New Zen center aims to strike a balance

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 15, 2014

 During a ceremony held at Dharma Gate Zen Center May 11 to celebrate Vesakha Puja, one of the largest Buddhist holidays each year, a string is tied around people’s hands and linked together, then cut.

During a ceremony held at Dharma Gate Zen Center May 11 to celebrate Vesakha Puja, one of the largest Buddhist holidays each year, a string is tied around people’s hands and linked together, then cut.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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Venerable Hoden Sunim, a Buddhist monk ordained at the Seonamsa Monastery in South Korea and a marketing executive based in Troy, recently founded the nonprofit Dharma Gate Zen Center off of Maple in Troy. 

Sunim said he and the executive board, which includes attorneys and many professors on staff at Oakland University, created the center to provide people from all walks of life a resource to practice mindfulness, and gain balance and an understanding of traditional Zen training in an accessible way.

“We wanted to make the concepts of Zen and Buddhism approachable as a practice helpful for those in America,” he said.

Sunim was recently a member of the clergy staff and associate abbot at Muddy Waters Zen Buddhist Temple in Royal Oak. Sunim graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Marygrove College in Detroit, and earned an associate degree in Buddhist studies from Dong-Bang Seminary in South Korea.

“Dharma Gate Zen Center is a Zen center, not a Buddhist temple,” Sunim said.

As such, the center will offer traditional meditation practice, retreats, 
classes in traditional Japanese sword arts, and a place to celebrate Buddhist holidays and Zen culture.

The Japanese sword instruction, Homonji Iaido, is a practice based on techniques from Koryu (old style) Japanese sword arts, with a focus on gaining balance and mindfulness, and having fun.

Cindy Sifonis teaches psychology and directs the liberal studies program at Oakland University. She serves as an advisor at the Zen center and said that many comparative religion students from local colleges visited the temple in Royal Oak. She noted that Japanese sword classes, which she enjoys, are hard to find in the area.

“It’s nice to have a space to be around like-minded individuals,” she said of the approximately 1,400-square-foot center, which has an open area with high ceilings dedicated to the sword classes. “We wanted this to be a resource to try things,” she said.

Marla Careu, an attorney, a member of the Troy Chamber of Commerce and an advisor at Dharma Gate, said she’s been a Zen practitioner for years. She said the center plans to reach out to business groups to share Zen practices as a way to relieve stress.

“We’ve found this offers a tremendous amount of relief to the highly stressed,” Careu said.

The center is open to people of all religions.

Dharma Gate Zen Center is located in Suite X in the Maplewood Court Industrial Park, 330 E. Maple, between Livernois and Rochester. For information on upcoming events and classes at the center, call (248) 457-5355 or visit www.dharmagateZen.org.

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