Life without zazen is like winding your clock without setting it. It runs perfectly well, but it doesn’t tell time.
Regular Meditation Times
If you have not meditated before at Lotus Zen Temple, please come 30 minutes earlier for the first time. You must receive introductory training in Zen meditation, sitting postures and temple etiquette, in order to participate in meditation.
Normal meditation times are Sunday 10:30 AM and Monday through Thursday 5:00 PM, but occasionally there are changes, such as during severe weather conditions or seasonal holidays. Please click on the Bulletintab for most recent updates.
For meditation at Lotus Zen Temple, please always wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes of neutral colors, free of slogans and commercials. Thank you.
Throughout history, those searching to resolve life’s most important questions have recognized the need to periodically step out of their daily routines and turn all of their energy towards the vital concerns of their existence. Our meditation retreats in Zen tradition involves silent meditation periods, breathing practice, dharma talks and other activities. We divest our mind of all conditioned concepts and imagery, in order to awaken to the true (or enlightenment) nature that is already in each of us. These retreats is for those who are relatively new to Zen; or Zen practitioners who would like to experience a more intensive practice; or those who have not yet begun to meditate. Sittings are scheduled at different lengths with other activities, talks and breaks. Pot-luck type meals are shared. (A few times per year as announced. Please check the calendar in the Members Area).
Zen Meditation Training Units
Our Unit Training is meant for those who would like to learn more in depth about zazen, kinhin, meditation in general, as well as the spiritual practices associated with Zen Buddhism. It can also be used as a building block for those preparing for Jukai (lay ordination) as well as for those seeking to eventually be authorized to lead meditation groups (Upasaka). An exact curriculum of each Unit can be viewed in the "Members Area" of this web site. Friday evening 5 pm to 7 pm (first Friday of the month. No training December and January; June through August. Please check the calendar in the Members Area). You must sign up before you can take training units. Please email to apply.
Buddhist Inquiry Classes
Learn about the basic tenets of Zen Buddhism. Most Fridays from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Please register here.
This class is for those who would like to learn about the Buddhist ethics, as well as for those who are preparing to take the Zen Buddhist Precepts. (Scheduled occasionally on a class meeting two-times. Please check the calendar in the Members Area).
The purpose of this program is to offer formal master to student training in Zen, if you would like to deepen your practice; and/or if you plan to prepare for taking the Zen Buddhist Precepts. (please email to inquire or make contact at the temple)
- Zen Buddhist Precepts - Buddhist Dedications & Blessings - Buddhist Funerals
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Buddhist Festivals observed at Lotus Zen Temple
Among the great number of festivals observed in various so-called Buddhist countries, I have selected a few days throughout the year that seem to be significant and focused on Gauthama Siddharta’s life. These days, including our own way of celebrating them, have been carefully chosen as they may speak to us Western Buddhists more than perhaps ethnic festivals from other countries.
March – Avalokitesvara’s (Quan Yin) Birthday
This is a festival which celebrates the Bodhisattva ideal represented by Avalokitesvara, who represents the perfection of compassion in the Mahayana traditions of Tibet and China. It occurs on the full moon day in March.
Celebration: We gather for a special dharma service on the following Sunday morning, decorate the temple with flowers and join in for a put-luck brunch.
May – Vesak or Visakah Puja (Buddha Day)
Traditionally, Buddha's Birthday is known as Vesak or Visakah Puja (Buddha's Birthday Celebration). Vesak is the major Buddhist festival of the year as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha on one day, the full moon of the sixth month of the lunar year (around the middle of May on the international calendar), except in a leap year when the festival is held in June. This celebration is called Vesak being the name of the month in the Indian calendar. Visakha Puja is one of the most important days for Buddhists, because on this day the Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and died. All three of these significant events fell on the same day.
Celebration: Visakha Puja is usually celebrated with a public dharma talk during the day and a candle-lit procession to pay respect to the Lord Buddha during the night.
July – Asalha Puja Day (Dharma Day)
Asalha Puja means to pay homage to the Buddha in commemoration of the Buddha's first teaching: the turning of the wheel of the Dhamma (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra) to the five ascetics at the Deer Park (Sarnath) near Benares City, India. There Kondanna, the senior ascetic, attained the first level of enlightenment (the Sotapanna level of mind purity). Asalha Puja falls on the full moon of the eighth lunar month (July). It was on this day that the Lord Buddha preached his sermon to followers after attaining enlightenment.
Celebration: The day is usually celebrated by merit making, listening to a dharma talk, and joining a candle-lit procession during the night.
November – The Elephant Festival
The Buddha used the example of a wild elephant which, when it is caught, is harnessed to a tame one to train. In the same way, he said, a person new to Buddhism should have a special friendship of an older or more experienced Buddhist. To mark this saying, we hold an elephant festival on the third Sunday in November.
Celebration: Every member of our temple is encouraged to invite a friend and/or sponsor a new participant, being his or her spiritual friend and offering help with Zen practice.
December – Bodhi Day
Traditionally the 8th day of the 12th lunar month has been observed on December 8th in Japan since the Meiji Restoration (1862-1869). It is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni, experienced enlightenment (Bodhi). According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a Pipul tree and simply meditated until he found the root of suffering, as well as how to liberate oneself from it.
Celebration: We light candles (or electric lights) in our homes and in a special arrangement at the temple. At the end of meditation practice we gather for a seasonal party with food and cookies.
New Year's Eve Bell ringing
We ring the temple bell 107 times on the night before New Year’s Day and one time on New Year’s Day itself, just past midnight. There are several theories about this custom. For example, one is simply that people have 108 kinds of worldly desires and can get rid of them by ringing a bell. The other theory involves the Japanese word shikuhaku, which means "agony". It so happens that many Japanese words and sounds have several possible meanings. Ku, for example, means either "troublesome" or "nine". Shi means either "death" or "four". So if we do multiplication tables, shi (4) times ku (9) is thirty-six, and ha (8) times ku (9) is seventy-two. Then, thirty-six plus seventy-two is 108 — the number of worldly desires! By ringing the bell that many times, we hope to rid ourselves of this troublesome karma.
Here is a traditional Chinese explanation: Like the knots or beads on a Mala, the bell is considered as an auspicious article in Chinese tradition. At great ceremonies, the temple bell is rung typically 108 times to begin the celebration. There are 12 months, 24 solar terms and 72 hours on the Chinese lunar calendar, 108 in all. According to Buddhist custom, people have 108 worries which are said to be removed by the bell. The bell-ringing at mid-night of New Year's would captivate many people as its echo carries around the vicinity, whether one is close by or just heard it via broadcast.
Celebration: We begin meditation at 9 p.m. interspersed with special kinhin and dharma talks. We ring the temple bell 107 times right before midnight and one time on New Year’s Day itself, just past midnight. Then we immediately join in a party with seasonal foods & beverages.