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Thread: Zendo and Mosque

  1. #1
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Zendo and Mosque

    I’ve a sitting group in the college I work in. The college is bang in the middle of Dublin City Centre and full of students from all over the world. Each Monday, we sit in “The Quiet Room” for an hour. The Quiet Room is available to everyone for spiritual practice and for such classes as Tai Chi and Yoga.

    So, what’s been happening is that the Islamic students come in during zazen and totally ignore that a sit is in progress. They lay out their mats and pray facing Mecca, while the rest of us sit facing the wall or rise on the bell for kinhin.

    After zazen had been interrupted a few times, I put a poster outside on the door while we sit: “Zen Meditation in Progress, 12 noon to 1pm” it says. But still the Islamic students come to pray in our midst, undeterred.
    I considered asking them to wait until we are finished. We have the room booked for the hour, after all. But in the end I’ve decided that we should sit regardless of whoever comes through the door and to whatever purpose.

    So, we just sit in silence often, and sometimes we sit to the mumbled incantations of “Allah Akbar”.

    Obviously, religious tolerance is a complex thing.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    AND, how's that working for you. Didn't Jundo-oso do a sit-a-long by the side of a highway once? I would think the odd “Allah Akbar” would add to the color of the practice.
    Do the sittees complain or are they able to work around it?

  3. #3

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Quote Originally Posted by soendoshin
    But in the end I’ve decided that we should sit regardless of whoever comes through the door and to whatever purpose.

    So, we just sit in silence often, and sometimes we sit to the mumbled incantations of “Allah Akbar”.
    Yes, we sit with what is, no disturbance ... even the disturbances.

    And that "What Is' might, perhaps, be called by some "Allah".

    Gassho, J

  4. #4
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Soen,

    You are doing very well. I suppose a very quiet, calm and gentle discussion could do wonders. And if they don't understand, it is good practice anyway. Keep doing what you are doing. The other way of looking at it is that you would never dream of disturbing a muslim prayer. I wouldn't. That kind of attitude is precisely why I have left the shores of one God only a long time ago...

    Allah is greater that their thoughts about it-him-her...

    gassho


    Taigu

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Taigu-oso;

    well said, thank you for that

  6. #6

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Hello Soen,

    just my two novice cents: Hang in there for a while and if it doesn't work, find some other place. It's perfectly okay to have a bit of noise once in a while, since one shouldn't even be attached to some Utopian notion of a perfect Zendo IMHO. Having said that, it has been my experience that beginners in particular are often so put off by noise that they just won't come back due to not feeling comfortable. Your own dedicated practice is one thing, but since you are in the process of trying to build a regular sitting group, you have to take the old saying into account "there's no second chance for a first impression" when it comes to interested newbies.

    Gassho,

    Hans

    P.S. Keep in mind I am just expressing my own flawed opinions.

  7. #7

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    I too think you are doing the right thing, by just sitting with what is..we do not always get the peacful mountain top we want. But this seems like a good practice to really be able to watch our minds when things do not go the way we want them to. Sitting with what is is exactly that. When in a quiet, still room, sit with that and allow that to fill you and the whole universe...when sitting with prayers from another tradition, sit with that and allow that to fill you and the whole universe...


    Gassho


    Seiryu

  8. #8
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    I'm sorry to have to say this, but reasoning with them will not work.

    They have injunctions to pray at specific times, and missing those times is (for those who are more on the devoted end of the lax-devoted spectrum) a matter of heaven or hell.

    While staying there might be good in the sense that you are standing up for yourself, I agree with what Hans has to say about protecting the interest of the newbies.

    Out of curiosity, what authority lets the Muslim group into that room even while it is booked? In the U.S., these authorities would be allowed to move them, but required to give them a workable alternative space.

    "Tolerance" has some acknowledgement in the Muslim faith which is emphasized in interfaith communications, but there unfortunately is a very clear line at which it stops. Buddhism is not an acknowledged faith in Islam in the sense that Christianity and Judaism are.

    gassho
    Julia

  9. #9

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Posting the sign was a good idea. Now add some chanting. A little talk at the end would be nice too.

  10. #10

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    I will add my voice to the others saying, sit with what is. Sounds to me like the Islamic students are sitting zazen with you, it's just that their zazen faces East and praises Allah.

  11. #11

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    as i citizen of israel i should probably keep my mouth shut but the best thing you could do is move your time of sitting.
    i dont want to say anything bad about islam or anything like. and even less about muslims! but i will say this, they do have specific times to pray so i doubt they will agree to move them. and besides maybe its my delusional mind speaking but i would just avoid confrontation since in israel everyone is looking for a fight, and i dont just mean muslims... i do mean everyone!

    i feel stupid for sounding like a racist and intolerant, i try not to be but living where i live does have its effects on you.

    Gassho, Dojin.

  12. #12

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    That is true, Muslims usually follow the Five Pillars of Islam and one of those is to pray, I believe three to five times a day, one of them being at noon, depending upon what sect of Islam they follow. Shia and Sunni are usually pretty close in practice.

  13. #13

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    I can be a little territorial and provocative with things like this but what about sitting where they usually pray and see what happens? Just spread out all over the room and see how flexible they are. hahhah

    And yes I'm serious :mrgreen:

  14. #14

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Ancient ones might say: "Move like water"

    I might say: "Know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em". Comfort is a big factor for beginners, it was, and still is to some extent, a big deal for me when I check out a new place, even when I know it's all in my head.

    As others have said, for them its Hell if they miss a prayer. For us?

    Gassho,
    Taylor (Myoken)

    P.s. nice to be back

  15. #15
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Thank you all for your advice. It is an interesting and complex situation.

    In fact, it is not a group that comes to pray. Rather, it is individual Muslim students that drop in to observe their faith. It can be at any time. They are in no way organised. Indeed, they are from many different nations.

    The room itself is designed as a place to use at any time for quiet reflection. However, it is also possible to book it for classes, etc. So, the Catholic chaplain books it for Mass, the Tai Chi group book it for Tai Chi and I book it for Zazen.

    The Catholic chaplain, Sister Flanagan, says that some of the Muslim students come in and pray even while Catholic mass is happening. And the Tai Chi teacher says they come in during her class also. I think they consider it the only place that they can pray, and they must feel the room is designed for drop in use, in any case.

    Also, not all the Muslim students come in. Many open the door and politely wave and withdraw when they see the room is already in use. Others come in and pray in silence. Others again come in and pray at a muted volume. There is no way you can generalise about how each individual approaches it.
    But for the minority that disturb, it is annoying and, I feel, lacking in respect. I asked the ‘newbies’ if it annoys them. They claim it does not. Indeed, I now warn them that there may be an interruption during Zazen. Unfortunately, there is no other room available to us.
    I think it’s a policy issue for the people that manage the room. They should be clear that if the room is booked, then its ‘drop in’ status is suspended for that period. Maybe I should take the administrative route on this one...

    ...all in all, it’s a great opportunity to practice ‘undiscriminating mind’.

    Gassho,
    Soen

  16. #16
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Hi all,
    We have a small room in the hospital here for prayer/meditaion. I've tried to use it for Zazen but faced a similar issue. The difference being this small room has a lock on the door and a sign you can slide to say open or in use. Even so the Muslim workers who come to pray when I'm in there knock repeatedly on the door. And Im only doing 10 minute sits!
    One Muslim girl yelled at a Christian woman for using a room that was in her words "for Muslims". She was corrected by another employee that the room is for use by all. Another Cristian complained that they would throw out any bible that would be in the room. Yet they have a big trunk with prayed blankets and the like that nobody would throw out or get rid of out of fear.
    Since they really believe that they get one step closer to going to he'll with every missed prayer and I don't believe this to be so for myself(I can do Zazen freely and at any time) I've given up using he room
    I also found myself getting caught up in negative emmotions about the whole thing. So I decided it was healthier to be done with the whole desire of doing Zazen at work.
    Good luck with what ever you try Soen and keep us posted!

    Gassho,
    John

  17. #17
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    How many people (included themselves) do some devotees put into Hell for the sake of finding Heaven for their little selves and avoid the wrath of their Maker and Judge!!!
    Making their religion into a banner, fighting in the name of peace...

    The sweet song of Rumi, a song of love and total acceptance and surrender, still needs to be heard.
    The path of the crazy wisdom derserves to be lived.
    The dance of non-duality to be experienced.

    Followers are plentiful, mystics are few.

    Meanwhile... It is good practice. But I have to say that my patience is limited when it comes to religious intolerance ( my colourful karma and lovely abused past must be one of the reasons :mrgreen: ).

    gassho

    The grumpy bear

  18. #18

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    A tough situation indeed. No more advice to add, just encouragement to perservere with your sitting! I think a solution will come to you...

    Gassho,
    Matt

  19. #19

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    It is truly a shame when it gets so far that people will try to monopolize something for themselves. For them, I think, it must truly be fear of hell alone that motivates them to their religion, that ever present whip dangling above their heads. I find it interesting that when you look at each religion, you find a sect similar in thought to our own. For the Muslims it would be the Sufi, for those who hail from the Punjab and surrounds it is the Sikh, the list goes on. It kind of shows how there is a pure belief in each religion that resonates with all other religions, and then there are the fringe groups that break off to the extremes, like the Thuggees, the Wahabi, Opus Dei, that take the message and make it into something else entirely.

  20. #20

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    It reminds me that religions are not in and of themselves evil things, or good things, but that it is the people who claim them that make them what they are. They transform them and their thoughts, delusions, and attachments cause the religions to become what they were probably never intended to be. Thus rises this whole mass of suffering....

  21. #21
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Just wanted to say that I think it's wonderful that they practice with you. It doesn't sound as if they are being purposefully disruptive. Just practicing their practice. While I understand and agree that the hope would be to have the room as booked for yourself, there are many plans we have that are never realized and this can be practice too.

    I think you have an even better chance of peace by accepting them as long as they are not being purposefully disruptive.

    However it's very easy to provide such commentary from the safety of my sofa. :-)

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  22. #22
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    “Danger! You are now entering a Zazen zone!”

    That might make a nice sign on the door. Or how about this:

    “Warning! Buddhists At Work!”

    By the way, it needs to be said that none of the Muslim students are in any way aggressive. Indeed, most respect our space. However, for the few that interrupt it shows a lack of sensitivity, more than anything else. It is for that reason that I am following the advice of the great twentieth century philosopher, Paul McCarthy: “Let It Be”.

    If they get too loud I'll say something, however.

    Gassho,
    Soen

  23. #23
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    I like your style ! (also your references )

  24. #24

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Dear Soen,

    I commend you for your patience.Here's just another two cents that have nothing to do with my religous views...just a personal observation We all have our own ways of dealing with these kinds of situations and they are all unique every time anew. Personally I wouldn't care whether it was Buddhists or Smurfs or Muslims or communists, if I had a room booked and people decided to just enter it anyhow, I'd tell them straight away that's a no-go. But then again I am from a country where people love rules and straight boundaries I fully understand that one has to be extra careful when dealing with religious feelings, but that definitely shouldn't be a one way street and the same rules should apply to all. I am sure you will find a peaceful and wise middle way through all this, but sadly it is also true that open tolerance can also be seen as weakness by some.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  25. #25

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Dear Soen,

    I commend you for your patience.Here's just another two cents that have nothing to do with my religous views...just a personal observation We all have our own ways of dealing with these kinds of situations and they are all unique every time anew. Personally I wouldn't care whether it was Buddhists or Smurfs or Muslims or communists, if I had a room booked and people decided to just enter it anyhow, I'd tell them straight away that's a no-go. But then again I am from a country where people love rules and straight boundaries I fully understand that one has to be extra careful when dealing with religious feelings, but that definitely shouldn't be a one way street and the same rules should apply to all. I am sure you will find a peaceful and wise middle way through all this, but sadly it is also true that open tolerance can also be seen as weakness by some.

    Gassho,

    Hans
    Here's where I see our Zen practice coming to the forefront of our actions. I agree in principal with what Hans said, that rules should apply to all, but being students of the Way we also understand that life can be many things simultaneously. So while they SHOULD apply to all, rules often do not. Realizing this as being the way things are today, one needs to decide whether saying something will cause friction, and whether that friction will end up being of benefit to all involved or if that friction will merely open the door to conflict. If it is beneficial, and perhaps speaking to the students could even open the door to some inter-faith communication and work, then go for it, ask them to respect your group's practice with Kannon's voice. If the most likely outcome is conflict, then..........well, Kannon has a thousand hands - maybe she'll lend a few to plug your ears!

    Either way, as long as you act from a place of clarity, I'm sure that your actions will be the right ones.

  26. #26
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Kannon has a thousand hands - maybe she'll lend a few to plug your ears!

    Either way, as long as you act from a place of clarity, I'm sure that your actions will be the right ones.
    Although I feel very much like Hans... I really like this plug thing. Thank you.

    The One God intoxication has all along been a great disturbance in the history of mankind, the one Buddha too. The one everything. I am not a great friend of the tibetan propaganda and the guru-lama fashion either.
    I feel sick (not in front of as-it-isness...) but in front of the outcomes of blind faith and worship, the way it turns human beings into intolerant voices-actions.
    At the same time I really like this idea of surrendering to Kannon to find the strengh to allow this.
    Bearing in mind that , unless you talk and COMMUNICATE, these guys and you cannot really meet. You have to really give this guys a chance to hear you.
    So you also may ask Kannon to help you to speak in tongues and find a way to calmly and gently find a solution.
    And that Kannon is not in the sky, not in Heaven, not in a dream...it is the very Soen that looks after the kids, drives there, and tries to sit peacefully.

    Kannon-Soen, you are the tongue, the ear and the plug! What a great koan!

    gassho


    Taigu

  27. #27
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Taigu, Hans, Chris, Shokai, Shards, everyone,
    Thank you for this. There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak out. There is soft love and tough love. Kannon uses both, I guess Taigu?
    Hans. I think I’m a bit Germanic myself. I agree with you on rules. But I will see how this plays out.
    Thank you all. I will keep you updated on what happens.
    Gassho,
    Soen

  28. #28

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Hello Soen,

    just to clarify, I would never advocate "playing hardball" or whatever just for the sake of abiding to rules. All I meant to say is that these situations are always unique and that though one should try to express as much equanimity as possible, there may be instances where nice and gentle action/non-action might be mis-interpreted as weakness and backfire.

    Sometimes I am reminded of The Life of Brian when it comes to human conflicts of interest, where Brian first denies being the Messiah, then affirms it....but no matter what he says it was used against him.

    One of my favourite English expressions I learned in the last couple of years must be "passive-agressive". When people have an issue with someone and they push his/her buttons, they can call him/her rude, if he/she stays calm, they call him/her passive-agressive. No way out. Now what do you do? Great Zen question

    I'm sure you'll handle it well, but please, whatever you do, don't hit anyone thirty times with a stick!

    Gassho,

    Hans

    P.S. And please keep in mind I am only a novice who is bound to see things differently in the not too distant future.

  29. #29
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Soen;

    After reading the last few post made here I am sure you will find the skillful communication style to fit the occasion.

    Richard

  30. #30

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Now what do you do? Great Zen question
    I would begin the sitting with chanting the Heart Sutra. This chanting also lets others know what to do.

  31. #31

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    I would begin the sitting with chanting the Heart Sutra. This chanting also lets others know what to do.
    Seems like a good advice :roll:

    Thank you for sharing Soen! And thanks to everyone for their comments... vast and complex subject.

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    The sweet song of Rumi, a song of love and total acceptance and surrender, still needs to be heard.
    The path of the crazy wisdom derserves to be lived.
    The dance of non-duality to be experienced.
    Beautiful Taigu sensei, but sadly like Majushri's sword transcending illusions and attachments, the path of crazy wisdom is not easy to swallow for those confine in their certitudes...

    I also work with childrens in schools and have to deal with religious intolerance, above all when I share a "Philosophy workshop" with them.
    But here schools generally do not allow any religious manifestations, or in the catholic schools no proselytism is allowed... Secularism (I believe it is the same thing we call "Laicity" in French) is primordial, and with respect to every believer (and non-believer) it is widely accepted that school is a public space for knowledge. Any religious manifestations is seen as something private that must be kept in the family or community realm.
    Some catholic schools have Chapels, and generally those places are used by everyone for any "spiritual practice" but outside Chapels, in the rest of the school "Religion is not allowed", except for Philosophy classes.

    Different countries, different views, different intolerances...

    Keep cultivating Patience with your students! And thank you for sharing Soen :wink:

    gassho,
    Jinyu

  32. #32
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    A very interesting discussion. I would also add chanting to your practice, and maybe the occasional zen shout! :P

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    Hi all,
    We have a small room in the hospital here for prayer/meditaion. I've tried to use it for Zazen but faced a similar issue. The difference being this small room has a lock on the door and a sign you can slide to say open or in use. Even so the Muslim workers who come to pray when I'm in there knock repeatedly on the door. And Im only doing 10 minute sits!
    One Muslim girl yelled at a Christian woman for using a room that was in her words "for Muslims". She was corrected by another employee that the room is for use by all. Another Cristian complained that they would throw out any bible that would be in the room. Yet they have a big trunk with prayed blankets and the like that nobody would throw out or get rid of out of fear.
    Since they really believe that they get one step closer to going to he'll with every missed prayer and I don't believe this to be so for myself(I can do Zazen freely and at any time) I've given up using he room
    This reminded me of the "prayer room" at Changi airport (Singapore), which I sought out in high hopes of a quiet hour or so, just to find it only catered to Muslims. Too bad this isn't working for you at the hospital.

  33. #33

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Finally!

    I have some time to say hellos to all posting here.

    I appreciate this post a lot--in fact I think the situation described happens all the time, everywhere.

    It is a beautiful koan, a great koan, and I have been enjoying it as it bounces the walls of my skull.

    At one point a scene from Dr. Strangelove came to mind: "Gentlemen, No fighting in the War Room!"

    as well as a riff on Monty Python's 'I came here for an argument' "No you didn't" "Yes I did." "No you didn't" "Yes I did" "That's not an argument, it's disputation." "No it isn't" "Yes it is"....etc.
    Only it morphed into "I came to the quiet room to join in prayer" "Well, you can't quietly join us in quiet prayer" "Well why can't I quietly pray while you quietly pray?" "Because we are here first and we are meditating, not praying" "But the quiet is the same" "No it's not, 'cause you ....."

    But what came to mind as well from the memory bin was a performance art event I read about and wanted so badly to have seen: inSite Binational art project regularly has artists from north and south the USA/Mexican border participate.
    The piece I had read about and was intrigued about enlisted two American high school teams and two Mexican high school teams: one each playing basketball and soccer simultaneously on an indoor basketball court: the soccer net was under the basketball hoop. The 4 teams played twice--once in Mexico, and once in San Diego (US).
    How fun would that be?
    I would loved to have seen it.

    And I tell you it happens all the time: the simultaneity, the interpenetration, the co-arising, multiple philosophies/one reality.

    Life may be the only 'room' that can be 'booked' simultaneously by all participants....

    Thank you all for this wonderful thread.

  34. #34
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Keishin;

    You brought to mind the Pequin on the tely bit; can you tell me if it was Monty Python's Circus or the Two Ronnies?

    btw, Soen, How are you making out with the Muslims?

  35. #35
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Hi Shokai,
    No visitors today. But I did rephrase my poster on the door: "Zen Meditation ends at 1pm". It seemed to do the trick ... maybe! Today we had a very peaceful and undisturbed space to sit in. Nothing like real life at all, in fact.
    Gassho,
    Soen

  36. #36
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Keishin wrote:
    Life may be the only 'room' that can be 'booked' simultaneously by all participants....
    Wonderfully said Keishin!!

    Gassho,
    John

  37. #37

    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Soen, I may have some advice, my moms side of the family are all muslims and I talked with my cousin Abdullah and he said if you can talk to them and just explain to them that it is Haram (forbidden) to pray while others are using the room and shiekh Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia has written that you can pray in area (like a church) while it is not being used and there are no statues or pictures. If you pray while others are praying you commit an act of Shirk and Kufir (Disbelief). If you can tell them or post this up on the door I think that no other service be it meditation or church service will be interrupted. I don't know if this will help or not but it can't hurt. On another note are you from Dublin or another part of Ireland? My dad was born in Waterford and his side of my family are from Waterford and Cork county.
    Gasho
    Chris

  38. #38
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Greetings all,
    In my direct experience, a "nonbeliever" explaining that a certain behavior is "haram" or proscribed by secular and/or religious figures of authority may evoke the opposite response of what was intended . Please use this information judiciously, respectfully, and in context with the situation. Posting a notice or direct transmission of this information may be viewed as an escalation or direct challenge. I know the purpose of our discussion is to avoid making this a Zen/nonbeliever v. Islam issue over space. And as has been noted, the reactions of individuals vary - some have behaved very politely and respectfully when encountering your group. Perhaps one could approach one of these individuals and ask them for their perspective, and discuss the situation before determining whether proceeding any further is necessary. Such a discussion might initiate a dialogue with a larger group of users.

    Gassho,
    Yugen

  39. #39
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    I did rephrase my poster on the door: "Zen Meditation ends at 1pm". It seemed to do the trick ...
    Ingenious, I just knew you'd find the skillful means

  40. #40
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    Re: Zendo and Mosque

    Hi Chris,
    I appreciate that. If my visitors return, I may well follow your kind advice.

    By the way, I'm from Galway but live in Dublin. Cork is a really beautiful part of Ireland. If you haven't visited the country, you should some day. I'll be happy to show you around Dublin.

    Gassho,
    Soen

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