Great Heartland Buddhist Temple of Toledo recently held an all-day workshop introducing Zen Buddhist practice.
“I've always been interested in philosophy and cultures and things, particularly Asian philosophy,” Neal Sampson of Toledo said.
Nicole Walker had found out the night before that the workshop was being offered, and she and her mother, Laura Walker, attended.
“Nicole and I are really just seeking some spirituality,” Laura Walker said. “We’ve talked about it for years, and we’re finally here. I’m so glad.”
It might be said that Rena Leizerman of Swanton lives a multifaith life.
“I am clearly active in the Jewish community,” she said. “I am a member of [a conservative Jewish congregation], but I grew up Orthodox. I now go to the Jewish Renewal synagogue [Pardes Hannah] up in Ann Arbor.”
Her son goes to a Catholic school, she said, then “on Saturday, we all go to synagogue, and on Sunday, we all come here.”
“The people for whom this becomes very important are immensely gratified to find other people for whom this is immensely important,” said the Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik, leader of the gathering. Such was the case for three people from Bryan, who talked about the possibility of starting a sitting meditation group there. Other workshop participants came from as far away as Bluffton, Ohio, and Monroe.
The Reverend Rinsen is an ordained priest at the Zen temple, as is his wife, the Rev. Karen Do’on Weik; in the temple, they use the dharma names they were given when they made their vows to follow Buddhist precepts.
The Jan. 26 workshop — attended by 20 people — was designed to explain “what Zen practice is actually about,” the Rev. Rinsen said.
“Some people come into Zen because the word has been a little bit co-opted to mean ‘really hip’ or ‘sleek,’ or else ‘very relaxing,’ with waterfalls and all that stuff. The real thing about what Zen actually is, about the freedom of it, this awakening thing that you hear about, that’s real. It has to do with being able to, and willing to, and doing the work of confronting oneself and actually facing oneself, not in a story-oriented way.
“We all think about ourselves plenty, it’s actually seeing yourself. What that means, it takes a while to unpack that. ‘Who am I? What’s the meaning of my life? What happens when I die? Why did my loved one pass away?’ This kind of stuff we don’t want to dodge” in Zen practice, the Reverend Rinsen said. “The beginning place for this is in what we call seated meditation.”
Much of the workshop was spent in demonstrating meditation and taking part in zazen, the Japanese term for seated meditation.
The participants also heard about Zen’s takes on compassion, suffering, and evil, and about some procedures such as the Buddhist philosophy of bowing, which is a respectful gesture, the Reverend Rinsen said, and not a form of worship. For meditation, sitting, posture, what people do with their hands, where to gaze, breathing — all those elements were discussed. And then there was talk about what to do when the mind wanders.
“The fact of a thought being there is really not up to you,” the Reverend Rinsen said. “Your brain’s going to do things, it’s going to receive thought, generate thought, whether or not you put your awareness into that. [Awareness] is a spiritual power in Zen that you put your mind where you want it to be. It’s not where is your mind, it’s where is your awareness.” And the key to awareness in meditation, the Reverend Rinsen said, is in breathing.
“Your practice is, follow your breath,” he said. “The basic practice which everybody returns to is this counting the breath practice.” He gave an example: “Your mind has gone off into some story, and you have put your mind into that scenario. You're not in your breath at all. As soon as you see that, acknowledge it, let the thought be, and gently return yourself back to the breath. Bring yourself right back to the breath practice again, that’s actually the most important part of the whole sitting experience.
“We’re not trying to escape and go somewhere else,” the Reverend Rinsen said. “Neither are we trying to shut the mind off and clamp it down; that’s actually not of value, either. If you shut the mind down and clamp off all the thoughts and think your job is to stomp out any activity in the mind, as soon as you come out of that trance space, it’s the same thing: there’s no wisdom, there’s no compassion in that place, all there is is a temporary relief. It’s nice, but it's not going to lead to awakening.
“Enlightenment is not a myth, it’s not a fairy tale, it’s a real thing. It’s happened to people in this very room,” he said. “It’s a matter of, do we recognize it?”
The temple is in a unit of an industrial office building at 6537 Angola Rd. in Holland, and shares space with Shodu Aikido of Ohio, a martial arts school that the Reverend Rinsen also leads.
The temple’s services are at 10:30 a.m. Sundays and 7:15 p.m. Wednesdays.
Contact TK Barger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6378.