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Zen is often described as a school of Buddhism that is beyond words. Yet, sutras, poetry, and other texts generated within the Zen tradition are voluminous and legendary. NYZC’s graduate level classes are designed for the integration of scholarly understanding and meditative insight. Explore the teachings of this tradition through study, lecture, discussion, experiential learning, and silent meditation. Classes are open to anyone and also part of the track to becoming a Formal Zen Student, our Certificate in Contemplative Care, and our Masters of Arts in Pastoral Care and Counseling


What is Zen?  In this course, we explore Zen history, koans, social engagement, and ritual. Learning takes place through study, practice, and weekly group sessions in which students develop skills necessary to extract meanings out of the tradition in a clear, tender, and lively manner.  This course runs in either the Fall or Spring semester.


Living the Zen Precepts is wisdom in action – the natural expression of a compassionate and awakened heart. The Precepts are studied, practiced and received to support the fullest expression of our lives. Drawing on these teachings, the Precepts serve as guidelines for our daily lives, developing skillful ways to navigate relationships and life itself. This 10-month course runs annually from September–June and may be taken online or in-person.


Each year, this annual course explores a different facet of the Zen teachings, offering an opportunity to deepen your knowledge, build community, and embody the Way. Our study together will be textually grounded in a carefully curated reading list supported by monthly meetings consisting of a morning of practice and an afternoon of experiential learning. This 10-month course runs annually from September–June and may be taken online or in-person.

Sutra study is crucial for a thorough understanding of the foundations and rationale of a spiritual tradition. NYZC offers one of the following Sutra courses or an equivalent textual study in the Fall and Spring semesters.

SUtra study

The Platform Sutra is considered the formative historical scripture of Zen Buddhism and remains today as the cornerstone of Zen in both the East and West. This course provides students with a comprehensive foundation from which to consider Buddhist theory, differing moral codes, and contemplative techniques.

Through a close reading of The Holy Teaching of Vimalakīrti, this course will explore the meaning of the bodhisattva’s compassionate vow to liberate all suffering sentient beings. We will investigate the following questions: What is the nature of sickness? What is its origin? How is it cured? What is the role of the bodhisattva? How can a bodhisattva truly effectuate his/her compassionate activity in the world? What is bodhisattva burnout? And what is the remedy?

The Lankavatara Sutra is one of the key texts of Zen. Zen’s first patriarch, Bodhidharma, gave a copy of this text to his successor, Hui-k’o, and told him everything he needed to know was in this book. Passed down from teacher to student ever since, this is the only Zen sutra ever spoken by the Buddha. Although it covers all the major teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, it contains but two teachings: that everything we perceive as being real is nothing but the perceptions of our own mind and that the knowledge of this is something that must be realized and experienced for oneself and cannot be expressed in words. In the words of Chinese Zen masters, these two teachings became known as “have a cup of tea” and “taste the tea.”

The Lotus Sutra, a classic Mahayana scripture, is an influential and beloved collection of parables, teachings, and encouragements. A vital wellspring of Mahayana Buddhism, it serves as a primary text for the Tiantai and Nichiren sects, as well as a literary source for Zen and for lay people in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The drama and wisdom of this text are astonishing and enjoyable to read and study. In this class, we will explore by means of lecture, discussion, writing, and contemplation how the insights of the sutra speak to a contemporary audience in the West. Issues of gender, accessibility to spiritual insight, and skillful means will be analyzed. While the emphasis will be on the text itself, students will be encouraged to deepen their understanding with the varied supplemental readings.

Through study and practice we will dive into the Buddha’s awakening, the Four Noble Truths, Awakening Beings progress, conduct, dedication, interdependence, Indra’s Net and journey. Known in Chinese as Hua-yen and in Japanese as Kegon-kyo, the Avatamsaka Sutra, or Flower Ornament Scripture, is held in the highest regard and studied by Buddhists of all traditions. Through its structure and symbolism, as well as through its concisely stated principles, it conveys a vast range of Buddhist teachings.

The Diamond Sutra, or the Perfection of Wisdom, which cuts like a thunderbolt, is one of the cornerstone texts of Mahayana Buddhism and provides a summary of the core concepts of the Buddha. The Heart Sutra, perhaps the most important of all Buddhist texts, sets out to formulate the very heart, or essence of perfect wisdom and is studied with special reverence in Zen monasteries and the Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries.

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