A short introduction about Zen.nl in English.
Zen.nl is an organization that provides zen coaching, zen courses, zen retreats and zen teacher training courses, aiming to help as many people as possible to attain sustainable happiness. By sustainable happiness we mean the improved ability to enjoy the challenges of life in a wide array of circumstances.
By providing zen coaching, zen courses, zen retreats and zen teacher training courses, it is our mission to help as many people as possible to attain sustainable happiness. Happiness, for that matter, is not the same as enjoyment, but happiness is the skill that enables you to enjoy the moment more. This mission is our modern-day translation of the ancient Buddhist bodhisattva ideal of bringing enlightenment to all living beings. Research and experience have shown us that our pursuit of this mission is actually the best possible way to attain our own sustainable happiness. The term 'sustainable' in our mission refers both to the skill of happiness and to the way in which we aim to accomplish our mission: in harmony with our surroundings and nature.
Zen.nl Contemporary BuddhismThe guiding principle in all we do at Zen.nl is our mission as phrased above. In all respects, the tradition of Zen Buddhism is our primary source of inspiration, guiding all our coaching sessions, courses and retreats. In addition, our training approach is guided by modern scientific data, current educational paradigms and contemporary social standards. Zen.nls theoretical and practical starting-points have been documented in great detail in books by Rients Ritskes and in countless articles published in our weekly newsletter, ZenActueel, over the years. Zen.nl is a regular participant in scientific studies of the effects of meditation and evaluates the quality and effects of its own training activities on a comprehensive scale.
Zen.nl aspires to achieve the highest possible quality levels in all its training activities and is CRKBO-registered, a government professional education register in the Netherlands. Senior teachers train new zen teachers and help them, if necessary, to establish their own new Zen.nl branches. There are 39 Zen.nl branches in the Netherlands at present, while another ten to twenty new branches are expected to open up over the next few years. Zen.nl aims to be a professional organization of lay practitioners, and its growth in recent years has helped to create both full-time and part-time jobs.
Zen.nl FounderZen.nl was founded in 1989 by Rients Ritskes (1957), who became at that time a full-time zen teacher, after he had been working as a student counsellor at Utrecht University for a decade. As a student of zen, he worked with many well-established zen masters and obtained his zen teaching qualification from Hirata Roshi at the Tenryu-ji monastery in Kyoto. In 2013, he formally severed relations with Tenryu-ji, the zen monastery where he had been a regular practitioner of zen up until that time. Rients Ritskes visits Japan on a regular basis to lead study trips and pilgrimages in and around Kyoto. Several of Rients Ritskes' books have been translated into German, and one into English (The Zen Manager), which is available online.
More zen means greater happiness
In March 2014, over 1200 people took part in our annual Zen.nl survey gauging the happiness of all involved in our organization. Its main conclusion is that people who meditate are happier than people who do not meditate, and people who meditate more are happier than people who meditate less. This survey was performed for the third consecutive year, and its results are very similar to those of previous years.
Several scientific studies indicate that more meditation leads to greater happiness because meditation improves our concentration. The ability to focus on the present moment appears to be strongly related to mental well-being; and the ability to concentrate improves our ability to choose what we will focus our attention on. This allows us to enjoy the positive aspects in a growing array of situations, even those we would initially consider to be negative ones.
Scientists have also found a more physiological explanation in the fact that meditation demonstrably improves important neural connections in our brain. These improved connections re-establish links between our thinking and our feeling, which improves our ability to feel what is right for us and what is not. If we develop this feeling ability, it will obviously makes us happier.