Forms & Ceremonies


“Rituals are more than just training. Through rituals we communicate and transmit the teaching in a true sense. We put emphasis on selflessness. When we practice together, we forget our own practice. It is each individual’s practice, yet it is also others’ practice. For instance, wwhen we practice chanting, we say, ‘Recite the sutra with your ears.’ Then with our ears we listen to others, while with our mouths we practice our own practice. Here we have complete egolessness in a true sense.”

-Shunryu Suzuki Roshi



Zendo Forms

One foundational aspect of Zen training is to engage in particular ways of deportment - while sitting, standing, walking, bowing - as a way to cultivate mindful presence as well as to harmonize with one another in our shared endeavor to practice Buddha’s Way. Through these forms we encourage stillness of body and mind, within and without, to help us most deeply encounter our lives and each other in each moment.



A number of people participate in the flow of our rituals during services and zazen by volunteering for a temple role. Temple roles for the daily schedule include the doan, fukudo, and jiko. Typically volunteers commit to a specific temple role on the same day each week. For sesshin retreats and special ceremonies there are other roles that support our practice. If you are interested in learning a temple role you can speak with the Ino, the manager of zendo roles.


Daily, Monthly, and Annual Ceremonies

Daily morning and evening zazen are followed by service (sutra chanting). You are welcome to exit the zendo after zazen if you don’t wish to participate in service. Wholeheartedly chanting the teachings of the Buddha and lineage teachers is an ancient practice in all Buddhist traditions. It is a way to not only become more familiar with the teachings, but to join together after silent meditation, uniting our separate voices into one sound to express devotion and gratitude to the Buddhas and ancestors who have transmitted this practice to us. We begin and end service by bowing deeply to the fully awakened selfless mind of Buddha. Each month we have a full moon Bodhisattva Precepts Renewal Ceremony, as well as memorial ceremonies for our founding teachers, Kobun Chino Roshi and Sobun Katherine Thanas Roshi. There are numerous traditional annual ceremonies following the Soto Zen tradition.



Jukai ("receiving the precepts") is a formal ceremony where participants publicly take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and affirm their intention to live ethically and with awareness, in accord with the Bodhisattva Precepts of the Zen tradition. After requesting to receive the precepts from one of the senior teachers, during the next half year or more students, with the help of a sewing teacher, sew a small version of Buddha's robe (rakusu) which will be given in the ceremony.They will also meet with their teacher in practice discussion (dokusan) twice a month to explore the meaning of living with the precepts. A donation for the ceremony is requested. Jukai students will have participated in the practice at Santa Cruz Zen Center for at least one year, and done at least one sesshin of 3 days or more, before requesting to receive the precepts. After receiving the precepts, people will be expected to participate in the ongoing practice at Zen Center, including zazen, ceremonies, Practice Periods, dokusan, filling doan roles, etc.


Shukke Tokudo

Shukke tokudo (“leaving home and attaining liberation”), priest ordination, is making a lifelong commitment to the Buddha Way as expressed through the practice of the Soto Zen tradition. This means taking up the practice of Buddha-Dharma as the primary commitment of one’s life, living in harmony with others according to the Bodhisattva Precepts, and making one’s inner sense of renunciation explicit by sewing and wearing Buddha’s robe (okesa). It means devotion to realizing the Buddha Way through zazen, engaging in the ceremonies of Soto Zen, training with a teacher, studying the teachings of the tradition, and setting an example of practice for others in daily life. A priest may express his or her practice in various forms: the monastic form, emphasizing a lifestyle of simplicity in order to devote one’s time and energy to zazen and Dharma study in order to verify the Way for the benefit of all beings; the teaching form, emphasizing thorough study and teaching of the principles of Buddha-Dharma to benefit others; the ministerial form, emphasizing the practice of serving those in need in the midst of society at large, in which one may not even outwardly appear as a priest; or some combination of these forms, to be determined by the priest in consultation with his or her teacher.


learning Zen Forms at SCZC


Upcoming Ceremonies at SCZC