Ancient Zen art takes a seat on Karoo stoep

by Luyolo Mkentane, Weekend Post, Feb 7, 2009

Karoo, South Africa -- A COLESBERG-based human rights advocate and sheep farmer is giving the ancient tradition of Chinese Zen a home in the dusty Karoo and has written a book to tell his and other stories of leading a Zen life.

Antony Osler is a poet, singer and photographer who also specialises in labour arbitration. He lives with his family on Poplar Grove, a sheep farm near Colesberg.

He launched his 176-page Stoep Zen: A Zen Life in South Africa in Durban last week.

Published by Jacana Media, Osler said the glossy, soft-cover coffee table publication comprised a combination of South African stories and old Chinese stories that I retell in a South African context.

Some of the stories are about my life as a Buddhist monk and some of the stories are about South Africa in general.

I want to show that if we can live life fully with all our hearts, then in fact we'd be living the Zen life right here in South Africa.

Osler trained as a monk in the mid-1980s but now leads a family life.

Zen is part of the Buddhist spiritual tradition. Basically, it originates from China and it's a very direct form of spiritual discipline or philosophy, he explained.

Practically, Osler said, Zen means to live your life to the full. That's what drew me to Zen in the first place ... that's why I want to give it (Zen) a home here in South Africa.

Being a Buddhist monk means you dedicate your life to living fully wherever you are and relating fully to every person that you meet. Also it means that you give yourself fully to the place in which you find yourself.

When you're a monk, you lead a very disciplined life although the purpose was not to separate yourself from the world but to help you live a life that's connected with other people and a life that also connects with your own environment.

With the title of the book, Osler said, he was trying to give the Zen tradition a new home in South Africa.

I live in a house that has a stoep where I love to sit and watch the sun go down my Zen life is right there with me

Asked if the book had been well-received by the public, Osler said: I've been very fortunate, all the reviews have been very generous

Osler, who was the first meditation teacher at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo, KwaZulu Natal, said he invited people to come to his farm's guest cottage for a meditation retreat.

If the book helps people to live life fully, with all their hearts, then it would have achieved what it?s set up to do.