Last month, initial work on the the Leidecker Center for Asian Studies’ Zen Garden began with the installation of three large boulders, weighing 10.5 tons combined, which will anchor the contemplative space. First proposed in 2015, the garden was approved as part of the renovation of the amphitheater behind Trinkle Hall.
Assistant Professor of Religion Dan Hirshberg explained the significance of these multi-ton rocks, noting that “arranging these stones, and all the more so on such a massive scale, is a uniquely challenging aesthetic process, and something of a mystical one as well. According to the Zen tradition, when done authentically, their precise arrangement is said to invoke a vision of perfection in this imperfect world, a glimpse of nirvana in samsara (cyclic existence), enlightenment despite the persistence of ignorance. Like a visual koan, a garden is meant to unlock the inconceivable paradox of apparent existence and its ultimate emptiness.”
Coinciding with the launch of the Contemplative Studies minor, a broadly interdisciplinary course of practice and study that draws upon faculty from the arts, humanities, and sciences, the garden will publicize and extend UMW’s wellness initiatives, prominently display and promote appreciation for multiculturalism as a cornerstone of the liberal arts education, and provide an accessible space for the contemplative engagement of these practices and principles. Funding for the garden has been generously provided by the Leidecker Center for Asian Studies; the Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion; the UMW College of Arts and Sciences; and several private donors.