The Melbourne Zen Group is a small group of zen practitioners dedicated to providing each other with mutual support in zen practice.
Our group was formed in 1985 by a handful of people who had attended zen retreats with Robert Aitken Roshi, founder of the Diamond Sangha Zen lineage in Hawaii. The Diamond Sangha is a lay community that has roots in both the Rinzai and Soto schools of Zen Buddhism. Its practices encompass shikantaza and koan practice.
In 1999 we formally invited Subhana Barzaghi Roshi (based in Sydney) to act as our primary visiting teacher. In 2002 we invited Susan Murphy Roshi (also based in Sydney) to share this commitment with Subhana. Subhana and Susan lead Melbourne Zen Group retreats and workshops, and provide guidance and support in matters relating to group practice. Subhana and Susan are authorised teachers in the Diamond Sangha lineage.
In 2016, Susan Murphy Roshi appointed long time group member Kirk Fisher as her apprentice teacher in the Diamond Sangha Zen lineage, and the Melbourne Zen Group subsequently accepted Kirk’s offer to teach within the group. Kirk teaches alongside Susan and Subhana when they visit Melbourne, and periodically offers talks at Melbourne Zen Group zazenkai, as well as regular doksuan (private interviews about Zen practice) at group meditation meetings.
Inspired by our Zen Buddhist ethics and precepts, we support actions to progress peace, social justice, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. Social justice includes an affirmation of social inclusion and diversity. We strive to do no harm, and to deeply appreciate that we are not separate from other sentient beings or the earth.
The Melbourne Zen Group is an incorporated association with a steady membership of around 70 people. Many of our members have had some kind of hands on involvement in running the group’s activities at different points in time. We have a committee that meets on a monthly basis to attend to the group’s administrative needs. We also have a small group of practice facilitators who meet on roughly a quarterly basis to reflect on ways in which the group can better work to support both established members and newcomers in zen practice.
Our group is non-hierarchical and participatory. Our Committee seeks out, and takes into account, all relevant perspectives when it makes decisions. Decisions of particular significance to the group are explored in Sangha Forums (meetings that all members are invited to attend/contribute to), using facilitation methods that encourage participation and encourage mutual understanding of differing views.