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Archive for Friday, December 4, 1998

ANNIVERSARY LEADS TO CELEBRATION FOR ZEN CENTER

December 4, 1998

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The Kansas Zen Center is marking its 20th anniversary this year with an event next week.

When a group of Kansas University students started the Kansas Zen Center 20 years ago, there were no Zen Buddhism teachers living here, or a permanent meeting place.

But since that time, the group has grown from a handful of people to a steady group of about 25, and a permanent facility for meditation at 1423 N.Y.

"I think probably people who come to practice it now are more serious, as opposed to 20, 30, 40 years ago where the attitude was sort of, `Hey, isn't this cool,'" said Judith Roitman, who at the time of the center's formation was a KU student. She now is a Zen teacher.

"I think now people see it as lot of work -- something serious -- instead of sitting around feeling groovy, which was kind of the attitude a long time ago," said Roitman, a professor of mathematics at KU.

The Kansas Zen Center in Lawrence, the only facility of its kind in the state, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Participants will mark the occasion with a private party next week at the Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence.

Zen is a school of Buddhism that originated in China around the year 500. It emphasizes meditation.

The local center is part of a larger school, the Kwan Um School of Zen, which is an international school that has its roots in Korean Buddhism.

Stanley Lombardo, Roitman's husband and Zen master, said the biggest inaccurate stereotype about Zen is that people who practice disengage themselves from the world.

"In fact, it has to do with intense engagement every moment," said Lombardo, a professor of classics at KU.

Lombardo, who also was involved in the center's founding, said that looking back on the center's history, "It took us a long time to find our way. We're just much more established now, but the teaching has stayed the same."

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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