Our Practice Paths
Members meditate at Open Mind Zen and support the Center, but choose not to participate in the specific training methods set up for students. There are no requirements for membership other than completing our Beginners Orientation Class.
Practicing Students engage in the Open Mind Zen system of Zen practice with one of our teachers. It is recommended that Practicing Students meditate at home at least 30 minutes a day 5x per week. When the teacher feels the student is ready, he or she will begin studying the first group of traditional zen koans, although alternative practice methods are allowed on a case-by-case basis. As a prerequisite to koan study, Practicing Students are required to experience several sessions of Zen Dialogue work with Sensei Al as we have found it is extremely helpful to individuals starting out.
Senior students have finished the second koan collection, The Gateless Barrier, and have completed at least 10 longer retreats. At this point, a Senior Student should be experiencing and manifesting how their Zen practice can be integrated into work, play and relationships.
Assistant Teachers demonstrate an understanding of the workings of the Dharma in their lives and relationships and must be firmly rooted in the experience of Awakened Mind. Their teacher must feel that they are ready to take on a leadership position within the Sangha. To be considered for this level, a candidate must have already started a Zen sitting group, or be active within one of our current Sanghas.
Zen Assistant Teachers complete the third koan collection, the Blue Cliff Record, and demonstrate an understanding of the commentary and poetry attached to each koan. They may then be authorized to begin giving Dharma Talks and limited interviews under the supervision of an Open Mind Zen Teacher.
Dharma Holder (Hoshi)
The position of Dharma Holder is a confirmation by the teacher that a student is beginning to embody the Dharma in a complete way and has creatively sought methods to teach on his or her own. A Dharma Holder practices at least several years as an Assistant Teacher and is considered a leader in the Sangha. Dharma Holders are still under the supervision of a Zen Teacher, although they are beginning to master their own style of teaching.
Zen Teacher (Shiho)
Zen Teacher status is granted when koan study is complete and the teacher feels the candidate can be trusted to take on students and transmit the Dharma on his or her own. At this point, Dharma Transmission is given and the individual is considered a full Lineage Holder within the Soto Lineage.