Being Fully Present: Lessons from a Zen Master
Meditation. Riddles. Distant. Ancient. These may be the first words that come to mind when you think of Zen Buddhism, but Rev. Issho Fujita, Zen master and teacher, taught Colby's students and faculty about Zen in everyday activities like eating and sleeping.
Rev. Fujita was at Colby Nov. 14-16, holding lectures and participating in classes. In Philosophy Professor Jim Behuniak's Zen Buddhism class Rev. Fujita explained that people anticipate many things. For example, we tend to anticipate the presence of a door handle when we reach out our hands. This prevents us from living fully in the moment but allows us to be present in our own thinking instead. Students found the class refreshing, and they were surprised at how “normal” a Zen master can be. “He laughs a lot. He smiles. He's relatable, yet incredibly well-spoken and thoughtful” said Nick Cunkelman '11. “I think it's refreshing how he breaks down all our formalizations.”
The Zen master came to campus when academic stress was high, and his meditation helped uptight students to stop and take a deep breath. Participants walked into the chapel surrounded by the calming and melodious chanting of the Heart Sutra led by Rev. Fujita and the Music of Meditation class. Instead of giving a speech, he led everyone in zazen, a type of meditation. Participants were taught to relax and get to know their bodies while regulating their breathing. The chapel was silent, save for an occasional long and deep ring from the master's bell.
The master talked about hard-to-understand concepts like “everything out is in; everything in is out.” But he matched his riddles with stories. He also gave a glimpse into the everyday life of a Zen master-how his own master would light up a cigarette and ask things like, “How is your now?”
“In a culture of paper deadlines, job offers, handshakes, etc., he reminds us what it is to be human,” said Cunkleman, “I loved it. Absolutely loved it.”