Study-Practice with a Zen Teacher
All practices at Zen Garland revolve around awakening and cultivating our ability to live in unity with wisdom and compassion. First and foremost, we follow Dogen Zenji’s core teaching:
To study Buddhism is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.
Zen Study-Practice takes place in private individual sessions with our Roshis and Senseis (Dokusan) and Dharma Holders (Interviews). Teaching also occurs through public Dharma Talks (Teisho), group discussions and council gatherings, classes and workshops, service projects and retreats.
Each of our communities offers an Introduction to Zen Practice.
Dokusan is offered in our communities during most public zazen sessions. The sessions are usually short, 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes longer sessions are scheduled separately. Dokusan, is private, personal time and dialogue with one of our Zen Teachers. This is your time to ask questions, present an understanding, or share something personal. Zen practice is about your personal life, every aspect of it. Dialogues in dokusan center on practice and how to relate practice to our daily lives. Zen is about relationship, our ability to connect with ourselves, with others, with nature, and with all creation. The relationship with a Zen Teacher involves mutual openness, honesty, authenticity, respect, and care.
Koans are a unique system of spiritual development. Most recount formal and informal encounters and dialoguers between masters and students. The renowned Koan books are collections of these encounter dialogues taken from the biographies and teachings of the great ancestors in the Zen tradition. They have been taught primarily in ascetic and intense monastic training environments, and for their efficacy require some context of comparative intensity. We do not begin this study until a student has achieved physical, emotional, and mental stability in daily meditation and retreats.
One begins koan study when an urgency arises to really experience for oneself Oneness, the Sacred, Buddha Nature. The first koan helps the practitioner bind all his or her doubts and aspirations into a concentrated focus. This questioning or questing gains power and ripens until some degree of spiritual experience occurs.
In the practice of koan study, we must become the very situation presented; we must present the Zen Master’s state of consciousness both in terms of the historic situation and in our very moment here and now! Koans break us into the nondual immediacy of this very moment in its co-creative, multidimensional explosion of tactually immersive experience.
The following sets of koans, called Dharmakaya Koans, help to clarify and unfold the nature of this initial experience, which is no other than our nature and the nature of all creation. Further koan study helps refine our character, cultivate wisdom and compassion in skillful engagement with life, and present how to teach Zen.
Our Koan curriculum was set by Harada Roshi and Yasutani Roshi. After passing a first koan, we continue with Dharmakaya Koans, then go through four koan collections: The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan), The Blue Cliff Record (Heikigan Roku), The Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku), and The Transmission of the Light (Denkoroku). This is followed by a study of the 5 Perspectives of Tozan Ryokai and 60 koans on the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts.
These are offered periodically in rotation as one-day classes.
Early Buddhism in India (Buddhism 101)
The life of Siddhartha Gautama, Shakyamuni Buddha, his teachings and the development of the 16 Schools.
The Advent of the Mahayana (Buddhism 102)
The Perfection of Wisdom texts, stupa worship and the increasing involvement of the laity, the cosmic pantheon, universal salvation and the Bodhisattva ideal, Nargarjuna and the Madyamika School and the Yogacara (Mind Only) School.
Chinese Buddhism & the Development of Ch’an (Buddhism 103)
Japanese Buddhism & the Development of Zen (Buddhism 104)
An Introduction to the Life, Works and Practice-Enlightenment of Dogen Zenji (Buddhism 105)
These Seminars occur several times a year varying from 8 to 12 sessions. Past sessions have explored The Tang Dynasty Chinese Ch’an Masters, The Hua-yen School, Readings from commentaries by the Hua-yen Masters, Meditation and the Place of Thought in the Teachings of Dogen Zenji, Advanced Studies in Madhyamika and Yogacara, and some of the foundational sutras of Mahayana Buddhism.
Visiting Scholar & Zen Teacher Lectures
We invite Buddhist scholars and scholars of religion and mystical experience to lecture at our communities or on our website stream as often as possible.
Other Useful Information
Locations and contact information
Useful information on getting started with a Zen practice
Coursework designed to support and grow your practice
Information on Zen Garland's seven Core Practices
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