Valley Streams Zen Sangha is dedicated to the study of Buddha’s teaching and the practice of meditation. We invite newcomers and experienced Zen students to join us.
Our sangha is maintained by a community of people who have traveled many different paths. We come together to support each other in practicing Buddha’s way.
The highest value of Buddhist practice is to shine the light of awareness on habits of mind that perpetuate prejudice and discrimination so all may wake up together. This includes learning how we are conditioned to separate ourselves by race, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation and other forms of cultural identity.
Valley Streams Zen Sangha is affiliated with the Branching Streams network of the San Francisco Zen Center. Our forms and practice are inspired by the teachings of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.
Our Monday night programs always begin with zazen, or sitting meditation. Additional offerings include a devotional service, dharma talks by visiting teachers, group discussions, practice circles and retreat nights. There are no membership requirements to participate. We invite donations to support the room rental, visits by teachers, and other sangha activities.
Everyone is Welcome
Our Zen practice community is open to everyone. We are always encouraged by the interest and participation of new people. You do not need experience in meditation or other aspects of Zen practice.
What We Offer
- Meditation instruction (6 pm; 2nd Monday of each month)
- Discussion and practice circles
- Retreat nights (sitting and walking meditation)
- Special topic classes
- Public talks by visiting Zen teachers
- Practice interviews with our guiding teacher, Rev. Myo Lahey or So-on Jim Hare, or a visiting teacher
- One-day and half-day Zen meditation retreats
Your First Visit
Welcome! If you arrive by 6:40 pm on a Monday evening, we will be able to give you a brief orientation. Our Monday practice evenings begin promptly at 7 pm with a 35-minute period of sitting meditation, followed by a chanting service. Following service there are announcements and then a resident or visiting teacher offers a Dharma talk or leads a discussion. There is time for informal interaction at the end of our meetings.
• We offer meditation instruction on the second Monday of the month at 6 pm.
Sitting meditation is the heart of our practice. Also known as shikantaza (just sitting), this type of meditation practice emphasizes devotion to the present moment without trying to control our experience or reach for a particular state of mind. We aspire to take this openness off the cushion and into relationships with everyone and everything we meet.
Bowing and Chanting
Following zazen, we offer bows and chant one or more ancient texts or sutras. When we chant, we blend our voices; when we bow, we bow and rise in unison. You may offer standing bows or full prostrations. People often find these practices strange at first, but come to appreciate them as their practice deepens over time.
“By bowing we are giving up ourselves. To give up ourselves means to give up our dualistic ideas. So there is no difference between zazen practice and bowing. Usually to bow means to pay our respects to something which is more worthy of respect than ourselves. But when you bow to Buddha you should have no idea of Buddha, you just become one with Buddha, you are already Buddha himself. When you become one with Buddha, one with everything that exists, you find the true meaning of being. When you forget all your dualistic ideas, everything becomes your teacher, and everything can be the object of worship.”~Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
What to Wear
Loose, comfortable clothing is best for cross-legged sitting. Our room is air-conditioned in summer; heated in winter. It is traditional to remove your shoes before entering the meditation hall.
The Zendo is Accessible
There are always chairs included in the set-up for people who cannot, or prefer not, to sit in the traditional cross-legged sitting posture. In addition, the zendo is fully accessible by wheelchair.
Valley Streams Zen Sangha is supported by people like you. A dana, or donation, basket is placed at the back of the zendo to receive your offering. You may also use the Paypal link on the home page. The suggested donation for each weekly meeting is $5–10. When our guiding teacher, Rev. Myo Lahey, or another guest teacher gives a talk, we suggest a donation of $5–$20 for the teaching. Donations for the teacher are placed in a separate basket. Dedicated practitioners usually set up a monthly donation. Please make a donation that fits your budget. No matter what your financial circumstances, we look forward to having you with us.
Do I need to call before coming?
No. It’s fine to just show up, though we’d be happy to hear from you in advance – please email email@example.com or call 916-456-7752 to speak to Head of Practice, Rev. So-on Jim Hare.