Tucked away on busy Main Highway is Zen Village, a center for spiritual education. The peaceful building offers refuge from the everyday stresses for its members with meditation, yoga and weekly tea ceremonies.
But Zen Village may be forced to close next month after losing the $1 per year lease for the building it has been renting since 2005. The building, which was owned by a student of the organization, is in foreclosure and set to go up for auction Aug. 14. The group will be holding a silent auction Sunday to raise money to try to buy the building.
Master Chufei Tsai, who founded the organization, believes that housing the organization in a central location is important for the community.
“We think it has served a great purpose,” Tsai said. “We have helped thousands of people.”
Susana Adrianzen, a student of Tsai’s, said Zen Village is important in “helping to build our community into a healthier community.”
Adrianzen said she found peace through Tsai’s teachings and the Zen House, and thinks that preserving the well-known center is critical to helping the community.
“It’s not just about a quick fix,” she said.
The auction will be held following prayers at 1:30 p.m. and will go until 5. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased online at www.zenvillage.org or at the door. Donated items include jewelry, perfume and various antiques. The organization is also collecting donations, both online and in person. Tsai is happy to meet for tea with anyone who might be interested in donating. Although the asking price for the building is nearly $1.1 million, the group hopes to generate enough support to make a reasonable offer.
Tsai opened Zen Village in 2005, but her nonprofits Zab Sang Institute and Heart for Humanity were founded in 2000, shortly after she moved to Miami from Taiwan. Tsai has worked to educate the community since she arrived, and has twice hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his visits to Miami in 2004 and 2010.
Though Zen Village students come from around the world to learn under Tsai, she is committed to helping the local community. She has partnered with programs for children, the elderly and people with disabilities to provide a support system and help improve quality of life through activities such as meditation. She wants to expand her programs and train more people to teach.
“It’s so needed everywhere,” Tsai said.
Tsai has had a long partnership with the Barnyard, an organization that supports low- income children in the West Grove. Barnyard Director Sylvia Jordan said Zen Village has consistently made a lasting impact on children in her program. One of the highlights was Tsai’s meditation program.
“She has taken some of the most rambunctious and ill-mannered children…they walk into the room and chill out,” Jordan said.
Tsai frequently invites Barnyard kids to special events, such as a recent visit by Buddhist monks who made a mandala, an intricate circular design made from sand.
“It is important to have the representation of another culture, of another way of life in this time where our world is in such turmoil and our world is so quick about everything,” Jordan said.
Tsai has invited the children to programs that featured Tibetan, African and Brazilian cultures, among others.
“It is an exposure and it’s a place that is sometimes so un-Miami,” Jordan said. “I think it’s really important.”
Tsai also works one-on-one with people who need help, both physically and mentally. U.S. District Court Judge Alan Gold came to Tsai when his daughter was about to begin chemotherapy; Tsai helped her with breathing exercises.
“She did a fabulous job in a very stressful time,” Gold said. “She is an extraordinary, special and gifted person and spiritual leader.”
Gold remained involved with Zen Village and believes that Tsai’s presence makes the center worthwhile.
“It would be a tremendous loss for the entire community to lose the Zen center as a facility,” he said. “It offers a place of refuge to many people who have difficulties in their lives and she embraces them all…she is just open to help and to serve.”
The group is exploring all options, but Tsai plans to continue her mission even if the group is unable to keep the house.
Tsai said this setback is also a chance to make the organization better known in Miami.
“This could be our opportunity to see if we have likeminded people out there who can help us build the community,” she said. “We should all work together.”