A Special Report by the West Park Times
Teachings come in many different forms.
CloudWater Zendo, The Zen Center of Cleveland, is a place for all to learn and be calm.
“The interesting thing about the Buddhist tradition is that it’s flexible enough to allow people to practice it the way they want,” says the Ven. Shih Ying-Fa, instructor, and founder of CloudWater Zendo.
“It can be a way of life,” he says. “You don’t have to be Buddhist to practice Buddhism. There are non-Buddhists who come here to meditate. So, you’ve got the religious aspect, the philosophical aspect, the way of life aspect, and the system of education aspect. Our attitude is if there is something that we have that you think you can use to assist you in life and to assist you to alleviate whatever suffering you may be experiencing- please take it- no strings attached.”
Every Saturday, the Zen Center of Cleveland, located at 4436 Puritas Ave., holds group Zen meditation with formal Zen tea from 8:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. This does not cost anything and is open to the public. There will also be a free introduction to Zen meditation class starting at 7 p.m. every Monday throughout the month of April.
Looking for something in particular or of a different variety? A full listing of events can be found on the calendar page of the CloudWater Zendo website, at: www.cloudwater.org/cal/calender.pl.
So, what does the name, CloudWater Zendo, mean exactly?
“The name of this temple is from an old term, which started in China and got popular in Japan… in Chinese Feng Shui which means clouds and water because Zen monks were expected to float like clouds and flow like water. It’s freedom and activity but all flowing together.”
West Park is lucky not only to have the Zen Center, but Ying-Fa also, as a resident.
“I love West Park,” he says. “I’ve lived here since 1990.”
According to Ying-Fa, the original Zendo was founded in 1994 at the intersection of Triskett and Warren.
DISMANTLING INCORRECT BELIEFS
There are several Buddhist stereotypes which exist. However, despite any pervading misconceptions, CloudWater Zendo focuses on teaching the history and truth of Buddhism.
“A lot of people don’t know a lot about this tradition,” says Ying-Fa.
“I think having an understanding of the history enhances what you do but it’s not necessary going in,” he says.
“We teach an eight-week class that we’re in the middle of right now. It’s eight classes. It’s called the ‘Basics of Buddhism’ and it’s a survey class- it covers the history, the formation of the traditions, the teachings and all that other sort of thing. We do that twice a year,” he says. “Two of the eight classes are about history because there is such a misunderstanding about Buddhist history in the west… Buddhism can be very complicated. Not because it’s roots are complicated but it’s outgrowths became complicated. It’s going through so many cultures and picking up terminology and history from there.”
According to Ying-Fa there are three major divisions of Buddhism: “the original Buddhism that started in India, the Theravada (teaching of the elders); the Mahayana, a wider vehicle was an outgrowth of the original Theravada and it’s the Buddhism that prevailed in East Asia. Then the third major division didn’t come along until the eighth century of the Common Era and that was Himalayan Buddhism. Westerners call it Tibetan Buddhism because it was the most influential country. But there were more countries than that involved.”
According to Ying-Fa, his career in the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), is what led him to Cleveland. It also influenced his future involvement with the Buddhist tradition.
“The VA is what brought me here,” he says. “And the VA is what kick-started my Buddhist path because I was a very stress-laden individual. . It was very difficult working in that environment back then, I can’t speak to it now- but for me it was a little bit rough. So, I began the practice of meditation which then led me to the fellow who was my first teacher who was the priest of the
Cleveland Buddhist temple in Euclid. And, after meeting and talking with him it was like a big bell just went off in my whole being that said this is where you need to be. Thirty-two years later, here I am.”
THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
Meditation is helpful for many to manage stress while promoting self-awareness.
How does meditation do all of this?
According to Ying-Fa, meditation is helpful because: “if a person can find five minutes a day in which to meditate-what that does, is, a a term I commonly use, it’s lamination. Lamination is thin layers built up over time. In meditation it’s layers of concentration that built up over time.
“It’s like eating a sandwich,” he says. “You eat the sandwich and all the components of the sandwich don’t go to your bloodstream, or your tissues or your bones right away. It’s a process of getting it there.”
Meditation can allow your mind to focus more on the present; manage stress while building skills to manage stress; increase imagination, tolerance, patience, and creativity, say the Mayo Clinic.
There are several different types of meditation. Some are guided, while others focus on mindfulness and mantras, or the silent repetition of a phrase or word. There is also Qi gong, tai chi, and transcendental meditation.
ASK A MONK
For approximately two decades, Ying-Fa has been providing an invaluable service to the world from his home-base in West Park.
Ying-Fa is known for his quick and helpful responses, with a typical response time of 24 hours.
Do you have a question for the Ven. Shih Ying-Fa? Visit the “Ask a Monk” form at: http://www.cloudwater.org/index.php/ask-a-monk-2/
You may even indicate how soon you would like a response.
Classes and additional event information may be found at: www.cloudwater.org.