In 1986 when Sensei Amala Wrightson (then Charlotte) began her Zen training at the Rochester Zen Centre, she learned how to make traditional meditation gear including zafus (cushions) and zabutons (mats). Over the following years Amala-sensei used these skills to supply both individuals and sitting groups with long-lasting, practical meditation gear. In 2004 Amala-sensei returned to New Zealand to establish the Auckland Zen Centre and handed the cushion making onto Teresa Behrens, who developed it into a business and named it "Dharmagear". In 2015 Teresa passed Dharmagear back to the now well-established Auckland Zen Centre. Today Dharmagear is operated as a not-for-profit business and all proceeds are returned to the Auckland Zen Centre so that we can continue to provide an ideal place for people to learn and develop their meditation practice. At Dharmagear we continue to make a range of traditional mediation cushions, mats and meditation stools, drawing on the skills of local woodworkers and sewers. Everything is still handmade here in Auckland, using natural fabrics, fillings and materials.
The Auckland Zen Centre is an urban Buddhist community based in Onehunga, Auckland, New Zealand. The Auckland Zen Centre officially opened its doors in January 2004, and became a charitable trust in 2006. Its founders, Sensei Amala Wrightson and Richard von Sturmer, are both Auckland-born and had a long association with the Zen Society of New Zealand before moving to the United States where they undertook full-time training at the Rochester Zen Centre as students of Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede. In 2003 Amala-sensei completed formal koan training under Roshi Kjolhede. She and Richard then returned to resettle in New Zealand and establish a centre for Zen practice and training in Auckland. Amala-sensei was given formal permission to teach by Roshi Kjolhede in 2004, and was sanctioned as a full Dharma heir in a ceremony held in Auckland in 2012. Amala-sensei is the spiritual director and full-time teacher of the Auckland Zen Centre. She continues to spend some time each year at the Rochester Zen Center and is a member of the American Zen Teachers' Association (AZTA).
The purpose of the Auckland Zen Centre is to foster deeply grounded Zen Buddhist practice, and to support a vibrant Sangha of committed practitioners. We offer meditation workshops, regular meditation opportunities (both formal and informal sittings), talks on Zen practice, week-long sesshins (retreats) and training opportunities. As a community we celebrate a full range of ceremonies to mark important days on the Buddhist calendar. We also work with other groups to support a fair and sustainable society as environmental care and people care are both essential parts of our Buddhist practice.