Getting Started

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Getting Started with an Introductory Workshop

Introductory Workshops, conducted by Roshi Graef's senior students, are a practical and authentic introduction to Zen Buddhism. During the half-day schedule of talks, question periods, demonstrations and guided meditation, participants are introduced to the body-mind disciplines of Zen Buddhism.

In addition to providing an introduction to Zen, workshops are an ideal time to see how spiritual training is carried on at the Casa Zen. As well, members are happy to answer questions about the Casa Zen and its programs.

Workshops provide a practical and authentic introduction to Zen Buddhism.
  • 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 Casa Zen community.

  • 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 membership in the Casa Zen.
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Suggested Reading

The Casa Zen has a library of Buddhist books both for reference and take-out. There are currently about 500 titles in the collection, including many rare and out-of-print books. Here is a very short suggested reading list for those who are new to Zen practice. Most of these books are available at the Casa Zen, or you can purchase them through your favorite bookseller.

  1. The Three Pillars of Zen, by Roshi Philip Kapleau. One of the most important 20th century works of the transition of Zen Buddhism to the West. Together with "Merging of East and West," an excellent introduction to Zen as practiced at the Vermont Zen Center.

  2. To Cherish All Life, by Roshi Philip Kapleau. A Buddhist case for vegetarianism and the humane treatment of animals.

  3. The Zen of Living and Dying, by Roshi Philip Kapleau. A Zen Buddhist approach to death, peace and meaning in life.

  4. Peace Pilgrim, by Peace Pilgrim. The inspirational writings of a woman who preached peace and nonattachment.

  5. Lotus in the Fire: The Healing Power of Zen, by Jim Bedard. Buddhist practitioner Jim Bedard recounts his battle with cancer and his reliance on Zen practice to lend meaning and strength.

  6. Zen Teaching, Zen Practice, edited by Kenneth Kraft. Essays by Dharma Heirs and others about Roshi Kapleau and his influence.

  7. Zen Tradition and Transition, by Kenneth Kraft. A sourcebook on Zen practice and teachers.


Frequently Asked Questions

It can be intimidating to start a spiritual practice in an established community. We hope you will feel free to ask questions and let us know your needs. Here are some responses to questions that newcomers often wonder about.

  • Are newcomers welcome? Newcomers are always welcome to attend morning sittings. However, please call first during business hours, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., to let us know you are coming. Occasionally the Casa Zen is closed due to sesshin retreats or holidays.

  • What should I wear? Loose, comfortable clothes are recommended. Please do not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts. Jeans are usually too tight for comfortable sitting.

  • I already belong to a house of worship. Is that okay? Yes, it is. Zen practice does not require believing in specific doctrines. There are members of the Casa Zen who also attend church.

  • Is Zen practice compatible with Twelve Step Programs? Absolutely. The practices of Zen are both similar to and enhance Twelve Step Programs.

  • Is it necessary to have some background in Zen Buddhism before coming to the Casa Zen? 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.

  • What about reading? The best way to learn about Zen is to practice Zen. 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. Many people sit on chairs rather than cushions. If you need a chair, one can be brought into the meditation room—just ask the monitor in charge of the sitting.

  • Do I have to become a member to sit at the Casa Zen? If you wish to attend morning sittings only, it is not necessary to join the Casa Zen. If you wish to attend the occasional evening or weekend sitting you can become a friend of the Casa Zen. Membership is for those who wish to support the Casa Zen. Members may attend all sittings, participate in ceremonies and retreats and receive private instruction from Roshi Graef.

  • If I don't live in the area can I still participate? Many of our members do not live in Costa Rica. Out-of-town members come to sit at the Casa Zen when they are able, attend retreats as their situations permit, and maintain their sitting practice with groups in their area or on their own.