Zen Studies at MZMC

MZMC offers a host of classes to support and encourage meditation, compassion, and joyful living. Our curriculum provides structured support for exploration of Buddhist teachings to clarify the fundamental questions of our lives. For current class offerings, click here.

Introduction to Zen Meditation If you are new to Zen Buddhism or MZMC, our four-part introductory series of talks is the place to start. Each session includes meditation instruction and teaching on how meditation and Zen relate to daily life. Offered every week.

Foundations of Practice classes are designed for people with some curiosity about Zen or those looking to establish and deepen their Zen practice. Each of these four-week classes is offered once every two years.

Advanced Studies classes are for people with an established Zen practice; these classes demonstrate how Buddhist thought relates to practice, provide intellectual challenge, and investigate the context and history of material. Advanced studies classes are open to people who have taken Four Noble Truths, Awakening the Heart, or Original Zen from the Foundations of Practice courses or by permission of the teacher. Each of these six-week classes is offered every three years.

Morning Study Groups and Special Class Offerings allow our teachers to offer special classes on topics of their choosing.

Practice Periods continue the 2500-year-old tradition started when Buddha and his students settled down for an extended period of practice during the monsoon season. Participants make a commitment to read and discuss the selected material; maintain a daily sitting practice; attend a minimum of two days of retreat; and attend at least one afternoon of work practice. MZMC offers eight-week Practice Periods in Fall and Spring each year.

Foundation of Practice

Four Noble Truths: How do we walk the path from suffering to peace?

The first and most fundamental teaching of the Buddha is the Middle Way: the alleviation of suffering through compassionate action, meditation and mindful living. The Four Noble Truths of dissatisfaction, its cause, its cessation, and the path to end it explain how and why to practice this Middle Way. In this class we will investigate how suffering is caused by desire and aversion, by wanting things to be other than how they are, and how we can follow the Buddhist Eightfold Path to move towards a deep and quiet joy.

Awakening the Heart: How do we practice the bodhisattva way?

Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the path of seeing through our preconceptions and conditioning so that we may give ourselves to the joy of serving others. Bodhisattavas are those who have given themselves to this path. In this class we'll study the Heart Sutra, chanted in Zen temples daily all over the world, which expresses the Bodhisattva ideal and the Buddhist concept of emptiness. We'll also explore the Paramitas (perfections of practice) and the formless precepts, guideposts for compassionate action.

Original Zen: What were the first Zen teachings?

1500 years ago in China, Buddhism took a new and dynamic form called Zen that still thrives to this day. Direct knowledge beyond words, spontaneity, harmony with nature and bare attention to just this moment are hallmarks of this tradition. We'll study some of the earliest and most influential Zen teachers, each with a unique and beautiful expression of every person's ability to awaken now.

Mindfulness in Daily Life: How do we bring awareness to our lives?

Mindfulness is a fundamental component of Zen practice and it is also widely recognized in the psychological community as an excellent tool for alleviating stress and all the problems that follow behind it. This class will help us develop day-to-day mindfulness practices so that we may more deeply experience and enjoy our precious and fleeting lives.

Zen Ritual and Liturgy: What is at the heart of bowing and chanting?

Ritual is a basic component of our traditional style practice at MZMC and has been central to Buddhist and Zen practice for thousands of years. This class is an investigation of both how and why we do ritual: bowing, chanting, tending altars, and others. We'll also study the meaning and purpose for some of the chants we use at our Center.

Creativity and Zen: How de we express our practice?

Art and Zen have always been intimately connected. This class will be designed uniquely each time it is taught by the instructor and will provide a study of either a particular art form, such as writing or sewing, or how creativity in general relates to our Zen practice.

Advanced Studies

Selections from the Pali Canon: What were the first teachings of Buddhism?

The Pali Canon is the first written record of Buddhism and is widely regarded as the closest we can come to the actual teachings of the Buddha and his earliest followers. Emphasizing practical teachings and complete devotion to letting go of the causes of suffering, the Pali canon has inspired billions of people. We'll study how to bring these first Buddhist practices and teachings into our lives.

Diamond Sutra and Nagarjuna's Middle Way: What is beyond self and other?

The Diamond Sutra uses poetic and devotional language to expand our minds beyond our usual limited ways of being so we can live without separating our selves from life through preconceptions. Nagarjuna's teachings on the Middle Way deconstruct all conceptions to show how our thinking mind limits our contact with the infinite, inconceivable, unfolding of the universe. We'll study how both teachings can lead us to what Nagarjuna calls "the peaceful."

Yogacara and Buddhist Psychology: How do we work with the mind?

Yogacara, or Mind-Only, Buddhism emphasizes psychological transformation through Buddhist practice. The psychological insights formed by this tradition two thousand years ago still ring true, and the Yogacara principle that each aspect of our consciousness can be transformed into enlightened activity by wholehearted attention profoundly influences the way we practice Zen.

Zen koans: How do we live in not-knowing?

Koans, brief paradoxical Zen stories and questions, are one of the most unique aspects of our tradition. They pose an impossible barrier to our conventional minds to encourage us to break through to a new and vibrant way of being. This class is an invitation to encounter Zen thought in its most spontaneous and dynamic form.

Zen Poetry: How is the inexpressible expressed?

Many of the greatest expressions of Zen wisdom have come in the form of poetry, often focusing on encouragement for practice and appreciation of nature. Many great teachers of our past have used poetry as one of their principal means of revealing their way and their wisdom. This class will allow you to wade into one of the world's great bodies of spiritual literature.

Dogen: How do we realize the fundamental point?

Dogen Zenji, founder of our Soto school of Zen, was possessed with an astonishing combination of poetic facility, and spiritual and philosophical insight. His commitment to conveying the principle that enlightenment is available to everyone in every moment shines through his writings. Here is a chance to encounter the teacher who formed the way we practice at MZMC.

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.