Feeds:
Posts
Comments

In November of 2004 the Tsuzuki family of Nagoya, Japan decided to give Furman University their family temple as a gift. This temple was built in 1984 for the Tsuzuki family and given the name Hei-Sei-Ji. In 2004 the Tsuzuki family, who owned and operated a textile company and built the Nippon Center, decided they needed to sell some of their land in America and Japan due to the decline in the textile industry. The family  offered Furman their family temple that sat on their piece of property being sold in Japan and the new landowners were going to tear it down if it was not relocated. Former president at Furman University, Dr Shi. spoke about Furman’s decision regarding the temple, “I immediately saw this as a unique opportunity to preserve an international treasure and do so in a unique way that complemented Furman’s educational mission and our continuing role as an aesthetic and educational resource for the larger community.”

Traditionally Japanese temples are not allowed to be relocated outside of Japan. This temple is an exception because it was never assigned to a Buddhist priest to serve the local community. In 2004 the Hei-Sei-Ji temple was dismantled into more than 2400 pieces and shipped in 4 containers across the Pacific, up the Panama Canal and arrived in Charleston, South Carolina.  Once the structure arrived in the United States it sat in the Tsuzuki family’s warehouse for almost four years until $400,000 was raised for the temple’s reconstruction.
Reconstruction began on April 1, 2008 and involved bringing a team of 7 wood specialists, 4 tile specialists, and 2 plaster specialists from Japan.  The entire temple was rebuilt to its original state with the exception of a few ceiling tiles that were broken when it was disassembled. These ceiling tiles were remade and shipped from Japan. Most of the wood used in the temple is keyaki, a wood native to Japan.   The temple is built without the use of a single nail. The intricately crafted tongue and groove joints that correspond with Japanese philosophy hold the temple together and create a unified simplicity.

The Place of Peace became the first authentic Japanese artifact to be reconstructed in South Carolina and also the first known complete Japanese temple to be moved to the United States. Technically, the Place of Peace is not called a temple because the butsudan or shrine has been removed. Now there is a poem in calligraphy where the shrine once sat that translates into, “Blessed universal spirit, immediately we feel your presence” and serves to help focus the mind for meditation and reflection. The Place of Peace is located on a hill behind the art building overlooking the Asian Garden. Traditionally, Buddhist temples face south or east, but the Place of Peace is positioned northwest. This nontraditional positioning was proposed by David Shaner, Professor of Philosophy and Asian Studies. The man who designed and built the temple originally disapproved of this proposal until it was brought to his attention that if it was positioned the traditional direction that it  would face towards a parking lot. He accepted this inconsistency of tradition as long as Furman informed visitors. It is positioned to view the waterfall in the Asian Garden, the lake, and in the distance the Blue Ridge Mountains which creates a sense of harmony between the Earth, water, and landscape.

The Japanese temple was blessed and dedicated on Friday September 5, 2008. The ceremony began with an introduction by Furman’s former president, Dr. David Shi. Seiji Tsuzuki and his sister, the children of the original owners of the temple, spoke about their memories of the temple as small children in Japan. The Tsuzuki family is connected to Furman through Chigusa Tsuzuki, the matriarch of their family. She had taken courses in 20 years prior with Professor David Shaner. Professor Shaner performed the traditional blessing ceremony which uses the elements of water, earth, represented by salt, and air, represented by incense. This was followed by a Kagamiwari ceremony, symbolically breaking the top of the sake barrel and passing out small cedar boxes of sake for a toast. After the ceremony everyone was invited to take their shoes off and explore the temple.

 

The Japanese temple and its surroundings reflect the themes of connection, and balance with nature. It is placed in a setting that promotes reflection, calmness, and spiritual well-being. This is not hindered by any artificial components such as lights, heat, or air-conditioning. Doctor Shaner talks about the course that is taught in the Place of Peace. He states, “”Students will be up there at 7:20 in the morning. It’ll be dark outside. It could be snowing, and they’ll still be in there meditating. But it’s my job to teach them to use the powers of your mind and awareness to sit in meditation for an hour and a half without being cold.” The temple serves as an educational tool for the Department of Asian Studies and is part of Furman’s commitment to sustainability. Sustainability can be seen in the temple’s structure since the wood pieces are designed to be taken apart so they can be repaired individually if needed.  The Place of Peace promotes personal reflection and strengthening the mind-body connection.

For more information about the place of check out our wiki and our photo slideshow

Advertisements

Being Still

Approaching the Place of Peace, one can hear the gurgling of the stream in the Asian Garden below, the soft crunching of the path’s pebbles, and perhaps the singing of birds or the breeze stirring surrounding trees. It is a place for people to come, to be still, and connect with one’s self and one’s environment. The Place of Peace is open to all – students, faculty, staff, community members, and visitors – for the purpose of instruction and meditation.

Among the twenty cushions inside the Place of Peace. Photo taken after the Wednesday morning time of meditation (November 17, 2010).

Meditation emphasizes slowing down, calming one’s mind, and centering focus to the present moment. It is meant to produce in the individual a deep calmness and awareness, a state that can be carried into daily living. Referring to the words of Dr. Shaner, when calm, one can step outside of the superficial mind’s thinking, judging, and blaming, and see themselves differently, connecting with their deeper, even unconscious, selves. Some people find meditation difficult. Dr. Shaner recommends that individuals focus on their breathing, their in-breath and their out-breath, while being in the present moment.

Interview with Dr. David Shaner, on Meditation and the Place of Peace

At its dedication ceremony, Dr. Shaner shared his desire for the Place of Peace to be a place where people could come to receive quiet comfort: “Here, quiet reflection and meditation may help us to sort things out, connect the dots, and accept the many conflicts we perceive in daily life” (September 5, 2008).

Outside the entrance to the Place of Peace, during the Wednesday morning time of meditation (November 17, 2010).

Because the Place of Peace is so precious, in regards to its history, significance, and quality of design and materials, its doors cannot be left open. Wednesday mornings, anyone is welcome to come for meditation, facilitated by Dr. Stone, from 7:30 to 8:20am. The Place of Peace is also open to the public every Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 3pm. If one does visit and intends to go inside, be prepared to take shoes off, and bring socks (to protect the wood floors).

When you think of reaching inner peace, one of the last things that crosses your mind is tossing people on the ground. Reaching inner peace involves kindness, meditation, and walking the earth, right? Can you really reach peace of mind through fighting? The martial art known as Aikido certainly aims to; only you won’t hear Aikido masters calling this dynamic Japanese practice “fighting.” Mark Stone, a practicing logic professor and Sensei of the Furman Aikido Club, says that, “Aikido is more like a cooperative dance that works best when you are leading your attackers mind.”

Aikido is a defensive martial art taught at Furman that focuses heavily on mind and body coordination. While somewhat difficult to describe in tangible terms, mind and body coordination stems from the eastern philosophy that the mind and body are inseparable. Any time the body acts a certain way, it directly affects the mind, and vice-versa. For those interested in philosophy, this directly opposes Rene Descartes and much of the western world’s view of Dualism; that the mind and body are separate entities. Because Aikido relies on mind and body coordination, there is an equal amount of time spent teaching good attitude and lifestyle choices as there is physical technique of the Aikido arts. If any of this is a little hard to wrap your head around, you are having a pretty normal reaction. Students of Aikido often spend years learning exactly what it means to have the mind and body coordinated.

As a starting point for new students, the Sensei of any Aikido club will always begin by describing and illustrating the four basic principles. These four basic principles are used to help guide students closer towards mind and body coordination. These involve Keeping One Point, Relaxing Completely , Keeping Weight Underside, and Extending Ki. Keeping one point involves continuously thinking about the point on your body two inches below your navel. This area is the biological center of your mass and concentrating on this point helps you maintain balance and stability. Relax completely should not to be misinterpreted as asleep. Rather, relax completely means relieving the stress in your body so that it does not hold you back. Being relaxed means that your muscles are not working against each other when you perform a physical action. Keeping weight underside comes through realizing that your body has an inherent weight to it. Oftentimes when we perform downward actions, we forget our advantage of gravity and consequently use more energy than we need to. Extending Ki is easily the most important yet most complicated to explain. Extending Ki comes from the idea of mentally extending our focus outside of the limitations of our body. We do this all the time without thinking about it. When you extend your arm to shake someone’s hand, your focus is on the other person and you have trust that your hands will meet. If you limit your mind and focus just at your hand, the process would feel awkward and harder than if you are aware of the whole person.

For those interested in learning more about the four basic principles and Aikido, Mark Stone welcomes anyone (including professors and the Greenville community) to come to any of the Aikido meetings held every day but Wednesday during the school week at 3:00-4:30PM in Timmons Arena.

 

The Aikido club has had a fairly interesting history at Furman. What started out as a small interest group has now become a healthy mix of students interested in learning the art of Aikido. There are currently nine members that regularly attend, and many more occasionally drop in for a lesson or two. Furman University has generously funded Aikido Club allowing for each member to be provided with an authentic Gi (traditional Aikido garb) and Furman also assists the club to make an annual trip to Japan where an international Aikido conference is hosted. Stone Sensei originally founded the Aikido club after learning about Aikido from David Shaner, a fellow Philosophy professor. Without going too far on a tangent, it’s important to note that David Shaner teaches Aikido professionally around the world and has even competed in the Olympics as a professional skier. To say that David Shaner lives an inspirationally active lifestyle would be an understatement. Yet all of these achievements don’t interfere with the humble nature of teaching Aikido. Mark Stone modestly says that Aikido has taught him to teach only what he knows and to appreciate the quieter aspects of life.

Aikido also helps students manage the stress coming from classes. I had a chance to talk with Lauren Cloud, a member and student of Aikido Club, about her personal reasoning for attending the club. Lauren told me that she feels  Aikido has taught her how to take the stress in her life and approach it in a manageable way. Conservation of energy is essential to Aikido, and many of the philosophies taught in the club translate to life outside of the martial art.

Sustainability has been somewhat of a buzz word at Furman University, but we usually only think of this in one context. With so much focus on preserving water, recycling, and saving energy, we often forget about the energy used within our own bodies. Aikido aims to instill in its students a sustainable mind, which influences both the actions we take in life, and also how we go about doing them.

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!