Zen Houses Establish Service-Based Dharma Center

Zen Houses Panel

Karen Kisui Werner, Steve Kanji Ruhl, Kathe McKenna, Eve Myonin Marko

Symposium Hosts Share Contribution to Engaged Buddhist Practice.

Writing about the Zen Houses panel of the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism is hard for me because I sincerely believe that Zen Houses are the best thing the planet has going for it. How can I be sincere without overstating my case? Zen Houses are dharma centers whose practice of social service is just as central as meditation. My faith in Zen Houses does not imply that I believe that Zen is for everyone, but rather my belief that when we choose to live more communally, simply and sustainably, integrating forgotten members of society into our circle, then we address problems of global warming, poverty, consumerist malaise and poor health. That’s why I joined the Zen Peacemakers in Montague, MA.

In the Zen Houses panel, I was inspired once again by four leaders whose heart, intelligence and dedicated work have educated me as I’ve worked with them for the past two years. They each approach the Zen House from a different perspective: two as inspirations and models and two as founding directors of more recent endeavors. Kathe McKenna founded the Haley House in Boston as a Catholic Worker House to pick up homeless men off the street and provide them with warm meals and companionship. Moderator Eve Marko was a member of the Zen community led by Bernie Glassman who established the Greyston Foundation, a cluster of social enterprise and service organizations that greatly reduced poverty in Yonkers, NY. More recently Steve Kanji Ruhl founded the Appalachian Zen House and Karen Kisui Werner began serving as the founding director of the Montague Farm Zen House. Like the widespread Catholic Worker houses and the acclaimed Greysotn Foundation, the Zen Houses provide a place for the practice of service as integrated within a broader spiritual tradition. Panelists discussed their personal paths to this work as well as their unique visions for realizing it.

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