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Sunday, November 1, 2009


“Engaku” is the Japanese Buddhist term for a deluded practice of “pursuing self-enlightenment while ignoring the cries of suffering in the world.” At Appalachian Zen House we do not practice engaku. Inspired by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and other founders of socially engaged Buddhism, a worldwide movement endorsed by the Dalai Lama, at Appalachian Zen House we enact the Bodhisattva Vow to free all beings from suffering by regularly getting off of our meditation cushions and working to realize enlightenment by serving those who are hurt and in need.

In the past several weeks, in keeping with our mission to heal the earth and to serve those who are underserved here in our home of rural Pennsylvania, we have been very busy:

* Following our successful “Earth Education” summer camps at Ahimsa Village for low-income kids, led by Kelle Kersten and Jiko McIntosh, our Green Appalachia programs now enter a new phase as autumn begins. The committee for “Bald Eagle Bio-Fuels,” coordinated by Bob Flatley, met recently and Kim Bytheway offered a building in Julian for use as a project site; we plan to soon begin a pilot project converting several home heating oil tanks in Bald Eagle Valley from fossil fuel to bio-fuels, which we’ll purchase from regional sources.

Also, our “No Harm Farm” initiative at Ahimsa Village – starting a community-sustained agriculture project that will teach low-income people to grow organic food, and donate surplus to needy people in our area – will move forward in early November as we do work outdoors to build fences and prepare the soil.

And our Green Appalachia Eco-Tours project, promoting mindful awareness of the natural world in this time of environmental crisis, is now underway. Recently Jiko led a meditative day hike in Black Moshannon (please see related article for details).

* Through our membership in the State College Area Interfaith Mission, we Buddhists of the Appalachian Zen House also join with our Christian and Jewish colleagues in providing underserved people in Centre County with rental assistance, blankets, free recycled furniture, fuel assistance, and – if they’re homeless – temporary emergency shelter.

Through our membership in the Creation Care Coalition of Centre County – part of the national organization Interfaith Power and Light – we work with our Christian and Jewish neighbors in addressing global warming and climate change through programs with our local congregations. In early October, Steve Kanji Ruhl and Jiko were the only members of Buddhist clergy to participate in a two-day, statewide, predominantly Christian conference at Penn State called “Religion and the Ethics of Climate Change,” where they provided the conference with a Zen Buddhist perspectiveand distributed literature on Appalachian Zen House, the School of Living, and Ahimsa Village.

Incidentally, Kanji will offer a presentation on “Green Buddhism” as part of the Ahimsa Village Sustainability Talks series on December 11 – please watch for further details.

* The Floating Lotus Zendo of Appalachian Zen House continues to offer genuine, formally authorized Zen training in the renowned Japanese lineage of Maezumi-Yasatani-Harada, providing zazen and kinhin, dharma talks, private interviews, council circles, and pastoral care and counseling to a growing sangha.

* And finally, our “Speak Your Peace” program, coordinated by Sunny Rehler, commenced on Sunday, November 1, from 2:30-5:30 with an interactive workshop called “Getting Past ‘Us Versus Them’: How Conflict Resolution Techniques Have Worked in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” facilitated by Kristen Lokhan and Jessica Arends at the Friends Meeting House in State College, PA.

Please see our website at for ongoing information about our programs at Ahimsa Village and elsewhere. You also may read about us in recent and current issues of magazines such as “Tricycle: The Buddhist Review,” “Buddhadharma,” and ”EnlightenNext.”

We are a registered non-profit corporation in Pennsylvania and gratefully welcome your financial support of our valuable work in taking Buddhist practice beyond the self-centeredness of engaku. Please send checks made out to Appalachian Zen House to Steve Kanji Ruhl, 198 Terra Vista Street, Howard, PA 16841. Many thanks.

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