Mzansi Zen (Jacana) published in 2016

StoepZen BookMzansi Zen is an affectionate, challenging and witty blend of stories, commentaries and poems about life in present-day South Africa. These are threaded through a day in an actual Zen retreat and are accompanied by wonderful photos and original drawings.

The author’s familiar and authoritative Zen style inspires us into taking up this life with both hands, calling us into an intimacy that is already beneath our feet.

Read it. It will change your mind and open your heart.


Zen Dust (Jacana) published in 2012

StoepZen BookIn this follow-up to his much loved Stoep Zen, Antony takes a trip down the lesser known back roads of the Karoo, from Kimberley to Colesberg, finding divinity in the dust and a Buddha in every pothole.
We are all of us on our way home. And, as Osler’s journey teaches us, as long as our eyes and hearts are open we belong wherever we go. In this way, however far we travel, our true home is always where we are.
With gentle wisdom and deep compassion, Osler connects with the people he meets along the way and shares their stories, past and present, as well as his own personal history and insights. The road is sprinkled with his special brand of poetry and interwoven with a fresh telling of the tale of Gotama, the man who would become Buddha.
Whether on familiar terrain or new territory, Antony never loses his sense of wonder. And he doesn’t shy away from the conundrums of a country in flux. Instead, he delights in the ordinary and infuses it with grace. Each encounter is a gift and his generosity in sharing will become a treasure on every bookshelf.


Stoep Zen (Jacana) published 2008

StoepZen BookLao Tsu meets Oom Schalk Lourens in this delightful meditation on what it means to practice Zen in a changing South Africa.
Antony Osler contemplates life as it passes by the stoep of his Karoo farm, sharing anecdotes and conversations, poetic images and indelible characters, watching the seasons, the people and his country as everything changes - sometimes radically - just so.
South Africa has experienced one of the most riveting, frightening and inspiring political revolutions in history. How, Osler asks himself, do we dance with this? How do we reach down through swirling emotions into quieter space where we can see a little further, love a little deeper, laugh a little louder?
‘I lift my eyes to Loskop and fear no evil. But if I don’t watch my step, I will fall into an aardvarkgat.’
Zen practice is to find the heart of each moment. Osler’s book is as full of heart as it is of wisdom; his musings on humility, acceptance, reconciliation and love are gentle - and often humorous - reminders of what it is to be human.


Mzansi Zen, Zen Dust and Stoep Zen can be ordered from good book stores, on-line book sellers, and from Emoyeni, Bodhi Khaya and the Buddhist Retreat Centre. All three books have been reprinted and should be available from mid-January 2017.

Signed copies can be ordered directly from Margie at Poplar Grove.



23rd April 2016 – First talk of the Freedom Day retreat 2016

PlayAntony, Osho talks about the beginning of a retreat, and Linji, the founder of the Rinzai school of Zen.


24th April 2016 – Second talk of the Freedom Day retreat 2016
PlayAntony, Osho talks about retreat etiquette, and tells stories from the Rinzai Roku, the Record of Rinzai, exploring the understanding of practice.


25th April 2016 – Third talk of the Freedom Day retreat 2016
PlayAntony, Osho talks about group practice, and a koan from the collection 'Entangling Vines', Luo Pu's Offering.


26th April 2016 – Fourth Talk of the Freedom Day retreat 2016
PlayIn the context of giving Bodhisattva precepts, Antony, Osho talks about the 10th precept, Not to slander the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.


27th April 2016 – Fifth talk of the Freedom Day retreat 2016
PlayAntony, Osho continues his talk on the tenth precept, and life as a koan.


28th April 2016 – Sixth talk of the Freedom Day retreat 2016
PlayAntony, Osho talks about the Bodhisattva precepts and his lineage.


31st December 2016 – First talk of the New Year retreat 2016/17
PlayOpening the retreat, Antony, Osho talks about models of Zen practice.


1st January 2017 – Second talk of the New Year retreat 2016/17
PlayAntony, Osho talks about the territory of practice, where koans are at home.


2nd January 2017 – Third talk of the New Year retreat 2016/17
PlayAntony, Osho talks about koan practice and how to embody the teachings.


3rd January 2017 – Fourth talk of the New Year retreat 2016/17
PlayAntony, Osho talks about living beyond opinion and attachment.


4th January 2017 – Fifth talk of the New Year retreat 2016/17
PlayAntony, Osho talks about sitting meditation.


5th January 2017 – Sixth talk of the New Year retreat 2016/17
PlayAntony, Osho talks about taking precepts, and answers a question about how his practice has evolved over more than 40 years.


6th January 2017 – Seventh talk of the New Year retreat 2016/17
PlayAntony, Osho talks about embarking on the way of practice.















Practice Note
It is the new year again. A week ago the summer heat was baking, the veld was dry, the wind was hot. Daily, we watched the sky for clouds; daily, we prayed for rain. Then the rain came yesterday evening, just as we weren’t looking. Our hearts opened, we stood outside and got wet, we sat in the Zendo and listened to the drumming on the roof. If we can accept and enjoy both the drought and the rain, there is no problem, no suffering, no need for Zen or enlightenment. Things are just as they are, ourselves with them.

But so often we resist what comes, and our experience of this resistance is part of what we call suffering. It is then that the longing arises in us for a life beyond suffering, for Zen practice, for enlightenment and all that. We look at our lives and we realize then that it is not only the weather that throws us into the world of like and dislike. Today our lovers arrive with flowers, tomorrow they leave at dawn; today the roads have pot holes, tomorrow they are fixed; one day we are dispirited, the next we are happy. We are tossed about on waves of emotions and thoughts. As the late Leonard Cohen once sang, ‘I don’t trust my inner feelings, inner feelings come and go.’ More layers of complicatedness appear, one on top of the other. We react to how we feel. We don’t like feeling down, we want to feel up; we reject one and embrace the other. Then we admonish ourselves for being so full of attachment. And we anxiously search for re-assurance about how to do things better, scanning self-help magazines and glossy Buddhist quarterlies, or getting life-advice on Utube. Instead of opinions falling away, we are smothered in more of them. Anxiety and restlessness increase. What looks like spiritual searching is more suffering, instead. It doesn‘t fix what we thought it would. So now what?

When we look closely, we find that we are not only suffering, we are also shining. For, alongside all this complicatedness, we also experience moments of great openness and simplicity. These may be moments of forgiveness, of apology or contrition, of beauty, of kindness, or even moments of close attention to a skill or craft – moments when our selves are put aside. In this way we discover that we contain both pain and clarity; they are both part of our lives. This is the wider what-is; the wider me.

From this broader base, we can set out more appropriately and realistically. In doing so, it helps to put aside our ideas of the way ahead. For, if we look closely, we find that we are actually being led by something we can’t define, something endlessly subtle and mysterious. We move like sightless persons into what is, feeling our way into something lived not thought - into embodiment. And, in doing so, we come to realize that any ideas about what we are doing and where we are going are not only of little help but are often a hindrance. We have to discover this for ourselves and meditation is one word we use for this process. With meditation, we can explore a kind of non-judgemental spacious awareness, one that is not endlessly caught in opinions, in the anxious search for a solution, in looking for a way out or for a way to do it right - all of which is actually some kind of avoidance of what is. Intellectually, we know less and less where we are going, and yet in the marrow of our bones we know more and more that this is how it is meant to be. From time to time the view from the mountain top appears through the clouds. It appears and it disappears, we find it and we lose it. Acceptance of the losing is already a finding; they are no longer opposites, a duality, for they splash in the same bathtub.

Then we know for ourselves that things are just as they are. Suffering and enlightenment are just suffering and enlightenment; doubt and self-judgement are just doubt and self-judgement; beauty and laughter are just beauty and laughter. Now the scars on our arm and in our heart are not signs of defeat; they are marks of aliveness. When we open our eyes, we see the blue of the sky, we see the trees and the electricity pylons and each other – we see them as they are, unbounded by our ideas, theories and notions about them. This may not sound comforting enough; it may sound too difficult. But this kind of doubtfulness is just more attachment to what the thinking mind produces. If we can drop this, we can find a place that is not ruled by the categories of easy or difficult, comforting or discomforting. It is all just as it is, which is another matter entirely.

As an end-piece to this letter, here is the last paragraph of a piece I recently wrote for a Sunday newspaper on the late Leonard Cohen, one of our more famous Zen students, a man who studied with my own teacher, Sasaki Roshi, for many years, and whose Zen pervaded his art:-

‘I am often asked what relevance Leonard Cohen has for us in South Africa. Well, for me, what is beautiful is always relevant and that may be legacy enough. But Cohen himself never shied away from social comment, even if he declined to offer particular solutions. In his prophetic role, he calls us to a life of nobility, from which considered political action can arise. And, as a student of Zen, he makes sure that this vision is ordinary and practical. This combination of grandeur in the grounded is quite remarkable. In the last resort, it is a call to selflessness and intimacy in this very life we have been given. How will we respond? This is our koan. We are not asked to be perfect or to always get things right - as Cohen himself sings, ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’ But we are asked to stop for a moment, to pay attention, to put down our arguments and our fixed positions and to open our eyes. There we will find our world in all its glorious ordinariness. We will stand in each others’ shoes and be willing to be surprised. We will look after the person in front of us and the person across the street, we will stop at the traffic light, we will tell our children stories, and we will lift our voices in song -

'May the lights in the land of plenty shine on the truth some day.'