Lay & Monastic Practice

Two Paths

The Way of the Lay Practitioner

Lay practitioners have always been a vital part of Mahayana Buddhism. The history of lay practice goes back to the time of the Buddha and the great lay practitioner Vimalakirti, during whose life the term “white-robed one” began to be used.

In the MRO, John Daido Loori, Roshi designed the Eight Gates of Zen to address the needs and challenges of modern lay practitioners in the West. The Order’s two training facilities–ZMM and ZCNYC–support lay practitioners who work in the world and maintain families and households. The Society of Mountains and Rivers, an organization of affiliates associated with the Order in the US and abroad, provides the facilities for zazen and retreats with visiting teachers. Lay practitioners also find support in the MRO’s quarterly journal, Mountain Record, and other media produced and distributed through Dharma Communications.

Zen Lay Practioner

The Way of the Monastic

To be ordained in the Mountains and Rivers Order is to serve the teachers and sangha fulltime as a vocation and livelihood. It is a lifelong commitment, providing a unique opportunity within spiritual life. Monastics in the Order are entirely dependent on the sangha and maintain the Monastery for current practitioners and for generations to come.

The process leading to full ordination is long and demanding. Requirements include at least five years of practice as a formal student, with a minimum of three years of residency, and subsequent residential monastic training. This graded approach allows students to find out through experience whether monastic life is right for them, revealing the difference between the reality of committing one’s life to the buddhadharma and any romantic notions about Zen training and monastic life.