Zen Buddhism abbott advocates meditation benefits

The Asian/Asian-American Studies and Programming Department welcomed Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede to the Alice Austin Theatre on Thursday Oct. 13. Kjolhede is the abbot and director of the Rochester Zen Center, one of the oldest Buddhist centers in America. Kjolhede taught at the Rochester Zen Center for the past 20 years, having completed extensive training in Japan, India, Tibet, China and Taiwan.

For the last 10 years, Kjolhede has visited Geneseo annually to talk about Zen Buddhism and the benefits of daily meditation. Outside of the center, Geneseo is the only other place where Kjolhede gives his presentations.

The presentation began with a simple explanation of how meditation and Zen Buddhism go hand in hand. Kjolhede explained how the Japanese word “zen,” used to describe traditional Buddhism, actually translates to “meditation.”

He talked further about the benefits from daily meditation that he has seen over the years.

“When meditating, we explore the body and mind,” Kjolhede said. “We begin to see the world in a different way. Through meditation, we can realize that we are all part of one world. We feel less at odds with all people. Our friends, family, enemies—everyone.”

Meditation can be a wonderful tool, especially for students. Through meditation, one can manage anxieties about class, grades, exams and the like.

The presentation, however, included more than just the benefits of meditation. Kjolhede also took the time to demonstrate proper Zen meditation form. This form is achieved simply by sitting with your legs folded underneath your lower body, while arching your back. By achieving this form, one is able to expand and to breathe deeply in order to be more in touch with their surroundings.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Kjolhede took questions from students and offered advice. One student asked what they should do when their mind starts to drift off during meditation.

“Count to 10 as you breathe, but clear your mind while you do,” Kjolhede said. “If while you are counting your mind wanders off, start back again at one. After enough diligence with this, you will be able to meditate with a clear mind.”

Kjolhede ended his presentation with a simple message about the nature of meditation.

“The key to happiness is simple: being present. Not lost in our thoughts, just examining and responding to the world around ourselves,” Kjolhede said. “And that is the benefit that meditation brings to us. A way to just focus on our world and be present.”

When done properly, meditation can provide great benefits. A healthy mind and body is essential to students, especially as the semester grows increasingly hectic.