Buddhist holiday adapts Zen to modern America

By EVELYN SHIH, North Jersey.com, December 7, 2006

Wyckoff, New Jersey (USA) -- There may not be anyone making a list and checking it twice or children spinning dreidels for chocolate on Bodhi Day, but the traditional Buddhist holiday will bring some festivities to Zen centers in New Jersey this weekend.

Celebrated in the Japanese Zen tradition, Bodhi Day is also called Rohatsu, or Dec. 8 in Japanese. The day commemorates the enlightenment of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, who attained the ultimate understanding of truth as he meditated under a bodhi tree.

Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts, currently the Zen priest of the Heart Circle Sangha in Ridgewood, explained that the Buddha realized in the dawn of Rohatsu that he and all sentient beings were "one with all that is, not separate and alone as we imagine."

In monastic Zen practice, Hoeberichts added, Rohatsu is usually marked by a 10-day retreat known as a sesshin, during which the monks meditate 10 to 12 hours a day. On the final night, Dec. 7, monks sometimes stay up through the night, symbolically imitating Buddha's commitment to meditate until he attained enlightenment.

In its current incarnation in New Jersey, Bodhi Day has become less of an intense ordeal and more of a day for gathering in religious community.

"We're now using a more worldly model, for people with careers and a family," said the Rev. Paul Genki Kahn of the High Mountain Crystal Lake Zen Community of Wyckoff. "We are adapting Zen to our time, here in America."

Many priests at both Zen centers are working professionals, as are the members. High Mountain will be celebrating Bodhi Day tonight from 7 to 9 so as not to conflict with work schedules. The Heart Circle Sangha will be staying away from business days by holding a retreat Sunday.

Both services are open to participants with no meditation experience or knowledge of Buddhist teachings -- and, Genki adds, people of different religious faiths.

"Our purpose is not to make a religious factory, but to give people the technology to live a good life," he said.

In addition to teaching in the Soto Zen tradition, High Mountain hosts a group of Christian Buddhists who use the discipline of meditation to facilitate Christian teachings. Over the years, many non-Buddhists have vowed to follow the Buddhist precepts in a ceremony called the jukai.

"The core of our community is Zen as a way of experiencing and living," Genki added.

* * *

Bodhi in Bergen

Where: High Mountain Crystal Lake Zen Center, 393 Crescent Ave., Wyckoff.

When: 7 to 9 tonight.

What: Paul Genki Kahn will lead a group meditation, a chanting session in appreciation of the Buddha and a reading of the Turning of the Wheel Sutra. Refreshments will be served.

Where: Heart Circle Sangha, 451 Hillcrest Road, Ridgewood.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (participants are asked to arrive 10 minutes early).

What: The Heart Circle Sangha will expand the regular Sunday morning service, which usually covers meditation, chanting of sutras, a dharma (Buddhist teachings) talk and a group discussion.

Afternoon activities will include Work Practice, in which practitioners do chores in silence and awareness; sitting and walking meditation; Practice of Immediacy, which involves expression through paint, clay, writing or drawing in the moment; and individual meditation interviews, in which Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts answers questions and helps students with the study of puzzling Zen parables called koans.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv