Meditation group studies Buddhist teachings

By BILL CHAPIN, Times Herald, Feb 27, 2005

'You can practice any religion you want and still practice Buddhism'

Port Huron, Michigan (USA) -- When Dan Smafield decided he was interested in joining a group that practiced the teachings of Buddha, he figured he'd have to travel to Ann Arbor.

"I did an Internet search, and I was really surprised when I saw something in Port Huron," Smafield, 21, of Port Huron said.

<< IN UNISON: Mary Basrai, 59, of Port Huron participates in a group walking meditation with members of the Blue Water Community of Mindful Living.

What he found was the Blue Water Community of Mindful Living, a meditation group that practices in the tradition of Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. The group was founded nine years ago by Jim Maywar of Port Huron after he attended one of Nhat Hanh's retreats.

The group meets on the second Sunday of each month at a member's home for silent meditation followed by an hour of sharing ideas and concerns.

On Monday at the Newman Center in Port Huron, the group is sponsoring a talk and book signing with Claude AnShin Thomas, a Vietnam veteran turned Zen monk and peace advocate.

Secretary Mary Basrai said Smafield's reaction is common.

"It's a nontraditional philosophy for Michigan," Basrai of Port Huron said. "It is surprising, although there are probably at least 30 Buddhist groups here in the state, so it's not as unusual as one would think. It's a growing community."

She said the local group has grown to 14 members, and anyone may join.

"One of the biggest misconceptions is the belief that (Buddhism) is a religion, because it's not. It's a philosophy," she said. "You can practice any religion you want and still practice Buddhism. A lot of people think they conflict, but they don't."

LISTEN UP: The noise made with a  >>
mallot is used to get in tune with ones mind and body

Such central principles as "do not lie" and "do not steal" should be familiar to anyone who has read the Ten Commandments.

Basrai, 59, who spent four months at a French monastery with Nhat Hanh, said the one-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee's teachings "require internal awareness followed by social activism."

"It's not just sitting on a cushion," she said. "It's what you can do to help your community."

Smafield, who joined the community last year, said finding a sangha -- a Buddhist term for a group of people on a similar path -- has been helpful. Without such support, "life can be harder than it needs to be," he said.

# WHAT: A public talk and book signing with Zen monk and peace activist Claude AnShin Thomas.
# WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday.
# WHERE: Newman Center, 505 Huron Ave., Port Huron.
# COST: Free.
# DETAILS: (810) 982-4597.

# Visit the group's Web page:
# Call secretary Mary Basrai at (810) 982-4597.