By SARA ARTHURS
An upcoming class focusing on the history of Buddhism will be taught by Brendan Reed, who became interested in the subject after taking a class on meditation as a student at Allegheny College.
It changed his life.
Reed had been studying philosophy, but wanted something beyond the intellectual study. He had been raised Catholic and Unitarian Universalist, but was not practicing either faith.
“I was really searching for something,” and meditation resonated with him. He wound up taking a year off from school, spending part of it living at Zen Mountain Monastery in New York.
“Meditation felt important to me,” Reed said, and it became the focus of his life.
He later finished college at The Ohio State University, then went back to live at the monastery for three years.
Each day would begin and end with meditation.
In between, the students did work to support the monastery — but it was made clear this was still spiritual practice.
“It’s about studying yourself, studying your mind,” Reed said.
At the end of each month, they would spend an entire week in silence, most of it in meditation.
“I felt a lot more grounded” through it, Reed said. “There was a sense of ease” — with himself and with others.
Reed majored in religious studies in college, which he found largely frustrating, as he was in class reading about these issues, but wanted instead “to live it.” School in some ways was disconnected from “how alive I know those practices can feel.”
Reed still has ties to the monastery, but for the most part practices on his own.
He has taught a meditation class in Findlay for over two years, and said people who are “seeking something different” are drawn to the class. Some want a spiritual practice, and what they have found in Findlay so far “isn’t satisfying that need.” Reed noted that meditation can co-exist with Christianity or other religions.
Some try the meditation class and find it’s not for them, while others come back again and again. Sometimes participants are dealing with difficulties in their life, and find that meditation helps.
Reed, 34, said there is a group of local people “very open to it,” especially among those his age and younger. He noted that other meditation groups have sprung up in Findlay in recent years, and there are more yoga studios as well.
The “Introduction to Buddhism” class will begin with the history of Buddhism — not in-depth, but enough to give the participant a “foothold” on the concepts and practices. Reed said people will leave with an understanding of the core concepts and knowing more about Buddha, his life and early teachings, and how the religion changed over time.
They will also learn about the different sects of Buddhism. Theravada, or “way of the elders,” is practiced mostly in southeast Asia. Mahayana, known as “the great vehicle,” is the Buddhism most people are familiar with, including Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Reed said.
Reed said he has encountered misconceptions about Buddhism. The biggest is that the religion is “kind of a philosophy.” It is, he said, but it’s also much more.
“It’s really a practice … a way of transforming your mind and your life,” he said.
And he said people see Zen as “like an aesthetic,” and might refer to, say, a landscape as being very “Zen.” Reed isn’t “offended” by these statements, but that they do represent a misconception and stereotype — people who use “Zen” in this way aren’t really understanding the deeper meaning of the word and the religion.
The three-week class, “An Introduction To Buddhism,” will take place at 10 a.m. Sundays, March 10, 17 and 24, at Hot Yoga Findlay, 1730 E. Melrose Ave. Meditation will follow at 11 a.m. for those who wish to practice. The cost is $15 for all three sessions.
Participants are asked to commit to all three classes. Preregistration is encouraged by calling Hot Yoga at 419-306-3229, although walk-ins are welcome.