|London Zen Centre||
Monday to Friday: 5:45—7:20
Sunday Midday: 11:00—12:50
Wednesday Evening: 19:00—21:00
Retreats & Programs
What is Zen.
A Dharma talk is a public speech of a Zen Master, Zen Teacher or a senior monk or practitioner. It can take place in any kind of environment (zen center, hospital, prison, open-space, radio, etc.).
The teacher’s task is to perfectly connect with the environment and the audience, so that the teaching can touch people’s lives and needs. The teacher is always ready to tell some zen story or teaching lesson, but it is much more precious and valuable if the audience actually has questions and get the answers that they need to hear.
In our school, there is traditionally an introductory talk at the beginning of each Dharma Talk. It is given by an experienced practitioner, takes from 10 to 15 minutes and the topic should always come from the connection of practice and every-day life.
Afterwards, the teacher gives space to the audience for any questions. If there are no questions, the teacher tells a zen story or talks about specific topics connected to the environment or type of audience. During the talk, the teacher always encourages the audience for more questions. The talk usually takes from 60 to 90 minutes.
The tremendous value of the Dharma talk is not primarily in satisfying some curiosity--it is rather based on the spontaneous connection of the teacher's and the questioner's mind, which is a perfect opportunity for opening our views wider and experience a shift in our consciousness. Realizing deep truth in a moment of clear intuition: this is one of the precious gifts the audience may have while listening carefully as well as interacting with the teacher.
The Dharma talk is always based on an invitation for the teacher and seeing to all related duties (location, accommodation, advertising, etc).
In our school, we don’t collect entry fee for public talks, only donations, unless the location owner asks for a rental fee. The donation is usual shared between the teacher and the Sangha which organizes the event.
Zen is Understanding Yourself
Zen is Understanding Yourself
One day a student from Chicago came to the Providence Zen Center and asked Seung Sahn Soen-Sa, “What is Zen?”
Soen-sa held his Zen stick above his head and said, “Do you understand?”
The student said, “I don’t know.”
Soen-sa said, “This don’t know mind is you. Zen is understanding yourself.”
“What do you understand about me? Teach me.”
Soen-sa said, “In a cookie factory, different cookies are baked in the shape of animals, cars, people, and airplanes. They all have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same dough, and they all taste the same.
“In the same way, all things in the universe – the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, rivers, people, and so forth – have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same substance. The universe is organized into pairs of opposites: light and darkness, man and woman, sound and silence, good and bad. But all these opposites are mutual, because they are made from the same substance. Their names and their forms are different, but their substance is the same. Names and forms are made by your thinking. If you are not thinking and have no attachment to name and form, then all substance is one. Your don’t know mind cuts off all thinking. This is your substance. The substance of this Zen stick and your own substance are the same. You are this stick; this stick is you.”
The student said, “Some philosophers say this substance is energy, or mind, or God, or matter. Which is the truth?”
Soen-sa said, “Four blind men went to the zoo and visited the elephant. One blind man touched its side and said, ‘The elephant is like a wall.’ The next blind man touched its trunk and said, ‘The elephant is like a snake.’ The next blind man touched its leg and said, ‘The elephant is like a column.’ The last blind man touched its tail and said, ‘The elephant is like a broom.’ Then the four blind men started to fight, each one believing that his opinion was the right one. Each only understood the part he had touched; none of them understood the whole.
“Substance has no name and no form. Energy, mind, God, and matter are all name and form. Substance is the Absolute. Having name and form is having opposites. So the whole world is like the blind men fighting among themselves. Not understanding yourself is not understanding the truth. That is why there is fighting among ourselves. If all the people in the world understood themselves, they would attain the Absolute. Then the world would be at peace. World peace is Zen.”
The student said, “How can practicing Zen make world peace?”
Soen-sa said, “People desire money, fame, sex, food, and rest. All this desire is thinking. Thinking is suffering. Suffering means no world peace. Not thinking is not suffering. Not suffering means world peace. World peace is the Absolute. The Absolute is I.”
The student said, “How can I understand the Absolute?”
Soen-sa said, “You must first understand yourself.”
“How can I understand myself?”
Soen-sa held up the Zen stick and said, “Do you see this?”
He then quickly hit the table with the stick and said, “Do you hear this? This stick, this sound, your mind – are they the same or different?”
The student said, “The same.”
Soen-sa said, “If you say they are the same, I will hit you thirty times. If you say they are different, I will still hit you thirty times. Why?”
The student was silent.
Soen-sa shouted, “KATZ!!!” Then he said, “Spring comes, the grass grows by itself.”
The London Zen Centre Ja An Sa
Practice at London Zen Centre
The London Zen Centre is the home of the Kwan Um School of Zen in London and the head temple of the school in Great Britain. Members and visitors are welcome to attend any of the meditation practice sessions at the centre. Please contact the guiding teacher, Ja An JDPSN, in advance if you are attending practice or a retreat for the first time. Kong-an (Jap. koan) interviews take place most Sundays at the midday practice.
Our guiding teacher is Dharma Master Ja An, who lives at the London Zen Centre. She received inka, the seal of teaching authority in Zen, from Zen Master Wu Bong at the Warsaw Zen Centre on 19th September 2009.
Please always contact the guiding teacher before your visit to the London Zen Centre on 0207 502 6786 (evenings, till 21:00) or 07742 979 050 (daytime, mobile phone). International: +44 207 502 6786.
Email: Please contact her through email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org