Fall 2019 Practice Period at Tassajara

The 104th Practice Period at Tassajara

Mountains and Waters Sutra

Led by Abbot Tenzen David Zimmerman

September 25 – December 20, 2019

Application due date extended to August 25

Tassajara’s ninety-day practice period follows the traditional Soto Zen monastic schedule. The practice period is an opportunity for experienced practitioners to join with the Tassajara community in intensive practice at Zen Mountain Center (Zenshinji).

The following prerequisites for the Fall 2019 practice period at Tassajara must be fulfilled in total for your application to be considered:

  • Completion of at least one two-month residential practice period at San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center or Green Gulch Farm
  • Commitment to complete the full three months
  • Submitting a complete application before the deadline
  • Tuition paid in full before the start of the practice period or use of a practice period credit earned before arrival and approved by the applications committee

“Mountains and waters are the expression of old buddhas.”

So begins “Sansuikyo,” or “Mountains and Waters Sutra,” a masterpiece of poetry and insight from Eihei Dogen, the thirteenth-century founder of the Soto school of Zen. The mountains and rivers that Dogen speaks of in this fascicle of his Shobogenzo are not to be simply understood as the mountains and rives of metaphor, but as the mountains and rivers of the “true dharma eye,” the realized truth of the universe. It can be said, in fact, that the “Mountains and Rivers Sutra” is not about mountains and rivers at all, but that mountains and rivers themselves are the sutra, the true Buddhadharma. So when we see mountains and waters with our true awakened eye, we see the Buddha and hear his teachings. Nature—including our own human nature—in this way becomes our sutra of study.

How are mountains an expression of Buddha’s truth, and how can we learn to hear the deep teachings of river waters? Furthermore, in a time of dire ecological distress caused largely by human impact, how we can we learn to live in harmony with nature in respect and gratitude—and thereby awaken to our true nature. The profound beauty of the Tassajara wilderness, combined with the dynamic silence and stillness of a traditional Zen monastic practice period, make for ideal conditions in which to take up this study.

The primary text for the practice period will be the recently released The Mountains and Waters Sutra: A Practitioner’s Guide to Dogen’s “Sansuikyo” by Shohaku Okumura.

Apply Here

Practice Period Fees*: $3,600 US (plus $30 application fee), which covers room, board and tuition. Payment in full is required BEFORE arrival at Tassajara unless another arrangement is made in advance with the director. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer financial scholarships for practice periods. However, a scholarship (which includes room, board, and tuition) may be earned by participating in the Work Practice Apprenticeship Program during the summer before the practice period.

*As the basic operating expenses for the practice period are in excess of $4,500 per student, please consider donating more if you are able.

The $30 application fee is required for applicants who are not currently in residence at SFZC and must be paid at the same time the application is submitted. All applications and fees must be submitted electronically.

Based on our past experience, we expect that the seasonal rains will bring additional challenges to the monastery. These challenges include potential flooding as well as debris flow, slides, and erosion risks along the Tassajara road and throughout the valley. Due to these potential hazards, Tassajara practice period participants have been requested to sign a Waiver of Liability—which is included as part of the online application process.

Important Practice Period Documents:

For further information, please contact Ellen Simpson, assistant to Tenzen David Zimmerman, at [email protected]

Application due date extended to August 25