May 27, 2015

Buddha's Birthday Celebration

 On Sunday, May 24, members of Soshima Zen Center assembled to honor the anniversary of the birth of the Buddha, said to be in the area of modern-day Nepal or India about 2,500 years ago.
The service included the Six Offerings (Yook Gong-Yang), corresponding to the Six Perfections (Yook Baramil). Each offering was led by a woman of the Center wearing traditional Korean dress called Han-Bok. 

The offering of fruit included a mandala of blueberries, strawberries, grapes and oranges that had been created by the children. The Lotus Buds, or youngsters, sang a happy birthday to the Buddha. Afterwards, the congregation walked in a circular procession, pausing to bathe the statue of the Buddha as a baby, and reciting the name of the Buddha.
Following the service, a repast of a variety of food was available, as colorful and diverse as is the Soshimsa Sangha.

May 20, 2015

"Happiness Here and Now" Presentation Given at South Plainfield Public Library

On Tuesday, May 19, the Ven. Myong-Ahn Sunim, abbot of Soshima Zen Center, delivered the presentation “Happiness Here and Now” at the South Plainfield Public Library in the township of that name. The discourse, which began at 7 pm and lasted for about 75 minutes, was introduced by SZC Secretary General Aimee Goyette and about ten people were in attendance. 

Ven. Myong-Ahn Sunim articulated on numerous topics, alternating serious points with humorous asides. He expounded on the nature of suffering, on the universal drive of sentient beings for happiness; about the cycle of wanting what is perceived as pleasant and of not wanting what is unpleasant, about opposites being aspects of the same thing, about the crucial role of the mind in defining these terms; about the pitfalls of emotional extremes; and about the importance of taking specific individual action - with diligence - to escape this seemingly endless “treadmill” of gratification and avoidance.

During the address, concentration was evident in the posture and the facial expressions of the audience, who alternatively paid close attention, then smiled and laughed at the lighter moments, which were frequent. Questions were then taken from the audience.

At the conclusion, Aimee announced the upcoming SZC open house, scheduled for June. A sign-up sheet was provided for those interested in attending that event. Afterwards, there was discussion around the table where librarian Linda Hansen had prepared a selection of distinctive teas, among them green, ginger, black rose, and strawberry grapefruit.

A Day of Community Service

On Monday, May 18, a dozen or so secondary-school-age students from nearby Wardlaw-Hartridge School, a PreK-12 college preparatory academy in Edison, NJ, arrived at Soshima Zen Center to participate in a Day of Community Service.

After pulling on work gloves, they industriously applied themselves to the tasks of beautifying the grounds around the center, refreshing the interior, and setting out flowering bulbs and perennials in the planter located at the entrance to the center. 

The students were joined by some SZC members. Robert Davey,  Mi-Kyung  Park and her daughter Yae-jin contributed to the cleanup portion of the day.

An anonymous SZC member donated a selection of flowers and shrubs for the planter, just in time for the Buddha's Birthday Celebration to take place on Sunday, May 24.

May 18, 2015

Field Trip to Catsklls for Buddha's Birthday Celebration

On Sunday, May 17 the Ven. Myong-Ahn, Duhk-Song, Mooh-Sans Sunim,  and members of Soshima Zen Center traveled from New Jersey to the Buddha Birthday Celebration at Baek Lim Sa (White Forest Zen Monastery) in Summitville, New York. Baek Lim Sa was founded by Zen Master and Abbot Ven. Gae San Hye-Seon Sunim in 1979 and is intimately associated with Soshimsa Zen Center. Ven. Inl-Cho Dosanim (Shim Hyok-Kun) was instrumental in the development of Baek Lim Sa and all three SZC Sunims trained there, to varying degrees.

Traveling north, the dense suburban sprawl of central New Jersey gradually changes to the lush, green hills and rural townships and villages of upstate New York. Nearing our destination, we left behind the world of the mundane and everyday, ascending a road to the summit of an unnamed mountain to reach the 180-acre monastery. A bright sun in a clear blue sky illuminated magnificent statues of Buddha in meditation and sleeping lion's posture, and the mountain air was crisp and clean. We then walked up the sloping, paved path to the ornate, hand-painted temple constructed in traditional Korean architectural style. Lanterns celebrating the Buddha swayed gently in a light breeze.

The interior of the temple is beautifully appointed with statues of Buddha, Kwanseum Bosal, and Jijang Bosal, and there are many other artifacts too numerous to mention. Roughly one hundred parishioners were in attendance for the services. Two short orations in English were also included, followed by a Dharma talk by Abbot Ven. Hye-Seon Sunim. Following services, a stately procession of sunims and worshippers walked slowly in front of the temple, passing a statue of Baby Buddha, which one could bathe ceremonially.

A repast consisting of miso soup, rice, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, spicy bean paste, kim chi, rice cake, watermelon, and tea was served to guests. A few then tackled the hiking trail through the peaceful woods, passing gazebos, sculpture, and rock pagodas, ascending to the stupa enshrining the relics of the Buddha, and finally returning to the temple area. 

Soshimsa Zen Center offered to aid Baek Lim Sa in development of English language programs. The offer was greeted with warm enthusiasm from Ven. Hye-Seon Sunim. English Sunday programs are soon to begin headed by our very own Abbot who will be traveling to Baek Lim Sa a few Sundays per month. More details will follow.

May 14, 2015

Korean Tea Ceremony Workshop Held at Soshimsa Zen Center

On Monday May 11, Soshimsa abbot the Venerable Myong-Ahn Sunim offered the Korean tea ceremony workshop at the Soshimsa Zen Center in Plainfield, NJ.
In a light yet serious atmosphere, accompanied by soothing Korean flute music, attendees had the opportunity to, first, view a demonstration of the ceremony with commentary by V. Myong-Ahn Sunim.

Then, using their own (SZC provided) utensils, attendees attempted to reproduce the graceful ordered motions pf preparing and pouring in a “dry run” before actually making tea. A helpful “cheat sheet” was provided as an additional guide.

Throughout the seminar, education was given on many aspects of tea preparation; history, fable, water sources, heating of water, utensil type, grip, pouring technique, and timing of movements were some.

Then, body and spirit were united as each attendee added purified water to cha (second flush green tea, hand-harvested from the slopes of volcanic Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea).  Pale, jade-green liquid appeared in the cups, the aroma filled the air, and instruction was provided on appreciation through eye, nose and mouth sense consciousnesses.

Finally, a challenge in the form of a question, to be answered at some time in the future, was directed to the audience.

May 13, 2015

International Day of Peace 2015

On Saturday, May 9, members of Soshimsa Zen Center traveled through weather that was misty and just a bit chilly to the 2015 International Peace Day Celebration at the New Jersey Buddhist Society Vihara and Meditation Center in Princeton, which was established in 2003.

The event was sponsored by a host of civic and faith organizations including, but not limited to, the Rotary Clubs of Branchburg and Plainsboro, the Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition, and Friends Of Nepal New Jersey (FONNJ).

As the event began, the attendees were welcomed; there was a moment of silence for the victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal, followed by brief proclamations from local political authorities.

Sunims Myong-Ahn and Duhk-Song led the attendees in a walking meditation along an asphalt path through the shady, wooded grounds, circling an imposing 28-foot statue of the Buddha in samadhi meditation posture.

As the weather gradually turned clear and semi-tropical, there were peace songs by the serene voice of singer-songwriter Ingrid Heldt, a guided meditation by the Art of Living Foundation Group, then orations and prayers by representatives of many faiths and peace alliances, including both sunims, and finally the World Flag Ceremony.

A generous luncheon, featuring a wide selection of sumptuous Nepalese dishes, was graciously provided. Many compliments were freely offered acclaiming its deliciousness.

May 7, 2015

The Spirit of Zen and Tea (at So. Plainfield Library)

On Tuesday April 28th, the South Plainfield Public Library was transformed into a tranquil setting and the backdrop for a traditional Korean Zen Buddhist tea ceremony.  Ven. Myong Ahn Sunim spoke on the history of tea and how it is cultivated and has evolved over centuries in the Korean culture.  He also performed a traditional tea ceremony to demonstrate how the simple act of mindfulness can transform each and every moment and action in an ordinary day into something extraordinary and bursting with life.  Participants were able to sample tea from the beautiful JeJu Island in South Korea and were invited to participate in a tea workshop at So Shim Sa to deepen their experience.