Meditation moves West
By Yvonne Robertson
In the second and final part of ÃEastern practice, Western form,Ã the News looks at the Buddhist tradition of meditation.
While the posing and posturing side of yogas evolution stirred some contention as it moved west, North Americas adoption of meditation in the mid-20th century seems to have seeped in with less controversy.
One Buddhist monk from Taiwan attributes meditations rise in western society to an increasingly demanding North American lifestyle.
"Today, most people work hard and are very tense," said Venerable Guo Xing, who studied Chan meditation under Buddhist monk Master Sheng-yen. "They need something to relieve the tension. Meditation helps them to control their emotions."
In fact, meditation has become a technique used in mainstream therapy to relieve stress, depression and anxiety.
It teaches a person to be mindful and maintain a calm awareness while experiencing the sensations of the present moment.
Guo, who is the Abbot of the Dharma Drum Retreat Center and the Chan Meditation Center in New York, will be in Richmond in August at the Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Centre on No. 5 Road. He will give a lecture series and run workshops about the practice.
The ultimate goal is the cultivation of wisdom defined as the ability to let go of attachments and compassion.
Jen-ni Kuo, a Richmond resident who studied under Guo, acknowledges the benefits to an individuals mental health. Three years ago, she decided to run a daily meditation session during her lunch hour at work.
"Its helped people through some of the hardships in their home life, some of the stresses at work and life in general," said Kuo, who works at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver. "One becomes liberated from vexations."
On any given day, a handful of people make their way to the 16th floor of the DFO building. With a large window looking out toward the mountains, the group unrolls mats and begins Kuos session.
Depending on how much time they have for lunch, some leave half way through or join a few minutes in.
"Even if theyre feeling overwhelmed one day, theyll still try to come," said Kuo. "Any amount of time helps, whether its for 10 or 15 minutes."
The late Master Sheng-yen founded the Dharma Drum Mountain organization in the early 1990s and was known for his progressive teachings of Buddhism in a modern, western-influenced world.
"In Western society, people used to be more interested in materials," said Guo. "But now, they want to find something more. They want to learn something profound."
As the popularity of other religions seems to wane, Buddhism has been on the rise throughout the Lower Mainland since the early 90s, particularly in Richmond.
Although traced back to more than 5,000 years ago in Indian scriptures, meditation, and how it is practised today, is most commonly associated with Buddha.
"The western religions tend to require faith, and no room for doubts in their religious belief," said Guo. "Because some westerners still have spiritual needs, they turn to Buddhism and meditation instead."
Buddhism doesnt favour one God as superior, but teaches that everyone can reach an enlightened state and become a Buddha.
A belief in Buddhism doesnt have to come first either. People can start practising aspects such as meditation, which can lead them to learn more about Buddhism. Its a more scientific approach than other religions, according to Guo.
"Through these personal experiences, they develop faith in Buddha Dharma," he said.
Guo will be in Richmond from Aug. 3 to Sept. 5. His workshops and lecture series includes Surangama Sutra, One-Day Chanting Amitabha Chan Retreat, Seven-Day Intensive Huatou Retreat and a Mind at Work workshop. Admission is free, but registration and approval of application is required for some. For more information, visit www.ddmba.ca/ddmba/upcoming_events.php.
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