Getting Started With an Introductory Workshop
Introductory Workshops, conducted by Roshi Graef and her students, are a practical and authentic introduction to Zen Buddhism. During the half-day schedule of talks, question periods, demonstrations and guided meditation, participants are introduced to the body-mind disciplines of Zen Buddhism.
In addition to providing an introduction to Zen, workshops are an ideal time to see how spiritual training is carried on at the Center. Members are happy to answer questions about the Zen Center and its programs. People who wish to discuss their own spiritual practice can talk with Roshi Graef at the question-and-answer periods or during breaks.
Workshops provide a practical and authentic introduction to Zen Buddhism.
- If you are curious about Buddhism—Workshops give an overview of the life of the Buddha and the development of the Buddhist Path.
- If you want to learn how to meditate—Workshops have in-depth instruction in the postures, practices, and forms of Zen meditation (zazen).
- If you are new to Zen and looking for support—Workshops introduce you to the teacher and community of the Vermont Zen Center
- If you are experienced in Zen and looking for a place to practice—Workshops are our most thorough point of entry. By coming to a Workshop you have taken the first step to membership in the Vermont Zen Center.
The Zen Center has an extensive and growing library of Buddhist books both for reference and take-out. There are currently about 1200 titles in the collection, including many rare and out-of-print books. Here is a very short suggested reading list for those who are new to Zen practice. Most of these books are available at the Vermont Zen Center, or you can purchase them through your favorite bookseller.
- The Three Pillars of Zen, by Roshi Philip Kapleau. One of the most important 20th century works of the transition of Zen Buddhism to the West. Together with "Merging of East and West," an excellent introduction to Zen as practiced at the Vermont Zen Center.
- To Cherish All Life, by Roshi Philip Kapleau. A Buddhist case for vegetarianism and the humane treatment of animals.
- The Zen of Living and Dying, by Roshi Philip Kapleau. A Zen Buddhist approach to death, peace and meaning in life.
- Peace Pilgrim, by Peace Pilgrim. The inspirational writings of a woman who preached peace and nonattachment.
- Lotus in the Fire: The Healing Power of Zen, by Jim Bedard. Toronto Zen Centre member Jim Bedard recounts his battle with cancer and his reliance on Zen practice to lend meaning and strength.
- Zen Teaching, Zen Practice, edited by Kenneth Kraft. Essays by Dharma Heirs and others about Roshi Kapleau and his influence.
- Zen Tradition and Transition, by Kenneth Kraft. A sourcebook on Zen practice and teachers.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Zen Center has a “Finding Your Seat” program to help newcomers feel more comfortable at the Center. It can be intimidating to start a spiritual practice in an established community. We hope you will feel free to ask questions and let us know your needs.
Answers to frequently asked questions:
- Are newcomers welcome? Newcomers are always welcome to attend morning sittings. However, it is a good idea to call ahead and let us know you are coming. Occasionally the Center is closed due to sesshin retreats or holidays.
- What should I wear? Loose, comfortable clothes are recommended. Please do not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts. Jeans are usually too tight for comfortable sitting.
- I already belong to a house of worship. Is that okay? Yes, it is. Zen practice does not require believing in specific doctrines. There are Zen Center members who also attend church or synagogue
- Is Zen practice compatible with Twelve Step Programs? Absolutely. The practices of Zen are both similar to and enhance Twelve Step Programs.
- Is it necessary to have some background in Zen Buddhism before coming to the Center? No, it is not. Zen practice is not about learning or knowing in an intellectual, conceptual sense. Rather, it is the direct, concrete experience of life just as it is.
- What about reading? The best way to learn about Zen is to practice Zen. If, however, you would like to do some reading, we have a short recommended reading list.
- I am unable to fold my legs and sit on a cushion. Are there any other options? Yes. Many people sit on chairs rather than cushions. There are always chairs in the meditation room.
- Do I have to become a member to sit at the Center? If you wish to attend morning sittings only, it is not necessary to join the Center. If you wish to attend the occasional evening or Sunday sitting you can become a friend of the Center. Membership is for those who wish to support the Center. Members may attend all sittings, participate in ceremonies and retreats and receive private instruction from Sensei Graef.
- If I don’t live in the area can I still participate? Many of our members do not live in Vermont. Out-of-town members come to sit at the Center when they are able, attend retreats as their situations permit, and maintain their sitting practice with groups in their area or on their own.