Bloomington Zen center to expand with dorms, ?meditation building?

The Associated Press, May 27, 2005

An open house Saturday will include Japanese music, food and arts.

BLOOMINGTON, IN (USA) -- The city?s Sanshin Zen center plans to expand, adding a dormitory for priests, monks and nuns and a separate building for meditation. And the chief priest says it is about time more people knew of the center that has been on the south side of the city for two years.

?We have been quiet. Now I think we are ready to say we are here,? said Shohaku Okumura, the chief priest. So Saturday, it plans a public open house that will include Japanese music, food and arts.

Zen, a Japanese form of Buddhism, includes a focus on meditation as a way of attaining enlightenment. The center now has one building where Okumura, his wife, Yuko, and their two teenage children live, with a spare ?zendo? or meditation hall on the lower level.

Five priests live in the neighborhood and walk to and from the center. Okumura, 56, has been a teacher in the United States of Soto Zen for more than a decade. Soto, one of two main schools of Zen, derives from the teachings of Dogen, who introduced Zen in Japan in the 13th century.

Okumura taught in Massachusetts, Minneapolis and San Francisco, then began looking for a site to establish a Zen practice center. He came to Bloomington in 2003, joining an informal group of people who practiced meditation and were eager for an accomplished teacher.

?I really like this town,? he said. ?It is a quiet and peaceful place to practice.? Practice primarily includes quiet meditation, called zazen or ?just sitting.?

Okumura also has written, translated or edited 10 books. He said Zen, with its philosophy that ?awakening is more important than belief,? often appeals to people who can?t accept dogma but seek spirituality.