The Zendos of Lund, Sweden

Passing through the morning shadow of Lund's Cathedral, you come to a medieval building of weather worn, red brick and stately, Romanesque windows. Entering through a side door, you either ascend a floor of ancient stone stairs, or retreat back to the world of everyday routines and stress.

The choice is easy. A faint scent of incense beckons, and up you go. At the top of the stairs there is a small side room where you hang up your coat and slip off your shoes. Then you approach the tall, grey, wooden doors of the main room which are slightly ajar. Stepping through them, you are suddenly flooded with a sense of openness, simplicity and… the inexpressibly sacred.

Light streams in through the tall windows onto natural, dark wood floors. Devoid of furniture and high of ceiling, the spaciousness seems to enter your very being, lightening any weariness of mind or body you may have brought with you.

The whitewashed walls contrast with the dark, square meditation mats neatly laid out in rows to your left and right. Straight ahead at the short end of the room is a simple altar with a tea candle in each of the two stone holders. Between these is a bowl of incense, its slowly burning stick sends gentle waves of soothing, oriental scent throughout the spacious hall.

Bowing in the traditional gassho of dedication, you turn and choose a zafu cushion to take to your mat. Here you settle into a relaxed, yet alert stillness of body and mind. For a time, you join with contemplatives from East and West practicing the rich meditative traditions of Zen Buddhism-or perhaps one of the Abrahamic religions.

In fact, these powerfully transformative traditions of seeking our inner stillness, have been a perennial source of mental and spiritual refreshment throughout the ages. Their timeless value is evidenced in the establishment of no fewer than 3 zendos within a block or two of the Cathedral.

The Church of Sweden sponsors one of these, as described above. The other two offer meditation rooms in privately-owned buildings. They also provide their members the chance to study with renowned teachers of different Zen Buddhist traditions, from different parts of Europe.

Lunds Zendojo was founded in the early 1990's by a Zen nun and student of architecture at Lund University. This group follows the teachings of Taizen Daishimaru Roshi who brought his form of Soto Zen Buddhism to France in the early 20th century.

Lund Zen Center offers Zen Buddhist meditation studies in the Japanese tradition which Philip Kapleau brought to the US in the mid-20th century. This form integrates koan studies into the training. Lund Zen Center was started in the late 1990's by an advanced Zen student and professional within the field of information technology.

For several hundred years, Lund has been a center of spiritual studies in Christianity. Today, that tradition is carried on in a wider cultural sphere in this highly diverse university town. The Faith of the Fathers remains a given, yet in Lund's spiritual community, it cohabits with some of the most time-honored meditation practices from Japan.

Perhaps this local mix of diverse spiritual cultures is a particularly Swedish way of suggesting how we can ease the ambitions of modern existence and integrate them into a healthier-less stressful-satisfying lifestyle of fulfillment.

Lund, Sweden

March, 2012

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