October 23, 2000
Emory Zen a quiet presence
By Michael Terrazas firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone who doesnt know the Emory Zen group meets Mondays at 4:30
in the basement of Cannon Chapel shouldnt be surprised. The group
is fairly low-key, and they certainly dont raise much fuss during
In fact, anyone walking by room 106 might be startled by the sheer silence
of the activity inside: anywhere from a couple to a dozen people sitting
in the lotus position with hands touching lightly at the waist and eyes
half-shut, making no sound whatsoever. They are focusing on their breath,
just their breath and only their breathany other thoughts, as soon
as they enter the mind, are let go like balloons on a windy day.
In Buddhist thought, there are six senses, said Ken Sharpe,
a 1974 alumnus of Emory College who practices Zen meditation when hes
not piloting planes for Delta Air Lines. The mind senses thoughts.
What Zen practice will teach is not to latch onto those thoughts but to
just let them go.
One of the Universitys 29 official campus religious groups, Emory
Zen was launched almost four years ago. Its sponsor is the Atlanta Soto
Zen Center, located in Candler Park and founded in the early 1970s by
Michael Zenkai Taiun Elliston-Roshi. Fred Rossini, another of the centers
primary teachers, is the main liaison between the Emory and the Zen Center,
and Phil Hutto, a lecturer in math and computer science, is the groups
At the time, we didnt have a car and lived right near campus,
and I thought, Wouldnt it be neat if there were a nice sitting
group here on campus, said Kim Boykin, who along with her
husband, Brian Mahan, helped establish Emory Zen in late 1996.
Boykin, now a doctoral student in religion, was then a masters
student in the theology school; Mahan is a visiting assisant professor
at Candler. Together the two recruited an eclectic mix of faiths to explore
the way of Zen.
Weve had Christian Zen practitioners and Jewish Zen practitioners
and Buddhist Zen practitioners and non-religiously committed Zen practitioners,
Boykin said. A lot of the things people usually associate with religionbelief,
doctrine, etc.dont really have much to do with Zen. Its
In fact, say some of the groups current practitioners, Zen meditation
is more about learning about oneself than ones god.
Self-discovery is a big part of it, says Nishant Shah, a
first-year medical student who recently began attending the Monday sessions.
So often people want to be spoon-fed enlightenment. Meditation allows
me to ask Who am I? without the stimulation of friends and
media and other things.
The first thing you notice is you start sleeping better,
Sharpe said. It doesnt necessarily rest on a belief systemZen
is a long-term, sustained practice of meditation that stabilizes the mind
and leads to a sort of inner realization.
Barbara Sullivan, a graduate student in immunology, said Zen spurs her
to spontaneous compassionate actions, like stopping to help
a stranger change a flat tire. It makes me feel more connected to
people, she said. And its a way to get to know my body
and my mind.
Anyone is welcome to attend the Monday sessions, and there is always
at least one experienced practitioner to guide newcomers. Participants
should wear comfortable clothing and be prepared for a unique experience.
Everything Ive told you, Sharpe said, somebody
else could come in and say, Well, thats not what it does to
me. Its a very personal experience.
For more information on Emory Zen, call 404-727-0668.
"TRACES OF DOGEN" Symposium
What: A scholarly celebration of the 800th anniversity of Zen Master Dogen, the 13th century founder of the Soto Zen tradition. The symposium will explore the practice of Zen, the practical application of Dogens insights, a historical and textual study of his life and works, and an examination of Dogens teachings in a comparative religious context.
and panelists from university religion programs and Zen practitioners
from around the country, including Tara Doyle, Shalom Goldman, Brian Mahan,
Gordon Newby and Laurie Patton from Emory, and Michael Elliston from the
Atlanta Soto Zen Center.
When & Where: Oct.
2829 on the Emory campus.
for the two-day event is $25, and participants are encouraged to register
in advance due to space limitations. For more information, call 404-727-7596
or visit www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/CONFERENCES/traces.