Buddha - zazen practice

Authentic means something that is true and when I speak about authenticity in Zen, I am speaking about our own direct experience of true nature.

Buddha taught us that in order to realise our own true nature it is necessary to practice zazen meditation as it is something that is beyond words and concepts and can only be truly understood though our own direct experience.

Buddha always encouraged us to not just listen to his teachings but instead, through our own zazen practice, to go beyond his words and experience the truth of his teaching directly for ourselves.

We shouldn’t just parrot his words, we should teach others from our own authentic understanding by actually walking in his footsteps, by practicing zazen meditation and having the same direct experience of our own true nature just like he did.

We should be a ‘lamp unto ourselves.’

The teaching and the teachers are like signposts, they guide us on the Buddha way. They are the fingers that point at the moon but we must always remember to look beyond the fingers and perceive the moon with our own eyes.

When we practice zazen, we let drop the words and concepts and, within our silence, we are able to experience our own true nature, we allow it to shine through us unobscured, we allow our own lamps to light the way for us.

The Matriarchs

During the morning ceremony at the Nottingham Zen Group we chant the names of the Zen Patriarchs. This is something which is done daily at Zen temples and also during a sesshin. We do this out of deep respect and gratitude to the ‘fathers’ who have transmitted this practice to us.

On Sunday 11th June 2017 we did something different at the Nottingham Zen Group, we chanted the names of the Matriarchs for the first time. We expressed our deep respect and gratitude to the ‘mothers’ of Zen.


Women, though often unrecognised, have always had a role in Buddhism right from the time of the Shakyamuni Buddha.

In the first Sangha of the Buddha and during Shakyamuni’s life, women taught the Dharma, and some of them to numerous disciples. Afterward, the Mahayana asserted the total equality of women and men as far as Buddha’s Dharma is concerned.

In China, there is a woman among the shiho transmitted by Bodhidharma. After that, we find sixteen awakened women during the Song dynasty: they were renowned abbesses of monasteries and convents, also teaching men who valued their wisdom and their realization.

In Japan, Master Dogen also put forward the role of the women. In the “Shobogenzo Raihai Tokuzui”, he says: “Why should the men be considered as superiors? Space is space, the four elements are the four elements, the five aggregates are the five aggregates, and women are such also”. After him, Keizan, who strongly supported the equality between women and men in Zen practice, had a Dharma heiress. – François Loiseau

A list of 54 Matriarchs (to be in harmony with the 54 Patriarchs) comprised of nuns and laywomen was researched by Francois Loiseau. The names of women famous for their awakening, their wisdom, their compassion, their benevolence, as well as for the role they played in the transmission of Buddha’s Dharma were chosen.

Among these are …


  • Mahapajapati Gotami, founder of the sangha of the bikkhunis.
  • Patacara Pancasata, great Vinaya teacher.
  • Sanghamitta who transmitted the nuns order of India to Sri Lanka.
  • Dhammadinna, great Buddhadharma teacher who gave the shiho to numerous disciples.
  • Utpalavarna who symbolizes the salvific power of the kesa.
  • Jingjian, the first known Buddhist nun in China.
  • Zongchi (Jap. Soji Myoren), who received the shiho from Bodhidharma.
  • Moshan Liaoran (Jap. Matsuzan Ryonen), first heiress of the Dharma in the Chan transmission.
  • Miaohsin (Jap. Myoshin), quoted by Dogen in the “Shobogenzo Raihai Tokuzui
  • Daoshen, heiress of Fuyo Dokai who contributed to the revival of the Soto lineage Soto in China.
  • Zenshin, first person (man or woman) of Japan to receive the Buddhist ordination.
  • Komyo who contributed to the creation of the national system of Buddhist training monasteries for women.
  • Tachibana Kachiko, considered as the first Zen disciple of Japan.
  • Egi, sister of the Dharma of Koun Ejo, whom she helped a lot in the transition  period.
  • Mugai Nyodai, first female Zen master in Japan.
  • Myosho Enkan, abbess of the first Soto temple for women.
  • Konto Ekyu, first woman to receive from Keizan the complete shiho in the Soto Zen.

It is wonderful to see these women now being recognised in our tradition and, in some temples and dojos, to hear their names chanted alternately and equally with the same gratitude as we do the mens. This is certainly something we will continue to do at the Nottingham Zen Group.

Below is the complete list of names starting with the 6 anterior Buddhas plus Shakyamuni (Kako Shichibutsu)…


  • ▸ Bibashi Butsu Daioshō
  • ▸ Shiki Butsu Daioshō
  • ▸ Bishafu Butsu Daioshō
  • ▸ Kuruson Butsu Daioshō
  • ▸ Kunagonmuni Butsu Daioshō
  • ▸ Kashō Butsu Daioshō
  • ▸ Shakyamuni Butsu Daioshō
  • Mahamaya Daioshō
  • Ratnavati Daioshō
  • Srimala Daioshō
  • Prabhuta Daioshō
  • Mahapajapati Gotami Daioshō
  • Khema Daioshō
  • Sundarinanda Daioshō
  • Patacara Pancasata Daioshō
  • Bhadda Kundalakesa Daioshō
  • Sumana Daioshō
  • Kisagotami Daioshō
  • Dhamma Daioshō
  • Uppalavanna Daioshō
  • Bhadda Kaccana Daioshō
  • Soma Daioshō
  • Baddha Kapilani Daioshō
  • Singalaka Mata Daioshō
  • Samavati Daioshō
  • Sanghamitta Daioshō
  • Prasannasilla Daioshō
  • Dhammadinna Daioshō
  • Sukha Daioshō
  • Subha Daioshō
  • Utpalavarna Daioshō
  • Jingjian Daioshō
  • Soji Myoren Daioshō
  • Shiji Daioshō
Lingzhao Daioshō
Ling Xingpo Daioshō
  • Matsuzan Ryonen Daioshō
  • Ryu Tetsuma Daioshō
  • Myoshin Daioshō
  • Daoshen Daioshō
  • Huiguang Daioshō
  • Huiwen Daioshō
  • Fadeng Daioshō
  • Yu Daopo Daioshō
Mujaku Daioshō
  • Miaozong Daioshō
  • Qinguo Daioshō
  • Zhidong Daioshō
  • Wenzhao Daioshō
  • Zenshin Daioshō
  • Komyo Daioshō
  • Tachibana Kachiko Daioshō
  • Ryonen Daioshō
  • Shogaku Daioshō
Egi Daioshō
  • Mugai Nyodai Daioshō
  • Kakuzan Shido Daioshō
  • Ekan Daishi Daioshō
  • Mokufu Sonin Daioshō
  • Myosho Enkan Daioshō
  • ▸ Konto Ekyu ▸ Daioshō

Sangoku dento rekidai soshi
Narabini Somon Kodo Daiosho
Mokudo Taisen Daiosho

  • I would like to say a special thank you to François Loiseau for giving me his permission to quote and use his research to create this article.

Maka Hannya Haramita Shingyo

Every morning during the ceremony we chant this sutra together. It is one of the most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism and is chanted every day after zazen in Temples.

It is Avalokiteshvara (wisdom) giving a teaching which is addressed to Shariputra (intellect). When we understand that form is no other than emptiness, (and emptiness no other than form), we realise true wisdom. A wisdom that delivers all beings from suffering.

Taisen Deshimaru mushotoku
Taisen Deshimaru


Master Taisen Deshimaru said, ‘We must understand deeply that we as individuals are not separate from the whole of humanity, nor from the whole of nature, the whole of the universe. For this we need wisdom: true, disinterested, pure wisdom. I believe in the Hannya Shingyo, in this perfect, limitless wisdom, unbounded by “isms.” I believe that the spirit of this sutra can transform the present paralysis of the world…’.

The following is an English translation of this Sutra

(Essence of the Sutra of Great Wisdom
that enables all beings to go beyond)

The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara through the profound practice of Great Wisdom (Hannya Haramita) sees that the five aggregates are empty (ku) and thus helps all suffering beings.

Shariputra, phenomenon (shiki) are no other than emptiness (ku), ku no other than shiki. Shiki becomes ku, ku becomes shiki. (form is emptiness, emptiness is form.) It is the same for perception, thought, action and consciousness. Shariputra, all existences are ku, they are neither born nor extinguished, neither impure nor pure, and they neither grow nor decay. Thus in ku there are no five elements, no six sense organs, no six sense objects, no six consciousnesses, neither ignorance nor extinction of ignorance, neither old age or the extinction of old age, neither death nor the extinction of death, no four noble truths, no wisdom, no attainment, but only the attainment of no attainment: mushotoku.

Thus the Bodhisattva, through this profound practice, has a mind at peace an is without fear. All illusion and attachment have been cast aside, and the Bodhisattva attains the ultimate satori. All the Buddhas of past , present and future attain understanding of this Great Wisdom that delivers all beings from suffering and enables them to find nirvana.

Understand then that Hannya haramita is the universal sutra, the great luminous sutra, the highest incomparable sutra by which one can cut all suffering, allowing us to find reality in true ku.

Go, go, go beyond,
Go together beyond the beyond,
To the shore of satori.
Hannya Shingyo.


Summer Camps at La Gendronniere

La Gendronniere Zen Temple
La Gendronniere Zen Temple

The temperatures are rising and the days are getting longer which must mean…

It’s nearly time for the La Gendronniere summer camps.

La Gendronniere Zen Temple was founded by Taisen Deshimaru in 1980. It is the largest soto zen temple outside Japan and is located in Valaire, France.

There will be  6 sessions.

My master and the referent for the Nottingham Zen Group Mokuho Guy Mercier will be leading the 2nd Sesshion 8th-16th July. (English Translation)

For more information

To register


Wells-next-the-Sea Zen Dojo

Wells-next-the-Sea Dojo Altar
Wells-next-the-Sea Altar

Two years ago I visited Jan and the Wells-next-the-Sea Zen Dojo for the first time. It was a journey that would change my life forever!

I’m now a nun. Guy Mercier is my master, Jan is my mentor and Nottingham now has its own Zen group.

What a journey!

Wells Zen Dojo Quakers Friends Meeting House
Wells Quakers Meeting House

A Brief History

Mokurei Jan Pearse started the Wells-Next-The-Sea Zen group in the Quakers meeting house in 1991. In 2009 the basement of the same building became the full time venue, Hokkai Dojo (North Ocean Dojo).

Mokurei Jan Pearse
Mokurei Jan Pearse

Jan is a senior nun from the British Sangha and the responsible. She began practicing with Nanshin Nancy Amphoux in 1990 and was ordained as a nun in 1996 by Shogen Jean Baby.

Wells-next-the-Sea Zen Dojo
Hokkai Dojo

I come back to the Hokkai Dojo and practice with Jan as often as I can. It’s a lovely dojo and I love hearing Jan teach. I always feel at peace here and I always return to Nottingham feeling inspired.

There is something very special about this little dojo!