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The Nature of Awakened Practice: Walking the Path with the Zen Ancestors

Wednesdays, Jan 25th – May 10th, 2023, from 4:15 pm – 7:15 pm ET

Led by Koshin Paley Ellison

Wednesdays, Jan 25th – May 10th, 2023, from 4:15 pm – 7:15 pm ET


What is the significance of knowing one’s lineage – spiritual or otherwise – as we walk the path through tumultuous times?

Join Koshin Paley Ellison Sensei in a 13-week study of the Sōtō Zen lineage and how we can learn from and be supported by the ancestors’ examples of awakening practice in everyday life.

This course will use a lively discussion-based close reading of The Record of Transmitting the Light by Zen Master Keizan to reflect on the Sōtō Zen lineage from Shakyamuni Buddha to Dōgen and his dharma heirs. This classic Sōtō Zen text weaves together history, biography, koan study, poetry, and provides a spiritual genealogy. In this course, we will explore the tradition of the “light that is transmitted from master to disciple as the disciple discovers this light within oneself.”

The course focuses on the following questions:

  • Who are Sōtō Zen’s spiritual ancestors and what do we notice about their journeys – their efforts, realizations, and practices?
  • What is the ‘light’ and what is the nature of awakening practice in our everyday lives?
  • How can I practice alongside the ancestors and with them today?


“I love Koshin’s approach; his primary focus is not intellectual as much as it is practical. He always emphasizes, ‘how does this affect your daily life?; how can you use these teachings in your relationships?’ I also loved the wonderful openness that I experienced from my fellow classmates—I always felt safe and free to share from my heart. It’s rare to find such an amazing group of people in one setting!”

—NYZC Course Participant



Objectives of The Nature of Awakened Practice Course

Together, we will foster a deepened understanding and appreciation for the Sōtō Zen lineage. We will engage the ‘record’ of these fifty-three ancestors in order to reflect on the meaning and significance of lineage as ‘light’ – as it pertains to one’s identity, to what is being transmitted from teacher to student, and to what authentically binds and re/shapes sangha (community).


The Nature of Awakened Practice is for Everyone

While this course will benefit those who have studied Sōtō Zen masters like Eihei Dōgen Zenji, it does not require a background understanding of the lineage. This course is for anyone on the awakening path, for anyone open to realizing that the ‘light’ within is the ‘light’ we seek to find and give to the world.



Open to anyone, this class is part of our Master of Arts In Pastoral Care and Counseling (MAPCC), and our Certificate In Contemplative Care. It can count as either a Sutra class (for the MAPCC) or a Zen History class (for the Certificate Level II).



Koshin Paley Ellison co-founded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, the first Zen-based organization to offer fully accredited ACPE clinical chaplaincy training in America. He is the author of Untangled: Walking the Eightfold Path to Clarity, Courage, and Compassion (Balance/Hachette, 2022); Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up (Wisdom Publications, 2019). And the co-editor of Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life Care (Wisdom Publications, 2016).


January 25, 2023
4:15 pm - 7:15 pm
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