History & Methods

Bamboo Fence in Casa Zen Garden

About the Casa Zen

The Casa Zen of Costa Rica, a non-profit association, is a warm and inviting place to study and practice Zen Buddhism. The teacher, Sunyana Graef, Roshi, is a Buddhist priest who trained for nineteen years at the Rochester Zen Center in Rochester, New York, with Roshi Philip Kapleau. Roshi Graef is also the director and teacher of the Vermont Zen Center, in Shelburne, Vermont, U.S.A. and the former teacher of the Toronto Zen Centre, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Toronto Centre is now under the direction of her Dharma Heir, Roshi Taigen Henderson.


The Casa Zen was founded in 1974 by Roshi Philip Kapleau after presenting a series of introductory workshops on Zen at the National Library in San José. Subsequently, the Japanese ambassador to Costa Rica offered his home for a meeting with those who were interested in establishing a meditation group. Since then, the Casa Zen has held intensive meditation retreats, ceremonies and other activities throughout the year. In 1994, the Casa Zen purchased a house in Santo Domingo de Heredia, which became the center for regular practice and retreats.

Methods and Lineage

The methods of Zen Buddhism practiced at the Casa Zen stem from those taught by Roshi Philip Kapleau, whose teachings were in turn influenced by Zen Master Harada Daiun Roshi’s blend of the ancient sects of Soto and Rinzai Zen.

The foundation of our practice is zazen, which means sitting with one-pointed concentration. Zen practice is expressed in daily life through the attentiveness and awareness which we bring to every single moment. Our sitting practices include both shikan-taza and breath awareness, as is commonly done in the Soto Zen tradition, and koans, or spiritual inquiries, as in the Rinzai tradition. In the zendo we sit facing the wall rather than facing out. Most chanting and liturgical recitation is done in Spanish.

Zen training arises out of the Buddhist tradition but can serve as a valuable adjunct to any religion, calming and centering the mind, and promoting stability, mindfulness, and clarity.


The Casa Zen has a library with over 500 books on Zen and other forms of Buddhism in English and Spanish. It also has a growing collection of Buddhist DVDs.

The Casa Zen library is available to members as well as anyone wishing to do research on Buddhism. There are many out-of-print and hard-to-find books in the collection. You are welcome to spend some time at the Casa Zen enjoying the garden and relaxing with one of our many fine books.

Inside the Casa Zen