Introduction to Doshin Kusan, Forest Way Zen and The Way of the Forest Hermitage
Barry Farrin was ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 2020 and his ordained name is Reverend Doshin Kusan Roshi. He was also given transmission in this tradition and is now able to guide serious Zen students through the process to ordination. He was a lay teacher for many years and was given the title of Roshi in 2015. He now runs the third Soto Zen lineage in Australia. Reverend Doshin Kusan received ordination from James Ford Roshi who has been a Zen Buddhist Priest for 50 years.
James Ford Roshi travelled to Australia for the ordination and administered transmission to Reverend Doshin Kusan while in Australia. Kusan will continue taking students through koan practice of the Diamond Sangha. He now has transmission in two Zen lineages.
Kusan began Forest Way Zen in 1989 on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. He began to meditate after his divorce in 1974 and in 1976 he became interested in Buddhism and particularly in Zen Buddhism. He first met Subhana Barzaghi of the Diamond Sangha in 1976 and she later became his main teacher.
Kusan married Marie in 1979 in Sydney and they both began to sit in meditation. They tried Transcendental Meditation in the early days and Kusan was influenced to meditate by his involvement in Karate Do. After working towards his black belt and after a trip to Japan Kusan put more attention on meditation.
Marie and Kusan moved to Queensland in 1987 and began to sit with the Brisbane Zen Group. After moving to the Sunshine Coast, they travelled to Brisbane for three years almost every Sunday. This was a round trip of 300kms. There was no resident Zen teacher in Queensland at that time, so Rosalind Stone from Canada began to teach in Queensland. Kusan studied under Rosalind for several years and then found that he had developed a good relationship with Subhana Roshi, who was a resident of Northern New South Wales. When Subhana Roshi moved to Sydney, Kusan attended many Zen sesshin in Sydney.
Doshin Kusan found that without a regular teacher to guide him he had to find a way of meditating and he began to use Shikantaza or just sitting as his main practice. He later developed this skill, or as he later learned, Silent Illumination, as one of his main meditation practices. His early training was mostly of a Soto style with the Brisbane Zen Group. Teachers came from the Joko Beck school in America.
Kusan lived in a Korean Zen monastery in Brisbane during 1995 and 1996 for just under 12 months. He then went to study and train with Robert Aitken Roshi in Hawaii and completed an Ango (Training Period) for more than 2 months. During his time there he worked on building the temple for the Diamond Sangha in Hawaii and attended the last sesshin that Aitken Roshi conducted.
After his retirement Kusan conducted mindfulness meditation workshops each week at different locations around the Sunshine Coast while continuing to teach Zen at Forest Way Zen. He had used mindfulness meditation during his work in palliative care and cancer care as a psychotherapist.
After the bombings of the Twin Towers in 2001 Kusan became active in creating reconciliation on the Sunshine Coast with Muslims and other faiths. He was one of the founding members of the Sunshine Coat Interfaith Network (SCIN). SCIN held regular meetings at the local university and church venues. This activity went on for 5 years. The seminars provided a place to express strong feelings and eventually a forum of healing.
Kusan has attended about 500 to 600 days on Zen buddhist retreats in sesshin, Zazenkai and other Buddhist retreats over the years and conducted over 150 retreats including sesshin, zazenkai and mindfulness training periods. He was made a practice leader in 1999 and was invited to teach as an assistant teacher in 2004 after completing his koan study. He was given transmission in 2015 in the Diamond Sangha by Subhana Barzaghi and the title of Roshi.
Forest Way Zen: Way of the Forest Hermitage conducts weekly sittings, regular Zazenkai, a five-day Sesshin and 2- 3-day retreats for Jukai celebrations at the Way of the Forest Hermitage in Doonan. Regular introductions are held by senior students of Forest Way Zen; Way of the Forest Hermitage who now conduct short Saturday intensives for 4 hours. Emphasis is placed on learning correct meditation and learning the liturgy of Soto Zen. These events are temporarily closed due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Forest Way Zen has conducted Sunday mindfulness workshops for people with chronic pain, chronic illness, arthritis, and other issues that reduce life enjoyment. This is run by the Forest Way Zen Care and no charge is made to participants. Members of Forest Way Zen are engaged in helping in this endeavour to show compassion within the sangha. This year Doshin Kusan will be teaching Zen and ordinary meditation to older students with the emphasis of sitting on a chair. These workshops will be run at Cooroy library but most of these group activities are in recess due to COVID-19. There are plans to begin these groups next year.
After completing high school Doshin Kusan began a career in sales, working in real estate and as a management consultant conducting sales training and management training for industry. After his divorce from his first wife he changed direction and completed three university qualifications specializing in social science and psychotherapy and counselling. (see below). Kusan also studied karate and gained his black belt during this time. Kusan spent much of his later years before retirement working in palliative care and cancer care. Kusan now spends 20-25 hours a week in Zen teaching and training with Forest Way Zen: Way of the Forest Hermitage.
B.S.Sc. Queensland University of Technology
Grad. Dip. of Counselling Queensland University of Technology
M.App.Sc. University of Western Sydney.