A global pandemic, war in Europe and impending climate catastrophe. These are indeed incredibly stressful times. In such disturbing circumstances, Zen Buddhism offers an oasis of calm.
There is no goal in Zen Buddhism. It is not a goal-oriented practice. It’s about your mind, body and spirit,” said Reverend Myozan Kodo, Zen Buddhism Ireland’s teacher-guide at the country’s first center dedicated to the religion.
“It’s not a self-help book, it’s not something that claims to fix your life. You are fair. It is about returning to the natural state. It’s about discovering who you really are, underneath it all.
The Dublin Zen Center is located in the heart of Temple Bar and Reverend Kodo said its creation reflected the demand for Irish people to embrace religion.
“I think people are tired and exhausted. Our resources are exhausted. We try to provide a sanctuary of calm. There is no judgment here. It’s about calm,” the 52-year-old father of two said. “It’s about meditation and silence and stillness for half an hour. When you do this, you let go of your struggles.
The center opened last weekend and before that Reverend Kodo operated a ‘temple in a suitcase’, renting premises around Dublin by the hour for devotees to gather to meditate.
Now he finally has a permanent base thanks to a full-time lease. It is not a religion that tries to recruit followers, its philosophy is the opposite – people who want to become Zen Buddhists will seek it.
“Zen Buddhism is an ancient tradition, based on meditation. We are trying to bring him to the streets, to help society. We get involved in cleanups and other things to help people. But we are not trying to recruit anyone. People come to us.
“I had a novice Franciscan monk and a Catholic nun come to mediate with us. If someone comes here to mediate and they reek of alcohol, I don’t fire them. There is no judgment. »
Zen Buddhism is the school of meditation in Buddhism that emphasizes Shikantaza, “just sitting” meditation. According to the latest census, there are 10,000 Buddhists in Ireland.
Half of those who practice Zen Buddhism here are Irish and there are more women than men, according to Reverend Kodo. Every evening, followers of the religion gather at the center to meditate.
He is also hosting an online meditation for those living outside the capital, as well as those who would prefer not to meet in person due to Covid-19.
There are traditions that are followed when people come together to meditate. There is at least half an hour of silent meditation, where people sit in complete silence on cushions, which is followed by walking meditation. This is followed by formal teaching by Rev Kodo.
The Galway native was ordained into his line of Zen Buddhism in 2011. The former journalist, who teaches media at TU Dublin in Grangegorman, became a Buddhist in the 1990s.
“I was brought up in the majority tradition in Ireland, Catholic. But I decided that I didn’t belong in it. In 2011, I was ordained a Buddhist priest. I belong to the Japanese school of Buddhism. In 2014, I became a member of the Dharma transmission.
“It gave me the power to teach and ordain other people. I have ordained five people and have two more women to ordain next year. For me it is a religion. But it’s also just a way of life. A way of being.
“I don’t live in a monastery. I don’t walk around in my dresses in my everyday life. I have a job, I have a wife and children. But it’s a very important part of who I am.
Being a Buddhist in Ireland is not always easy as it is a very minority religion, he added.
“For someone who dies in the hospital or in a hospice, there is no tick box to say that you are a Buddhist. And the Buddhists here often have to send their children to Catholic schools, because there is no there is no alternative.
“There is no doubt that there is huge interest in Buddhism in Ireland – if there hadn’t been, this center wouldn’t have opened.”
The practice of mindfulness emerged from Zen Buddhism as people around the world search for meaning in an increasingly chaotic world.
“Secular mindfulness comes from Zen Buddhism. It is one of the main practices of the Zen Buddhist religion. Buddhism is not a strange and exotic thing. It can be a tough life.
“It’s about confronting yourself, recognizing who you are. And live a truthful life where you are one with yourself. It is my calling. It deeply nourishes my life.