This open class is conducted on Monday evenings by members of the Nien-Fo Ch'an Order and is designed to provide a basic introduction to Zen meditative practice. The format is a bit more relaxed than Tuesday meditation and allows plenty of opportunity for questions and answers. Participants are encouraged to wear clothing that fits a bit loosely and is comfortable to facilitate a reasonable seated meditation posture. Meditation benches and regular chairs are available for those who may have injury- or age-related difficulties getting into a meditative posture.
Our Tuesday evening group meditation practice is based on a traditional monastic format which has been adapted for western laypeople and monks. It includes two periods of seated meditation interspersed with walking meditation, chanting practice, plus a Dharma Talk and discussion followed by informal tea. A short period of qigong exercise is conducted before the start of the first seated meditative period and at the end of the second seated meditation period. Private interviews with Ven. Shih Ying-Fa are conducted every other Tuesday. On interview evenings, seated meditation is longer and chanting meditation is shorter. On non-interview evenings, seated meditaiton is shorter and chanting meditation is longer.
The private interview with the teacher is a time-honored and integral part of Ch'an. Interviews help us to strengthen and deepen our practice through personal interaction with an experienced teacher. The teacher acts as a Dharma friend and guide to the student by pointing directly to the truth. It is up to the student to act on this guidance. The teacher does not "give" anything to the student, but rather provides the student an opportunity to transcend attachments and to see the Path more clearly. What is done with this opportunity is entirely up to the student. Venerable Shih Ying-Fa is available for private interviews during formal meditation sessions approximately twice each month. Anyone wishing an interview may simply enter the Interview Room, located in the rear of the Zendo, during seated meditation. Interviewees are requested to confine themselves to issues regarding Ch'an practice except in extraordinary circumstances. Anyone wishing a private interview at another time is welcome to make an appointment with Venerable Ying-Fa.
Every Saturday morning we engage in the practice of Qigong, also known as Internal Energy Practice. In Qigong we learn how to circulate the body's vital energy (Qi) for purposes of health, longevity and spiritual awakening. After 15 minutes a meditation, the class is led through Qigong breathing plus standing and sitting Qigong forms.
There are four basic Sunday Services: the Atonement Service, the Affirmation Service, the Purification Service and the Outdoor Zen Walk. Each service begins at 10:00 a.m. except for the Outdoor Zen Walk which begins at 9:30 a.m. The Atonement Service gives us an opportunity to acknowledge our harmful thoughts, words and acts and to renew our vow to work for our own liberation as well as that of all living beings. This service is centered around the chanting of the Dharani of Great Compassion. A Dharma Talk over informal tea follows the service. The Affirmation Service emphasizes the Buddhist Precepts, the Vows of Atonement, the Ten Perfections and the Bodhisattva Vows. A Dharma Talk is given and a short period of meditation is conducted. The Purification Service helps us to refine ourselves through the recitation of the great Shurangama Mantra and the Ten Small Dharanis. By concentrating ourselves in this manner we restore our essential peacefulness and equanimity to the heart and mind, enabling us to walk the Path of Awakening more fully. The last Sunday of each month, Venerable Ying-Fa leads the Outdoor Zen Walk, during which he gives a teaching in the traditional style. The walks are held at various locations around the Cleveland area.