Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yeah Zen!

Yesterday I discovered that the Zen Center is Five. Blocks. From. Where. I. Work. Walking distance. I've driven down that road multiple times and never ever noticed the house with the discreet 'Indianapolis Zen Center' sign. Apparently it's time.

When I walked into the Dharma Room for the class, the first thing I noticed was that there wasn't a Buddha on the altar. It was Avalokitesvara, aka Kwan Yin. Avalokitesvara isn't a 'deity' in the usual sense - Zen Buddhism doesn't work that way - rather, he/she symbolizes compassion for all life. So the statue on the altar isn't holy, the altar isn't holy, and worship isn't part of it. It's a symbol to remind the practitioner.

Oh, and the particular school of Zen that this center is part of is the Kwan Um School, a Korean lineage - so I didn't get it at first. Kwan Um: a Korean name for Kwan Yin. The school emphasizes...wait for it... the path of compassion. I feel like I've been smacked repeatedly with a really big Dharma Stick. (In nonBuddhistspeak, God had to make my clue signs REALLY BIG before I noticed.) I happen to have a certain affinity for the Compassionate aspect of the divine; in Islam, these are the central 'names' (aspects) of God, repeated frequently in the formal prayer (Al-Rahman, Al-Rahmim). There's also many, many hadith (and Qur'an passages) that emphasize God's mercy and compassion over strict justice.

This tradition also is practice-based rather than text-based, so it's all about the meditation, about training the mind. Perfect.

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