Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Zen group in Johannesburg

On Monday September 22, 2010 The Weltevreden Park Zen Group, Johannesburg held their first weekly practice meeting. The group will be guided by Johannes de Villiers – Dharma Centre Teacher in training.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

10 - Day Retreat July/August 2010

Some comments from our recent 10-day retreat:

Thank you thank you for wonderful retreat …. Quite a difference having that longer time….. and for all the work and effort and warmth and constant care and disciplined teachings……

Very many thanks for the retreat, for the tremendous effort made by yourselves in its preparation, its hosting ,and for your teachings during the retreat.

We have both returned feeling sure that we have seen signs of footprints, we are now sure that the Ox is somewhere in the forest. We are now both in hot pursuit!

We are also both sold on the longer retreat, the impact is so much more than shorter ones, as valuable as these also are. We hope that the longer retreats will again become a regular feature on the Dharma Centre annual calendar.

If you were unable to join this retreat - be sure not to miss the next one!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

the great unlearning

by Shim Kwang,

zen, the great unlearning
all your answers questioned

sometimes I wonder, what is happening to me?
is it happening to others?
great frustration, great confusion, great doubt

then I stop - me? what am I?
who is asking these questions?
who wants to know?
who or what is it that is aware of this "I"?

a torrent of thoughts appears
return to the breath, one says
watch, witness, observe, says another

sun’s rays beam through an open window
a cat asleep on the sofa
birds chirping in the trees

Is this it? KATZ!!!

Zen Retreat

by Kevin,

This retreat was a practical learning experience for me. I learned about the effects of emotional pain, how emotional storms rage in the mind and how they can lead to potentially insane actions. I learned however that these storms pass. I learned to deal with the storm, by firstly acknowledging it, and then by bringing my attention to my breath.

I learned that the mind can only fully concentrate on one thing at a time. During an emotional storm my full concentration is on the endless circulating thoughts, thoughts about difficult or unpleasant past experiences or thoughts anticipating future difficulties. As each bad thought arises I experience emotional pain, and the emotional pain builds up. These thoughts, if not seen and arrested, can drive us almost mad. I learned however that if the mind comes to its senses, by fully focusing on a sense object, the circulating thoughts are quietened and the storm starts to abate.

I learned that when sitting meditating on the cushion, the most powerful sense tool we have is the breath. I found that the mind can be calmed by concentrating fully on the sense experience of breath Feeling the air going in, feeling the lungs expanding, and at the top of the breath, ONE, then releasing, feeling the air escaping, feeling the lungs relaxing, and then at the bottom of the breath TWO, and then on. Outside, at end of the sitting I notice that the storm has passed.

But what did the storm teach me? Well three things, firstly that they pass, secondly that they are the result of my mind concentrating on something unpleasant , and thirdly that the mind can be stilled by shifting its awareness fully into the sense world, or to use the popular expressing “ coming to my senses “, and this is most simply done by following the breath, in and out.

On the way home from the retreat, my mind once again started to drift towards a difficult family situation, my mind started to dwell on it and once again I started to go down the emotional hole. At this stage I remembered another important everyday practice which is “don’t dwell in the drama”. But how do we stop dwelling in it? Again, come to the senses, follow the breath!
So, what is Zen practice, both formal and informal? What is a Zen life all about? For me, the object of a Zen life is simply to awaken to life as it is, as it is without a story. Zen practice is that set of tools I use to pluck me out of mind and to bring my awareness back to now, to awaken me to the present moment as it is without a story.

During this retreat four of us took Precepts. Thomasz took his first five. Johannes and Kevin took their next five, leading them into their lives as a “Dharma Teacher in Training”, and Ron took his next six as a “Senior Dharma Teacher”.

Since taking my next five Precepts, life has turned into a Kong-An, continuous Kong-An work in progress. And as with trying to solve a Kong-An, I keep finding out NOT THAT, and the Kong-An gets presented again.

This was a very strong retreat. Fifteen of us walked out after the four days of formal practice. May life bless us all with the lessons we need, may we be awake enough to see them, and may we learn to keep coming to our senses.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Zen retreat June 2009

by Jane,

My head is clear of muddled thoughts, my heart is light … one week after the 4 day Zen retreat … and this is what I notice, but am learning not to hold on to!! the acceptance of what is, and knowing that this is changing all the time.

4 days in Robertson at the Dharma centre – welcoming the silence, feeling at home with the smells of incense, delicious food cooking, rosemary and lavender from the garden, the comfort of the rituals and the discipline, the discomfort of my knees after the first day of sitting, the calms and the storms that flow through the mind, the love and compassion, the pain of thoughts.

My “mind” goes over and over the answer to a koan and then I think “This is it”, I have the correct answer – but no! and back to the cushion, keep it simple.

My love and thanks to Heila Soen Sa Nim and Rodney and all the members of the Sangha, and all sentient beings.

taking precepts, by 'Shim Kwang'

One minute of zazen,
 one inch Buddha.
Like a lightning flash,
 thoughts just
 come and go.
Look once 
into the ground of mind 
and nothing else
 has ever been.
Manzan Dohaku (1635-1714)
The June 2009 retreat holds a special place in my heart. It started out like many others, but ended very differently.

The retreat was very well attended; with a superb head Dharma teacher and his running commentaries; outstanding moktak masters; evening chant solo’s and exquisite food.

On Sunday we had the precepts ceremony, where Ron took on the Senior Dharma teacher precepts, Kevin and Johannes took on the Dharma teacher-in-training precepts. And six years after joining, I eventually also took a big step in my life and took the five precepts.

What made the precepts ceremony more meaningful was the fact that a few outside people and loved ones joined us. The ceremony itself was also very moving, and while sitting there, a sudden realisation took place: I was no longer doing this for myself; I was doing this for everyone else. What a responsibility! What a daunting task! What did I get myself into!

At the end of the retreat, in our typical circle talk, everyone had very insightful comments and a great sense of togetherness prevailed.

The retreat left me inspired and excited to go back to the world and practice – and patiently await the next retreat encounter.

Lastly I would like to thank Heila Soen Sa Nim and Rodney for their teaching, time and patience!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Retreat

by Sangha member Ryan,

A small group of old students and first-time retreatants gathered for
our Easter retreat. It was intimate enough to allow for
Moktak training and "improvisation". Ronel was the Maestro, with Gerry and Ryan as the Moktak stooges. Ronel's teaching pearls were inspiring, but hard to reach: "you gotta loosen that grip", "it's not a baseball bat"...

The role of Moktak master was rotated throughout the retreat, and extra attention was required for remembering where we were sitting, let alone where our minds were.

Future retreatants will surely benefit from our training, and should know that the following people selflessly offered their ears to the cause: Dairin, Theo, Rebecca, Ronel, Christine.

Thank you to Heila Soen Sa Nim and Rodney for their teaching!