Meditation at Kannon Do

Is it OK to show up even though I have not meditated before?

Yes, formal membership is not a requirement. If you are a beginner or not familiar with Zen meditation, the best times to come for the first time are: any Wednesday evening at 6:30 PM, any Saturday morning at 9:00, or the fourth Saturday morning of the month at 10:30 for the Introduction to Zen orientation.

What is the meditation schedule?

The weekly schedule can be found here.

What is the dress code at Kannon Do?

In order to maintain an environment of modesty and respect for the sensibilities of others, the following simple dress code is suggested: Long, loose-fitting pants for men; long, loose-fitting pants or long skirts for women. No shorts, please. Please wear shirts, tee shirts, or tops that come up to the neck and cover the upper arms. No tank tops please.

What kind of shoes should I wear?

Slip-on shoes are recommended, and should be worn as follows: Zendo (meditation room): No shoes please (socks are optional). Deck: Shoes recommended (the deck collects dust and leaves from the surrounding environment). Please avoid muddy boots on the deck. Restrooms: No street shoes; please use the sandals provided outside the restroom.

Zen: An Overview

What is Zen?

Zen is a spiritual practice that softens the demands of the ego and relieves self oriented habits. Through the practice, individuals learn to see beyond appearances and understand their fundamental nature. Zen practice enhances the recognition of our inherent wisdom and compassion, which in turn encourages confidence, patience, and a caring attitude in personal relationships and daily activities.

Is Zen a religion?

Yes, but perhaps not in the usual understanding of religion. Unlike other major religions, Zen does not postulate or worship an external deity. And although Buddhist teachings are studied and explored, Zen does not rely on religious doctrine or belief system. Its primary emphasis is on meditation as the most direct way of gaining insight into ourselves, the nature of the world we live in, and how to live authentically.

However, as with other major religions, Zen emphasizes ceremony and ritual as an expression of “something greater,” beyond the reach of consciousness, signifying the connectedness of all things. For a more complete explanation, please refer to the web page “What is Zen”

How does Zen meditation differ from other forms of meditation?

In general, meditation is considered to be an activity that we do to relieve stress. It makes us feel relaxed and energized, similar to having a massage. But when we return to work or to any stressful situation, we might find that we need another massage a few hours later. This is because we may have relieved the symptom of the stress, but we have not addressed its source. Zen meditation helps to reduce stress but more importantly, it can prevent stress. Because it is a practice of awareness, Zen meditation helps us develop our capacity to notice the state of our own mind, so that we become aware when negative emotion starts to arise. This awareness enables us to consider how to respond positively to the tense or difficult situation, rather than be overwhelmed by it, to let go of the emotion, and not let stress arise.

Can a non-Buddhist practice Zen meditation?

Zen meditation can be practiced by individuals of any belief. Followers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as well as people of other religions, can easily include Zen meditation into their spiritual practice.

How do you explain the growing interest in Zen?

People are trying to find balance in their lives. The overwhelming influences of the past several generations have been the rapid growth of technology and the increasing abundance of material goods. They have provided us with a high standard of living but have created an environment that has conditioned people to be concerned mainly with what they can do, what they can possess, and what they can have or become in the future. People are starting to discover that this orientation is not enough to provide meaning and satisfaction; there is a growing feeling of restlessness. Individuals are turning to spiritual practice to understand who they are, intrinsically, and what should their life be like beyond possessions and appearances.

Retreats/sesshin at Kannon Do

What is sesshin?

In general, sesshin is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery. While the daily routine in the monastery requires the monks to meditate several hours a day, during a sesshin they devote themselves almost exclusively to zazen practice. The numerous 40-minute-long meditation periods are interleaved with short rest breaks, meals, and sometimes short periods of work all performed with the same mindfulness.

What are the guidelines for sesshin (one-day retreat) at Kannon Do?

A meditation retreat provides an opportunity to practice for an extended period in a quiet, supportive atmosphere, free from the usual distractions of everyday life. To help maintain mindfulness during retreats, we make the following suggestions: Please help us maintain silence during retreats by speaking only if necessary, for instance about meal preparation. If you find it necessary to have a conversation, please do so outside Kannon Do so as not to disturb others. Each activity (meditation, meals, work period) is closed with a group bow. If you need to leave after an activity, please do so after bowing with the group. During the breaks following meals, you can use the Zendo to rest or stretch, or you can walk outside. During breaks, you can also help to wash and dry dishes or put away food. In addition to break times, you can use kinhin (walking meditation) periods to visit the restrooms.

Can I attend just part of a one-day sesshin/retreat?

Yes. Please try to attend at the start of an activity (sitting meditation, walking meditation, or work period) and leave at the end of an activity. There is usually a sign-up sheet prior to sesshin where you can indicate whether you will be attending breakfast, lunch, or tea; this allows us to plan accordingly for meals.

What is a typical schedule for sesshin?

The schedule can be found here

What should I know about meals during a retreat?

During retreats we take our meals in a traditional monastic style called “Oryoki”. If you will be staying for one or more meals, please indicate which ones on the sign-up sheet by the zendo door.

When you arrive at sesshin, take a set of Oryoki bowls from the table, identifying it by writing your name on the wooden stick provided.

Keep the Oryoki at your seat during sesshin, and when you leave, return the Oryoki to the table.

If you are unfamiliar with the use of Oryoki, don’t be concerned about getting it “right.” Try to follow along with someone who understands the practice. Often an Oryoki instruction session will be held during the week before sesshin.

More information about oryoki and a link to read or download the oryoki manual can be found here.

Miscellaneous questions about Kannon Do

What is the mission of Kannon Do?

Our focus is on providing a supportive environment that encourages spiritual practice and self reflection so that the mind is able to remain attentive and calm in a world of constant distractions, whether at work, at home, on the meditation cushion, or in any relationship. Our vision is for a society that responds to difficult and stressful situations in ways that are creative and caring.

What activities are offered at Kannon Do? What do you offer to people who express an interest in Zen?

In addition to a regular daily schedule of early morning and noon meditation, the center is available throughout the day to members and their friends. On Wednesday evening, meditation is followed by a public lecture, or group discussion of a Buddhist text. Several times a year, we hold meditation retreats, varying from one to several days, much like those held in traditional Zen monasteries. In addition, individuals can meet privately with the teacher to discuss their practice.

How do I support Kannon Do?

Everyone is welcome to practice at Kannon Do, without requirement of membership. However, Kannon Do’s ongoing operation is only possible through donations of members and friends. Financial support of Kannon Do is based on the traditional Buddhist practice of Dana, an expression of charity and generosity. The Dana concept of giving asks each of us to consider contributing to Kannon Do according to our own personal means, rather than by a specified dues amount.

For more information, see the Helping Out page.

What does being a member of Kannon Do entail, and how do I become a member?

Membership is not required to participate in any of the activities of Kannon Do.

Click here for information about membership.

How can I be informed about Kannon Do by printed mailings or email?

There are several ways to hear from us. (1) Email list: Announcements on events and issues concerning the sangha are posted (by a person versus automatically through software) to this list. To enroll, please send an email to info@kannondo.org and ask to be added to the sangha email list. To unsubscribe from the email list, just send an email to sangha+unsubscribe@kannondo.org. (2) To receive automatic email alerts of upcoming events, enter your email address at the top of this webpage: https://kannondo.org/events/. (3) Facebook page: On our Facebook page, you can read about dharma quotes, practice stories, photos of the zendo and social activities along with upcoming events. (4) To receive an annual printed newsletter from Kannon Do (sent in the beginning of the calendar year), enter your information on the little slip of paper available near the bulletin board outside the meditation room.

How do I post to the Kannon Do email lst?

The Kannon Do email list is intended for announcing upcoming events and activities at Kannon Do. Only subscribers can post to the list, and the list is moderated since there are 400+ subscribers. If you want to send out an announcement and you are subscribed to the list, send an email to sangha@kannondo.org. There will be a delay because the posting must be approved.

Can my organization rent your facility?

Unfortunately, no. One of the provisions in the Conditional Use Permit granted by the city of Mountain View precludes Kannon Do from renting or loaning the center to outside groups.

What is the inscription on the large bell on the deck?

One thing flows into another
And cannot be grasped.

Before the rain stops we hear a bird.

– Shunryu Suzuki

With deepest gratitude and appreciation

To the countless members and friends

Whose generosity and vision

Open the gate
To selflessness and understanding
Kannon Do Zen Center
March 3, 2007