Lecture, classes introduce State College to Buddhism

Anne Hainer, Penn State Collegian, Pennsylvania: Penn State students, faculty and local residents were able to get an introduction to Buddhist culture and meditation this weekend.

Several hundred people attended a lecture by Chan Master Sheng Yen and introductory meditation classes as part of the Chan (Zen) events that took place Saturday and yesterday.

“We hope to help introduce Buddhism into Western society; not for religious reasons, but more to help people understand Eastern philosophy,” said Chang-Jin Lai, the lecture’s coordinator.

“It is important for people to understand other people’s beliefs as well as their own; we want to help this school diversify.”

Yen, who has written more than 100 books and has spoken with Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama, spoke about focusing on how to achieve happiness while being mindful of others and promoting the interests of the general public.

Yen travels worldwide to spread not only ideas of Buddhist thought but also the ideas of religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation….

During his speech, Yen spoke about being selfless.

“There are two prerequisites to true selflessness: the observation of the cost that selfishness incurs and the willingness to sacrifice for others,” he said.

Many audience members were receptive to the speech.

“I really liked it. It gave you something to contemplate and helped explain the philosophy of Buddhism pretty in depth,” Shawnette Brandt (graduate-counselor education) said.

There were two events, each divided into two parts — a lecture by Yen on selflessness and fulfillment, and a beginning meditation class led by Chan Meditation Center Abbot Guo-yuan Fa Shi.

The class discussed the eight postures of mediation, as well as some Buddhist beliefs concerning the practice, with exercises and discussion led by Guo-yuan.

“Meditation requires a clear mind and relaxed body,” Guo-yuan said.

To attain this state, meditation focuses on moving one body part slowly.

For example, rotating the hips with your hands on them is supposed to relax the entire body through steady breathing and emptying the mind.

“Meditation is a daily exercise — practice for about 32 minutes a day — three to four minutes of each of the eight postures,” Guo-yuan said.

“The class was held because meditation is a very important practice, and people have to know how to do it correctly,” said Chi-Yen Chiu (graduate-teaching English as a second language), a member of the Buddhist Association of Central Pennsylvania.

Those in attendance were pleased with the turnout.

“We had 50 people register beforehand online, like we asked, but then there were 85 people in class,” Chiu said.

“The class was just incredible — I felt the most in touch with myself than I ever remember feeling. It would do a lot of people good to learn this,” Stephanie Whitesell (senior-human development and family studies) said.

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