Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

Zen Practice

Zen practice is the process of learning how to live one's life in accord with the teachings of the Buddha; being awake and aware and cultivating the inherently human qualities of wisdom and compassion.

Where Zen differs from other forms of Buddhist practice is the emphasis on using zazen, or seated meditation, to look into one's own nature. There are thousands of books on Zen and Buddhism, but to practice Zen you don't have to read a single one. The direct experience of reality, and living in accord with this, is available to each one of us at every moment.

Yokoji Zen Mountain Center is dedicated to year-round Zen practice. You can come and join in with the training in many different ways - you can come every week, live here full-time or only visit once a year; you are always welcome to practice with us.

Zazen in the Buddha Hall

How can I train at Yokoji?

Obon ceremony

There are many ways to plug-in with the Zen practice at Yokoji. If you haven't been before, we recommend coming on a Sunday morning for the Sunday Schedule where you can take part in the Zen Meditation Instruction class. Please take the time to visit our zazen page with instructional video to learn the basics of seated meditation. We also hold an Introduction to Zen Practice class every two months on a Saturday - you can check at the events page to see when the next one will be held. This class lasts all day and is led by a Yokoji senior student who will cover the history of Zen, meditation hall etiquette and various traditional meditation techniques. The class is strongly recommended for any one who would like to attend sesshin or to become a member, but it is not obligatory.

The regular training schedules are always open for non-residents to come and join in for both work and zazen, and we have a volunteer program available for those who are interested. Becoming a member is the best way to support the Center. Members receive reduced rates on all of the events we hold at Yokoji alongside other benefits. Please watch the video on this page to see how some of our current members take advantage of the Zen practice at Yokoji.

Obon ceremony

Why train at Yokoji?

Yokoji is quite unique. There are few full-time Zen training centers in the USA, and even fewer that are built in such a beautiful, serene location. It is traditional in the Zen school to have practice centers based in the mountains as it allows for undisturbed practice and to learn, out of necessity, from the immediate environment. After a year in the mountains, students develop a healthy respect for the power of the seasons and the work that must be done to live in accord with them. The work and practice at Yokoji is heavily informed by the valley in which we live.

What also sets us apart from many other practice centers are the history and credentials of this temple. Founded in 1981 by Taizan Maezumi Roshi, one of the most important pioneers of Zen Buddhism in the West, many students have trained here since, including many in the White Plum Asanga (of which we are a part) who have gone on to become teachers in their own right and set up other practice centers around the country and world. We are an authentic western Zen practice center and also highly regarded by the Japanese Soto School (or Sotoshu), from which we inherited the tradition. The Sotoshu chose Yokoji as a location in 2009 to run a 3 months practice period for westerners in the Japanese style, due to the fact that we are one of the only temples in the US which actually has the appropriate facilities and credentials.

Although similar in some ways, we are not a monastery, which by definition is a place only for monks. There are monks who live and train at Yokoji, but there are also lay people (students who have not taken monastic vows) who live here and visit regularly. As a western practice center, being family friendly is important to us and children are welcome to visit with their families, and we organize events for children throughout the year.