Location and Building Questions
Where are you located?
We are located just North-West from the University of Texas, on the corner of West 31st Street and Washington Square at 3014 Washington Square. Our Address is:
Austin Zen Center
3014 Washington Square
Austin, TX 78705
Where may I park?
There is ample street parking around the center.
Is the building handicapped-accessible?
Yes, the main building is wheelchair accessible and has a ramp located at the back door of the building.
Do I have to be a member of the Austin Zen Center (AZC) to participate?
You need not become a member of AZC to participate in any of our public programs. However, many people who feel at home at AZC and want to support its life and practice typically do decide to become pledging members.
What are the benefits of membership?
Currently, some of the benefits of membership include establishing the discipline and practice of generosity, voting at our annual meeting, reduced membership rates on our programs and retreats, being able to check out books/videos from our library, and access to scheduling regular practice discussions with a teacher. AZC is always striving to improve member benefits and may add new ones or alter the existing benefits.
How do I become a member?
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 does it mean to be a member of AZC?
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.
Austin Zen Center Community
How might I get involved in the community and learn more?
The Austin Zen Center is a Zen Buddhist community that brings together people of different backgrounds, ages and interests. Some participate primarily on Saturday mornings or Sangha Work-Practice days, others come for the morning and/or evening zazen/service periods or programs and classes during the week, some become active volunteers, and still others come to our social events such as potlucks, Spring Fair, BuddhaFlix, and so on. Whatever your desired level of involvement and whatever your interests, we invite you to talk with members of our community, to browse the pages of this website, and ultimately to find yourself a home at AZC.
As our guest we encourage you to ask questions and seek information. You can pick up our brochure and ask questions of our greeters and/or teachers. We’ll be happy to discuss whatever ways you’d like to become involved at the Austin Zen Center.
What opportunities are there to practice Zen meditation with others?
We offer periods of zazen (meditation) every day of the week. Visit our calendar page for a daily zen meditation schedule as well as a full listing of events.
Do I have to become a “Buddhist”?
Buddhism does not set itself apart from other religions, nor attach any 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 awake and wholesome in ourselves.
Austin Zen Center Programs
What opportunities are there to practice Zen meditation with others?
We offer periods of zazen (meditation) Tuesday through Saturday throughout the year. Visit our calendar page for a daily zen meditation schedule as well as a full listing of events.
What happens on Saturdays?
We have a weekly Saturday Morning Program, which goes from 9:15–11:45am. This consists of zazen, service, and a Dharma talk on Zen Buddhism, followed by refreshments. Beginner’s Instruction is offered every Saturday from 8-9:00am.
You are welcome to attend all or any part of the Saturday Morning Program.
Do you have any special introduction for beginners to become acquainted with Zen Buddhism as it is practiced at AZC?
The best way to become familiar with AZC and our practice is to come to the Beginner’s Instruction held on Saturdays at 8:00–9:00 AM. 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 class you are welcome to join the remainder of the Saturday Morning Program.
Beginner’s Instruction is also held on Mondays from 11:15-12 PM, and each month we offer a “Next Step” class for those who have attended the Beginner’s Instruction and wish to learn more.
Are there programs for children and families?
We currently have several programs intended for families and children in particular. They are designed to introduce children to the rituals and forms of our Zen tradition through songs, stories, games, art projects, and discussions in a patient and tender-hearted way. Find out more by visiting our Family Dharma Program page. If you would like to learn more or to volunteer for this event please contact Barbara Noblin at [email protected].
Austin Zen Center Etiquette
What should I expect when I come for the first time?
We want your first visit to the Austin Zen Center to be a warm and welcoming experience.
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 of openness and inquiry. 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.”
The first thing you may notice when you enter the temple is the intentional stillness and quiet atmosphere. Even so, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you need it! Once in the foyer, remove your shoes and place them on the shoe-rack before entering the zendo (meditation hall). You may read up on our Zendo Forms ahead of time if you like, or you may simply watch and follow along with others. For your first time, attending the Beginner’s Instruction (every Saturday at 8am) is highly recommended.
What is the etiquette around clothing and dress in the zendo? Who are the people wearing robes?
Please help us to keep distractions to a minimum.
To this end, refrain from bringing extraneous personal items into the zendo, such as purses, satchels, keys, cell phones, wallets or water bottles (eyeglasses are okay).
Keep dress comfortable and modest.
Please do not wear bright colors or garments bearing large images or large printed words, which can be a distraction to others. Do wear loose fitting clothing in dark or subdued colors, with skirts and/or pants long enough to reach below the knees, and shirts with sleeves over the shoulders. Some find it helpful to designate particular clothes to wear only in the zendo. In cold weather, neutral colored socks may be worn in the zendo, and then removed for zazen.
Please do not wear hats or gloves in the zendo. Long hair should be worn up and off the neck.
Please be sensitive to those with chemical allergies by not wearing scented lotions, perfume, or other fragrances.
Remove noisy jewelry and disarm watch-timers before entering the zendo.
Traditional zen robes are worn by priests, although laypeople sometimes wear sitting robes. If you wear robes, always wear at least one layer of clothing underneath them, and change into and out of robes and sitting attire in private.
Where do I sit?
In the zendo you may sit at any seat that does not have a designated plaque on it. There are several chair seats as well as zafu (meditation cushion) seats. If you need assistance finding a seat just ask! Once you locate an available seat the form is to bow once to your seat, once away from your seat (into the room) before you sit down (and again after you have gotten up, unless you are staying in the zendo for walking meditation). If you are sitting on the periphery of the room, please sit facing the wall. If you sit in the center seats, please sit facing out.
How long do the meditation periods last?
Each of the meditation periods lasts for 35 minutes.
What happens in-between periods of meditation?
Each morning when there is more than one period of zazen we do kinhin, or walking meditation between the zazen periods. Kinhin provides an opportunity for continuing our mindful practice while we are in motion. When the bell rings to end zazen, stand at your seat until you hear the sound of the clackers. Then turn to your left and walk slowly and deliberately, taking one breath with each footstep.
The best time to exit the zendo to get water, secure more cushions, or use the restroom is at the end of the period of zazen before kinhin starts. If you leave the zendo at the end of a period of zazen, simply bow to and away from your seat and exit the zendo. If you return before the next period of zazen, please do kinhin in the foyer and wait until the end of kinhin to re-enter the zendo.
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 when trying to sit in silence and stillness. While we encourage you to spend some time investigating your discomfort before reacting to it by moving, please use your own judgment when deciding to move. If you do decide to change your position, the form is to offer a slight bow before calmly and deliberately moving, taking care not to disturb others in the zendo. You may find that taking a “rest posture” (knees up and together in front of you) for a few minutes alleviates any pain or tingling you may be experiencing.
Please remain in the zendo for the duration of the period unless there is an emergency. If you do need to exit the zendo, the form is to quietly and deliberately get up from your seat and offer a gassho bow to and away from your seat before leaving. Please walk slowly and mindfully if you need to leave the zendo during zazen.