Friday, June 15, 2007

Guidelines for Starting a Zen Center

The model for Zen center development is based on the central role of the guiding teacher throughout the process.

1. A dharma teacher (or higher) in good standing with the Kwan Um School of Zen may decide to start a sitting group and promote it to the local community. It’s best if the group meets in a public space for practice. It is important that Kwan Um forms (chanting, sitting, bowing, reading letters, etc.) be introduced from the beginning. This can be done gradually. A web site, newsletter, and e-mail list can also be established. A dharma teacher should identify him/herself as a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen in any publicity.

2. Either as a kick-off event, or soon after the foundation of the group, the dharma teacher should invite a Zen Master or Ji Do Poep Sa Nim to give a public talk or workshop. Establishing a relationship with a guiding teacher is the key to the development of a new Zen center. It’s best if a guiding teacher is involved from the very beginning of the group.

3. Developing membership is an important and sometimes difficult step. Show prospective members that there is something worthwhile to join by continuing to invite teacher(s) and to offer workshops, public talks, and perhaps one-day retreats. New students will be more confident in joining a group knowing it is part of a larger sangha. While a group is forming, new members temporarily join as members of the guiding teacher’s home Zen center (or a geographically close Zen center). The new group’s portion of its members dues are routed through this Zen Center, helping the new group develop a financial profile that will be needed when the costs associated with practice equipment, incorporation, insurance, banking, etc. begin to appear. It is suggested that four to five members be onboard before a group becomes a Zen center. Five members generate $750 annually for a group.

4. The group must request ratification of its guiding teacher by the School trustees. The group establishes and maintains a consistent practice schedule of weekly sittings and several retreats per year.

5. The guiding teacher should encourage and help facilitate incorporation as a non-profit and the adoption of the common bylaws. The group must establish a board of directors and officers, all of whom must be members. The group should request that it be included in the School’s non-profit 501(c)(3) status. It is strongly recommended that groups carry liability insurance, officers and directors insurance, and professional liability insurance. (The guiding teacher is already covered by the School’s professional liability insurance, but the Zen Center is not.)

6. When it has accomplished the underlined items, the group will become a Zen Center in the Kwan Um School of Zen and be listed in Primary Point and on the School website.

April 1, 2006

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