Change Your Mind

"Change Your Mind" in New York's Central Park offered the public a day of meditation instruction in May. Photo by Porter Gifford/Gamma Liason.
“Change Your Mind” in New York’s Central Park offered the public a day of meditation instruction in May. Photo by Porter Gifford/Gamma Liason.

                    

 Bhante Suhita Dharma, who works with AIDS patients and the homeless. Photo by Porter Gifford/Gamma Liason.
Bhante Suhita Dharma, who works with AIDS patients and the homeless. Photo by Porter Gifford/Gamma Liason.

On May 14, Tricycle offered “Change Your Mind,” an all-day public program of meditation instruction held on a sloping meadow in New York’s Central Park. Tibetan rinpoches, Theravadin masters from Sri Lanka and Cambodia, Zen masters from Korea and China, and American-born teachers from the three main Buddhist traditions gave short talks and led silent meditations. The day opened with 108 soundings of a gong, followed by Ch’an Master Sheng-Yen, head of the Ch’an Meditation Center in Queens, who explained, “Through the inhalation and the exhalation, our bodies are kept as ever fresh, fresh, and fresh. Breathing is the most precious thing in our lives.” He called attention to the sounds of nature, wind, water, and birds to help settle the minds of the several hundred participants who had gathered on the park’s grassy slope. Pat O’Hara, who heads the Village Zendo in downtown Manhattan, asked the crowd to open to the “ten thousand things sitting around us, the bird chirping in the background, the runners down the hill, to allow them to enlighten us; to soften that edge between the inside and the outside.”

Khenchen Palden Rinpoche meeting Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen. Photo by Don Farber.
Khenchen Palden Rinpoche meeting Ch’an Master Sheng-Yen. Photo by Don Farber.

Thai master Thratom Thenjjento of the Watt Samakkidhamiram Buddhist Temple in Brooklyn emphasized a different approach, explaining the necessity of closing the five senses, “the five holes of the body, to achieve concentration in the mind. To clean the mind you must practice meditation. Clean your mind and create compassion in your heart.” Khenchen Palden Rinpoche of the Padma Sambhava Buddhist Center in Manhattan discussed relative and absolute truth and the importance of the balance between them.

Later in the day, Columbia University Professor Robert Thurman offered a meditation on wisdom and selflessness, and led the participants in chanting the Tibetan mantra “Om mani padme hum.”

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