Russell Berrie Fellow Nataliia Pavlyk reflects on Zen community visit

This month, the Russell Berrie XII Cohort participated in the interreligious study visit to the Zen community in Rome. Anshin (Jap. 安心 – “peace of mind”) Zen Centre is affiliated to the Sanshin Zen Community founded by Master Shohaku Okumura and is also associated to the Italian Buddhist Union. This place is open to everyone, regardless of cultural and religious beliefs. Founders of the Center, a beautiful couple of Zen teachers Doryu and Gyoetsu, showed the fellows their daily living practice. After an introductory talk about Zen philosophy, they were invited to a guided tour inside the temple, as well as to a marvelous Zen garden and a traditional tea-room in the backyard.

Furthermore, fellows had a unique chance to take part in the heart of Sōtō Zen practices – Zazen – a sitting group meditation facing a wall in a special meditation hall (zendo). Also, they participated in the Kinhin – slow clockwise walking meditation synchronized with breathing. It was an inspiring experience of rediscovering a true being here and now.

Another extraordinary part of the visit was the Kanromon ceremony associated with “hungry ghosts” that personify creatures suffering from their intense emotional needs, namely, ignorance and greed. Being a symbol for a person’s unsatisfied states of mind, this ritual helps to dispel regrets related to unresolved situations binding us to the past. Chanting Japanese mantras was a delightful accompaniment to the ceremony.

Such an unforgettable visit to the Japanese oasis of peace and love will definitely stay in memory as a great interfaith experience in Rome!