The Priory Road (Harold's Cross), Zen Meditation Group
The history of this group goes back at least as far as 1978 at which time there were weekly Tuesday meetings at St. Mary's Priory, Tallaght. Fr. Philip McShane O.P. was the mainstay of the group at this time and the monks of Throssel Hole Priory were the primary source of inspiration. (Throssel Hole Priory is a centre following in the Soto Zen tradition founded by Rev. Roshi Jiyu Kennett, an Englishwoman who studied Buddhism in Japan and who was based at Shasta Abbey in California.) From the beginning the group has had both non-Buddhists and Buddhists among its ranks.
In January of 1979 a Zen retreat was organised by the group and held in the Tallaght Priory. It was given by a female monk (the term is used to denote both male and female religious in this tradition), Rev. Master Hogetsu Schomberg (later known as Rev Master Hogetsu Keith). In succeeding years there were usually one or two visits a year by monks from Throssel Hole Priory to lead weekend retreats. The list of names includes Rev. Teacher Teigen Stevens, Rev. Teacher Ando Sacco, Rev. Teacher Kinzan Learman and Rev. Teacher Chushin Passmore.
The format of these retreats consisted of periods of zazen (sitting meditation), kinhin (walking meditation), chanting, work periods and silent meals. I mention this because it influenced the format of the Tuesday meetings of the group which consisted of zazen and work period rounded off by a nice cup of tea and scones (silence was not observed) ! The most common sort of work carried out at the meetings was of a cleaning nature, such as vacuuming the carpet and cleaning windows. I reckon the meditation room had the cleanest windows by far of any room in the priory.
The move to Priory Road in Harold's Cross from Tallaght happened around 1982 as a result of Fr. Philip's departure to the U.S.A. for an extended period. The meetings moved to the home of a regular group member who lived in Harold’s Cross and, although the occupants of the house changed during the period, the meetings continued at this venue until the 26th May 1992.
The informal link with the monks of Throssel Hole continued for some time and more retreats were organised at a variety of venues over the years. The last such was held in 1985 in Sligo with Rev. Teacher Chushin Passmore. The Throssel Hole link gradually declined over a period of time and the group took a new direction of sorts when a retreat in the Theravadin tradition was organised in February 1988 with the visit to Dublin of the Ven. Bodhidhamma Bhikku from the Birmingham Buddhist Vihara. Since then several more visits of Theravadin monks have been arranged by the group and good links are developing with Amaravati as well as with Birmingham. Recent visitors from Amaravati include Ven. Ajahn Sucitto and Ven. Ajahn Amaro. At the time of writing the group is also arranging the first visit, so far as we know, of a bhikkuni to Ireland. Sr. Candrasari is due in Dublin towards the end of April . The group now leans more to this tradition for inspiration and guidance on the path but many continue to call it the Zen Meditation Group regardless!