Practice at the Kansas Zen Center transforms lives.
It has transformed ours; perhaps it has transformed yours. Since we moved into our current space in 1989, thousands of people have come through our dharma room doors, seeking the kind of change that we offer. Some stuck around, others maybe came only once, but all were able to get a taste of authentic dharma practice and teaching, rare in the central Midwest. Here are a few of their stories…
After my first retreat, there it was, simply and blindingly obvious, my attachment, my death grip on the ceaseless, churning imposition of my thoughts on the world, the naked root of the dissatisfaction defining our lives, driving our suffering and the suffering we create for others. Nothing else before that retreat had ever held such a mirror so unwaveringly before me and I walked out thinking, ‘I’ll never do that again.’
And yet…I did, because Zen Master Seung Sahn, our founding teacher, came back the next year, and the year after that and the year after that and because the same people kept showing up and they became sisters and brothers and eventually the Zen Center was strong enough to plant itself in a temple, a home. It’s been through the fire, and why not, this whole world is on fire, but it’s come through and now needs a new home.
That’s not hyperbole, by the way, the world being on fire. Zen points, always and without compromise, at the source, right at your kindling. Someone once told Zen Master Seung Sahn, “Every time you come here, you say the same thing.” He immediately replied, “Yes, but nobody hears it.” You still can hear it at the Zen Center; you can look in that mirror and you don’t have to do it alone. The temple, its physical place, is like a mother (or maybe a good daddy) cradling a child, holding a simple and sincere way to stay tender, to find your human job and do it in this world. I love it.
Zen practice has helped me through really tough times. My husband introduced me to the Kansas Zen Center, after I saw a change in him through his practice. The practice, the people and the teachers have enriched my marriage and my life. If you’re thinking of visiting the Zen Center…do it! And don’t let the big gold statue or grey robes stop you. I never knew I could just sit, and learn to meditate and get a taste of being more open on the cushion and in day to day life, but I can. I remember many interviews when the teacher’s words hit me and reminded me what my job — with my family, with my work, with my friends — really is. Practice is for the long haul. I’m very grateful for it.
I walked through the door and I practiced and it felt like being home. All of what I had read was real and it was true. I came back and have continued to come back. When I started I wanted to get something. I wanted to get peace of mind, to quiet my mind, maybe reach nirvana, maybe reach enlightenment. And now I just come and I just practice. And I love the teachings. The teachings have done a lot to keep me practicing. Zen Master Bon Hae will say something that just, bing, opens up so much. It has made a huge difference in my life.
The best thing about the Zen Center is that it’s here, it’s in my town, which is extraordinary. It’s very unusual for Zen practitioners to have a real place that you can go to and have a teacher. We have two teachers, which is even better. I walked through that door thinking “this is the worst idea ever. What am I doing here?” And I’m still here some 15 years later. If I hadn’t come I wouldn’t have discovered this wonderful place.
When I first started practicing I was pretty unhappy. I didn’t like myself very much. I felt stuck. Zen gave me the ability to sit still and not react automatically. I don’t need to get angry right now. I can look at somebody and have some compassion and see that they’re suffering. That’s something that really made a difference to me: having that space. It has enabled me to heal some of those wounded places in myself.
There’s obviously a lot of suffering right now, there’s a lot of delusion, a lot of pain. I always want to know “what’s the root of this problem?” From Zen practice we realize what the root is: we think we’re something other than what we really are. We think we’re all about this body, this me, that the world’s out there and I’m here. Everybody thinks this way so that causes a lot of problems. We fall in all these patterns that are unhelpful. But Zen practice, Buddhist practice, really goes right to the root.
Having the Zen center here, having a group of people that supports the practice, having a tradition that supports the practice, having teachers here that can help you along and guide you in your practice — to me that’s just tremendously valuable. I feel tremendously fortunate to be able to have this sangha here and to be able to have a practice that addresses what I think is the root of all of our problems. I think having the teachers here —I remember being so excited: “wow, we have two Zen masters at this place, it’s so great.” You don’t have to travel and go find somebody and spend the money and go someplace else. It’s here and available.
If you’re considering it, just come. Just come and try it. It might not fit you. It may be something else is a better fit, but you never know until you try. See if it resonates with you. You have nothing to lose. Come join us in doing this great work of doing nothing and making nothing.