Zen practice provides a way of being in the world that supports wellbeing and gives us the opportunity to develop both understanding of ourselves and also how to use compassionate action in the world. We train using multiple practices that support our spiritual development in different ways.
Zen meditation, commonly known by its Japanese name “zazen”, is a physical and mental discipline in which we create a laboratory to study the self. In this particular laboratory, we eliminate distractions by being still and sitting in silence.
There are many forms of Zen meditation, ranging from following our breathing or counting our breaths, to the penetrating inquiry of koan study and the practice of shikantaza, which translates roughly as “just sitting.” No matter the particular form of meditation, in Zen we make Zazen the heart of our daily practice, and we practice it with help, guidance, and support from teachers and our fellow practitioners.
Practice with a Teacher
Zen practice involves the opportunity to work and study with a Zen teacher in private or as part of a group of practitioners. Private meetings with a teacher, known in Japanese as Dokusan or Daisan, give members the opportunity to develop their practice under the guidance of a teacher, asking questions and seeking advice on all matters related to Zen practice, in a totally private and confidential dialogue with the teacher.
Public talks on Zen practice (called dharma talks) are given to groups of practitioners as an opportunity to hear teachers and senior practitioners express their unique understanding of Zen practice and how to apply that practice to everyday living.
Zen Koan and Text Study
Koan practice is an experiential path for spiritual development using sayings and stories from the lives of enlightened masters and from Sacred Texts (Sutras). A student who has achieved physical, emotional and mental stability in daily meditation and retreats may begin koan study when an urgency arises to truly experience Oneness - the Sacred, Buddha Nature.
Text and Sutra study are offered by Roshi Paul Genki Kahn.
Classes include the teachings of the Mahayana Sutras including the Prajnaparamita texts, the Lotus Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Lankavatara Sutra and other foundational texts of Mahayana Buddhism. Future classes may include the history of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Zen Buddhism and their outstanding masters.
While meditation is a physical and mental discipline, we also emphasize the need for Embodiment Practices as a way to focus our attention on this body, which is the Dharma Body/Dharmakaya or reality itself.
Through embodiment practice, we slow down and experience our bodies in renewed awareness. All of our senses inform us of the mystery of this life, presenting itself through, within and as this body-mind continuum. Our senses, including body and mind consciousness, are the gates to awakening and experiencing each moment as it is. We encourage practitioners to develop their own body practice.
During retreats, we incorporate stretching and movement in different disciplines appropriate for beginners.
Focusing brings to Zen a meditative way of awakening to, healing, and reintegrating wounded and split-off parts of ourselves that most spiritual practices do not address. The practice of Focusing allows us to be aware of and to listen to the deepest personal aspects of ourselves where emotion, memory, thought, and behavior intertwine.
When those intersections are distorted or stuck in a knot (klesha in sanskrit) special attention can help unravel those knots. We try to work with emotional blocks as an aspect of our practice, transforming them from obstacles into aids on the path of spiritual and human development.
Service as a Way of Being based on
The Zen Garland Vows
Ethical living is a core aspect of Zen practice, based on the perspective ad the reality of Oneness and Unity, while simultaneously appreciating differences. We renew the Zen Garland Vows once a month and maintain a 2,500 year old tradition within Buddhism. Our Zen practice is committed to service to our community, as a way of being in the world. Our service is always freely given and understood as a Zen expression of practice.