Senior clergy at York Minster have quietly introduced Zen Buddhist zazen meditation sessions. They are now a regular fixture, listed among the Minster’s main “spiritual” activities, alongside its Sunday school and youth group, and have been enthusiastically supported by the Dean, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull.
The York Zen Sangha meets on alternate Fridays at the Old Palace, in Dean’s Park, for formal sitting meditation, led by the Canon Chancellor, the Revd Canon Dr Chris Collingwood and supported by Fr. Patrick Kundo Eastman Roshi, a Roman Catholic priest and Zen master in the White Plum Asanga of the lineage of Hakuyu Taizen Maezumi Roshi. All are welcome to attend the sessions, which run from 6.30pm to 8pm.
As you might guess this has not gone down well with everyone. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the pressure group Christian Concern, said: “Buddhism contrasts sharply with Christian teaching about God. The two are incompatible. To try to mix them is deceptive and dishonours Jesus Christ.”
“It is remarkable that this is happening at one of the country’s best known cathedrals. The Archbishop of York must take swift action. This type of confusion undermines the Church of England’s current initiative to encourage Christian prayer.”
“It is sobering that last year a Canon of this same cathedral blessed the city’s ‘Pride’ march. The Church of England must take decisive action to deal with this radical agenda.”
As usual there seems to be a complete inability to separate technique from teachings. Just as many church halls ban Yoga classes because it will turn people into Hindus and Mindfulness teachers dare not mention it’s Buddhist origins.
Zazen is the practice of stilling the mind through wholehearted attentiveness to the breath. This steady attention coupled with the stillness of the body frees the mind from normal activities. Yamada Roshi, a great Japanese Zen Master said to all his Christian Students, “I am not trying to make you a Buddhist, but to empty you in imitation of your Lord, Jesus Christ.”