Our mission & Approach

Our Mission is simple:
to provide authentic Zen Training.

The purpose of Zen Buddhist Training is to help the students of Zen uncover inherent wisdom and compassion, to live ethically, and to serve others.

The foundation of Zen Training is the Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

The Buddha

Having a direct relationship with a realized Zen Master who has been put to the test by their teacher is of utmost importance. If a guide hasn't been there themselves, then they don't know where they are taking you. Our teachers can trace their transmission of training all the way back to the Buddha, a lineage of teachers and students spanning 2,500 years.

The Dharma

The teachings and methods of Zen are rigorous and effective. Zen translates as "meditation," and meditation is the basis of Zen practice. The following are our pillars of practice.

  1. Zazen translates as "seated meditation" and includes a variety of concentration meditations, open-awareness meditations, and visualizations.
  2. Koan Introspection is a unique and deeply transformative practice that requires great character strength and persistent determination to complete.
  3. Samu is "work practice" and is essential in developing the capacity to carry one's meditative conscious awareness from the cushion to everyday life activities.
  4. Great Heart Practice, developed by the GMZC teachers, is the intentional inclusion of the emotional and psychological experiences in Zen Training. It is possible, and unfortunately common, that a Buddhist teacher will have gained insight into reality, but will not have worked through underlying emotional baggage, also called the Shadow, and as a result can act unethically and cause harm to their students. This is commonly known as Spiritual Bypassing.
  5. Dharma Talks are talks given by the teachers and senior students to help Zen students penetrate through delusions and upside-down beliefs.
  6. Retreats & Courses are fundamentally important to development as a Zen student. The longer the retreat, the more potential a person has to dissolve the ego; when the ego dissolves, what's left is clarity and compassion.
  7. Reading and Study. Zen warns against making reading too much of a priority, as beliefs and the intellectualization of Buddhism can hinder progress toward realization. With that said, reading can inspire and motivate, as well as challenge a Zen student's current inaccurate beliefs. During the course of Zen Training, certain types of reading my be assigned by the teachers, such as study of the precepts and koans.
  8. Home Practice. Most dedicated Zen students have a daily meditation practice, morning and night, of at least 20 minutes, but usually longer.
  9. Body Practice. Students of Zen are encouraged to maintain some form of body practice, be it Yoga, T'ai Chi, going for daily walks, or gardening. Developing the connection between conscious awareness and the body are instrumental in living ethically, with good health, and in an embodied way.
  10. Chanting Services. All of the meditations at the abbey include a short or long chanting service where recitations of sutras and prayers are chanted.
  11. Service to Others. Reaching the top of the mountain is not the goal; that's only half way. Coming back to the marketplace and serving others is where the rubber meets the road. The environment, animals, and other human beings are all in need of our unconditional love and support. Each Zen student finds ways to serve that are aligned with their karmic unfolding.

The Sangha

Without community, Zen Training would be like an elephant with no legs. There is a reason why we are drawn to meditate in groups: we sit longer and with more concentration. In community, we find like-minded spiritual friends who encourage each other to walk the Buddha's path. Intentional community provides a mirror to more clearly see ourselves - our strengths and our areas for growth. Sangha is there when we need a helping hand.

At Great Mountain Zen Center, we provide meditation instruction, courses on Buddhist and related topics, meditation retreats, private retreats, and residential Zen Training.