The London Zen Groups meet every day at one of four locations in London to practise zazen – traditional, Soto Zen, seated meditaiton.
Our other activities include:
- ceremony (chanting, bowing etc. – after each period of zazen)
- samu (work practice – at organised times – especially Sunday morning)
- sewing (the sewing of rakusus or kesas for those seeking to receive ordination)
- oryoki (formal meals)
- zen days (day-long retreats / all-day sittings) where we invite one of our senior teachers from France
- 1/2 day sittings morning or evenings
- social events each year including picnics and movie nights.
We are affiliated to the Association Zen Internationale based in France and founded by Zen Master Taisen Deshimaru as well as to The International Zen Association United Kingdom (IZAUK) with headquarters in Bristol and composed of all the AZI affiliated groups in the UK.
The London Zen Groups are all facilitated by experienced practitioners. Some have received the precepts / bodhisattva ordination as lay-ordained practitioners, while others have received the Tokudo Ordination, and are Zen Monks or Nuns. All of the facilitators of the London Zen Groups do so on a voluntarily basis.
Buddhism, Zen and Soto Zen
Buddhism was founded in India sometime around the 5th century BC by Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni) later known as The Buddha (the enlightened one). Among the Buddha’s teachings are the ideas of non-self, that suffering/dis-satisfaction exists, has a cause and can be ended. It is said that the Zen school began when the Buddha was giving a public talk, and instead of talking, simply held up a flower and turned it in his hand. Alone among his disciples, the Venerable Mahakashyapa smiled, showing the Buddha that he had understood “the subtle dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters”.
Skipping forward 1000 years (5th – 6th century AD) and the semi-legendary monk Bodhidharma is credited for bringing the Zen(Chan) school of Buddhism to China. In China, Soto Zen took form, in part through influence from masters such as 9th century AD teacher Tozan Ryokai.
In the 13th Century, the Japanese monk Eihei Dogen travelled to China to study Chan (Caodong – or Soto Zen in Japanese) under the master Tendo Nyojo, Soto Zen is that school of Zen Buddhism brought by Master Dogen from China upon his return to Japan. It was firmly established by Zen Master Keizan Jokin in the late 13th and early 14th century.
Traditionally, Soto Zen emphasises the practice of zazen – shikantaza, wholehearted upright sitting.
Zazen Days and Sesshins
Each year, one of the London Zen Groups will host one or more zazen days (a 1 day sitting or day-long retreat) where we invite one of our Teachers from France, or one of the elder monks or nuns from the UK or France, to come and lead us in a day of practice.
Several times per year, IZAUK organises longer sesshins (1.5 – 7 day retreats) at various locations in the UK.
Within the UK, there are often other events organised by UK groups such as zazen mornings, and opportunities to practice the sewing of rakusus and kesas. You can check our calendar of events for information on all forthcoming events which we think may be of interest to the London Sangha, or you can check the IZAUK website calendar of events, to see all events nationwide.
Internationally, there are many events held across Europe throughout the year. These include the Summer Sessions (9 day practice retreats) held at our main Temple of La Gendronnèire. Check the AZI Website for further information on these.