Zen Teacher in the Diamond Sangha


Subhana Barzaghi has practiced Zen Buddhist meditation for over 30 years in the Diamond Sangha, a lay Zen Buddhist tradition. She trained and study with Robert Aitken Roshi and John Tarrant Roshi both in Australia and the USA and trained under Yamada Roshi in Japan. Subhana received dharma transmission (full authorization as a Roshi) from her teachers in 1996 and became the first female Roshi in the Diamond Sangha Tradition.

The Diamond Sangha was founded in 1974 by Robert and Anne Aitken in Hawaii and has its roots in the Soto Rinzai lineage in Japan. The Diamond Sangha represents a lay stream of Soto Zen which also includes aspects of Rinzai Zen, especially the intensive study of koans. It puts emphasis on the use of English in ritual, full equality of women, democratic processes and egalitarian principles and family practice. The SZC is affiliated with the Diamond Sangha which has affiliated networks throughout the world.

Subhana founded and built the Kuan Yin Meditation Centre Inc. in Lismore in 1997 and formed a lay Zen Sangha there. Subhana moved to Sydney in 1999 and invited Ellen Davison to teach in the Diamond Sangha. Ellen became the resident managing teacher of the Kuan Yin Meditation Centre.

Subhana has been a senior guiding resident teacher of the Sydney Zen Centre since 2000 and leads intensive traditional Zen Sesshins at SZC rural retreat Centre – Kodo-ji Temple of the Ancient Ground at Gorricks Run in upper MacDonald Valley via St. Albans. At the SZC on Monday nights from 7 – 9pm, Subhana teaches and offers regular interviews for members.

Subhana is a guiding teacher for the MZG and has been leading Zen sesshins and conducting workshops for the MZG since 1997.

Innovative practices, retreats, workshops

As well as leading traditional 7 day Zen sesshins, Subhana has designed innovative styles of retreats, programs and workshops. These innovative retreats have provided new contemporary pathways and open new doorways that reach out and engage the wider community.

Zen & the Arts has a long celebrated history in Japan and over the last 20 years, Subhana has woven her love of creativity into Zen practice. Subhana leads Zen & Creativity retreats every two years and has worked alongside American artist and activist Mayumi Oda, calligrapher, writer and translator Kaz Tanahashi, and co-lead several ‘Heart of Creativity” retreats with writer Joyce Kornblatt.

Another innovative retreat format is the socially engaged Buddhist retreats that were held at the city dojo of the SZC with fellow Zen teacher Gillian Coote. These engaged Buddhist retreats called, ‘World as Self’ retreats, focused on the interface between socially engaged mindful work, offering service and voluntary work to the wider community and Zen practice.

The SZC & MZG have conducted ‘Mountains & Rivers’ Zen sesshins, which emphasise mindful walking practice in nature, camping out under the stars in wild and beautiful places. These wilderness retreats have been held at Kodo-ji in which is surrounded by the Dharug National Park. Subhana lead a Mountains and Rivers Sesshin for the MZG along the world heritage Great Ocean track in Southern Victoria.

Subhana has lead numerous professional and experiential workshops, for eg., ‘Death and Dying’ workshops, ‘Zen & Dream’ workshops, ‘Zen Koan and Poetry’ retreats. In further developing and deepening the understanding of the Buddha dharma Subhana has encouraged sutra study with the interweaving and love of both Insight Vipassana practice and Zen practice she has conducted dharma study retreats alongside senior insight teacher Patrick Kearney.

The Zen community has been exploring resonances between indigenous spirituality and Zen, since the 1980’s. The SZC has invited Maureen Smith and Uncle Max (Dulumunmun) to give talks, lead workshops in the bush and share knowledge of indigenous spirituality, songs and stories. One of the important insights and an area of common ground that indigenous spirituality shares with Zen Buddhism is the wisdom of interconnectedness. We can learn an immense amount from the wisdom of indigenous Australians and their spiritual relationship to the land and a sense of place.

Subhana writes and contributes regular articles to Mind Moon Circle – The Quarterly Journal of the Sydney Zen Centre and to Vast & Ordinary News MZG newsletter.

For an considered personal reflections and biographical history, Subhana wrote a chapter “The journey of a lay female Zen teacher – On a withered tree a flower blooms” published in “Buddhism in Australia – Traditions in Change, (2011) Edited by Cristina Rocha & Michelle Barker – Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism.

Further information about sesshins, workshops and weekly schedules.

The Sydney Zen Centre – 251 Young St. Annandale

Melbourne Zen Group

Subhana’s Zen Teaching Schedule

View Subhana’s Zen Teaching Schedule.

Upcoming Retreats: 2024