Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

    UA students practice Zen Buddhism


    The group calls themselves the Quiet Tide Sangha, and they meet each Monday from 5:15-6 p.m. in the Quiet Room on the third floor of the Ferguson Center, and anyone is invited to attend. It is a time reserved for meditation, or, as group advisor Hank Lazer puts it, a time 
for nothing.

    A semi-retired professor of English and former Associate Provost of Academic Affairs, Lazer started the group after garnering interest from students in his class Zen Buddhism and Radical Approaches to Art.

    “Basically what we do is nothing,” Lazer said. “You sit and follow your breath and let your thoughts arise and go away.”

    Lazer began meditating when he was a college student in California in the 1960s, a time when many Americans became interested in eastern religions, and he has been sitting ever since. He said while he isn’t sure exactly why he began practicing Zen, he realized it complimented his life in many ways.

    “It seemed like a good counterbalance to some aspects of my own personality and temperament,” Lazer said. “At the core of it is engagement with the grace of conscienceless, which is a lot more spontaneous than we typically package it. It involves a love of the moment itself and understanding 
it deeply.”

    Lazer uses these aspects of Zen to connect his students in his class to different radical art forms, and to connect them more to the world if they 
so desire.

    “Likes and dislikes are not pertinent,” Lazer said. “It really doesn’t matter if you like it or dislike it. Over time what I realized is I needed to help students deepen their practice of deep observation, so I found myself drawn towards expanding on the Zen aspect of the course.”

    Zen is just one form of many practices that fall under the umbrella of Buddhism. Michael Altman, an assistant professor of religious studies with a focus on eastern religions in America, described Buddhism in America as coming in two forms: the Buddhism of immigrants coming from Asian countries to America, and the Buddhism adopted by Americans ever since the artists’ movements of the 1960s.

    “Zen is the first Buddhism that garnered interest from Americans,” Altman said. “An international student from China who has a Buddhist background and sees a meditation group may not see that as Buddhism, but all diversity has gotten lumped under the big category of Buddhism.”

    While there may be differing opinions on what some categorize as Buddhism, certain principles hold all the Buddhist practices together. Altman said that different Buddhist traditions share a principle of permanence, focusing on change and how nothing will essentially always be the same.

    “The struggle in America is the real struggle between convert Buddhists to define Buddhism in a way that stands out publicly versus immigrants who don’t have privileges and are doing Buddhism but no one sees it or hears about it,” Altman said.

    Sometimes the line between the different forms of Buddhism in America can be blurred, but some individuals are taking a more personal view on the practices. Jacob Sims, a sophomore majoring in international studies and a student in Lazer’s class, attends Quiet Tide Sangha.

    “I took the class because I was interested in Buddhism, which is a fairly common reason for most people,” Sims said. “I enjoyed the class and I enjoyed sitting. I found it incredibly interesting and compelling.”

    Sims’ interests and what he learned in the class has led him to practice sitting regularly, and it has impacted his life in a big way.

    “It means a lot to me,” Sims said. “I’ve always had anger management issues and it’s really helped with that. I still get angry, but not as much and as badly. Before I would get angry and then get angry with myself, but Zen has this idea that you’re human and make mistakes, and we 
recognize these mistakes and then move on and try not to make these mistakes again.”

    Lazer’s course, Zen Buddhism and Radical Approaches to Art, will be offered again 
next semester through the New College, and any 
student may sign up to take the class.

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