Becoming a formal student is a process that helps make conscious our spiritual motivation. The purpose of this is to help us clarify Buddhist practice as an important part of our life by bringing us into contact with the deeper, more fundamental aspirations of what we want our life to be about. This then helps to strengthen our desire to make a training commitment to our teacher, MRO training, and the Sangha. The entry process occurs over time and involves passing through five gates of entry designed to make this very clear.
The five gates of entry are:
- Participation in an Introduction to Zen Training Weekend retreat. This retreat is an important introduction to the Eight Gates of Training, which form the basis for practice and training in the MRO. It provides an experience of these areas of training and allows plenty of time for Q & A throughout the weekend. It also allows us to meet and begin to develop training relationships with the teachers and senior staff.
- Completion of a week-long meditation intensive (sesshin) at the Monastery. Sesshin is a longstanding and essential aspect of Zen training, allowing students to devote themselves single-mindedly to the practice of zazen and other traditional forms of practice. Doing a week-long sesshin allows prospective students to receive personal guidance from the teachers in private interview (also referred to as dokusan or daisan) and begin to clarify their choice of teacher. Training staff often require that people complete a weekend sesshin prior to doing a full-week sesshin.
- Meeting with the Guardian Council, a group of senior MRO students, to express one’s inner motivation for practicing Zen and wanting to become an MRO student. This meeting is intended to help the prospective student clarify their own intent for entering into formal training, which will help them develop and sustain a stable, healthy practice. This is a real and dynamic process, and so in some cases, a person is encouraged to reflect and clarify further, and then to meet with the Council again.
- Tangaryo, dawn-to-dusk day of concentrated zazen. This is a traditional part of entering the Mountain Gate and beginning Zen practice within a community. Tangaryo helps the student to strengthen their relationship with zazen as an important part of their life, a refuge of peace and serenity.
- Requesting the teachings in private interview with the student’s teacher. The teacher cannot teach the student without the student’s explicit permission. In this special meeting, called shoken, the new student makes clear their desire to study with their teacher and the teacher welcomes the student onto the Path. This completes the process of becoming a student and signals the beginning of a formal training relationship between teacher and student.
It is not necessary for formal students to be in residence at the Monastery or the Temple. Most students practice at home, maintaining a relationship with the teacher and sangha through visits, retreats, sesshins, and short-term residencies and Temple programs. Training advisors—lay and monastic seniors—can offer valuable guidance.
Whenever possible, non-resident students also sit with one of the Monastery’s affiliate groups or come to the Monastery or the Temple in Brooklyn for the Sunday morning program and for dokusan, private face-to-face teaching. Media support in the form of downloadable audio and video are also available.
There are financial costs associated with becoming a formal training student. Learn more.
You might also consider our Practicing Member program. Practicing Members stay connected to the teachers and sangha without the formal commitments of formal students. Click here to learn more.