Welcome to the July issue of So-Wide Space. We would like to start by apologising for the inconsistencies of these newsletters over the past months, due to many serious difficulties with our software. We have now resolved them. Thank you for your patience. All previous newsletters can be found in their webform by clicking here.
In this issue we have a report on a recent talk by Shinzan Roshi in Oxford. We also have more details on recent developments within the OCBS. Finally, Mark Leonard brings us news on upcoming activities at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. Thank you for your continued interest in So-Wide and the OCBS. We hope things are well with you in your part of the world.
Shinzan Roshi spoke at the Wadham Old Refectory on 26th May as part of his visit to Oxford. The visit was co-hosted by ourselves, the Oxford Zen Society and the Oxford Buddhist Society. The title of the talk was “A Zen Model of Human Development” and Shinzan Roshi chose to focus on the life of Nishida Kitaro – a philosopher who had also engaged in serious Zen training (more details on his life can be found at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nishida-kitaro/ ). Shinzan Roshi chose this as having particular relevance to the academic work happening at Oxford University.
He spoke about Kitaro’s early days and then his entering into Zen training. He spoke at some length on the use of the koan known as “Joshu’s Mu” which is often used at the start of Zen training. He then went on to elaborate on a particular teaching known as nari-kiru which was translated as becoming/to cut off. An everyday example was given by Daizen Roshi as – when you wash the dishes, you are 100% engaged in this situation.
Questions were then invited from the floor. There followed a very interesting and lively discussion on whether academic study and the Zen maxim of no-thought were compatible. What arose from this discussion was that no-thought didn’t mean the cessation of all thinking but the cessation of all extraneous thinking. Thus, Shinzan Roshi pointed out; when you are thinking then you think with your whole being. When you are listening you are receiving with your whole being.
I found this a very lively and extremely relevant discussion within the context of academic work and helped to dismiss certain misapprehensions that Zen teachings require the cessation of all thinking whatsoever. Indeed, what came through from the talk and discussion was that Zen training can actually help to augment and develop academic and intellectual work.
The other part of the talk that I found of particular interest was the detailed explanation of the koan “Joshu’s Mu” within a Zen Training. The importance of this koan in assisting the realization of nothingness was expressed very clearly.
Shinzan Roshi himself impressed with a lively and dynamic manner, portraying a mix of warmth, rigour and humour. He also exhibited a powerful state of being present which enhanced and demonstrated the themes of his talk.
We are very grateful to have received a generous donation of £10,000 to go towards providing our ongoing Lecture Series over the next seven years.
Thanks to this donation we shall now be able to employ a dedicated member of staff to oversee the smooth running of the Series and we shall be looking at ways of creating more awareness of these lectures throughout the south of England.
The donation has been provided by Dr Thet Thet Nwe, FRCP (UK), originally from Burma and who has been Senior Consultant Paediatrician and Head of Pediatrics at Suri Seri Begawan Hospital, in Kuala Belait, Brunei. She is a long time member and patron of the Oxford Buddha Vihara and we thank her for her generosity in assisting us with the development of the Lecture Series.
The Lecture Series will be moving to Mondays at 5.30pm and we shall be holding them in both Michaelmas and Hilary terms for a total of six or seven per term. Details are currently being finalised for our Michaelmas 2011 term and will be posted on our site shortly.
Thanks are also due to Dr. Thet Thet Nwe for providing us with the amount of £500 to go towards a studentship. This joins the £500 already pledged from the members of the Oxford Buddha Vihara and its devotees, meaning that in the next academic year we will be able to provide two awards to assist Oxford University Students working within the realm of Buddhist Studies.
The OCBS is also benefitting from the input of two more volunteers.
Graham Shaw has joined our Board of Trustees and is fulfilling the role of our Honorary Treasurer. He brings a wealth of experience of working within the charitable sector and is already providing assistance on both a structural and a fundraising level. We are very grateful to have him join our team and share his expertise with us.
Paola Tinti has a D.Phil from Oxford and brings with her many years working within the realm of fundraising. She is working very closely with Steven Egan to develop the fundraising activities of the OCBS as well as our presence within the wider world. Again, we are grateful for all the benefit she is bringing to the work of the OCBS.
As part of our move toward a clearer organisational structure the roles of Steven and Susan have now been defined as such:
Susan Gianni: Office Manager
Steven Egan: Operations and Development Manager
You can find the contact details for both of these people by clicking here.
We are moving ahead with our plans for the Oxford Journal of Buddhist Studies. The Journal will be hosted online with a link for our current website. Preliminary details can be found by clicking here. More details will follow over the summer.
We are very happy to announce that Sarah Norman has agreed to become our Consultant Librarian. She is currently in the process of cataloguing our library. Once this is completed we will be setting up a dedicated page for the library on our website which will carry the catalogue plus features on various books that are available in the library.
We are often presented with books from visitors and scholars around the world and we are excited at developing and making more widely available this resource.
St Annes and Keble College Nurse has asked the OMC to provide a mindfulness course in Michaelmas, which has been offered to all colleges via college nurses. This course will also be the first 8-week course delivered using Mark Williams' new book, co-authored with Dr Danny Penman, "Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world". Chris Cullen, who is behind the Mindfulness in Schools Project will teach this class with Mark Leonard from the OMC.
The OMC is also putting on a series of masterclasses. John Peacocke is going to lead the first of these one-day workshops on Buddhist Psychology for MBCT Teachers. Michael Chaskalson, author of "The Mindful Workplace: Developing Resilient Individuals and Resonant Organizations with MBSR," clinical psychologist Maret Dymond, who's talking about Mindfulness Based Child-birhting and Parenting, and Mark Williams are also leading workshops this year. You can subscribe to our newsletter here http://oxfordmindfulness.org/about/newsletter/ if you wish to keep up to date with what's going on at the OMC.
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