All practices at Zen Garland revolve around awakening and cultivating the ability to live in unity with wisdom and compassion. First and foremost in our Study Programs is Dogen Zenji’s focus:
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.
Our Study Programs take place in dokusan, private interviews with a Zen Garland Zen Teacher, including koan study, 4 public Core Classes covering Buddhist and Zen history, philosophy and practices in India, China and Japan, Roshi Genki’s Seminars, and lectures by visiting scholars. All practitioners at Zen Garland are encouraged to attend dokusan with a Zen Teacher and to take the 4 Core Courses.
Koan practice is an experiential path for spiritual development using saying and stories from the lives of enlightened masters and from Sacred Texts (Sutras). 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. Students traditionally work on a first koan for a year to many years. 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. A following set of koans help more clearly unfold the nature of this experience, which is no other than our nature and the nature of all creation. Further koan study helps cultivate wisdom and compassion in skillful engagement with life.
Our Koan curriculum was set by Harada Roshi and Yasutani Roshi. After a first koan, we continue with 100 Testing Questions, 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 study of The 5 Perspectives of Tozan Ryokai and 60 koans on the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts.
Koan Study is done in the meticulous method of demonstrations and expressions native to Zen tradition and codified by Hakuun Zenji. We also use “huatou” cues with specific koans as created by Dahui Zonggao, and explanatory expositions from the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition.
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)
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.
The outstanding Zen masters of China who founded the 5 Houses, maintained and creatively developed the tradition and transmitted it to Japan and Korea, all were deeply steeped in the Mahayana Sutras, commentaries, and all forms of Buddhist learning to clarify the nature of their practice and realization. Periodically we offer individual and group study on the major Prajnaparamita Texts, The Lotus Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Lankavatara Sutra, the Surangama Sutra and other foundational texts of Mahayana Buddhism.
LECTURES BY VISITING SCHOLARS
We invite Buddhist scholars and scholars of religion and mystical experience to lecture at the Zen Garland Sanctuary as often as possible.