T Nation

Best Monasteries to Visit


#1

When I was younger I visited a monastery that trained in Jhana and Vipassana.

I won’t go into the details but the experience was intense and deeply meaningful/impactful.

The kinds of experiences I had I think deeply changed how I viewed life, reality, and living/dieing.

Soon I am thinking of going to Gyobutsuji Zen Monastery run by Shoryu Bradley. The teacher is very well respected as a main student of the well known Shohaku Okumura. Additionally the monastery he has created is a mirror to the famous Antaiji so that is definitely something awesome.

I am really excited as I have found Zazen to be pretty much pure expression or at least the type I practice (Simply sitting).

I have started to have things open up that again are deeply transformative. Sometimes in our world we talk about aesthetics, purity, strength, power, and yet not many times do we apply these terms to the heart, soul, mind or whatever you wish to call it.

Yet just like learning and becoming close with oneself in a physical sense being well acquainted and understanding the depth and dimension of the mental or spiritual side of life is I think of great value.

Anyone have any good experiences with going to monasteries, retreat centers, or other things of a mental or spiritual nature that were deeply impactful and meaningful?

Be cool to chat about this side of life.


#2

Awesome. I think a lot of people can relate to feeling a sense of awe, or having a transcendent experience in nature. Solitude. A sense of being at one with the universe. The symbol of going up to the mountain, sometimes literally doing that. Finding places that feel sacred within nature. Learning to be still.

Otherwise, within a Christian tradition, meditation and prayer in a quiet church. Saying the rosary for a Catholic. Spending time studying the scriptures or pondering the eternal truths. Finding the sacred places of your faith tradition. Temples are always a symbol of going up to the mountain, where earth meets heaven, or where man communes with God. These kinds of transcendent experiences. Yes, I’ve certainly felt that. I frequently felt a sense of peace and processing things when I would go outside and run in the early morning. It was a meditation of sorts. I sometimes feel that when I read things that resonate in a “this is true, and deeply meaningful” way.

A friend of mine has a room in her home that feels like a zen retreat, and she has a Buddhist practice that includes meditation and yoga. I’ve enjoyed attending a guided meditation practice in her home, learning how to meditate. I’ve had a hard time developing a meditation practice on my own. Yes, I think it can be really worthwhile to learn to do that. There is a Buddhist retreat not far from me, and I’d like to visit. I think it’s a valuable thing regardless of your religious belief or unbelief.

Since this is BBing site, “I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul.” - Radiohead.

Tagging @antiquity here because I know he has a meditation practice.


#3

That’s what I practice, as well. [quote=“Powerpuff, post:2, topic:231758”]
Tagging @antiquity here because I know he has a meditation practice.
[/quote]

Thanks for the heads up. I would recommend the Jikoji Zen Center in the Santa Cruz mountains as an awesome spot to visit or do a retreat: http://www.jikoji.org/. Very tranquil and chill spot that is on beautiful grounds, has welcoming people, and has residences for those interested in staying. Plus, who wouldn’t want to visit Santa Cruz? Also, there are many famous Zen sites near and around the Bay Area.

I have done a silent retreat at a Rinzai Zen temple in central PA. It was a difficult but very positive experience. Rinzai zen differs from Soto Zen in how the practice (see the Three Pillars of Zen book for more on Rinzai Zen). Rinzai zen is more aggressive, I’d say, and focuses on achieving enlightenment while Soto Zen (which practices zazen) is more about noticing and not trying to achieve anything. I much prefer Soto Zen, which is what you also are interested in.

Some great books on Soto Zen are:
Thich Nhat Hanh’s "The heart of Buddha’s teaching"
Tim Burkett "Nothing Holy About it"
and the famous Suzuki book “Zen mind, Beginner’s mind”

Another awesome book, though from a Tibetan Zen master, is Yongyer Rinpoche’s “The Joy of Living”.

I see the OP is in Arkansas based on the Zen center he’s looking at. I started my practice in central PA, so there are good spots everywhere. I currently practice in San Jose with a small Sangha lead by an old, wise woman. Here’s what I (as someone who is nothing close to a master at Zen or meditation, but has done it for about 5 years now) would suggest:

  • Set a daily practice. It doesn’t have to be long, and I think some people see it as a competition by saying things like “I sit an hour every morning” etc… I do most often 10-20 minutes 1-2x a day sittings on my own, but at Zen services sit for 40 minutes at a time (still hard for me).
  • Don’t get overly excited/easily discouraged. There were times I thought “Wow, I’m getting really good at this” only to suffer from busy, monkey mind the next several sittings.

#4

Wow great replies guys!

Powerpuff that Radiohead quote was awesome. You mentioned Christianity and Catholicism, not sure if your Catholic but ever seen the “Into Great Silence” documentary?

Antiquity I actually live outside the States but I know of Gyobutsuji Zen Monastery because of it’s focus on Zazen and being in the tradition of Shohaku Okumura who I deeply respect.

Your post was excellent I will have to read over it again just to get all the info :slight_smile:

I gave both of you a “Like” I tried looking for a rep bar or something to add points to your account but could only find that haha.

Hope you guys are having a great Monday.