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.

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




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Newsletter | Other newsletters from lockdown


Dear Lockdown friends

This will be our last Lockdown Letter for a while. There will be others, just not so indigestively regular! So we will continue our zazen and our practice here at Poplar Grove; may you do the same wherever you are. To quote the slogan from one of our Cape virtual Zen groups; ‘If you can’t go out, go in!’ ( We are in the process of updating our website to use it better – for instance, by installing a mailing list subscriber button, recent Dharma talks and occasional newsletters. As you know, I am still at sea with all kinds of technologies so please be patient.

And, once again, I need to thank you for all your donations. This is so deeply moving. Your generosity inspires us to keep this work alive. At PGZ it enables us to maintain the buildings (we are rebuilding a long drop that meerkats have burrowed to the point of collapse and completing the additions to the kraalhuis hermitage kitchen). It also gives Margie the opportunity to keep up with her teaching of the children and her support of the squatters outside of town during winter. And, of course, we keep warming our zendo cushions.

Many enthusiastic donors are not, for one reason or another, those who do Zen retreats. There are those who practise selflessness by sitting zazen and those who practise selflessness by leading another across the street or making a bank transfer. It is the selflessness that is the point, not the manner of expression; this is an essential characteristic of genuine Zen practice. We give ourselves to this world in whatever way we can and to value one form above another is merely the working of our judgement-mind. When we allow the world to touch us, we understand the fundamental equality and impartiality of emptiness. To put it another way; zazen is just zazen, work is just work. The brokenness and the beauty of this world will bring us all to our knees in one way or another. May we take such an opportunity to express our gratitude and aliveness. This morning I came across a wonderful quote from the late Shunryu Suzuki Roshi which knocked me off my chair:

‘I don’t know anything about consciousness
I only teach you how to hear the birds sing.’

I was recently asked to write a short piece for a Sunday newspaper as a contribution to a multi-faith column on the Corona Pandemic. I am not sure when it will be published but have been given permission to use it in this newsletter. So here it is below. Thank you for this journey together into what - we must insist - is always a new life.

‘Through the eyes of the Corona Buddha’

'The real question of today is not whether the Covid-19 lockdown is correct or not, it is not about my fears or my finances, nor is it about how to protect myself against sickness and death. The real question is this: Whatever the reality of this moment, how will I live my life? This is the approach of Zen. We take the life we find ourselves in - whatever it may be - and we start there. We take the person we are – whoever we may be - and start there. With the truth of this circumstance as my anchor, how do I wake up and live from the very heart of my life? In Zen practice this is always our question to ourselves - it is what we call our ‘koan.’ In this very moment, in this place, at this time and among these people, how will I live my life?

In asking this, it is helpful to stop, take a breath and pay attention. We call this meditation or ‘zazen’ – you may have your own word for it. Zen meditation is not an escape from what is happening or the creation of a private alternative reality; on the contrary, when the voices of our self-concern have a chance to quieten, we find that we are already woven into this world and are naturally a part of it. What is often called ‘the real world’ is not just the news on television or the opinion of pundits; it is also the breath coming and going in my body, the warmth of soapy water as I wash the dishes, the laughter of children and the tears outside my window at night. This is the gift of being awake.

And this is not merely a theoretical pastime. It is our commitment, our discipline, and the source of how we live, for being in this open field includes our embodiment of it. Once again, it is not so much what we do as where it comes from. Acting from beyond our habitual self-interest carries with it a compelling quality of presence and authenticity. From the breadth of the wider view comes wisdom; from the intimacy of our connectedness comes compassion. We meet the world as it is; we meet each person as they are. From there we can act with gratitude and fearlessness, using our skills, intelligence and experience for the benefit of all beings and the environment. When we realize that this world and I are not separate, we look after everything.

To use more traditional words, how do I meet the Buddha in Lockdown? How do I embody God’s grace among the fearful, the dying or the hungry? When I am at home I play with the children, I sew masks, I do nothing; the imam calls himself to prayer and the monk rings his bell in an empty meditation hall. When I am allowed outside, I wander the street in companionship with this universe and the people in it. I go to funerals and sing from the bottom of my heart. How wonderful to see you again!

At a time when our certainties are collapsing we truly need a sane and clear way of responding. We need people who are willing to let go of self in order to live wholeheartedly here. This is a remarkable opportunity for each one of us and for our world - for the sake of us all, how will we use it?

(Antony Osler, Dae Chong, Osho; Guiding Teacher, Poplar Grove Zendo)’

With fond greetings to you all,
Antony and Margie Osler, Dae Chong and Tae Ja Do, Osho
Poplar Grove Zendo 13 June 2020

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