Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Gifts of Summer at Open Gate

The Open Gate 2011 Summer Sesshin and Ordination was gifted with great weather and great company. We had a full house with community and sangha members coming far and wide to participate in the ceremonies and training sessions. The ceremonies begian Wednesday evening with a precepts ceremony welcoming Mitch Gaff into our sangha. Mitch is a long time student and solo practitioner of Zen, who is looking forward to the rewards that come with being a member of a Dharma family.

On Saturday, the work period was dedicated to preparing and arranging the Zendo for the ordination ceremony, whereby three more sangha members received their full vestments and dharma names.  George Walczak was gifted the name Jikai Seido, Ron Brickey became Muji Shindo and Matt Lawther is now known in the dharma as Jishin Hoka. As is the tradition in Zen, the initiates received their “robe and bowl” along with their walking staffs, which is an additional form of vestment gifted in our order to signify our commitment as Wayfarers- to always strive to move freely through life, as Drifting Clouds and Flowing Water.

The ordination ceremony was followed by a potluck lunch and social time whereby cards and gifts were exchanged along with good conversation and merriment. However, due to the nature of Zen, this was too soon interrupted by the sound of the han calling everyone back the zendo and the schedule of sesshin. As the guests parted the cushions were rearranged, the incense was lit and after three strikes of the bell, only silence remained.

Gassho and a deep bow to everyone.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Open Gate Sesshin Schedule

Open Gate Zendo 2011 Summer Sesshin and Ordination

The time is near for the Open Gate 2011 Summer Sesshin and Ordination Ceremony. The Sesshin will held on Saturday and Sunday July 23rd & 24th with the Ordination ceremony beginning Saturday at 11:00 am (followed by a pot luck lunch and social period). Attendees are welcome to come Friday evening and spend the night in the Zendo as well. Attendees arriving in the morning should arrive by 7:00. Below is the two day schedule.  Guests coming only to the Ordination and potluck social should arrive between 10:30 and 11:00.
Ordination Ceremony

This summer we will be welcoming four new members into the Order of the Boundless Way; George Walczak, Ron Brickey, Matt Lawther and Nick Crowther-Wilton, will all officially receive their Buddhist names and the vestments of our clerical order (Nick's ordination in England-see previous postings).  With Ron and George coming to Open Gate from across country and Matt coming all the way from Australia, it would be nice to have full attendance so that they will get to meet as many of our sangha members as possible. Everyone is encouraged to come for the ordination ceremony to meet our new brethren, even if they are unable to attend the full sesshin. (Small gifts and/or cards from sangha members to the new initiates are welcome)

If you have not done so already, please send an e-mail  in order to confirm your attending between now and Wednesday July 20th.  As usual we need an accurate head count for planning and buying food stuffs.

If you would like more information about this sesshin or the ordination, please feel free to contact to contact Miles at-

Saturday Schedule

Morning Session
6:30 Wake-up bell
7:00 Non-residents Arrive (Chosho -morning bell tolled 9 times)
7:15-Call to Zazen (Plank drum (Han) roll)
7:30-8:00 One period of Zazen
8:00-8:05 Incense Ceremony (Remain standing to exit Zendo)
8:05-9:00 Casual breakfast and social time (in Hojo)
9:00-9:15 Break and kitchen cleanup

Second Morning Session
9:00- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
9:15-9:45 One periods of Zazen
9:45-10:45 Samu (Arrange Zendo for Ordination Ceremony)
10:45  Han Roll (Call to Ordination ceremony)
11:00-12:00 Ordination Ceremony
12:00-1:30  Potluck Lunch and Social Time (Cards and Gifts)
1:30 Han roll (announcing end of lunch and social time)
1:30 – 2:00 Samu (Clean up and return Zendo to original configuration)

Afternoon Session
2:00- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
2:15-3:30 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
3:30-4:30  Angya practice. (Monk procession walk)
4:30- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
4:45-5:15 One period Zazen
5:15- Kitchen aids prepare Genkan for Dinner- bring out trays
5:30-6:15 Dinner ceremony (Oryoki)
6:15-6:40 Break and kitchen cleanup

Evening Session
6:30- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
6:45-8:00 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
8:00-8:10- Kitchen aids prepare Genkan for tea, bring out trays
8:10-8:50 Tea ceremony & Dharma talk by  Matt Lawther
8:55- Closing ceremony
9:00- Daily Closing- Konsho (striking the evening bell) tolled 9 times
9:00- Prepare for bed or non-residents leave for the night.

Sunday Schedule

Morning Session
6:30 Wake-up bell
7:00 Non-residents Arrive (Chosho -morning bell tolled 9 times)
7:15-Call to Zazen (Plank drum (Han) roll)
7:30-8:00 One period of Zazen (Chosan- first morning meditation)
8:00-8:05 Incense Ceremony
8:05- Kitchen aids prepare Genkan for lunch- bring out trays
8:15-9:00 Breakfast ceremony (Oryoki)
9:00-9:15 Break and kitchen cleanup

Second Morning Session
9:15- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
9:30-10:45 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
9:30-10:45 Dokusan (one on one meeting with the teacher) by rotation.
10:45-11:45 Samu (work and/or exercise/rest period)
11:45 Han Roll
12:00-12:30 One Period Zazen
12:30- 12:40 Kitchen aids prepare Genkan for lunch- bring out trays
12:40-1:30 Lunch ceremony (Oryoki)

Afternoon Session
1:30-2:00 Break and kitchen cleanup
1:45- Call to Zazen (Han roll)
2:00-3:15 Two periods of Zazen alternated with Kinhin
3:15-3:30 Short Break
3:30-4:30 Tea ceremony, Teisho/Group Discussion
4:30-Closing - Konsho (striking the evening bell) tolled 9 times

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Meet Nick Crowther-Wilton

On July 23rd, Nick Crowther-Wilton will be the first member of the order to be ordained outside the United States (see New Beginnings below). Nick lives near Kaishin Michael Pockley in Kidlington, England and works for a government agency dealing with firearm possession within England 

Nick has had a long association with Zen, having previously practiced with, among others, the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, a Western Zen order founded by Rev. Jiyu-Kennett  in the Japanese Soto tradition. Nick is well read and well versed in Zen and Buddhist literature and has been engaged in koan exchange with Michael for some while. Michael says Nick’s koan answers of late have backed him into a corner whereby his only response is to offer him ordination.

Welcome to the Order of the Boundless Way Nick!

New Beginnings- England & Africa

July 23rd is a significant day for the Kidlington Zendo as they hold their first ordination and last group zazen. OBW sangha member Kaishin Michael Pockley will be perform Kiddlington Zendo’s first ordination as his last official action as sangha leader. The ordination and closing ceremony is set to coincide with the Open Gate ceremonies on the same date.

With Michael and his family moving to Kenya, the ordination will be followed by a closing ceremony for Kidlington Zendo. Since, the only Zen Buddhists living near Kidlington have young children and small houses (with most of the other sangha members being practitioners of Vipassana, Vajrayana and other traditions) the Zendo's zafus and zabutons are moving down the road to the next village, Yarnton, where sangha member Silvia plans to host zazen (and perhaps some interesting New Age activitity) at the brand new Yarnton Mindfulness Group. Silvia is the one in pink in this photo of December’s very small, snow-bound sesshin.

Kaishin Michael will continue to offer koan training for anyone interested and although he suspects the demand will be relatively limited in Kenya, he is prepared to ask the question; "Nini ni sauti ya mtu kupiga makofi mkono?"