“The future for Christians is Zen and Christianity.”
Christian Zen is led by Rev. Ann Ankai Wagner, Roshi, who is a Master Zen Teacher (Roshi) and Zen Buddhist lineage-holder as a Dharma Successor of Roshi Paul Genki Kahn. She describes herself as a person of one faith in two traditions, dual-belonging to the wisdom and mystical paths in Christianity and Zen Buddhism. For her, Zen is the core of all experiential, mystical traditions. She is a Buddhist priest and a Christian Zen Minister in the Zen Garland Order. Christian Zen follows the contemplative wisdom tradition of Christianity that began with the first followers of Jesus. It is the oldest tradition in Christianity and much needed for the 21st century.
We follow Jesus as a Wisdom Teacher, whose emphasis on love and whose parables invite people to a radical expansion of consciousness, conscience, and community. Jesus used the expression, “Kingdom of heaven,” to describe a “non dual consciousness” or ” unitive consciousness,” embodied through “an attitude of receptivity, a willingness to enter the flow, and a commitment to oneness.” The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation– not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans.” (Cynthia Bourgeault)
Christian Zen embraces an evolving, progressive, non-dual theology that has moved beyond the concept of a Deity that created the universe, stands outside of creation but manipulates it from time to time, judges, rewards and punishes, has a plan for each and everything in creation, is male, and favors a patriarchy. We believe that all creation shares a common nature, is interconnected and is evolving together in constant co-creation. Here lies our human responsibility to form “creative unions” (Teilhard de Chardin). We do not have an adequate understanding of this cosmic nature, and certainly do not have language that expresses it adequately. We borrow from Zen Buddhism practices that awaken us to perspectives of this nature — totality, unity, mutuality, no-thing-ness, and the precious particular, and seek to develop skills to live in ways that promote the illumination of unity and develop cooperative efforts.
This Jesus was divine, but no more so than we all are. His difference from us was in degree, not in kind. This Jesus pointed to the divine mystery, not to himself and recognized many ways to enter the transformative process. We honor Jesus as a wisdom teacher, a mystic, and as a socially engaged reformer. We do not believe that Jesus was born to redeem us, but to teach us how to live. In Christian Zen we are not focussed on the crucifixion, a life lost, but on a life fully lived.
Christian Zen offers a path to living in the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout his life as we know it, Jesus was deeply immersed in a life of prayer or meditation as a direct connection to the divine or sacred reality. We offer daily opportunities for mediation and monthly retreats, as well as classes and workshops. Zen Garland also offers practitioners residential stays at the Sanctuary for an in-depth experience of spiritual community where people live, practice, work and play together.
Thomas Merton proclaimed. “The future for Christians is Zen and Christianity”. We are practicing Zen meditation to help us enter the contemplative tradition that suspends our conceptions of God, so that we can awaken to Divine Presence in all places and in all things. To encourage this experiential spirituality, we have created a new association called Living Presence Mystics, open to mystics of any and all faiths. We use meditation not to escape this life, but to gain the strength and skill to live fully a unitive life.
Roshi Ankai, a Christian Zen Minister, is available to meet one-on-one with each person in the Christian Zen Path in private interviews during meditation. She also meets students at the Zen Garland Sanctuary or in her home with scheduled appointments.
Practitioners are welcome to join weekly liturgy with the Living Presence Community. As practitioners in the Christian Zen Path settle and develop, we offer texts for study, classes, physical exercises helpful to make meditation more comfortable, practices for emotional integration, and study of Christian Zen’s ethical commitments in the Zen Garland Vows. This follows the Core Practices and General Path all practitioners share within Zen Garland. Zen meditation, study with our lineage-holding Teachers, koan and text study, embodiment exercise, Focusing for emotional integration, and service.
Christian Zen currently meets for meditation and study Wednesday mornings at 9am. Meditation is from 9:00 to 10:00am. We encourage a regular home and zendo meditation practice. We sit with all the paths of Zen Garland, choosing the time that best suites our need from the sitting schedule
REV. ANN ANKAI WAGNER, ROSHI
Is Founder and Director of Christian Zen and the first Christian Zen Minister. She is a Dharma Successor of Roshi Paul Genki Kahn in his Soto Zen Buddhist lineage. She works in the tradition of Thomas Merton, integrating the teachings and model of Jesus with the transformational methods of Zen. She is a Christian contemplative, and an activist who has worked in social services for the poor in the urban center in Paterson, NJ since 1983. She co-founded Oasis: A Haven for Women and Children in Paterson, NJ, a nonprofit engaged in feeding, clothing and educating hundreds of women and children daily. She began her contemplative practices with Centering Prayer under Thomas Keating in Contemplative Outreach. She completed training as a Spiritual Director with the Diocese of NY. She was Co-Director for six years, and is currently a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace Lay Associates.
We have two Christian Zen weekend retreats a year. Our retreats are intensive periods of spiritual practice during which silence is maintained to limit distractions. Periods of zazen and walking meditation are interspersed with private meetings with Teachers, physical exercise, liturgy and group talks by the teachers.
COMMITMENT TO THE ZEN GARLAND VOWS
Each year we offer a ten week course on the ethics and practice of the Zen Garland Vows. During that time we are also helped to sew a rakusu, a small ritual garment worn during meditation and liturgy symbolizing our commitment. The course culminates in the Ceremony of Commitment to the Zen Garland Vows, during which we receive our rakusu and a spiritual name from our Teacher.
SUGGESTED READINGS FOR CHRISTIAN ZEN
Zen Mind Beginners Mind – Shunryu Suzuki
Three Pillars of Zen – Phillip Kapleau, Roshi
The Wisdom Jesus – Cynthia Bourgeault
Sexism and God-Talk – Rosemary Radford Ruether
The teachings of Anthony DeMello
The Zen Teachings of Jesus, Kenneth Long
Jesus – An Historical Approximation by Jose A. Pagola
Meeting Jesus again for the first time – Marcus Borg
Thomas Merton’s later works
Entering the Castle – St. Theresa of Avalia
The Four Noble Truths in the Heart of the Gospel – James Finley, Richard Rohr
Book of Christian Mysticism – Contemplative spirituality- Carl McColman
Meister Eckhart Creation Spirituality and selected sermons of Meister Eckhart
The Great Work – Thomas Berry
Viewing the Universe Story – Brian Swimm
Christian Zen also offers a Practice Path for those seeking a more structured spiritual direction. For these individuals, Christian Zen provides four Expressions: Spiritual Development, Teaching, Chaplaincy and Ordination as a Christian Zen Minister.
“The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.”
Christian Zen is offered every Sunday from 9am to 11am