The first dedicated center for Zen Buddhism officially opened in Dublin over the weekend. Reverend Myōzan Kōdō Kilroy, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest in the lineage of Nishijima Roshi, serves as the guiding teacher of the Dublin Zen Centre. The new home for the city’s Zen Buddhists offers hope for stability after the group spent many years moving from space to space.
“We have had to move from one place to another as the Dublin property market has driven us out of one practice space into another,” Kilroy said in a recent interview. “Finally, we have this place for lease, so we are going to be here, hopefully for a long time.” (RTE)
Kilroy leads the Zen Buddhism Ireland sangha, of which he is the founding teacher. He completed his Dharma Heritage Ceremony at the Sōtō Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) conference at Maple Lake, Minnesota, in 2016. He is also the founding president of the Irish Buddhist Union and serves on the Dublin City Interfaith Forum representing Buddhism.
Hōdo Gomoku, who serves as head monk at the Dublin Zen Centre, said that his role was to look over the affairs of the center and to make sure things run smoothly. Of the practice, he said: “Of course, we waver in and out of that throughout the day, but with the grounding of that practice, it is much easier to come back to the moment. It is always about returning to the present, to what is going on right now.” (RTE)
According to recent figures, there are approximately 10,000 Buddhists in Ireland, an 11 per cent increase from 2011 and a 43 per cent rise from the 2006 census. Many believe that the official number is low.
Jnanadhara, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order from New Zealand who runs the Dublin Buddhist Centre, said: “I think perhaps because of the way the census question was posed, many who practice Buddhist teachings, but who were brought up as perhaps Catholic or Protestant, were confused. If the question was ‘what religion do you practice?’ then you’d find a far greater number of people who use some form of Buddhism in their lives.” (Irish Independent)
In addition to the the Zen center in Dublin, there are several other Buddhist centers and temples representing traditions ranging from Theravada to Tibetan. Most Buddhist traditions also have centers and practitioners elsewhere in the country. The Dublin Zen Center has members practicing in counties Mayo, Donegal, and Kildare.
Koryū Shinsō, who has practiced Buddhism for decades, related the difficulties of finding teachers in Ireland in the past. For a long time, he had access only to visiting teachers as they passed through the country. Then the Zen community formed with a resident teacher.
“That was a very big plus for me because a disadvantage with those other situations was that the teachers were not Irish and not present in Ireland, so it had a bit too much of the exotic about it, so I was delighted to hear that there was a homegrown situation, so to speak,” he said. (RTE)
The community and the practice they embody have become incredibly important to Shinsō. “It’s my life. It informs my entire life. It’s the water, it is the food and drink of my life.” (RTE)
Rev. Myōzan Kōdō described Buddhism as a spiritual tradition that is not centered on a god. “It is not an intellectual understanding, it is a practice, and I am hoping that Dublin Zen Center in the turbulent and very upsetting times we live in, can be a place of sacred stillness that is available to all Irish people here.” (RTE)
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