Friday, July 29, 2011

A Very Special Zazenkai for Kidlington Sangha

The Kidlington sangha met on 23rd July for a very special zazenkai. Not only did this gathering mark the final meeting of the Zendo before its dissolution, but also to witness two ordinations and the birth of Kidlington Zendo’s successor, the Yarnton Mindfulness Group. 

After four years leading the sangha, Michael is moving to Africa. Running a Zen group requires a complex bundle of characteristics, including a commitment to Zen, a willingness to lead, a venue and an appropriate health, family and work situation. Whilst all of the sangha possessed some of these attributes, no one person had them all, so as the Heart Sutra has it, there was to be, “No continuation”  of Kidlington Zendo. Fortunately, Silvia (the blonde lady in the photo) is able to offer a new, yet not specifically Zen, type of meditation group run on similar lines, demonstrating also that there is to be, “No annihilation.” 

Thus, the last act of Kidlington Zendo was the first act of Yarnton Mindfulness Group; a shared period of samu in which the zafus and zabutons and the big Buddha were loaded into Silvia’s car.  Since the Kidlington sangha was always eclectic, Silvia’s New Age approach should go down very well. May any merit accumulated in our practice in Kidlington flow into Silvia as she spreads the dharma in her own loving, generous way. 

In addition to this phoenix-like aspect to the zazenkai, the group also met to witness two ordinations. Only one of the ordinations was advertised in advance, the other was a surprise for almost everyone present.  The ordinations began with Nick Crowther-Wilton who has been engaged in extensive koan training with Michael.  After a brief settling-in period, Michael was utterly brutal, allowing no weak answer to pass without a metaphorical slap in the face.  However, Nick showed the courage and determination to battle on, and with dedicated and self-disciplined practice over an extended period,  succeeded in demonstrating that he had trained himself to see with a Zen mind. Nick says that he does not have any immediate plans to seek students. However, since it was Nick who went and found Michael and asked him for teaching and since it was Michael who went and found Miles and asked him for teaching, the precedents suggest that Nick will not for long enjoy the peace of the one-mat Zendo! 

The other ordination was a surprise even to the man receiving the rakusu. Hugh Flint, a rock drummer who hit the charts in the early 1970s, now looks a lot more like a roshi and a lot less like John Bonham.  He exhibits the demeanor of a Zen Master, metta seeping from him like scent from an incense stick. Despite many years ago having taken no more than jukai, he was clearly the spiritual leader of our group from the first time he attended. Meditation felt different when he was there. As a mark of respect he was thus given Dharma Transmission at our final zazenkai.  Since Zen is for Hugh a private practice, with his public commitment being towards the Karma Kagyu Tibetan centre in Oxford, he was ordained outside of the OBW but still recognized within our lineage. We are privileged and honored to consider Hugh a member of our dharma family. 

Submitted by Kaishin Michael Pockley

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