Monday, February 1, 2016

Meet Ashwin Bhatt

My name is Ashwin, and I live on the Central Coast of New South Wales, in Australia. I am a proud father of 5 fantastic children, and have 3 beautiful grandchildren.

I have been fortunate enough to have jobs that have taken me to many places, including most central Asian, European and SEA countries as well as North America and Canada, before we settled in Australia. In our future travel plans are South America, Burma, Cambodia, Nepal and Japan.
In the course of my working life, I have been involved in a range of companies and roles, primarily in the technical fields of electronics, communications and IT. I have most enjoyed work when the roles have converged with extremely challenging rugged or remote environments, rather than the large corporate environments I have also worked within. Coming from a mixed race background and having travelled widely, I have experienced a wide range of cultures and religions. I particularly enjoy places such as Papua New Guinea, where people live simple and happy lives, close to nature, and where nature often remains untouched by modern progress.What little spare time I have, I like to spend outside. I spent a reasonable amount of time renovating our house inside and outside, in the past I have done lots of scuba diving and surfing, and enjoy spending time near or in the ocean.

Meditation was suggested to me as a way of assisting with particularly stressful challenges I faced. After investigating the health benefits, I decided to start practicing meditation on a regular basis. Through my reading, I inevitably encountered Zen. I was found that Zen closely aligned with my own life approach, with no religious aspects or dogmas, and with a focus on a life philosophy I believe I should strive to uphold. I spent some time researching Zen, and as a result I discovered Silky Oak Zen on the Central Coast of NSW, close to my home. 

At first I was reticent to visit the Zendo, being unsure of what to expect. After overcoming my initial apprehension, I found the community at Silky Oak Zen to be extremely friendly and welcoming. I enjoy sitting with the group at Silky Oak Zen, and have learnt a lot from the teacher, Hoka Matt. While I travel often with work, I always enjoy sitting while away, and preferably outdoors. While in PNG, I became a good morning food source for the insects while I meditated outside! At home, I much prefer to sit outside, something about being closer to nature and all its activities is extremely relaxing.

I am now looking forward to taking the next step and further progressing with my knowledge and practice of Zen.


Ashwin Bhatt

January 2016

Summer Retreat - Silky Oak Zen - February 2016

Theme: Facing Fear through Loving Compassion

Hi Everyone,

We will be holding a weekend retreat at "Silky Oak Zendo" 26th, 27th and 28th of February, 2016.

This retreat is for all of our regulars and friends and so all are welcome to attend.

The retreat is being held at Silky Oak Zen's new Zendo:
3/63 Webb St
East Gosford NSW.
Please park on the Street.

About our Theme

Loving-kindness (Metta/Maitri) is the experience of having friendly and loving relationship towards ourselves and others. It’s also the practice of loving experience without the suffering that arises from attachment.

In truth, many of us harbour harsh thoughts and feelings about ourselves. We experience these feelings to a greater or lesser degree and sometimes they are greatly amplified. These negative thoughts and feelings can be so overwhelming, that it can be difficult to see where there is even a skilful way out.

In practice, ‘all troubled doors’ can be closed with the practice of Zen. In our daily lives, we use the fruits of Zen practice to not harshly judge ourselves - to be gentle and kind - as we are - here and now.

We can remember one of Buddha’s teachings that we can search the whole tenfold Universe, but we will still not find a single Being more deserving of our Loving-kindness than the one right here.

“Searching all directions with your awareness, you find no one dearer than yourself. In the same way, others are dear to themselves. So you shouldn't hurt others if you love yourself”……………………………The Rājan Sutta

The regular practice of loving-kindness and right speech, lifts our self-esteem and promotes our well-being, and this in turn lifts the well-being of all those around us.

In this retreat we have the aspiration to apply loving kindness to our own daily lives, as we interrelate with all beings.


We will also be celebrating some ordinations during the retreat. Some of our regular members are stepping up to enhance their own journey of practice. Our aspirants: Ashwin Bhatt, Steve Allan and Don Anderson will be ordained into The Mugendo Zen Kai (The Order of the Boundless Way).

This will be a very special and welcoming experience, so please come along and celebrate with our wonderful friends, who are taking this next step on their path. The ordination ceremony is also a meditative and contemplative experience and a benefit to all in practice on retreat.

Any family, friends etc, please arrive around 9.30am.

Also please bring your phone/camera or video camera if you wish to take photos and record the event.

Retreat Schedule

Friday Evening Session

6.30pm Formal Opening of the Retreat
6:45pm One Period of Zazen
7.15 Kinhin walk
7.50 Meditation – Metta/Maitri – Self Care
8.30 Tea/Teisho (DharmaTalk-Steve)
9.00 Close and return home for a peaceful sleep

Saturday Schedule:
Morning Session

7:00 Arrive (Chosho -morning bell tolled 9 times)
7:15-Call to Zazen - (Moktok)
7:30-8:00 One period of Zazen (Chosan- first morning meditation)
8.00-8.30 Chanting and Recitation Service
8:30- Kitchen aids prepare Genkan for breakfast- bring out trays and toaster :-)
8:30-9:15 Breakfast ceremony “Mindful Eating - Silence for the first 30 minutes”
9:15-9:30 Break and kitchen clean up.

Second Morning Session

9.30 am Bells, Drums and Procession to the Zendo
9.45 am Traditional wooden tapping (Moktok) and Bell

10.00 am "Ordination Ceremony" All Welcome

11.30 am Closing Mantra and photos
12.00 Noon: Lunch and Photos East Gosford Japanese Gardens. (Table is booked)

Afternoon Session

1:30 to 2.30 Anya walk – Takuhatsu hats –optional (Bush Walk)

Return to Zendo

3.00-3.30 One period of Zazen
3.30-4:00 Tea/Teisho (Don- Dharma Talk)
4:15-Closing - Konsho (striking the evening bell) tolled 9 times _/|\_
4.30 Close and return home for a peaceful sleep

Sunday Morning Session

7.00 Metta/Maitri Practice
7.30 Kinhin walk
8.00 One period of Zazen
8.30 Tea/ Teisho (Ashwin-Dharma Talk)
8.45 Informal breakfast and Discussion
10:00 Samu (work period)
10:30 One Period of Zazen
11.00 Metta/Maitri Closing Meditation


The retreat is about practice and friendship. You are welcome to come along to some or all of the retreat. The Friday night session would be helpful if you are new to practice and are wishing to participate in Saturday or Sunday. Friday night also sets the theme for the weekend. Gentle guidance will also be ongoing throughout the retreat.

There are no dues or fees for the retreat, but any small donation to keep our centre running would be gratefully accepted. The donation box is in the Zendo (meditation hall).

Please wear blacks or dark colours to limit distraction. OBW clergy please wear full robes and Rakusu. Members please wear your mala.

Please do not wear perfumes or colognes. We also don’t use incense at Silky Oak and our candles are made from natural products.

Please bring a plate to share for breakfast on the Saturday.

Lunch will be at the Japanese Gardens (East Gosford) on Saturday so please bring a little money for that.

We will do the Anya (Bush Walk) straight after at "Rumbalara Reserve" (It's the "Grass Tree Walk" this time), so please bring walking shoes and a hat. There are only limited Takuhatsu (hats) available, so anyone wishing to purchase their own ahead of time, please contact Hoka Matt at Otherwise any hat will do.

If you have any questions about the retreat, please contact Hoka Matt on 0401 231 251 or Seido Merelyn on 0414 819 136

Everything has been pre-planned, so please just come along and enjoy. We would be grateful if you could RSVP when possible, just so we can work out space and numbers.

Please forward this email to all friends or practitioners who may be interested.

In Loving Kindness
Jishin Hoka (Matt)
Silky Oak Zen