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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Everything Zen: Returning as Spiritual Beings in a Physical World

Jun 04, 2016 02:35PM ● By Ethan Stoetzer

People lead busy lives. Whether it’s working long hours to provide for one’s family and one’s self, cultivating a passion or trying to make ends meet in an unpredictable economy, much of the world is so focused on work that individuals can become blinded to the conditions of others and themselves.


In the fast-paced life of the 21st century, this preoccupation with work, family and other obligations can often leave people wanting something more than just a nine-to-five workweek—a deeper meaning beyond just making it to the next day. The issue lies in what one chooses to find meaning in. For some, it’s consumerism; for others, it’s wealth or religion. Yet, even in a culture with so much entertainment at our fingertips, people find themselves continually searching for answers to one of life’s greatest questions.


In the eastern pine barrens of New Jersey, in the town of Shamong, where the sound of urban and suburban atmospheres lies beyond the range of echoes, rests one community, dedicated to helping others find their purpose and meaning of life.


The Pine Wind Zen Community is a five-acre Zen Buddist Monastery, a nonprofit organization situated on over 50 acres of pineland reserves. Overseen by Seijaku Roshi, a Zen master of 41 years, the monastery offers a peaceful environment where individuals can both learn and practice the Eastern philosophies of Zen Buddhism.


The Zen community offers a variety of programs to aid in one’s journey to enlightenment, including Zen meditation lessons and facilities, Zen educational courses and tea classes as well as presentations and discussions led by Roshi himself.


As a keynote speaker, parent, priest and author, he believes that human beings are innately spiritual beings that live in a physical world. The current culture, he says, is comprised of human beings, seeking a spiritual experience.


“When we [live our lives in the current] way,” Roshi says, “yoga, prayer and meditation becomes something you do out of obligation.”


While he’s technically an ordained monk, Roshi identifies himself as a myth-buster. Roshi believes that, from a cultural perspective, the experience of human beings searching for the meaning of life and what it means to be spiritual is a myth.


“Clearly, it got confirmed that we are born as enlightened beings,” Roshi says. “However, something happens in our formation years—when we get conditioned into believing opposites about ourselves and pursue something more, better and different.”


While Roshi is an ordained monk, he was brought up in a Roman Catholic household, and still practices prayer and traditions of other religions. He says that most individuals that come to the monastery are members of other faiths and wind up returning to their religions as enlightened persons. Most of these people are looking for meaning in the world around them, and how they can be better identified with themselves.


Buddhism is not based on beliefs, but on principles. Roshi is convinced that the universe operates on a cause and effect basis. The universe is perfect as it is, yet humans don’t see it that way.


“If we experience ourselves as human beings pursuing a spiritual experience for the same reasons we pursue wealth and security,” Roshi says, “that’s rooted in the feeling that we’re not good enough, so we will keep trying to become better when we already are better.”


Roshi and the other monks of the monastery are not paid for their services. The cost of events and donations made at the monastery all go to its operations. Roshi speaks at community gatherings and to all religions, along with his fellow monks. Many of the monks are involved with pineland preservation, and ensuring that South Jersey’s forested region is not being taken advantage of.


So while the hustle and bustle of daily life can often distract us from others and ourselves, The Pine Wind Zen Community awaits individuals seeking to better understand who they are and what they are doing in this world.


“People who suffer stress and anxiety, who don’t have priorities to do what is needed to do to handle it, now they’re the cause of their suffering,” Roshi says. “Life comes down to priorities. We live in culture of excuses—a man’s word is equal to his excuses. If you’re unhappy and dissatisfied, it’s because of your own doing.”


The Pine Wind Zen Community is located at 863 McKendimen Rd, Shamong. For more information visit

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