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Toronto Zen Centre

A Buddhist Community


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Getting Started — Introductory Workshop

Whether you are completely new to Buddhism or you already have a spiritual practice and are curious about formal practice at the Toronto Zen Centre, the way to get started is to first attend an Introductory Workshop.

  • 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 Toronto Zen Centre.
  • 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 formal participation in the Toronto Zen Centre.
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Involvement in the Toronto Zen Centre is open to all people regardless of age, race, national origin, creed, sex, or sexual orientation. Zen training, while it arises out of the Buddhist tradition, can serve as a valuable adjunct to any religion. The practice of Zen meditation can act to calm and center the mind, consequently promoting stability, mindfulness, and clarity. Thus it can become a valuable aid in dealing with the stresses and challenges of everyday life.


After a Workshop

After attending an Introductory Workshop, you are eligible to participate in a complementary, month-long program called trial membership. During this period, you may attend as many formal sittings & scheduled events as you wish. Weekly events include things like chanting services, ceremonies, work periods, and private instruction with the teacher. After this trial period, if you wish to continue to come to formal sittings and events, you may apply for full membership.

Making an Orientation Appointment: Please let us know at least 48 hours in advance of the first formal sitting you wish to attend. This is so that arrangements can be made for a senior member to provide you with instruction and orientation to formal sittings. On occasion, the Centre is closed for holidays or sesshin retreats, so it's important to contact the office (weekdays only) before arriving. Please see our Contact Page.

After orientation and instruction, you will then join others in the zendo (meditation room) before the sitting begins. Once you have received an orientation, you may attend the regular weekly sittings and formal events as often as you wish, for the duration of your trial membership. The person in charge of the sitting – called the monitor – can help you with any questions you might have before or after a formal sitting.

Getting Started Reading

Reading List — There are many excellent books on Buddhism and Zen. We have a short reading list to get you started.

Getting Started FAQs

  • Are newcomers welcome? Newcomers are always welcome at the Centre, however, attendance at an Introductory Workshop is required. If you are currently formally practicing Zen in a related lineage and wish to visit our Centre, please contact our office.
  • What should I wear? Loose, comfortable clothes, in a solid, dark color, are recommended. Please wear clean, modest clothing and do not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts if the weather is warm. Jeans are usually too tight for comfortable sitting. If the weather is cool, dark colored socks are also permitted in the Zendo – please, no white socks.
  • I already belong to a house of worship. Is that okay? Yes, it is. Zen practice does not require believing in specific doctrines.  There have been Zen Centre members who also attended church or synagogue.
  • Is Zen practice compatible with Twelve Step Programs? Absolutely. The practice of Zen is both complementary and integral to the Twelve Step Programs.
  • Is it necessary to have some background in Zen Buddhism before coming to the Centre? 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. The Introductory Workshop underlines this fact.
  • What about reading? The best way to learn about Zen is to practice it. 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. People may sit on chairs rather than cushions, and chairs are permanently available in the meditation room. We also have sitting benches and a variety of support cushions, which can be employed in various kneeling positions.
  • Do I have to become a member to sit at the Centre? If you wish to try out formal practice for a while, it is not necessary to become a member. If you have attended an introductory workshop, but wish to only attend the occasional sitting, you can become a Friend of the Centre – Friends receive periodic mailings & invitations to ceremonies or special events held at the Centre. Becoming a Member is for those who wish to support the Centre. Members may attend all sittings, participate in ceremonies & retreats, and have weekly opportunities to receive private instruction from Roshi Henderson.
  • If I don’t live in the area can I still participate? A number of our members do not live in the greater Toronto area. Out-of-town members come to sit at the Zen Centre when they are able, attend retreats as their situations permit, and maintain their sitting practice with groups or other individuals in their area, or on their own. Maintaining daily home practice is considered a vital part of formal lay training in Zen.