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Zen Master Brings Peace and Reflection to a Troubled World


As students of philosophy professor Bret Davis know, Zen meditation is more than just daydreaming. It is an ancient practice in the Zen Buddhism tradition that requires deep focus and awareness.

What better way to learn this traditional discipline than from a Zen master himself?, Dr. Davis hosted Zen master Kobayashi Gentoku Roshi to lead an introduction to meditation for the Loyola community.

Kobayashi is the abbot of the Shokokuji Monastery, one of the main Rinzai Zen training monasteries in Kyoto, Japan. The Rinzai school is a sect of Zen Buddhism that places great value on the practice of “zazen,” or seated meditation.

Some of the foundations of “zazen” include inner reflection and awareness of the sensations and impulses all around us. The goal of the practice is to identify the body’s desires so that we can more easily regulate these desires.

Dr. Davis presented information on the history of Buddhism and its move from India to Japan before Kobayashi lead a short meditation followed by a question and answer panel. The audience was instructed to sit on the edge of their seats with a straight back. The goal was to drop awareness from the mind to the abdomen and to breathe deeply.

Zen Buddhism is different than other sects of Buddhism because it is not based on any specific sermon of the Buddha. In fact, Zen is linked to the silence of the Buddha, which is why meditation is so important to followers of Zen.

“Meditation really attunes you to that interconnectedness of mind and body,” Dr. Davis said. “Your posture, your diet, if you’re getting enough sleep, all those things, you realize, have an effect on the mind.”

This practice may seem foreign, but it actually is closely related to several Ignatian teachings.

“A lot of people connect the Ignatian practice of discernment with Zen meditation,” Dr. Davis said. “I think especially what Kobayashi was talking about – becoming aware of your desires so that you can then deal with them – has a lot to do with Ignatian discernment.”

Lisa McDermott, ’19, is taking Dr. Davis’ “Asian Thought” class as an elective because she likes the diverse perspectives that it provides.

“I took philosophy classes in the past and this stuck out to me because it’s something other than the regular Plato and Aristotle,” she said. “This event… is important in knowing how things are done in other places.”

As college students, our lives are often so busy that we don’t have time to stop and reflect. Zazen can provide the break that we need to take care of our minds as we do our bodies.

“In terms of mental health, again, becoming aware of all the stuff that is going on is important so that you can deal with it,” Dr. Davis said.

The Heart of Zen Meditation Group, led by Dr. Davis, meets on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in the Fava Chapel. Those interested in participating are encouraged to email Dr. Davis at [email protected] for more information.


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Zen Master Brings Peace and Reflection to a Troubled World