Zazen Services

Zazen services are usually held three times weekly:

  • Sunday mornings - 10:00am to 12:00 noon
  • Sunday afternoons - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
  • Wednesday evenings - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Services last for approximately two hours and include chanting, seated meditation (zazen), and walking meditation (kinhin). The primary focus of our practice is zazen, therefore the majority of the service is spent in zazen. Kinhin allows the attitude of body breath and mind that has been cultivated during zazen to be expressed in the simple movement of walking. Chanting opens and closes the service, helping to regulate the breath and settle the mind.

Our standard order of service is:

  • Chanting in English & Japanese - 10 minutes
  • Zazen - 40 minutes
  • Kinhin - 10 minutes
  • Zazen - 40 minutes
  • Chanting in Japanese - 10 minutes

Newcomers are always welcome and instruction is given at all of our services. Please wear clothing that is loose and comfortable enough to allow you to sit in a cross-legged position for an extended period of time.

Tea is served after the service, which provides an opportunity to get to know the teachers and sangha and ask any questions about the practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone attend your meditation services?

Yes, all of our services are open to everyone. Newcomers are always welcome.

If you have never been to the Temple before, please let whomever greets you know that this is your first time. They will ensure that instructions are given at appropriate points throughout the service.

What should I wear to a meditation service?

We have no specific dress code at the Temple.

Since our practice involves seated meditation, we recommend that people attending the Temple wear clothing that is loose and comfortable enough to allow them to sit comfortably for an extended period of time.  Sitting in a chair is also an option.

Do I have to be a Buddhist to practice meditation?

No, it is not necessary to be a Buddhist to practice meditation. We have a number of people who regularly attend our meditation services who are not Buddhists. Anyone is able to practice meditation, regardless of their personal belief system.

How can I become a member of the Temple?

Please start by coming to our meditation services and retreats on a regular basis, to ensure that you are comfortable with this practice and our teachings.

If you would like to formalize your commitment to the Temple, please speak with a priest or disciple at one of our meditation services. Formally declaring yourself a member of the Temple involves participating in an initiation ceremony (jukai), which is usually held at our special holiday services. The priest performing the jukai ceremonhy will want to spend time getting to know you beforehand, so please allow enough lead time for this to happen.

Do you charge any fees for your services or retreats?

No, we do not charge any fees for our services or sesshin.

Since the Temple is supported solely by attendant donations, we encourage attendants to consider giving whatever amount they comfortable donating. Suggested donation amounts are:

  • Zazen service: $10
  • One-day sesshin: $50
  • Three-day sesshin: $100

Sesshin (Meditation Retreat)

The Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago hosts meditation retreats (sesshin) on a monthly basis. One-day sesshin are usually held at the Temple in Evanston on the first Saturday of the month and last from 12:30pm to 10:30pm, with breaks for mindful work and a meal.

Sesshin is a vital part of a Zen Buddhist's spiritual training. It affords the opportunity for intensive zazen, thus deepening and strengthening one's meditation practice. Everyone is welcome to attend and we encourage your participation regardless of your level of experience in practicing zazen. Although we strongly encourage everyone to attend the entire sesshin, please join us to the fullest extent that your schedule allows.  If you plan to attend a portion of the retreat, please arrange your arrival so as not to interfere with Zazen.

More intensive three-day sesshin are held several times each year, usually at a priest's or disciple's home, and last from 7:00pm Thursday night until 9:00pm on Saturday.

The standard schedule for a one-day sesshin is as follows [Evanston]:

  • 12:30 pm - 1:10 pm -- zazen
  • 1:10 pm - 1:20 pm -- kinhin (walking meditation)
  • 1:20 pm - 2:00 pm -- zazen
  • 2:00 pm - 2:10 pm -- kinhin
  • 2:10 pm - 2:50 pm -- zazen
  • 2:50 pm - 3:00 pm -- chant
  • 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm -- samu (mindful work)
  • 4:00 pm - 4:40 pm -- zazen
  • 4:40 pm - 4:50 pm -- kinhin
  • 4:50 pm - 5:30 pm -- zazen
  • 5:30 pm - 5:40 pm -- kinhin
  • 5:40 pm - 6:20 pm -- zazen
  • 6:20 pm - 6:30 pm -- chant
  • 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm -- dinner
  • 8:00 pm - 8:40 pm -- zazen
  • 8:40 pm - 8:50 pm -- kinhin
  • 8:50 pm - 9:30 pm -- zazen
  • 9:30 pm - 9:40 pm -- kinhin
  • 9:40 pm - 10:20 pm -- zazen
  • 10:20 pm - 10:30 pm -- closing ceremony