Practice: Frequently Asked Questions

This is an ongoing page which will be added to as questions arise.

Questions About Ocean Gate Zendo Forms

How Do I Learn to Meditate?

Ocean Gate Zen Center offers meditation instruction. Please wear comfortable, modest clothing. Please avoid wearing noisy jewelry or other clothing that might distract others. Do not wear perfume or other substances that emit a strong odor.

How Do I Enter the Meditation Space?

During meditation please enter the front door with a quiet and calm energy and observe silence. Take your seat as soon as you enter and begin meditation. If you enter the front door and the teacher is offering incense, please wait silently until the teacher has taken their seat before entering the zendo and taking your seat.

Is It OK to Come Late to Meditation or Lecture?

Zen students put an emphasis on being timely, but sometimes we cannot come on time to an event. Please do not avoid coming to the zendo because you are running late, yet please do not make it a habit of being late. Whether you are late or on time, enter the meditation space quietly: match your energy to that of those already present. Sit down quietly with as little fuss as possible.

General Questions About Buddhism

What is ‘faith’ in Buddhism?

Unlike some religious faiths Buddhism does not ask one to have ‘blind’ faith or faith in something that cannot be proven over time. Furthermore ‘faith’ centers around understanding doctrinal truths. Francis Cook in his book How To Raise An Ox, (Wisdom Pub., 1999), wrote “Buddhist faith is a very deep certitude in the veracity of a certain doctrine, accepted and used as a touchstone or conduct in the faith that practice will verify its truth…[it is] something on which one may totally rely. The object of faith may be trusted provisionally because Buddhism itself teaches that faith will eventually be replaced by knowledge and that any teaching not verifiable in this way ought to be rejected.” (p. 21) For example, the Four Noble Truths teach that when we experience suffering it is caused by our clinging. Often we do not realize we are suffering and caught, yet over time, as we understand the teachings better, the suffering we experience will become apparent. But, in order to experience this truth we might have to initially take this teaching on faith in order to find the truth of its message. In general, one is not asked profess to any doctrinal ‘truths’ in Buddhism in order to participate in Buddhist practice. This means that everyone is welcome and are not required to call themselves Buddhist to benefit from the teachings.

Do Buddhist consider Buddha a god?

No, Buddha (lit. awakened one) was an historical figure born in India named Siddhartha Gautama (c. 485-405 BCE), who founded a religious path now called Buddhism. Gautama Buddha died in his 80’s after a long life of teaching the Dharma (lit. that which upholds/the teachings) and founding a religious order of monks and nuns.  Buddha founded a religion; he did not create a world. Buddhist’s do not have the expectation that Buddha will engage in divine intervention.

Why do we meditate?

Buddhism, like many religions that originated in Asia, uses meditation as a foundational practice for deepening one’s understanding of the true nature of reality. In Soto Zen (Japanese founder Dogen Zenji 1200-1252 CE), we practice what is called shikantaza (just sitting) or zazen (seated meditation). While there are many benefits to meditation, Dogen Zenji teaches that the primary reason we sit is because shikantaza is the practice of a Buddha and by practicing like a buddha we will transform our lives. Everyone is thought to benefit from meditation.

Buddha Border

Napa Valley web design and development