Minnesota Zen Meditation Center was formed in 1972 when our founding head teacher, Dainin Katagiri Roshi (1928-1990), was invited to come from California to teach a group of people interested in the dharma. After Katagiri Roshi's death, Shohaku Okumura served as interim head teacher until the installation of Karen Sunna, one of Katagiri Roshi's 12 dharma heirs. Succeeding Karen was Tim Burkett, a long-time student of both Katagiri and Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Tim served as guiding teacher from 2002 until 2021, and continues to teach at the Center. MZMC's current guiding teacher is Ted O'Toole, a long-time student of Tim Burkett. MZMC is a priest training center, and community members greatly value the diversity of teaching voices available to them (see Teachers page.)
Everyone is welcome at MZMC, regardless of practice experience. First-time visitors, those just beginning a meditation practice, and long-time students (current and returning) are all welcome. Visitors who may be expecting to find an exotic group of people at MZMC are sometimes surprised to find that the sangha is made up of average, householding Americans who are simply committed to Buddhist practice. Everyone can develop a meditation practice, and people who participate at MZMC are encouraged to establish meditation practices that work for them. Participants study and practice at their own pace. There are many ways to participate, connect, and get to know others at MZMC. Activities include zen meditation (zazen), lectures, work practice (volunteering in a way that's meaningful for the participant), retreats, classes and workshops on Buddhist studies and daily-life topics, and practice help and support from teachers and sangha members. For a complete schedule of classes and events, please see our calendar page.
MZMC is a member-supported non-profit organization operated by a board of directors and small staff. Membership support is vital to continued practice and programming at MZMC. All support is valued and appreciated. For more about membership, please see our membership page.
All are welcome at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. We value diversity as to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, creed, immigration status, religious background, ability, income, family status, and level of practice. We are committed to looking deeply at all causes of suffering.
Under the "About MZMC" tab, you will find information about three features that could be said to characterize MZMC; our approach to traditional and contemporary practice, our commitment to practice in the world, and our statement of mission, vision, and values.
Contemporary and Traditional Practice
At MZMC our practice is Zen Buddhist meditation; our style contains both traditional and contemporary elements. Although our services, chants, statues, and robes come from the Soto Zen tradition, we also have meditative practices and retreats in which the only ritual is that of Zen meditation itself. In both cases the focus is on stilling our minds so that we can enjoy the equanimity and peace that have been there since beginningless time.
The services following our weekday and Saturday morning sittings are traditional, while our evening sittings have little ritual. Sunday mornings, when we gather together for meditation, a dharma talk, and conversation, are contemporary in style.
Our lay initiation process is quite traditional, with a rakusu (the small version of Buddha's robe worn around the neck) sewn and then presented at an initiation ceremony. Later, the decision whether to wear the rakusu is up to each individual. The priest ordination process is "pared-down traditional": people sew the okesa (large robe) and zagu (bowing mat), which they receive at the ordination ceremony. The okesa has been worn by ordained Buddhist priests everywhere since the time of the Buddha. The koromo and kimono, worn under the okesa, are later additions from China and Japan. Whether priests in training wear any or all of the robes is up to the teacher who ordains them. As we are not monastics but live in the world, shaving heads is left to personal discretion. All ordained people are expected to develop proficiency in the traditional practices, however, and also to understand what it means to practice and teach Zen in a way which has no traditional accoutrements at all except Zen meditation itself.
Our Zen Center is a place at which people who love and appreciate traditional elements practice together with people who prefer an "unadorned" style.
"Zen has a beautiful history and tradition that has helped people to awaken for centuries to vivid life here and now. At the same time, Zen has always adapted its forms and traditions as it has encountered new eras and new cultures. At MZMC we have the utmost respect for, and provide opportunities to practice in, the traditional way. We also provide opportunities to practice without the traditional accoutrements, in order to allow space for new ways of expressing the essence of Zen practice to emerge." – Guiding Teacher Ted O'Toole
Practice in the World
While our core practice is meditation, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center is a place at which those who are serious about their practice (including priests-in-training) are encouraged to be fully engaged in the larger community through careers, family, social activism, and volunteer outreach.
"My goal is to develop a community in which many, or most, of our teachers, starting with me, are intimately involved in the world. In the history of Zen, many have talked about the non-differentiation between the spiritual and the mundane, but few teachers have emphasized that careers family, and public service can be fully as rich a ground of Zen practice as temple or monastic life. I am happy to have the opportunity implement a vision which goes back to the roots of Zen, with prominent role models such as Layman Pang in China and Vimalikirti in India." – Former Guiding Teacher, Tim Burkett
Our mission, vision, and values
Our mission is to help people experience a deep and quiet joy-a joy that arises whenever we are fully engaged in the work or play of this moment.
We envision a world grounded in generosity, compassion and wisdom.
Values These core principles define our mission and guide our community:
Compassion We hold a deep and intuitive understanding of the emptiness and interconnectedness of all things. Knowing that nothing is separate from our self, we strive to be compassionate in all our activities.
Tradition We embrace the Buddhist and Soto Zen teachings and practices that have been handed down to us.
Practice We value and are open to new and different approaches to the practice of Zen Buddhism.
Community A spirit of cooperation guides our relationships with each other within the Zen Center community. We support and encourage one another on our spiritual paths and in our daily activities.
Engagement We are committed to being fully engaged in our day-to-day life, with family and friends, at work and play, and with the larger community, nation and world in which we live.
Excellence We are dedicated to providing high quality and relevant practice/learning opportunities and are committed to continual improvement by seeking and incorporating community feedback.
Governing Documents Please click here to view a PDF of MZMC's By-Laws, Governance Policies, Ethical Conduct and Precepts, and Complaint Resolution Procedure.
"One of the great foundations of our zen practice is gratitude to the Buddhas and Ancestors, to the founders of our Center, to all who have ever practiced or volunteered here, and to all beings in this great interconnected universe. And with gratitude comes responsibility to fulfill our Bodhisattva vows by proceeding ethically, by honoring our tradition, and by acting here in this world to relieve suffering..”