Religious Diversity News

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Zen Buddhism in West Differs from Japanese Roots


On March 29, 2004 posted an excerpt from “The Path of the Human Being” by Dennis Genpo Merzel, a Zen Buddhist monk. Under the heading “The Dharma Doesn’t Discriminate,” Beliefnet printed a section of the book dealing with Zen’s adaptation to Western culture. Merzel writes, “Are we simply trying to act Buddhist, or is the living Dharma still maintained somehow in these ancient rituals? This is a fair and important question to ask. Although Zen Buddhism didn’t become strongly established in America until the 1960s, the practice has since gone through many changes. In fact, the way we Westerners practice Zen is nearly unrecognizable to a monk from Japan…Zen teachers in the West are struggling with the question of how much change can be introduced without risk of losing the living essence of the Dharma. Each one of us must accept the responsibility of bringing Zen into our culture in a way that seems right. One of the beauties of Zen always has been its ability to adapt to new situations, to fill any container into which it is poured. Western culture is the new pot that is being filled by Zen — and for everyone, whether we’re a teacher or a beginning student, our body is a container for the practice. Zen will fill this container perfectly.”

Zen Buddhism Sings Softly In The Hills

Author: Peter Fabricius

Source: The Independent Online/The Pretoria News

The Buddhist Retreat Centre at Ixopo is synonymous with its founder, Louis van Loon, who arrived in South Africa from Amsterdam as a 20-year-old in 1956 with one suitcase full of old clothes and another filled with art materials. He wasn’t sure whether he was going to pursue a career in civil engineering, in which he had just qualified, or try his luck at being an artist. Either way, he was seeking adventure in a faraway country.


He found it.

Zen Buddhist Monk Aids Peace Efforts In Native Belfast

Author: Damien Okado-Gough

Source: The Buddhist Channel/The Japan Times,8326,0,0,1,0

When the Zen monk Dogen Zenji returned to Japan from China in 1227 with the ideas that would become the Soto school of Zen, could he have imagined that centuries later, on the other side of the world, those very ideas would be used by people to try to overcome their society’s deeply rooted conflict? Most likely not, but that is exactly what is happening.

In Northern Ireland, which is primarily known in Japan as a place of violent, religious conflict, small Soto Zen groups have been formed and are flourishing.

The people behind this unlikely development began by bringing together former combatants from the two conflicting groups, the Irish-Catholic and British-Protestant communities, and using Dogen Zenji’s ideas to help them overcome their differences. To tell the story of how this came about it would be best to tell the story of the man who started it all — Irishman Paul Haller Roshi.

Haller is the abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, but he spends his time between San Francisco and Ireland, working with the Zen groups he helped establish and overseeing their peace-building work.

Originally from the Falls Road area of Belfast, he witnessed his society collapse into bitter sectarian conflict as a young engineering student in the late 1960s.

Zen Buddhist Monk Teaches Aikido at Idaho Mountain Center

Source: Mountain Express

On April 2, 2004 the Mountain Express ran a feature article on a local Zen Buddhist monk: “Myohei Genshin Sensei is a paradox in modern western society: a warrior who teaches peace. He is a Soto Zen Buddhist monk who teaches Aikido, a traditional Japanese ‘Budo,’ or martial art, ‘as a way to polish the spirit and awaken beings of peace.’ Genshin Sensei translates Budo literally to mean ‘path or way to end conflict.’ After over four decades on the Path of Peace as a warrior and Buddhist teacher in America, Genshin Sensei came to the Wood River Valley 10 years ago to establish Uheijo Dojo, a traditional mountain retreat for all beings seeking peace. He is the spiritual leader and resident teacher of a devoted group of practitioners at Uheijo, a Zen Buddhist refuge in Hailey. Uheijo translates from Japanese to mean ‘Being Peace Center.’ The title of Sensei is a title of respect in the Buddhist tradition, which means ‘one who has gone before.'”

Zen Buddhist Temple Celebrates Buddha’s 2,554th Birthday

Author: Katherine Axelsen


On the full moon of the fourth month in the year 544 B.C., Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was born. According to the Mahayana Buddhist lunar calendar, this May marked his 2,554th birthday.

The Zen Buddhist Temple at 1214 Packard St. celebrated the birth of Buddha this past weekend. Each year, the temple hosts a two-day celebration.

The events started on Saturday with a friendship-themed poetry reading. For dinner the temple presented a vegetarian buffet, a feast prepared by residents of the temple with food donated by local restaurants including Whole Foods Market, Dynasty Buffet, Earthen Jar, Afternoon Delight, Tuptim Thai Cuisine and Starbucks. “The temple has the best food in all of Ann Arbor tonight,” said Robert Rhodes, who was visiting with his wife, Nancy.

After dinner the “sangha,” or members of the temple, gathered to hear storyteller Yvonne Healy. Her first story was about Cuba and the value of speaking another language. Her second story was called “The Golden blackbird.” Joe Reilly concluded the night by singing four songs.

Zen Buddhist Temple in Rendon TX

Source: Night Ridder News

On August 18, 2004 Night Ridder News reported that, “last Dec. 14, Zen Buddhist monks and nuns from around the world, plus hundreds of lay Buddhists from the United States, dedicated the majestic new temple of the Quang Chieu Zen Monastery [in Rendon, TX]. Every Sunday since, scores of lay people, most of them Vietnamese Americans, drive through the monastery gates, often in luxury cars and large SUVs. They are North Texas engineers, postal workers, homemakers, insurance agents and their children. They don gray robes to meditate, chant Buddhist sutras, study Zen teachings and eat potluck lunches afterward. The place is home to about a dozen nuns, humble and solicitous women who meditate almost four hours a day and forswear meat, television, radio and newspapers (though there is a cellphone handy for emergencies and a donated treadmill in the dining room). They say their intention, and that of their spiritual leader, Vietnamese Zen master Thich Thanh Tu, is to minister to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, by teaching the practice of meditation, which millions of Americans in recent years have found to be a powerful palliative to the stress of Western life.”

Zen Buddhists Meet in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Ohio

Source: Repository

On March 29, 2003 the Repository reported that “at the biweekly Zen Buddhist meeting in the basement of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, eight people sit cross-legged on mats to meditate. Each person is lost in the world of his or her thoughts. Any sound — a rustle, a footstep, a shift in weight, a passing car — cuts through the room like a round of artillery… ‘We’re trying to develop a mind where the Ohio State band could come through,’ said the Venerable Shih Ying-Fa, ‘and we’d hear, but we wouldn’t mind…’ one regular attendee at the Buddhist sessions is the Rev. Zev Rosenberg, pastor of St. Paul’s. ‘Buddhism is more a set of practices than a set of beliefs,’ Rosenberg said. ‘It does not presuppose that you have any religious belief. … You can, as a devout Christian, engage in Zen meditation as a spiritual practice…’ Shih delivered a talk, using the possibility of war as his starting point. ‘We have to be conscious about our own peacefulness,’ he said. ‘For us, wanting peace is OK, but it is fraught with peril, because it can become an egocentric desire. … One of the great oxymorons of all time is fighting for peace. Just be peace, and the rest will take care of itself…’ Great peacemakers, he said, such as the Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, ‘had very little or no internal struggle going on. … Wars come from people who struggle internally and externalize that struggle.'”

Zen Center Flourishes in Syracuse, NY

Source: The Post-Standard

On February 16, 2002, The Post-Standard reported that “about 85 Central New Yorkers practice at the Zen Center of
Syracuse, following ancient rituals that go back thousands of years… In October, the Zen Center of Syracuse will celebrate its 30th
anniversary. The center is believed to be one of the oldest
continually operating Rinzai Zen centers in the United States.”

Zen Center in Landmark Location of Syracuse

Source: The Post-Standard

On June 10, 2004 The Post-Standard reported thata Zen Center in Syracuse has existed in city landmark, Onondaga Valley, for the past eight years.

The Zen Center is built upon the land established by Syracuse founding father Joshua Forman. The Forman house sat through almost 200 years of Syracuse’s growth as a city. This same location now has been home to 120 members of the Zen Center for 8 years.