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Detroit Zen Center Offers Residents Peace In Volatile Times

By Pamela Sosnowski

Detroit is a city that has seen some rough times in recent years. But in the heart of the Hamtramck section, in a heavily urban neighborhood, lies a haven where anyone is welcome to find peace and reflection: the Detroit Zen Center.

Zen may be misinterpreted to be a religion, especially as it is a fixture of Buddhism. But as the center's Zen Monk/Director Myungju explains, "Zen comes out of Buddhism, but is itself not a religion. Zen is a method of self-reflection, or meditation, that leads to spiritual awakening. Its practice encourages self-reliance, sustainable lifestyle, and more compassion toward ourselves and others."

Several resident monks and apprentices at the center follow a daily schedule of meditation, manual, and creative work and also strive to improve the quality of life for others by leading a service-based lifestyle. Non-resident members also visit the center to study Zen and incorporate it into their everyday lives.

The center is a branch of Sudeok-sa Temple in Korea and was founded by Hwalson Sunim, a Detroit native that has studied Zen for over 45 years. After becoming a monk and training extensively in Canada and Korea for several years, he returned to his hometown only to find that violence and crime had rocked his city and its economy to the core.

"The Detroit Zen Center began in 1990, during some pretty dark days in the city," says Myungiu. "Our teacher grew up and taught public school in Detroit during the riots. He became a sociology professor at Penn State, and eventually became a Buddhist monk in Korea. His teacher invited him in 1990 to return to America and teach meditation here. So he chose his hometown, hoping to give something back to the community here."

The property is a former 4,000 square foot Polish wedding hall and speakeasy that sat dormant for 20 years until the center was founded. It is comprised of a meditation hall on the first level, while the lower level is the home of 'Living Zen Organics', an organic cafe and health food store. There is also a public peace garden across the street, which used to be a gathering spot for drug users. "We support local farmers, and employ zen students & neighbors at living wages", states Myungju.

One doesn't have to be a member to partake in the events that the center offers. The first Sunday of each month ("First Sundays") introduces newcomers to what Zen is all about via a guided meditation, Dharma talk, and a nutritious brunch made of organic and vegan dishes. Other activities include Sun-do, a peaceful martial art, an evening chanting service, yoga classes, retreats, and volunteer opportunities. The center is also available for wedding ceremonies, death memorials, and other occasions.

As more people seek ways of finding balance and peace in their daily lives, Myungiu believes that Zen has the potential to grow in the U.S. "American Zen is evolving," she says. "I think at its best it will combine the wisdom of the Far East, where Zen has been cultivated for centuries, and combine it with the positive attributes of American culture."

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About The Author

Pamela Sosnowski is a freelance writer, social media manager, contributor for REBEAT...

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