We are starting a new Zen group in Dayton Ohio. Please check out
our 'press release' below and feel free to contact us!
Abbot Steve VanEtten
Subject: the opening of the Zen Fellowship of Dayton
Offering traditional Zen training and practice to the greater
Open to anyone of any Faith and experience level interested
in the path of Zen inquiry.
Pop culture has adopted Zen as a buzz-word to sell everything from
tea to air freshener. Promising `balance', `inner peace', `clarity',
and `deep relaxation'
in some ways, it's tempting to co-opt some of
Madison Avenue's hard work to draw a bigger audience to our fledgling
Zen Center. Many people are drawn into spiritual practice by the
hope of some sort of tangible improvement in their situation. And
situations can improve, but are we really ever satisfied? Spiritual
inquiry usually doesn't end in the same self-satisfaction we see in
advertisements. From experience, the things I personally hoped to
gain from Zen when I first started practice have become less
important, or at least more transparent. A line from the Heart
Sutra describes this as: `no attainment, with nothing to attain
truth, there is nothing to buy; no ideas we can sell that will make
us better than we originally are. So the idea of selling people on
the benefits of taking up a Zen practice is a bit ridiculous.
Gratefully, there are those that do maintain this way. The hope is
that in creating a place for this practice in Dayton, we can be of
service to those who have been drawn to investigate and sustain the
-Abbot Steve VanEtten
Zen practice simply means "meditation." It is the practice of
inquiry, the act of studying the self, of looking into the matter of
our lives, of investigating the fundamental questions that arise from
our sentience: Who are we? Why are we here? Why do we suffer? What is
our correct role in this world and our correct relationship with
others? How can we truly help?
In keeping these questions alive and open without containing them in
tidy answers, we awaken to seeing things as they truly are, which is
to say as constant change and flux. And in this openness arises our
original nature, which is compassionate, concerned with alleviating
the suffering of all beings.
Zen training involves the traditions and forms of Zen practice.
Zazen (sitting meditation), chanting, bowing, and walking are often
difficult for beginners to get comfortable with on both a physical
and mental level. This difficulty is often called "the first gate of
practice." These forms come to us with thousands of years of Asian
tradition and mystique. Though many changes are continually being
made to the format, it is most practical to continue using the tools
perfected and passed to us by our predecessors.
It is easy to be frustrated by our desire to achieve comfort and
ease, even when attempting something new. The discipline of
maintaining our practice forms gives us a foundation. We learn that
we can refuse to submit to our habitual, judgmental conditioning.
And when we find ourselves drifting off into thoughts, discomforts
and daydreams, it just becomes another opportunity to return to the
immediacy of this very moment; the intimacy of this breath.
Zen teaching and Koan practice:
The common thread to all Zen tradition is the role of the Teacher or
Zen Master. The history of Zen is, in actuality, the record of
interactions between student and teacher, master and master.
Thousands of these exchanges have been collected as examples of
particular insight. These are called koans (Japanese) or kong-ans
(Korean). In ancient China, legal records were duplicated and then
stamped with a unique seal across both pages. One could verify the
authenticity by laying the two side by side and seeing if the stamp
matched, so koan literally means public case or public record. So
the intent with koan practice is to see if your mind matches your
teacher's and by extension, the ancestors in our tradition. One can
get a taste of this by reading these ancient exchanges, but to really
experience the intent requires that we take up the koan as our
Since it is human nature to reach conclusions and create opinions
based on our personal experience, a koan can be a very difficult
practice. Each has a particular insight to share, but they require a
clarity outside of logical analysis. As answers are presented to
the koan, the teacher helps the student to release preconceptions and
look deeper. In the process, the koan becomes a living experience,
not a mental or philosophical exercise. Koan practice thus becomes
the living conversation between teacher and student looking into
these ancient dialogues together.
Talks and Interviews:
Teachers customarily give talks and conduct interviews with
students. Since most Zen practice is conducted in silence, these
talks offer encouragement on specific points of practice or training
to the group. Interviews are a private time to discuss your
individual practice with the teacher. These may involve the teacher
assigning or working on a Koan with a student if they wish, but it is
Our Guiding Teacher:
Zen Master Dae Gak is the Founder, Abbot and Guiding Teacher of
Furnace Mountain. He has practiced Zen for almost forty years, and
received Dharma transmission from the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn in
1994. Before becoming a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn, he studied
extensively with other teachers in Japanese lineages.
Zen Master Dae Gak founded the Lexington Zen Center in 1980, and
began building the retreat center at Furnace Mountain in 1986. For
more than 20 years, he has taught in America and internationally. In
1997-1998 he led the annual three month retreat (Kyol Che) at Shin
Won Sah in Korea, and for many years he led the annual Christian Zen
retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemane, where Thomas Merton lived. He
leads our monthly retreat program at Furnace Mountain and also
travels regularly to teach students in affiliated centers across
America and in Europe.
Zen Master Dae Gak holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and has
practiced psychotherapy for thirty years. His book Going Beyond
Buddha, The Awakening Practice of Listening was published by Tuttle
Press and is available from the ZFD and from Furnace Mountain.
Since his recognition as a teacher Zen Master Dae Gak has directed
his life toward supporting people in their efforts to realize their
original nature of fearless immediacy and unbounded compassion,
following the clear teaching of the Zen Ancestors and his own
realization that the practice of spiritual inquiry cannot be fixed,
organized or institutionalized.
The ZFD's resident teacher:
Zen Master Dae Gak gave Inka (permission to teach) to the ZFD's
resident teacher, Myogetsu Osho (Mark Davis) in February 2008.
Myogetsu has been studying with Dae Gak since 1994, lives in
Cincinnati, and is the resident teacher also of the Cincinnati and
Hamilton Zen Centers. He will be attending Dayton meetings about
once a month.
The Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has made space
available to us in their facility at 8690 Yankee Street, in
Centerville. We are grateful for their compassion and generosity.
Starting Tuesday December 23rd and every Tuesday following at 6:30 pm.
Abbot Steve VanEtten
937-256-8487 mailbox 2