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Koans of Sickness, Old Age and Death

  • Mountain Rain Zendo 2016 Wall Street Vancouver, BC, V5L 1J5 Canada (map)

"Medicine and disease subdue each other. The whole earth is medicine. What is your self?" 

Yunmen--Case 87 from the Blue Cliff Record

When the young man Siddhartha Gautama, left the protected confines of his father's palace, he encountered the Four Messengers: a ill person, an elderly person, a corpse, and finally a sage sitting in serene meditation. Seeing the reality of sickness, old age and death set him on the path of spiritual practice, seeking a way to live in a world of suffering with freedom and equanimity, wisdom and compassion. 

Each of us meets sickness, old age and death, sometimes in childhood, sometimes not until well into adulthood. The truth of impermanence is hard for us, as creatures of attachment, to accept. During this retreat we will look at the ancient Zen teaching dialogues and stories called koans and see what they have to teach us in our own encounters with the Four Messengers. 

This retreat is open to new and experienced meditators, those from other spiritual traditions, and those dealing directly with sickness, old age and death. It will include meditation, talks by the teacher, small and large group discussion, and writing exercises. 

Please bring a lunch. We will eat together as part of the retreat. 

Myoshin Kate McCandless is a Guiding Teacher of Mountain Rain Zen Community. She has been practicing Zen for 35 years, and exploring the Great Matter of Life and Death her entire life. She worked as a hospice counsellor for ten years, trained many volunteers and ran bereavement groups for children, teens, adults and seniors. 


  • Retreat fee: $40

  • Reduced fees are available to those on a limited income. Please complete the Day Retreat Reduced Fee Request form (click the link to access the form). No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Dana (Donations to the teacher)

  • Retreat fees cover expenses. There will be an opportunity to give a donation/dana to the teacher at the retreat.


If you have questions or concerns, please contact the registrar at