call that I needed to get over my own doubts and dive in wholeheartedly.

“The week itself was truly unbelievable, one of the top experiences of my life. Two weeks later I am still feeling the impact day to day. The teishos were moving, and Genjo’s vast experience and depth as a teacher really came through, as well as his sense of humour. The amount of sitting and lack of sleep were not really an issue. I was exhausted but often euphoric. And with at least two interviews a day, I could really dive into koan practice.

“We were encouraged to combust completely any distractions and to focus on why we were there. I don’t know how successful I was, but I came out of Rohatsu with an overwhelming feeling of intense gratitude. I am extremely fortunate in my current circumstances in life; I always try to be grateful for that and keep in mind that it can and will change in an instant, but this gratitude I am speaking about was not about what is currently going on around me or how I feel about my job, my marriage, my family, etc. It was about the fact that I am here, despite all odds, in the universe, experiencing it from the inside. How did it come to be that I have awareness and I get to live a life? I don’t know, but I feel that this is a gift beyond measure, and lately I am feeling so happy for being here.

“Genjo hammered home the brevity of life: We are here for an instant, and although I understand this intellectually, the feeling and realization of impermanence really deepened, as if I “own” it a bit more than before. The only conclusion that I can come to from this feeling is that I am not to waste a single moment. They are disappearing one breath at a time, and what has been lent to me is just that—a loan, and I will eventually give everything back. In the meantime there is my unfolding life, which may not always be good and filled with happiness, but is a gift nonetheless.

“Rohatsu, or more broadly sesshin in general, is an amazing opportunity to take ownership of what I already know to be true. To examine closely what I’m doing here and, by doing so, change the very cosmos themselves. I plan on going again next year, and I hope to see you there.”

From Elder Hōyū Boulter:

The Novice Kingfisher asked Master Bald Eagle,
“Why are there no fish on the surface today?”
The Master simply replied,
“Dive deep.”

The next day, Kingfisher flew to the Master’s branch, bowed and lamented.
“Master, there are still no fish.”
Master Bald Eagle said,
“There is no Kingfisher.”

A very productive Janine at our December board meeting

Chanting Choir

The Zenwest Experimental Chanting Group will begin on Thursday January 7, 2016 and will take place every Thursday until March 31, 2016. At that point, we’ll assess if, and how we’ll continue. Perhaps the group could do a demonstration/performance at the potluck on Saturday April 2nd during Genjo Osho’s visit. All of this remains to be determined based on how things come together.

I’d like to keep attendance as open as possible, recognizing that it is entirely possible that everyone who wants to be a part of this will not be able to attend every week. That said, working with your voice is a practice that benefits from frequent use, and backslides when you aren’t using it; so I would ask those who wish to take part to attend as many Chanting practices as you can.

We will be working on vocal development, listening, practicing variations of chants that we already know and use; as well as exploring some new material that many of us have never seen before.

Seishin and Kozan have offered to host the Chanting Choir at their place.

So, to review:

What: Zenwest Experimental Chanting Choir

When: Thursdays from 7-9pm – January 7-March 31, 2016

Where: 247 Beechwood Avenue Victoria, BC

Who: Members and associates

Here we go!

Warm regards,


Coming in February: Ask The Abbot Video Response

Starting in our February newsletter, we will feature your submitted questions as answered by video response by our Abbot, Eshu Osho. One question will be randomly selected on a monthly basis. Please keep your question short and succinct, and send to news@zenwest.ca with the subject heading “Ask Eshu”. The deadline for “Ask Eshu” submissions are the 15th of every month.

Ask this dude. He looks like he would have a response.

Write On!

You are encouraged to share a poem, a haiku, a meditative moment, or a photo in our monthly Zenwest e-newsletter. Send your submissions to news@zenwest.ca. Those wishing to be assigned small reporting duties of sangha events can connect with Hoyu at TommiWrites@gmail.com.

Together, “We Make Zen Come Alive!”

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