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Becoming a Zen Monk

Updated: Mar 14


It is a long process. If you want to become a Zen Monk, find a Zen community near your house, and join the sangha.


The first step of becoming a Zen monk begins with living at a Zen monastery as a resident for one to two years, experiencing the full spectrum of attitudes, joys, and challenges that arise in community Zen training.


The subsequent steps of the ordination path are:


  • Receiving the Five Precepts

  • Formally becoming a Zen Buddhist and receiving the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts.

  • A minimum one year period of intensified training in which the ordained sangha and the postulant discern together whether ordination is appropriate. During this time the Postulant resolves outside commitments, obligations, and debts.

  • Novice priest ordination, a five year commitment to continuous training at a monastery.

  • After the five year training period, it may be appropriate to continue ordination training, becoming a full Zen Monk.


During 5 year period:


1. Zazen


Zazen, seated meditation, is our central practice and a great opportunity to immerse oneself in zazen, explore the depths of the heart-mind and see into the essential matter of life and death. The daily schedule includes around three to four hours of zazen six days a week.


2. Stability and service


* The development of a firm foundation of ethical conduct and personal integrity by practicing the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts.

* Cultivating a willingness to serve by supporting the many workshops and retreats.

* Serving for at least a year in the pivotal roles of teacher’s attendant; head of the meditation hall; assistant; and head cook and kitchen manager.


3. Buddhist study and character work


* Attending weekly classes covering a comprehensive range of Buddhist principles including the sutras and teachings of the Zen masters.

* Private Dharma encounter, sanzen. Sanzen is a time when students receive personal guidance and an occasion for the student to bring her/his insight to life in non-conceptual, embodied expression.

* Leading classes on occasion to build experience in communicating the Dharma.

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