OUR ORIGINS AND HISTORY
The Zen Group of Western Australia started in 1982 with a small group of people sitting in a private home in Mt. Claremont, Perth. It is affiliated with the Diamond Sangha tradition of Zen Buddhism, which was founded in Hawaii in 1959 by Robert Aitken and his wife Anne Aitken. Robert Aitken’s book, Taking the Path of Zen, is a wonderful introduction to Zen practice, and is available for purchase at our dojo.
Our lineage comes from the Sanbō Kyōdan (the Order of the Three Treasures), which was started by Haku'un Yasutani in Japan, in 1954, and was grounded in the thinking of Yasutani’s teacher Daiun Harada Sogaku, a Sōtō priest who had studied with Rinzai teachers. Harada and Yasutani amalgamated the heart teachings of the two main schools of Japanese Zen, Sōtō and Rinzai, to make a practice suitable for lay students.
Robert Aitken was one of the early Western students of Zen Buddhism. He studied with Nyogen Senzaki in Los Angeles in the late 1940’s. Subsequently, he trained with Nakagawa Soen and completed his formal Zen training with Ko'un Yamada. In 1974 Robert Aitken was given authority to teach by Koun Yamada, the abbot of the Sanbō Kyōdan in Kamakura. Yamada gave Robert Aitken full Dharma transmission in 1985.
Robert Aitken Roshi
In the Diamond Sangha students are taught breath meditation, as well as the practices of shikantaza (“just sitting”), and working with koans. The core teachings are those of Mahayana Buddhism as they come down through India, China and Japan. Diamond Sangha communities integrate the Zen Way into lay life.
Robert Aitken and his successor John Tarrant both taught in Western Australia and fostered the group over many years. The ZGWA now has a resident teacher: Ross Bolleter, who was authorized to teach in 1992, and received transmission from Robert Aitken and John Tarrant in 1997. Ian Sweetman was authorized as a teacher in 2000 by Ross Bolleter, and was given transmission by him in 2006. Ian taught in the ZGWA between 2001 and 2012. Mari Rhydwen, who was authorized to teach by Ross Bolleter in 2005, and given Transmission by him in 2014, visits on a regular basis and co-teaches with Ross Bolleter in Sesshin. Since 2016, Mari Rhydwen has also conducted annual intensive Zen Training Period. In 2022, Ross Bolleter gave permission to Chris Barker to teach as an apprentice teacher. Ross Bolleter passed the Dharma to Mari Rhydwen on 18th June, 2023 and Ross Bolleter retired from full-time teaching. Currently, Mari Rhydwen offers dokusan (personal interviews) via telephone or online via Zoom on a monthly basis. Mari Rhydwen also leads 5 to 7-Day Sesshins (Intensive Zen training retreats) and 10-Day Every Day Zen (meditation retreat with active discussion sessions based on a particular theme, interspersed with normal, daily activities like work and play). Ross Bolleter will continue to teach as an Emeritus Teacher during Sesshins.
The Zen Group of Western Australia offers a supportive and encouraging environment in which students can come together to learn Zen meditation and study Zen Buddhism.
If you would walk the highest way, do not reject the sense domain;
for as it is, whole and complete,
this sense world is enlightenment.”
Jianzhi Sengcan (d. 606)