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Zen Buddhist center opens in Honesdale

Alan Cooper, director of the Zen Center of Wayne County, has over 40 years of practice in meditation and the study of Zen Buddhism.

September 14, 2011

A wonderfully funny cartoon appeared in The New Yorker magazine a few years ago. It showed two monks fully clothed in their habits, sitting in a cross-legged position of meditation. One monk was an old man, prune-faced and annoyed, and the other was a puzzled callow youth. Under the cartoon was the following caption: “What do you mean ‘what happens next!’ This is it.”

The memory of the cartoon suddenly leaped into my mind as I readied to sit in meditation in the zendo of the Zen Center of Wayne County, created in Honesdale by two Manhattan-based psychoanalysts, Paul Cooper and Karen Morris.

The center, located at 926 Court Street, holds zazen—sitting mediation—on Sunday mornings throughout the year. Every Thursday evening there is a meditation practice and on Sundays, a formal service and talk follow the meditation sessions.

Zen, a form of Buddhism that came from China to Japan, takes a slow approach to enlightenment through sitting meditation called zazen. It is the school of Buddhism that has the most emphasis on long, intensive periods of meditation.

“Zen, and Buddhism itself, is not in conflict with any other religion or system of belief,” Morris said. “Actually, it enhances the beliefs of other religions. Since it is a non-theistic religion, it has no dogma that can stand in the way of other religions.”

“It is a religion because it has a salvational component to it and has the practice available to meet a salvation agenda,” Cooper said.

“Everyone is invited to our center,” Cooper said. “We want
people to come and visit the zendo to see if they like it. No one will be pressured to join. Come just to try it out.”

The center holds training sessions to explain Zen and Zen meditation for beginners or for experienced meditators who may be unfamiliar with Zen. A practice leader, Alan Kehoe of Hawley, gives orientations to newcomers. Newcomers can come early at 9 a.m. for training before the main session at 9:30 a.m.

Once a month, a retreat is held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I am something of an elder in the tradition, and it’s my responsibility to make available what I have learned over more or less 40 years of practice,” Cooper said. “There is a tradition to vow to free all beings, and I wish to extend that tradition to the people in the Delaware Valley community.”
Cooper and Morris explained the three gems or refuges of Buddhist tradition: refuge in the Buddha himself, refuge in the teaching called the Dharma and refuge in the community,
called the sangha.