What to expect on a visit
You’re looking at our website and have perhaps passed by the big house with the beautiful grounds in central Austin, and now might be thinking of coming in person. We want your first visit to the Austin Zen Center to be a warm and welcoming experience. You’ll find more information on our Getting Started page.
The best thing you can bring is what we call “Beginner’s Mind.” This means it’s really OK to be a beginner. In fact, it’s essential to cultivate this mind. Our founder, Suzuki roshi said, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, few.” “Beginner’s mind is everything.”
Where are you located?
We are located at 3014 Washington Square between W 31st and W 30th Streets, a couple blocks west of Guadalupe. MAP
Where do I park?
There is ample parking on the streets around the center.
The main building is wheelchair accessible. There is a ramp located at the rear of the building.
What should I expect when I get inside?
As you enter the door of AZC, you will often be greeted by one of the staff. Since we don’t wear shoes into the meditation hall, you’ll be shown where to place your shoes on the shelves just inside the door. From there you go into the zendo (meditation hall). You’ll notice that the atmosphere in the center is intentionally pretty quiet most of the time. Even so, don’t hesitate to ask for help and you can always watch and follow others.
Who are the people in robes?
The person in the brown robe is our Teacher, Kosho McCall; in the black robes are our resident Priests-in-Training.
Where do I sit?
You can sit anywhere that you feel comfortable. If it's crowded, the greeter will help you find a seat. If you arrive after the meditation period has begun, the greeter will be happy to assist you to a seat.
How long do the meditation periods last?
Each of the meditation periods lasts for 35 minutes.
Suppose I’m sitting and I get very uncomfortable. Can I move a little… or if it is really bad, can I get up and leave?
Discomfort often arises in trying to sit in stillness. Use your own judgment in deciding to move or even leave the zendo.
Do you have any special introduction for beginners to become acquainted with AZC?
The easiest way to become familiar with AZC and our practice is to come to the Beginner’s Instruction held on Saturdays at 8:00–9:00am. This event is held in the zendo (meditation hall) in the main building. You will be given meditation instruction (the core practice of Zen Buddhism) and a general orientation to the Center and what it has to offer you. Following the orientation you are invited to join the Saturday Morning Program.
What opportunities are there to practice Zen meditation with others?
We are open Monday through Saturday. On Monday through Friday mornings there is Zen meditation from 6am–8am. This includes 10 minutes of walking meditation, a 20-minute morning Zen ceremony, and a brief period of temple cleaning.
On the evenings of Monday through Thursday, from 5:40pm–6:25pm, there is Zen meditation followed by a brief evening Zen ceremony.
What happens on Saturdays?
Our big weekly event is the Saturday Morning Program, which goes from 9:15am–11:45am. This consists of Zen meditation and a talk on Zen Buddhism, followed by tea and snacks.
You are welcome to come to all or any part of this event.
Do I have to become a “Buddhist?”
Buddhism does not set itself apart from other religions, nor attach importance to “converting.” It is practice-oriented not ideological. Some who follow the teachings of Buddhism choose to identify themselves as Buddhist. Others who identify with another religion find the Buddhist emphasis on contemplative practice a powerful supplement. What may look like worship in Buddhism is actually a dramatic show of gratitude and respect for those who preceded us and for that which is most wholesome in ourselves.
Do I have to be a member to participate in all activities? What are the benefits of membership?
Not at all. But folks who feel at home at AZC and want to support its life and practice typically become pledging members. Benefits of membership are reduced rates on our programs and retreats and being able to check out books/videos from our library.
What if I have children?
At this point we are not equipped to be able to offer childcare, but are looking for volunteers who might be willing to host this.
What does it mean to be a member of AZC and how do I become a member?
Generosity is one of the fundamental practices the Buddha set forth as a way to enter the path of liberation. AZC members commit to each other their intention to follow the Buddha's path by making membership pledges. If you’d like to enter the path with us, we invite you to make a pledge. AZC is wholly funded by the generosity of its members and supporters. To become a member, simply make a membership pledge at any time. If you pledge in July, for example, you'll be a member through December of the year in which you pledge. To continue your membership for the next calendar year, renew your pledge during the fall membership drive. Typical annual pledges are $180, $300, $600, $800, $1,000, $2,500. Folks pay weekly, monthly, or annually. Statements are sent out quarterly.
What are the benefits of membership?
Currently, benefits include establishing the discipline and practice of generosity, voting at our annual meetings, deductions on programs and retreats, checking out materials from our extensive library, and special classes offered by our teacher. AZC is always striving to improve member benefits and may add new ones or alter the existing benefits.
As our guest we encourage you to ask questions and seek information. You can pick up a seasonal brochure and ask questions of our greeters. Of course, we also invite and encourage you to introduce yourself to our priests and staff. We'll be happy to meet you.
Finding Community & Getting Involved
The Austin Zen Center is a Zen Buddhist community that brings together people of different backgrounds, ages and interests. Some are simply involved on Saturday mornings, others come for the morning or evening sittings, programs and classes during the week, some take the opportunities to volunteer, and still others come to our social events such as potluck suppers, Spring Fair, BuddhaFlix, and so on. Whatever your desired level of involvement, whatever your interests, we invite you to talk to members of our community, to browse the pages of this website and ultimately to find yourself at home at AZC. We're glad you're here.