Wednesday, February 8, 2012

News at Eleven: New Zendo Opens in Australia...

By Jishin Matt Hoka

In November 2011, The Central Coast Zen Centre held a public opening of the new Zendo in Davistown, Australia. However it’s fair to say that this was no ‘ordinary’ celebration.

On a typical Friday morning, which included morning Zazen, and a quick breakfast, I boarded the commuter train for Sydney. It was my usual day of work at the State Buddhist Council, which is about a one hour journey. As I slipped into a meditative state, the train passed through beautiful scenic vistas and breathtaking waterways, until suddenly I received a text message on my cell. As I read my partner’s wish for a happy day, I suddenly noticed that the date was 11/11/11. How auspicious I thought, not only was I heading for a day of important service, but the opening of our new Zendo was about to occur that very evening.

As I arrived at the Buddhist Council office, I heartily greeted everyone with a…… “Happy 11/11/11!”
This greeting was well received with an even greater response.
“Why don’t we sit together at 11:11 am” said the General Manager.

“What a good idea” said our Special Religious Education Assistant, “and why don’t we sit for sit for 11 minutes” she added.

“We could do 11 chants too” I said, joining in.
“Great” said the GM, “Matt, you lead the chanting and I’ll lead the meditation?”
“How auspicious, my Sangha and I are opening the new Zen centre this evening”, I announced with a nod.
“Well then, let us also make the wish for an auspicious opening of your new centre!” said the GM.

So as you can guess, at 11:11 am on 11/11/11 we sat for 11 minutes and then did 11 assorted chants. In jest, we all probably smiled at each another 11 times for the rest of the day.

That evening, it was planned to open the new centre with a vegetarian fest, chanting, Zazen and social activities. Our Sangha members previously volunteered their time and efforts to make the event quite remarkable. What we didn’t expect was another interesting twist in our plans. After my initial opening address and the first round of entrĂ©es, I looked at the previously prepared chanting list and noticed they were numbered from 1 to 11. Smiling, I decided to then deliver the unusual story of the day’s events at the Buddhist Council. Just then, one of our Sangha piped up and said…. “Well if we are all still here at 11:11 pm, why don’t we do exactly the same thing?”

The whole crowd then nodded in unanimous agreement.

As the evening progressed, I thought that some folks may become tired and leave to return home, but everyone stayed until 11:11 pm. Then we all somehow found positions on zafus, zabutons, benches and chairs and sat for 11 minutes, followed by 11 chants. So in summary, on 11/11/11 the workers and volunteers at the NSW Buddhist Council, offered the wish for an auspicious opening at 11:11am, by sitting for 11 minutes and chanting 11 mantras.  At 11:11pm, our tired, yet enthusiastic Sangha stayed on until 11:11pm, to sit for 11 minutes and chant 11 times.

My newly revised closing address was……..
“Friends, after 11 minutes of Zazen and 11 chants at 11:11pm on 11/11/11, I wish to declare that the new Zen centre is now fully open!”

When everyone applauded I thought I heard 11 claps.

Jishin Matt Hoka

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