Minnesota Zen Meditation Center was formed in 1972 when our founding head teacher, Dainin Katagiri Roshi (1928-1990), was invited to come from California to teach a group of people interested in the dharma. After Katagiri Roshi's death, Shohaku Okumura served as interim head teacher until the installation of Karen Sunna, one of Katagiri Roshi's 12 dharma heirs. Succeeding Karen is Guiding Teacher Tim Burkett, a long-time student of both Katagiri and Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Tim became guiding teacher in 2002.
Everyone is welcome at MZMC, regardless of practice experience. First-time visitors, those just beginning a meditation practice, and long-time students (current and returning) are all welcome.
Visitors who may be expecting to find an exotic group of people at MZMC are sometimes surprised to find that the sangha is made up of average, householding Americans who are simply committed to Buddhist practice. Everyone can develop a meditation practice, and people who participate at MZMC are encouraged to establish meditation practices that work for them. Participants study and practice at their own pace.
There are many ways to participate, connect, and get to know others at MZMC. Activities include zen meditation (zazen), lectures, work practice (volunteering in a way that's meaningful for the participant), retreats, classes and workshops on Buddhist studies and daily-life topics, and practice help and support from teachers and sangha members. For a complete schedule of classes and events, please see our calendar page.
MZMC is a member-supported non-profit organization operated by a board of directors and small staff. Membership support is vital to continued practice and programming at MZMC. All support is valued and appreciated. For more about membership, please see our membership page.
Contemporary and Traditional Practice
At MZMC our practice is Zen Buddhist meditation; our style contains both traditional and contemporary elements.
"It is important to me to respect and honor the rich 2000 year old tradition that we are part of, including the two Japanese Soto Zen teachers who deeply impacted my life. It is equally important to me to demonstrate that Zen practices can be done in a uniquely American context." – Tim Burkett, Guiding Teacher
Although our services, chants, statues, and robes come from the Soto Zen tradition, we also have meditative practices and retreats in which the only ritual is that of Zen meditation itself. In both cases the focus is on stilling our minds so that we can enjoy the equanimity and peace that have been there since beginningless time.
The services following our weekday and Saturday morning sittings are traditional, while our evening sittings have little ritual. Sunday mornings, when we gather together for meditation, a dharma talk, and conversation, are contemporary in style.
Our lay initiation process is quite traditional, with rakusu (the small, bib-like version of Buddha's robe worn around the neck) sewn and then presented at an initiation ceremony referred to as Jukai. Later, the decision about wearing the rakusu is each individual's decision. The priest ordination process is "pared-down traditional": people sew the okesa (large robe) and zagu (bowing mat), which they receive at the ordination ceremony. The okesa has been worn by ordained Buddhist priests everywhere since the time of the Buddha. The koromo and kimono, worn under the okesa, are later additions from China and Japan. Wearing any or all of the robes is optional for ordained people at MZMC. As we are not monastics but live in the world, shaving heads is left to personal discretion. All ordained people are expected to develop proficiency in the traditional practices, however, and also to practice and teach Zen in a way which has no traditional accoutrements at all except the mastery of Zen meditation itself.
Our Zen Center is a place at which people who love and appreciate traditional elements practice together with people who prefer an "unadorned" style.
"I am personally drawn to the contemporary style, but I have great love and respect for my teachers who passed on a type of Zen which is liturgically meaningful, nuanced, and of great beauty." – Tim Burkett
Practice in the world
While our core practice is meditation, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center is a place at which those who are serious about their practice (including priests-in-training) are encouraged to be fully engaged in the larger community through careers, family, or volunteer outreach.
"My goal is to develop a community in which many, or most, of our teachers, starting with me, are intimately involved in the world. In the history of Zen, many have talked about the non-differentiation between the spiritual and the mundane, but few teachers have emphasized that careers family, and public service can be fully as rich a ground of Zen practice as temple or monastic life. I am happy to have the opportunity implement a vision which goes back to the roots of Zen, with prominent role models such as Layman Pang in China and Vimalikirti in India." – Tim Burkett
Our mission is to help people experience a deep and quiet joy-a joy that arises whenever we are fully engaged in the work or play of this moment.
We envision a world grounded in generosity, compassion and wisdom.
These core principles define our mission and guide our community
We hold a deep and intuitive understanding of the emptiness and interconnectedness of all things. Knowing that nothing is separate from our self, we strive to be compassionate in all our activities.
We embrace the Buddhist and Soto Zen teachings and practices that have been handed down to us.
We value and are open to new and different approaches to the practice of Zen Buddhism.
A spirit of cooperation guides our relationships with each other within the Zen Center community. We support and encourage one another on our spiritual paths and in our daily activities.
We are committed to being fully engaged in our day-to-day life, with family and friends, at work and play, and with the larger community, nation and world in which we live.
We are dedicated to providing high quality and relevant practice/learning opportunities and are committed to continual improvement by seeking and incorporating community feedback.