Kynan Sutherland Appointed Apprentice Teacher

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From Susan Murphy Roshi:

Dear friends,


I am pleased to announce that I am appointing Kynan Sutherland to the role of apprentice Zen teacher — placing on his shoulders the inestimable weight of the tradition, and the choiceless obligation to carry it forward, bring it vividly to life, and pass it safely into other hands as time goes on.  

I have every confidence in Kynan’s ability to do all of this with a serious, loving and meticulous care, enriched and enlivened by his literary and artistic background.  His eye is clear, his heart is impassioned, his words are sound and his humility is genuine.  

Kynan began Zen practice in his late twenties with me early in 2005, thereafter attending every possible sesshin with me in both Melbourne and Sydney for the past 14 years.  I’ve watched him mature richly into and through his lay Zen practice, that has unfolded right in the thick of working and family life with Kirsty and their two great kids (Thea, 12, and Hamish, 9) in Castlemaine.

To support his young family, Kynan painfully put aside his extensive training and practice as a visual artist, closing the door of his painting studio for a period of eight years in order to undertake an apprenticeship in carpentry in 2011, completing that in 2014, and working steadily for the next years in this demanding trade.

He now has been able to return part-time to his painting life – working ‘en plein air’ in landscape painting that seeks to engage the very particular energy of rehabilitated countryside of trees, low mountains, rocks, once scoured by a potent gold rush in the mid-nineteenth century – at least one day a week, while continuing to accept only smaller building projects.  Kynan is also a skilled musician in classical guitar, teaching guitar part-time in local schools, and a member of Django Fretts, a gypsy jazz trio.

Kynan joined both the Melbourne Zen Group and Zen Open Circle in Sydney in 2005, and went on to establish the Castlemaine Zen Group (whose membership overlaps in part with MZG) with Chris Barker in 2009, continuing since then to guide its regular weekly sitting schedule and monthly zazenkais, leading discussion and nurturing the life of this small but committed and steadily growing group of strong sitters.

Kynan is of course a deeply familiar and central presence in ZOC, not only doing so much to facilitate practice in – well, practical ways – but stepping with great skill into the role of Tanto in every sesshin since 2010, and in the past two years beginning to offer a Teisho in sesshin.  In addition he has travelled as Tanto to Mountains and Rivers sesshin in Hobart, also offering Teisho there, and for some time Melbourne Zen Group has also been inviting him several times a year to offer Dharma talks at Zazenkai.  In other words – he has already well and truly embarked upon the road to this moment.

At the relatively young age of 42, Kynan’s appointment helps inaugurate a new generation of Zen teachers whose Dharma is openly and strongly native in spirit to this continent  Australia – and to my knowledge one of the first to take a Dharma name marked indelibly by this fact.  His time living and working ‘out bush’ in Country, out from Alice Springs, is part of what underlies his name, that references the mysterious passage of the shadow of a dream kangaroo.

As I have done with Kirk in Melbourne, I will be closely supervising Kynan’s foray into teaching as he begins to assist me in Zen Open Circle sesshins and retreats, and move into whatever role now evolves within his local Zencommunity in Castlemaine, where this news has already been warmly received.

There has been no rush to my appointing Kynan as an apprentice teacher.  It has had its own very steady season, and I feel sure that everyone close to him has seen it coming for quite some time.

I now invite ZOC to welcome him warmly into his new role, which he is likely to fill, as is his custom, with equal parts humility and ease.

Yours in the Dharma
with a deep bow,
Susan Murphy Roshi