Our Practice

The Hartford Street Zen Center provides a comfortable, relaxed and authentic space for anyone interested in mindfulness practice, Buddhism, or meditation to come and experience the way of Zen. The type of meditation practiced in Zen temples (zazen, lit. ‘sitting Zen’) is objectless, meaning that we do not direct our attention toward any particular thought or idea. We just sit, remaning in full awareness of our surroundings and noticing that thoughts inevitably arise and fade away, without holding on them or pushing them away.

If this seems more difficult to you than it sounds, you are not alone! That is why it’s called a “practice,” and that’s why we come together as a community to support each other. If you would like to learn the proper forms for sitting in the zendo (meditation hall), please attend a brief instructional session any Saturday morning at 8:30 AM. You can also find a good introduction to zazen here. We have chairs, kneeling seats, and ergonomic kneeling chairs available for anyone who needs them in order to sit zazen. We “sit” zazen for 40 minute periods most sessions with some morning second periods of 30 minutes.

Chanting Service
After meditation in the morning and evening, there is a service during which we do full prostrations at the beginning and at the end, and recite one or more chants. Everyone is invited to join in services, and chant books are passed out for all who wish to participate. However, there are a few short verses which can be found separately on small leaflets labeled “Short Verses.” They are listed below for reference.

After evening chant:
All buddhas, ten directions, three times.
All arhats, bodhisattva-mahasattvas
Wisdom beyond wisdom,
Maha Prajña Paramita

The Japanese version is recited after morning chants:
Ji ho san shi i shi fu
Shi son bu sa mo ko sa
Mo ko ho ja ho ro mi

Robe chant – After morning zazen:
Dai sai ge da pu ku
Musō fuku den e
Hi bu nyo rai kyo
Ko do shoshu jo
Great robe of liberation
Field far beyond form and emptiness
Wearing the Tathagata’s teaching
Saving all beings

Before lecture & Study Hour:
An unsurpassed, penetrating and perfect dharma
Is rarely met with even in a hundred thousand million kalpas
Having it to see and listen to, to remember and accept,
I vow to taste the truth of the Tathagata’s words.

After lecture & Study Hour:
May our intention equally extend to every being and place
With the true merit of buddha’s way.
Beings are numberless; I vow to save them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable; I vow to become it.

The full chant book can be found here (SF Zen Center). Note: The short verses above and others we use, are slightly different from the some at SFZC .