A Zen master and abbot of a Buddhist monastery will share insights into how people can be at peace with the challenges of the human condition during his eighth annual visit to Western New York this week.
Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, known as Ryushin Sensei, the abbot of the Catskills Zen Mountain Monastery of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism, will give lectures on the themes of impermanence – old age, sickness and death. The lecture series will share Buddhist techniques on “finding freedom and happiness within all of our human experience," including these challenges of life.
“The whole of Buddhism rests on two simple, yet profound, teachings: that human life is inherently dissatisfactory – oftentimes referred to as ‘life is suffering,’ and that there’s a way to bring about an end to the dissatisfaction,” said Ray Eigen Ball, coordinator of the Buffalo Zen Dharma Community, which is affiliated with the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism. Middle-aged people in the “sandwich generation,” who are caring for both older children and aging parents, may particularly benefit from the lectures, said Ball. Our cultural rejection of aging, veneration of mindless entertainment and push to prolong life at all costs work to intensify this dissatisfaction – “wanting things to be other than they are,” said Ball, who called that view of reality “obscured or upside-down. And until our view of reality is cleared up, we’ll continue to live a life pervaded by dissatisfaction.”
The nightly lectures on old age, followed by sickness, then death, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Like all the other weekend events, they will be held in the Ministry Center of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, 1064 Brighton Road, Tonawanda. A suggested donation of $12 per person will be accepted for each lecture, or $30 for the series. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Hospice Buffalo, which is co-promoting the lectures.
Ryushin Sensei, who was born in Poland in 1953 and escaped with his family when he was 13, earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale, served in the U.S. Navy and attended medical school, later working as a pediatrician and psychiatrist until he entered the monastery.
In addition to the three evening lectures, the abbot will offer workshops on Friday and Saturday. The first, from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, focuses on relationships and is titled “Waking Up Together: Intimate Relationships as a Path of Practice.” The workshop will focus on intimacy, the ways people seek security and identity in our relationships, and how relationships function as spiritual practice.
The second workshop, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, is “Introduction to Zazen.”
“The Saturday morning Introduction to Zazen (Zen Buddhist seated meditation) offers even more contact time and personal instruction than one receives when they go on retreat at the Monastery,” said Ball. “That’s why it draws experienced meditators along with newcomers. I consider it a sort of ‘graduate’ level course in meditation that’s perfectly accessible for both first-timers and established practitioners.”
The suggested donation for each workshop is $20.
Finally, the abbot will hold a practicum from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, including a Zen liturgy, two rounds of sitting and walking meditation, and Mondo, which is a short talk followed by a question and answer period. A suggested $10 donation includes an informal communal lunch at the conclusion.
Last year’s events with Ryushin Sensei were popular, so organizers encourage people to arrive early. Doors open a half-hour before each event.