Life at a Zen Temple

The temple etiquette gives a framework to consciously carry out and process your own words and actions. They intend to make human coexistence smooth and pleasant. Because the life at the zen temple is completely supported by donations (food, all items and money), we do not waste anything. The Zen Temple takes no responsibility for accidents and illnesses during the stay. If you have allergies please inform the cook beforehand.

Harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.

Temple Etiquette Zen Meditation What is meditation? True meditation; while everyone meditates without rest, standing, or sitting, it's always together. If you don't believe this; watch it carefully! What is talking now all this time? Zen Master Myo-Vong What is Zen? Dhyana (Zen, Ch'an, Seon) is directly pointing to the human mind, seeing true nature, becoming enlightened, and saving all beings from the suffering of life and death. Because sentient beings are numberless, we vow to save them all. Because of fire, the fire phoenix flies. Zen Master Pohwa Studying without refinement is insanity. Zen Master Hye-Am Drifting Cloud and Flowing Water Where are we? Who are we? We have no place to lay our heads on, like drifting clouds and flowing waters. Our purpose is to awaken everyones true nature and offer a refuge for meditation and a place to reexamine the wisdom words of the Holy and Wise Ones. When there is an obstacle in our way, we gather and re-examine inside and outside until we finally see the true nature. Through endless investigation and clarification we strive forward. Householder and the homeless in mutual dependence, reach the true path! Who is the true householder and the homeless? Re-Examination What is Reexamination? Faith is the mother of enlightenment. When you were a fetus, you had ears, eyes, mouth, and nose similar to those of an adult: but, they were sense-organs of limitied functioning. You did not hear, see, talk, or smell as well as an adult, and you needed continous nourishment and material protection until maturity. Likewise, when you begin to understand the core teaching of the patriarchal koan, by listening to the Good-and-Wise One, a spiritual transformation ensues, and you are no longer an ordinary human being, but the fetus of enlightenment. This new fetus, however, is like a seed without soil or water. As the seed of a saint, the understanding, thinking, speaking, and distinguishing are not as mature as those of an enlightened master. You need ceaseless practice with, great respect for, and careful help from your teacher (Master-Mentor) who is the mother of Tao and a necessary condition of the great enlightenment. Until you become a mature master, you need care. Continuous protection by the master, as well as constant re-examination and respectful practice with the master, are all contents of the teaching of the Patriarchs. When Master Joju was enlightened, for example, Master Nanzen recommended that he leave and teach in the other mountain. But Joju said, “I will stay for a while and serve you, just until you die. When the master died, Joju was already eighty.

Temple Etiquette in General

  • Choose your words and actions deliberately and consistently!
  • Respect the hierarchy of the Academy!
  • Respect age!
  • Do not be a burden to others and yourself!
  • Leave any place clean and neat!
  • When you work, you work, when you eat, you eat, etc.!
  • Do not hang around!
  • Be on time!


True person without rank and name.

  • Internal collection, attention or sympathy
  • Spiritual Collection of Thoughts
  • Religious contemplation
  • Turning to God and the concrete form in which this spiritual collection takes place.


Meditation in movement has a thousand times more value than meditation in stillness.

We have no place to lay our heads on, like drifting clouds and flowing waters. Our purpose is to awaken everyones true nature and offer a refuge for meditation and a place to reexamine the wisdom words of the Holy and Wise Ones.

Going to the temple

When there is no seed, it has already sprouted.

To block his view of the outer world and to concentrate his consciousness within his own being.

Arriving at the temple

Gateless Gate.

But the seeker who wants to enter through this gate must have the key of the strong spirit and as a qualification for admission is checked whether he is fully equipped with: “Great Doubt“, Great Spiritand “Great Faith”.

Permission to enter

Look beneath your feet.

A new practitioner will be pushed back instead of invited, because in zen it is believed, that the truth must begin with one`s own decision and that it is achieved through one`s own efforts.


Guest and host are clearly distinguished.

To be in silence is a difficult experience. The mind filled with fond images of past life and the walls appear to have a thousand eyes. If the practitioner is lazy he will be rejected by the zen temple and must begin all over again. Greeting the head monk and thanking him for the hospitality is a good way to start.

The Meditation Hall

In bare feet he climbs the mountain of blades.

To bow when entering the meditation hall means to give whatever effort is needed to realise wisdom which cuts down ignorance and duality.

Meeting with the Abbot

Thank you!

The abbot will ask the practitioner about his purpose in coming to the zen temple and promises to do all he can to help for the hoped-for awareness.

Daily Routine

A tiny gap a thousand miles away.

The daily rules are purposely very strict to put the practitioners life in good order so that his inner being may attain right awareness. For this reason the beginners life is filled with admonitions from the elder.


Without the mutual support of clergy and laity, there is no place of silence and emptiness possible. Almsround is an essential part of zen practice and important for independent financing, since zen nuns & zen monks have only very little personal possessions, they are dependent, among other things, on the support of the population.

A dead tree greets no spring.

When the owner and the homeless (zen nun & zen monk) mutually give, harmony and value arise. The act of giving is the foundation of all being and therefore every donation is accepted, which comes from the heart. Now, what can the homeless give without expecting a return?

Part-time Work

In Zen the nuns and monks receive their livelihood through alms and work, that is why a part-time job during the templestay is considered as almsround. The practitioners offer the teachings by means of their own example. In exchange for this they are supported by those who trust in the truth of the teachings. In addition, almsgiving is considered a virtue, which increases good. The monks through the almsround provide an opportunity to practice this virtue.

Medicine Stone

Since olden times Zen monks and nuns have a strict and simple zen diet in the templekitchen; you can’t swallow it and you can’t spit it out, what do you do? Meanwhile why don’t you chew some medicine stone!

 Why do you live?  Three salty meals a day!

Medicine Stone 薬石

In Zen monasteries we use the term “medicine stone” as a euphemism for the evening meal or the last meal that is eaten in the evening in violation of the monastic rule; the term 薬石 literally means  „medicine stone“. The buddhist monastic code explicitly forbids to eat after the noon hour. Medicinal stones originally referred to heated stones that the monks and nuns held against their abdomens in the evening to ease the sensation of hunger and provide warmth in cold weather. Zen Monks have no special diet, all food is considered medicine for this chamber of enlightenment. We eat what is available in our everyday situation. In the mountains we eat what will be provided around us, in the city we never refuse the donations from the goodhearted people.

Zen Diet

We eat what is served!
Because life at the zen temple is entirely supported by donations, we do not waste anything. The act of giving is the base of our lifes, that is why we can not reject any kind of donations.
Student: Killing is a butcher’s jop; how can they attain Buddhahood?
Bodhidharma: I have told you just to see the self-nature; not about the resulting karma; although one who saw self-nature is creating karma, still, he is different from the confused ones; that is, all variety of karma would not imprison him.

Cook in the templekitchen

Besides the Abbot the chef is the most important person in the Zen Temple and responsible for the physical well-being and the health of the Zen students and guests. The temple chef prepares all meals wholeheartedly and makes sure that nothing is wasted. He is very appreciated and respected.

Misfortune does not enter the gate of the cautious.

Eating Etiquette

Let us think on how much we have accomplished and how this food has come to us.
Let us accept this prepared food only because we have now performed good deeds.
Let us take only enough food to satisfy our needs, leaving our hunger not quite satisfied.
Let us partake of this food as medicine in order to aid our thin bodies.
Let us accept this food so that we may establish our way.

The dining room is one of the three places for silence, the other two being the meditation hall and the bath. Even for the poorest meal we show deep thanks.

  • Eat what will be served!
  • No leftovers!
  • Quietly!
  • Follow the daily chief!
  • Don`t speak!

Daily Cleaning & Work

A day without work is a day without food.

A very important etiquette for the practitioner. Everyone concentrates his consciousness on the given task while working. To work is to cleanse the mind. Work is a opportunity to meditate and become awakened to the real self. A small event in daily life can become an important moment of awareness for one who is in great darkness.


A wise man loves money, yet he knows the right way to use it.

To receive sincere donation from people encourages the practitioner to train himself for the benefit of all sentient beings.


A day without work, but a day with food.

The practitioner goes about his private needs and tasks.

Taking a Bath

Ahhh…. how nice!

Here the teaching to waste nothing is actually experienced.


Why don`t you have a good rest!

Lights out!


Study hard! Study hard!

For the student of Zen practice…

Informal Encouragement

As a diamond is polished by rubbing against other diamonds.

The practitioner is sometimes called outside and approached by the elders for his carelessness during the day. This is a terrible hour for the student, but a very helpful encouragement from the elder.


From heart to heart.

The abbot calls the practitioner individually for consultation at the battlefield of wisdom.


Great Death.

“Compassion” is not “Pity”.


Do not waste time!

Each moment of life is seen as an opportunity to attain enlightenment. Even the small and trivial tasks are not looked down upon.

Teacher & Student

Something special passes between them.

In Zen, true awareness is not teachable in the usual sense. It can only be experienced beyond words and traditional teachings, because the core of Dharma can not be grasped in an intellectual way. The teacher needs to be an example and incentive for the student; he can show him techniques and ways to enlightenment, though in the end, the student has to attain it through his own effort.

Individual Meditation at Night

Nothing is free.

After the lights are turned off, the practitioner is always welcome to look for a place to meditate alone and quiet for himself until midnight.


Experience Awareness

No further comment is needed.

Each person must experience this for himself, at least once in his life!


The Zen Temples take no responsibility for accidents and illnesses during the stay. If you have allergies please inform the cook beforehand.