About us

Hartford Street Zen Center – Issan-ji, Myō shū zan

We are a San Francisco, Castro District neighborhood temple and residential practice center in the Soto Zen tradition of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.

We are an open, supportive and encouraging community space for people of all gender and gender identities or expressions and all sexual orientations ethnicities, abilities, life experiences and religious background and practices; who come together to practice and experience or gain knowledge of the Dharma (Buddha’s teaching), in the form of the Japanese school of Soto Zen. We were founded as space for the LGBTQQI and Ally community, and we continue this spirit while being welcoming to all identified or not identified in the LGBTQQI and Ally community

We practice this ancient and still relevant, beneficial and life changing way as it is best practiced, in community (Sangha) to support and care for one another. You are welcome, invited and encouraged to join us. We host morning and evening zazen (meditation) sessions as well as Saturday speakers, monthly one-day sittings, and a variety of community events. Currently, the center can accommodate five resident Students or Priests.

Founded by Rev. Issan Dorsey and the Gay Buddhist Club in a Victorian house in the Castro district, Hartford Street Zen Center is the organization responsible for Issan-ji (One Mountain Temple), Myō shū zan (Mountian Name), a neighborhood temple and residential practice center in the Soto Zen tradition of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. The center was also the site of the Maitri AIDS Hospice in the 1990’s, which now manages its own facilities.

Rev. Myō Denis Lahey

Rev. Myo Lahey

Rev. Myō is the Abbot at Issan-ji, Myō shū zan as well as Guiding Teacher at Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, California, and has previously served as the Practice Leader at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

A Dharma heir of Tenshin Reb Anderson, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of North America (SZBA) and is a member of the Association for Sōtō Zen Buddhism of Japan (ASZB). Raised in an observant Roman Catholic home, Myō was drawn to religion and spirituality at an early age and found Zen Buddhism in his teens. He began sitting in 1969 with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and practiced with many San Francisco Zen Center practitioners and teachers, including Issan Dorsey. Rev. Myō is available to the entire community for dokusan (practice discussion) by appointment.

Ceremonial Services
Hartford Street Zen Center is available for hosting ceremonial occasions such as Weddings, Commitments, Funerals, Memorials, Baby-Namings, and Comings-of-Age. Please contact Rev. Myō for more information.

First time visitors –
If you have not practiced Soto Zen practice previously we would strongly suggest a few options. First we offer an 8:30am instructional session each Saturday before our most heavily attended Saturday 9:25am zazen (seated meditation) period. This is very helpful to understanding and learning the basics of our forms and moving about in our space and meditation hall. It also will introduce you to an experienced member of our community who can offer continued support, information and guidance.

If you’re not comfortable with a formal setting of Zen just yet, we offer each Tuesday at 6pm, a Queer sitting group (open to all including those who do not identify as part of the queer community) which does not observe Zen forms and has a shorter period of mediation, but has engaged members who can assist and provide information.

If you need additional information or accommodation to join us please contact us and we can and will assist!

Click here to view our ethics statement

Click here to read about the roles at HSZC, Issan-ji temple