Does Long Beach need a Zen Center? Yokoji-Zen says, Yes
2010-03-29 · By Editor
There aren’t a lot of local resources for residents who are interested in learning meditation and Buddhism. Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center (YZMC) plans to change that by opening a Zen center in Long Beach.
According to Long Beach resident Victoria Posthuma, “Visiting Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center is wonderful—I always find it refreshing and an enormous opportunity to center myself. If Long Beach had a local Zen center, that would make it so much easier to make meditation practice an essential part of my life. I think Yokoji’s presence could be of great benefit to Long Beach residents in awe inspiring ways.”
Currently, Yokiji runs a Zen retreat located on 160 acres of pristine wilderness in the local San Jacinto Mountains. The center operates primarily on solar energy and wind generators, brings water from a deep mountain spring and uses a compost system that provides nourishment for the organic orchard and garden. Yokoji plans to establish a city center that will function as a harmonious counterpart to its mountain center. Once the city center is established, the mountain center will continue to serve as a year-round international Zen training center, offering opportunities for both residential and short-term practice. The city center, on the other hand, will introduce new dimensions and offer programs that will be accessible to more people. Both centers, however, will share the same core practice of zazen—a Japanese word that simply means “seated meditation.”
For Jung Kwon, a former Long Beach resident who has been living at Yokoji for the past half-year, “Practicing Zen helps me appreciate what happens in each moment, an attitude that matches the lighthearted and joyful spirit that I love about Long Beach.”
According to Abbot Charles Tenshin Fletcher Roshi, “Through zazen we become intimate with the vast and ungraspable nature of our own experience. Once we do this, we can let go of the habitual ways that we define ourselves and open up to a more satisfying way of living.”
Tenshin, Roshi trained under Maezumi, Roshi—one of the early teachers to bring Zen to the West in the 1960’s. Tenshin has served as the abbot and guiding teacher of Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center for the past 15 years and is one of only 12 Zen teachers in the United States to be recognized as an official Zen Master by the Soto Zen headquarters in Japan.
Yokoji aspires to build a city center where a community of residents will not only practice meditation together, but also apply that practice to their jobs and their personal lives. In addition, all city center programs will be open to the general public as well as to the residents.
In envisioning this city center, Yokoji hopes to blend Zen with the artistic, cultural, and intellectual sensibilities of the West, just as Zen took on a Japanese aesthetic when it spread to Japan. The center may incorporate avenues such as a gallery or performance space, which could help foster more Westernized expressions of Zen. Such resources would not only make Zen practice more accessible, but could also help Yokoji to develop social services that reach out to underprivileged populations.
Zen practice includes many practical tools that can be taken out of the religious context and transferred into a more secular realm. Classes in art, for instance, might be used to teach not only that art, but also skills drawn from Zen. While such classes could, in their own right, function as therapudic methods for social transformation, they would become even more powerful when joined with these kinds of Zen skills.
Since the Yokoji-Zen center will aim to meet the needs of the city, its scope will depend largely on the interests and motivation of the Long Beach residents who become involved, as well as on the kind of funding that becomes available through grants or private donations.
Though Yokoji does not yet have a city center, Long Beach residents are invited to participate in any of the programs that YZMC currently offers. Usually visitors participate in the Sunday morning program and the monthly silent meditation retreats. However, visitors are also welcome to attend any part of the regular daily schedule. They need only call to make arrangements. The Zen center offers work scholarships, depending on need and motivation, in which residents exchange their work for the cost of room, board, and teachings.
On Thursday, April 8 Long Beach residents will have the opportunity to meet Abbot Tenshin when he speaks at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach, 5450 East Atherton Street. (More information about this event will be available in part two of this article tomorrow.)
For more information about Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center and their plans to open a Long Beach Zen Center, refer to their website, www.zmc.org, or call (951) 659-5272.