The ultimate and unchangeable Dharma


To study the buddha way is to study the self.
— Eihei Dogen Zenji


The greatest gift of this life is that we get to live in a world where there is a lot to discover. Since we are curious people, we invite teachers to the temple to offer their experience and knowledge. Topics can range from studying the basics of Zen, deeper dives into the sutras, and the means by which we can bring the mind of mediation into our everyday life.


Study Groups

There are several weekly and monthly informal study groups, based around different Buddhist or Zen texts. These involve reading some passages out loud and discussing them as a group in order to understand how they apply to our lives and meditation practice. Everyone is welcome to drop in to any of them, with no special commitment.

Dharma Talks

Every Wednesday evening, as well as during sesshin meditation retreats, there is a Dharma talk by one of the Santa Cruz Zen Center teachers, or visiting teacher, on various themes of Zen practice and understanding. This includes time for asking questions, and is followed on Wednesday evenings by an informal tea, where discussion can continue.

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The formal meeting of teacher and student is an essential element of Zen practice. Dogen Zenji says that there are two ways to realize the body and mind of Zen: “meeting with a teacher to inquire into Dharma and just wholeheartedly sitting.” If either of these are neglected, Dogen says, it is impossible to “hit the mark” with body and mind, fully expressing freedom, letting go of our fixed ideas and views. This intimate interpersonal exploration of practice is an aspect of all Buddhist traditions, since the time of the Buddha. Everyone is welcome to request dokusan from any of the teachers at Zen Center; an appointment can be scheduled for before, during, or after one of the regular daily zazen periods. Meet a teacher.


Jukai & Precepts

The sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts of Soto Zen are the guiding principle for our daily conduct in the world. The sixteen precepts are grouped into three categories which are the Three Refuges, the Three Collective Pure Precepts and the Ten Major Precepts.

The Three Refuges are refuge in Buddha, the fully awakened and compassionate nature of mind; refuge in Dharma, the flawless truth of interdependence and selflessness; and refuge in Sangha, the community of those who practice and realize Buddha and Dharma.

The Three Collective Pure Precepts are embracing and sustaining standards of conduct; embracing and sustaining all good; and embracing and sustaining living beings.

The Ten Major Precepts are to refrain from: killing life, taking what is not given, misusing sexuality, speaking falsely, dealing in intoxicants, speaking of others' faults, praising self and belittling others, being possessive of Dharma or wealth, indulging in anger, or disparaging the Three Treasures – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

We offer a monthly full moon Precepts Renewal Ceremony, a ritual begun by the Buddha himself, where we renew our commitment to practicing this way of life, in harmony with all beings. Everyone is welcome to attend. Every year or so there is a ceremony of Receiving the Precepts (jukai), where those who have been practicing at SCZC can request from a teacher to receive the precepts, along with a small version of Buddha's robe (rakusu) which they sew, a Dharma name, and lineage document, thus formally and publicly committing to live ethically and with awareness, in accord with the lineage of Soto Zen, for the benefit of all.


Sewing Buddha’s Robe

Anybody who is sewing a rakusu with the permission of their teacher, is welcome to sew with us. Please come for instruction or community. Participation by those who need to sew an envelope, repair an old rakusu or robe, or wish to sew a robe as a gift, is also encouraged. More information on sewing can be found here.