Irish Examiner Article: Taking a walk on the mild side
'Taking a walk on the mild side' by Cleo Murphy - Tuesday, April 03, 2012
IF YOU’RE heading down to the Lakes of Killarney in the next week or so you may encounter a large group of walkers out around the shores.
Nothing unusual in that. Kerry attracts a lot of walkers, often noisy and jovial from their exertions in the fresh air and generally clad in Gortex, carrying knapsacks on their backs.
This group, however, is different. They will walk slowly and silently in meditation, following a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has come to Kerry to teach them how to live their lives more mindfully.
Thich Nhat Hahn is one of the foremost spiritual leaders in Buddhism today and on Apr 12-15, 750 people will join him for a four-day residential retreat at the INEC in Killarney. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend his public lecture and Mindfulness Ireland, the group hosting his visit, has a waiting list of those who wish to attend. It follows a visit by the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, to Limerick last year where 3,000 — including GAA manager Micky Harte — showed up to listen.
Clearly the message of Buddhism is finding a following in this country. Allihies in west Cork is home to the Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Retreat Centre and is also a parish in of the Diocese of Kerry. Last year it lost its resident parish priest — the first parish of the diocese to do so. At the time a spokesperson for the diocese, which caters for 144,000 Catholics, said within 10 years there would be only 25 priests covering the 53 parishes.
Far from being overwhelmed by this trend, Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy has responded by setting up 12 pastoral areas, each with their own parish council. Getting lay people involved in the running of the Church has been a major goal for him during his time as head of the diocese.