a zen community gathered from every corner of Australia... and beyond.
Zen Open Circle was born on a Sydney verandah in 2001 with a group of dedicated Zen students led by Susan Murphy Roshi. Since then it has blossomed into a vibrant and creative centre of Zen practice, offering unique access to the pertinent wisdom of this ancient tradition.
We meet to clarify the Way with members from around Australia and overseas, exploring the most pressing issues of our time. Meditation, talks, open discussion and study groups are all part of the mix. We encourage everyone to bring their full selves to bear on the perennial questions of life, death, suffering and joy.
Central to the culture of Zen Open Circle is an exploration of 'koans'. Koans are 'public cases' spoken from the depths of genuine Zen experience. They cannot be solved, but instead resolve as your life when experienced with an open heart and mind. A life of koan is a life of continuous practice and wonder. Each koan shines a particular light on what it is to be here completely when we offer our full attention.
Somebody seeking to own a treasured Ikkyu calligraphy asked that wily Zen master and poet to inscribe ‘a distillation of the highest wisdom’.
Ikkyu silently took up his brush and inscribed the character, ‘Attention’.
The visitor was dissatisfied. ‘Is that all?’ Ikkyu obligingly took up his brush and added two more words to flesh the matter out: ‘Attention’, ‘Attention’.
‘But what does attention mean?’ the visitor asked.
So Ikkyu kindly laid the matter bare with just three more words: ‘Attention means attention’.
~ roshi ~
Our founding and resident Zen teacher, Susan Murphy Roshi began Zen practice in the Sydney Zen Centre in the mid-eighties, was appointed to teach by John Tarrant Roshi in 1998, receiving dharma transmission – or authorisation as an independent teacher – in both Robert Aitken’s Diamond Sangha and John Tarrant ’s Pacific Zen lineages in 2001.
~ sensei ~
Kynan Sutherland was appointed Sensei (apprentice Zen teacher) by Susan Murphy in 2019. He began his Zen training in 2005 and has attended every possible Zen Open Circle event since.
He currently teaches at Zen Open Circle and Castlemaine Zen, a thriving Zen community in regional Victoria.
Kynan is a father, artist, musician and carpenter.
~ sangha attendent ~
Susan Murphy Roshi appointed Deborah Chadwick as Sangha Attendant in 2020 to offer wise Elder counsel and support to the entire sangha, including Roshi, Sensei, Elected Officers and Membership.
Deborah has been a student of Susan Murphy and a member of Zen Open Circle since 2001.
~ treasurer ~
Jeremy has been practising zen in the diamond sangha tradition since 1998 when he stumbled across a ratty thrown out copy of Robert Aitken's "Taking the path of Zen". Weeks later having located Diamond Sangha affiliated Adelaide Zen Group on the interweb he was attending a weekend sesshin with Ross Bolleter roshi. Things have never been the same since.
Seeking broader sangha connection meant sitting with other Diamond Sangha teachers across Australia and in New Zealand, as well as short visits to sit in Bukokkuji in Japan, and the SF Zen Centre.
He first sat with Zen Open Circle and began working with Susan Murphy at Gorricks Run in 2012 and again - things have never been the same. Regular sesshin at Cloud Mountain and more recently in home hermitage is a pillar of life, as is involvement in sangha organisation and coordination.
Jem lives in Adelaide, is a husband, father, and grandfather. He is also a kinda musician and the alter ego of honky-tonk evangelist Reverend Rowdy
~ sangha relations ~
Chris was originally drawn to meditation practice as a response to the great existential questions of human life. He began this practice journey within the Yoga tradition, striving to master the path of liberation through yogic meditation and esoteric practice. After some years of beneficial but ultimately frustrating practice he was, while travelling, drawn to the non-dual teachings of teachers such as Ramana Maharishi, Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti.
Returning to Australia and finding a teacher, practice community and teachings here has been one of the luckiest and most rewarding developments in his life. These three aspects have been wonderfully embodied by Roshi Susan Murphy, Zen Open Circle and the profound and direct teachings of the Zen tradition.
He is deeply grateful to take part in this Sangha and the clarity, wisdom and compassion that it spreads so abundantly.
~ sangha relations ~
Emily has been practicing with Zen Open Circle since 2015, falling in love with Cloud Mountain and the Zen practice after her first autumn sesshin that year.
After spending some years travelling in Thailand and India, immersed in the yoga traditions of these countries, Emily read Roshi Susan's book 'Minding the Earth, Mending the World' during a trip to Tasmania in January 2013. This felt like a call to change direction, and she is very happy to be here in the Zen Open Circle sangha, almost 10 years later!
~ eco dharma~
Lizzie lives in Western Australia and joined Zen Open Circle in 2008. She has attended many ZOC sesshins and enjoys the on-line practice opportunities offered. She loves land-based sesshin at Cloud Mountain with the sound of exquisite bird call, the mighty frog chorus and the windblown roar of eucalyptus trees on the hillsides.
Lizzie was a journalist and now works as a psychologist. Today her main interest is doing SOMETHING to heal and support our precious ecology. The ZOC Eco-Dharma group provides this opportunity, along with work to restore land near to her home. She has gone back to research and writing, this time about fauna and flora inhabiting the land close to where she lives – a wonderful gateway into the mysterious depths of the magnificent Jewel Net of Indra.
~ membership officer ~
Jacqui joined Zen Open Circle in 2002. This photo is from her Jukai ceremony held in Darkinjung Country at the Gorrick’s Run Zendo in 2004.
Jacqui has a background in studying and teaching Chinese Language and Culture Studies at Sydney University. While living and studying in Beijing for a year she travelled in the summer to Tibet. She loved studying Japanese language and travelling in Japan.
She is grateful life brought her to the mysterious and beautiful practice of Zen and Susan Murphy Roshi’s soul full Zen teaching and writing, and fierce love for this one earth. Jacqui looks after a gorgeous human daughter named Sophie and a little cat child named Loui.
~ public officer ~
Drawn to the depth and lucidity of the Zen path through many different threads over many years, Oonagh was inspired by Roshi Susan Murphy's direct engagement with our planetary crisis and open embrace of the ancient spiritual traditions of Australia's first peoples.
Oonagh walked into Zen Open Circle in 2019 delighted to at last be sitting with a female teacher.
~ sangha relations web site ~
Dave weaved a rough path to this Sahnga. Travelling most of his life intentionally isolated, scared and avoidant of human contact. Curious about Buddhism and philosophy, frequently conflicted with a sense of dissonance and disconnect from a world that appears absurd, he stumbled upon zen. Through the practice of just-sitting (meditation), zen offered a solid-fluid place of refuge for a very busy-troubled mind.
Within this community, he feels among kindred hearts-&-minds – often at ease, un-judged and wholeheartedly welcome to simply turn up, just as he is.
In a day-to-day sense, Dave is an artist-maker, baker and technical illustrator.
navigating this website
Zen Open Circle's community includes close-knit members spread around Australia and the world. For this reason, our website is delineated into 'public' and 'private' areas.
Open to anyone, this area offers an overview of our community and some basic insights into Zen Buddhism.
Limited to authorised (signed-up and paid) members.
These areas are also moderated to protect our sangha's privacy and deeply-shared practices within a safe and truly welcoming space.
becoming a member
Membership to Zen Open Circle requires a paid donation via an optional sliding-scale ranging from $50 to $250.
Member signup is facilitated through an approval process.