Issue 2 of the Stone Water Zen Digest - exploring the roots of our tradition.
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In this issue:
1. Sensei's Welcome
2. Essence of this Edition
3. Hidden Gems
4. Where Are The Women?
5. Readings From Around The Centres

6. Your Suggestions
7. Writing From Retreat
8. News From Local Groups


Sensei's Welcome

Dear Fellow Practitioners,
This our second Digest and I really like the way it gives a flavour of all the varieties of ways folk experience the practice and the situations and books that have inspired them. I hope you will enjoy browsing through it too.
I have had a busy couple of weeks with sesshin and the many arrangements etc that entails so, instead of writing something fresh for this Digest, I had a look at some things I have written in the past and this one, Facing Our Demons, resonated for me and felt ok for a reprise. I hope yo
u find something in it worthwhile for your own practice.

Very best, Sensei


Feeling trapped or disappointed or unable to express ourselves as fully as we would wish are some of the reasons we first come into Zen practice. For many of us we then hope that we can put aside our feelings of isolation or limitation and quickly experience interconnectedness and wisdom. With one leap we will be free! We will throw off body and mind and self clinging. That this is generally not how it is, is one of the most difficult discoveries of our spiritual path. Inevitably the practice involves struggling with our grooved patterns and resistance to life over and over again. We discover then that the way forward to embracing our lives comes through facing our limitations and pain not from turning away from them. We may then find that there is really nothing but this unborn, undying ‘one’ just freely doing, without obstruction. Not seeing this is called in our tradition ‘looking away.’
To see this requires steady and constant practice. In doing so your life may begin to vibrate in a new way and now the wish to practice arises naturally and without resistance Stop and start practice (throwing water into a simmering cauldron) very rarely works. If the present conditions of your life allow you to practice, may I encourage you to do so. Time really does pass swiftly by and conditions can change in a flash.  

Essence of this Edition

The essence of this edition of the Digest is an exploration of the roots of our tradition, recognising that we draw upon those who went before us as a source of vitality for our practice.

How does a knowledge and understanding of the roots and traditions vitalize your practice? Let us know your thoughts via Facebook or the website.
Hidden Gems

Hidden away on the StoneWater Zen London blogspot is some useful background reading by Tony Shinro Doubleday on the history of our lineage in the UK. This article recognizes that we are walking in the footsteps of others, acknowledging the determination and commitment of those those practitioners who came before us.  Keizan Sensei's own zen journey began at the first retreat in Dulwich in 1982 (mentioned below), which is where he first met Genpo Roshi.  

The beginnings of the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi  (1931-1995) in the UK date back to the early 1980s, when Colin Fuko and Sumi Ryoko Barber set up the Zen Practice Centre in their home in Dulwich, in south-east London. Both had trained with Maezumi Roshi in the USA and Sumi says that Colin’s dream was to see Maezumi’s ‘White Plum’ Zen lineage flourish over here in the UK.
In 1980 Maezumi Roshi had given shiho (Dharma transmission) to Dennis Genpo Merzel Sensei and, at the Barbers’ invitation, Genpo Sensei gave a talk at the Rigpa Centre in North London and then led the first sesshin at Zen Practice Centre, in 1982. 
The following year Genpo Sensei returned with Maezumi Roshi and a young monk heralding from Manchester, called Charles Tenshin Fletcher. There was a weekend sesshin at the Rigpa Centre (the house in Dulwich was too small for the number of people wanting to attend) and a longer retreat at the Manjushri Institute in Cumbria. READ IN FULL

Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center
The Yokoji-Zen website contains a range of useful pages which may be of interest, including:

Where are the Women?

A recent blog post on the website and Facebook by Miranda Forward has started some interesting discussion on the history of women in zen and how they can be recognised in the service dedication that we use. 
“Something has been bothering me for a while: –

Every Wednesday evening during the service at Stonewater Zen Liverpool, we chant the Identity of Relative and Absolute Sutra. After the sutra, the Ino chants a dedication –

In reciting the Identity of Relative and Absolute, we dedicate its merits to:

The Great Master Shakyamuni Buddha; Bodhidharma; Daikan Eno; Tozan Ryokai; Eihei Dogen; Keizan Jokin. All successive ancestors through Koun Taizan and all women lineage holders whose names have been lost or forgotten….

I have been struggling with this last sentence for ten years. Are all the women lineage holders lost? Are they forgotten? Well, at least that implies that they exist. If they exist, where are these women? And does it ultimately matter? This last question is what has kept me pondering uneasily rather than raising it out loud. READ IN FULL
Further thoughts will be given to the recognition of female ancestors in coming months with a group of interested sangha members meeting to discuss further. The first meeting took place during the Crosby retreat. If you are interested in being part of the group, or would like to be kept in up to date with its discussions via email please contact Miranda on .


Readings used in local groups

StoneWater Zen London have begun to look at the Sandokai (Identity of Relative and Absolute), by Sekita Kisen (700-790 CE; Ch. Shitou Xiqian), which we chant in our services. Tony Shiro Doubleday has helpfully added his write up to the StoneWater Zen London blog. The first two posts are available here.

StoneWater Zen Northampton are starting sutra study once a month with Red Pine's translation and commentary on the Heart Sutra. A PDF file of the translation is available here.
They are also reading "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki.


Zazenkai at StoneWater Zen Liverpool has included readings from the following:
  • 'Everyday Zen' by .Charlotte Joko Beck( "What practice is" P25-31) This is available to read online here.
  • 'The Zen Teachings of Huang Po'
  • 'The Elements of Zen' by David Scott and Tony Doubleday
Suzanne Tsuko Adey shares the background to her zazenkai talk from 10th October: I wanted to share my thoughts and experience on general perceptions of separation and oneness. The widely held belief that we are separate selves confined within our own skins is believed to be a delusion within the Buddhist tradition, and one which causes untold suffering. Through reading from the extracts and inviting the group to engage in a short exercise it was my intention o demonstrate the delusory nature of the general belief in seperateness."

Jack Kornfield - 'After the Ecstasy, The Laundry'
"Enlightenment does exist. It is possible to awaken. Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the Divine, awakening into a state of timeless grace - these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away”

“Every spiritual tradition has stories of those who have awakened from their usual dreamlike state to a sacred way of being. Through initiation, purification, or prayer, or by a great spacious surrender to the dance of life, they come to know that which is ever-present and holy. The founder of Japanese Zen, Dogen, explained: “The human mind has absolute freedom as its true nature. There are thousands upon thousands of students who have practiced meditation and obtained this realization. Do not doubt the possibilities because of the simplicity of the method. If you can’t find the truth where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” 

Alan Watts – The Taboo Against Knowing who You Are
 “Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body — a center which “confronts” an “external” world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”
This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.  READ MORE
Your suggestions...

"An end to suffering: the Buddha in the world" by Pankaj Mishra : "I hadn't heard of this book, which was kindly given to me by a colleague at work to while away the hours of my recuperation. Having just finished reading it I'd like to recommend it to you. This is a book that's hard to pin down. It's a life of the Buddha and also a history of Buddhism, an assessment of Buddhism's place in the modern world, philosophically and socially, and it's the story of a personal journey to self discovery. Something I particularly like is that the author is Indian, so brings his particular cultural perspective to bear on the nature of Buddhism in India, Asia, Europe and the USA. It's poignant, challenging and fascinating."  - Tony Shinro Doubleday

"Nothing special" by Charlotte Joko Beck. "Together with her Everyday Zen, this was ( and is still) invaluable to me as survival guides for practice in my life." - Jan Jones

My favourite book of the summer, that is still lingering, is 'The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating your artistic life' by John Daido Loori. It reveals life as art, zen as art, art and life as zen, and for me Zen-as-therapy-as-art." - Julie Webb

Mark Kogan Shawcroft has several books to recommend.
  • "Gentling the Bull: The Bull Pictures A Spiritual Journey " by  Myokyo-Ni
  • 'Flowers Fall: a commentary on Zen MasterDogen's Genjokoan' by Hakuun Yasutani
  • 'Sit Down and Shut Up' by Brad Warner
  • 'Letting Go the story of Sen Master Tosui' by Peter Haskel


'Zen Women' by Grace Schiereson and 'The Hidden Lamp' by Florence Caplow & Susan Moon - "Both these books have inspired me by revealing some of the wonderful teachings of our female ancestors." - Miranda Forward.

We'd be really interested to hear what your own favourites are.

Writing from retreat

Two sangha members were inspired by their time on the Lakes retreat to put pen to paper.

Julie Webb wrote: 

Virgin Sesshin at Stonewater – a journal



Just sitting – the sound of one hand clapping
As I emerge in the tension as invisible opposites


Three hours in

Silent and awkward
Clumsy hands
Privacy none
Naked all
So what?
I don’t mind
Do others?
That’s what I’m thinking.
I want to say “I’m not looking, even though I can’t help but see”.
All sleep now 
Borrow a book tomorrow
I didn’t bring one ha!
Wanted a rest from words
Didn’t want to get a label of “superior”
Old scars
Still lurking then.


Miranda Forward wrote: 

“This daft ditty is based on the last week of our Lakes retreat, August 2015. To be sung to the tune of Strawberry Fair – in company, with people joining in the chorus, of course!  Please add your own verse if the mood takes you.

Room for Improvement

I’m on my way to Stonewater Zen
Driving, driving, Butterwick and mountain
Who will be there? Uncertain again! Fol-de-dee
I was welcomed in to a gang of ten
When I got up to Stonewater Zen.

Ri-fol, ri-fol, fol-de-riddle-li-do
Ri-fol, ri-fol, fol-de-riddle-dee.

With the Crosby retreat having just ended, we wonder who was struck by creative inspiration. If you are willing to share, we'd love to see the results. 

News from local groups

StoneWater Zen London are holding a day of meditation in Kent on 15th November 10am-5pm. FURTHER DETAILS
StoneWater Zen Liverpool have started what are intended to be monthly sangha cycle rides on the first Saturday of each month when there is no zazenkai. The first ride saw 8 people riding about 22 miles along a canal and disused railway. The next cycle ride will be on Saturday 7th November and will be another flat easy ride. All are welcome. 

StoneWater Zen Derbyshire,  a new group,  is already going well as this recent web post from Andy Scott describes.

Mark Kogan Shawcroft has just started new local group in Bolsover, Derbyshire, after running a group in Sheffield. Recently I simply asked ‘how’s it going?’ Here’s his fascinating account of his first two months with the new group:

It’s going well. Larry and Greg, who used to go to the group in Sheffield, have been coming over every other week due to the distance, which is great as I did not think they would. Also a guy called Chris who used to sit with us about 5 years ago just turned up out of the blue. There are two local guys who have been coming every week and they seem keen. Also, there have been about 12 people who tried the group out. I am not sure if they will stay or not as it is early days.

We normally do two sittings and then do the Four Vows. Then we discuss something practice related. Last week I played a talk by Sensei and we have started reading the Eye Never Sleeps by Genpo. I am thinking of reading from Genpo every other week as we have a lot of people new to Zen who know nothing of the basics such as Four Noble Truths etc. So I am thinking of having some discussions / readings on form and ritual, the history of Zen, Precepts etc.

Bolsover is an ex mining village and is surrounded by a lot of similar places. It scores very high on deprivation and recently was polled as the unhappiest place to live in England! So maybe there is some real scope for change in this area.
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