Temple Or Zen Center

I have been thinking lately about the different experiences I have practicing Soto Zen in America. One of the largest differences that I experience is that of a temple rather than a zen center. The title of the building alone has a great deal with how I experience practice within. A temple brings to mind family, community, support, devotion, and faith. The title zen center has, for me, more of an association with study, academia, and a center for the specific practice of zen, or zazen. I think a major difference in my experience being a priest at a temple, rather than a zen center is that the sangha that gathers does not necessarily come to practice zazen, but to chant, spend time together, hear a teisho/dharma talk, and to have a meal together. We celebrate memorials, funerals, holidays, weddings, and pretty much everything you would see at a church. Zazen is offered 5 times a week and some choose to come regularly, or not at all. The major difference that I notice is that everyone comes on Sunday to chant the sutras, offer incense, and spend time together as an expression of one of the 3 jewels. The sangha. This offering by the temple allows those that would like to spend time at the temple, but are unable to come due to family obligations to express their faith and practice the Dharma with the Sangha. The priests at the temple do not look at the practice of chanting, or offering incense as something less than, or other than the practice of zen. At least the priests that I have trained with, but naturally everyone has their own experience. The act of sitting is not the only expression of Buddha Dharma and genuine practice.

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