Great Vow Zen Monastery
Great Vow Zen Monastery was founded in 2002 and is operated by Zen Community of Oregon (ZCO) under the Leadership of abbots Chozen Bays, Roshi, and Hogen Bays. The Monastery offers weekend workshops, weeklong Meditation retreats, and special events throughout the year.
Great Vow Zen Monastery is a training Monastery in the White Plum lineage of the Japanese Soto Zen tradition. Abbot Hogen Bays was an early Disciple of Roshi Philip Kapleau; both he and Chozen Roshi studied for many years with Taizan Maezumi Roshi at Zen center of Los Angeles. More recently they have continued to deepen their Spiritual practice with the contemporary Rinzai Zen Teacher Shodo Harada Roshi.
Visiting teachers often lead or co-lead Meditation retreats or weekend workshops at the Monastery, sometimes on a recurring annual basis. Among them are Buddhist teachers Kyogen Carlson and Gyokuko Carlson; Ejo Patrick McMullen; Lama Michael Conklin; Alan Wallace; and Ajahn Amaro.
The Monastery is housed in a former elementary school on 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land overlooking the Columbia River floodplain near Clatskanie, Oregon. Two former classroom "pods" serve as dormitory wings for residents and visitors. Administrative offices and the Meditation hall occupy the center of the building. Landscaped courtyards are scattered throughout the building.
The Monastery building is surrounded by a meadow dotted with large conifers. A wooded area with walking trails sits behind the building.
The overall style of training at the Monastery is primarily in the Soto Zen vein, but incorporates elements from various Schools of Buddhism, and from other Disciplines relevant to the development of Insight and Compassion.
The fundamental inheritance from the Japanese Zen tradition—communal living, Meditation practice, working with a Teacher—is preserved, although the outer trappings have been modified to accommodate a Western sensibility and reflect the teachers' personal style. A resident at the Monastery might engage in classic Koan study during early morning Meditation, work in the Monastery's organic garden during the day, participate in a marimba rehearsal on her lunch break, and volunteer at a community center in nearby Clatskanie, Oregon on her day off. All these Activities would provide her with an opportunity to express and deepen her Spiritual practice.
The daily training schedule, which is followed by all residents, includes a wakeup Bell at 3:50 a.m., two hours of Meditation, a bowing and Chanting service, breakfast, and two periods of work practice. Lunch and dinner are both preceded by a short service. Two hours of Meditation in the evening end the day. The schedule may be modified at various Times of year, or to accommodate special events or classes.
- Month 1: July 7 - August 4
- Month 2: August 4 - September 4
You may apply for one or both programs. You must begin residency at the beginning of one of these programs, commit to staying for the duration of the program, and be prepared to leave at the end.
Residential training at Great Vow Zen Monastery is ongoing, so if the summer dates are not workable for you, you could apply to come at a different Time. Our usual fee is $500/month, which covers the cost of supporting a resident. Donations during the summer months (or any other Time) are very much appreciated. Please consider whether you might be able to donate some amount to help cover the cost of your stay and/or to support our ongoing efforts.
Residents are fully involved in daily Meditation (Zazen), shared vegetarian meals, and community Activities. They participate in all Meditation retreats, and participate in or Staff all weekend retreats and workshops. Residents also meet with each of the teachers individually in private interview (sanzen). See our Calendar to learn what events will be happening during this Time. Those applying should be aware that there is very little free Time during the week.
We will follow our regular schedule for the first month our relaxed schedule for the second month. See our Daily Schedule for details.
Morning and evening Zazen consist of two or four 25 minute periods of Meditation. Benches, chairs, and an assortment of Meditation cushions are available. Those in the Zendo (Meditation hall) are welcome to stand at any Time if they are drowsy or extremely uncomfortable.
On Wednesday evenings we have a class on a Buddhist theme and there is no Zazen. On Sunday mornings residents participate in a program of Meditation and Dharma talk for the public from 10:00am to 2:00pm. From 2:00pm Sunday until 9:00am Tuesday morning there are no scheduled Activities and residents are welcome to leave the Monastery grounds or spend Time at the Monastery as they wish.
The Path of Ordination
“The Priest’s robe is The Buddha Body, The Buddha Mind, it is the clothing of emancipation, the robe beyond Form, the unsurpassable robe, the robe of Patience, the robe of great Love and Compassion and the robe of unsurpassable, complete Enlightenment.” – Dogen Zenji
Great Vow Zen Monastery offers Ordination and full-Time residential training as a Soto Zen Buddhist priest. The first step of this program begins with living at the Monastery as a resident for 1–2 years, experiencing the full spectrum of attitudes, joys and challenges that arise in community Zen training.
- Receiving The Five Precepts
- Taking Jukai, formally becoming a Zen Buddhist and receiving the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts.
- Postulancy, a minimum one year period of intensified training in which the ordained Sangha and the postulant discern together whether Ordination is appropriate. The Postulant resolves all commitments unrelated to training and the support of the ZCO Sangha.
- Novice priest Ordination, a five-year commitment to continuous training at Great Vow.
The five-year period can be broken down into three training categories:
Zazen, Seated meditation, is our central practice. Life at Great Vow is an opportunity to immerse oneself in Zazen, explore the depths of the Heart-Mind and see into the essential matter of Life and Death. In one year, residential trainees at Great Vow do 12 sesshin, weekend retreats and the daily schedule, which includes 3 –4 hours of Zazen six days a week.
2. Stability and Service
- The development of a firm foundation of ethical conduct and personal integrity by practicing the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts.
- Cultivating a willingness to serve by supporting the many workshops and retreats of the Zen Community of Oregon.
- Serving for at least a year in the pivotal roles of Jisha, Teacher’s attendant, Shuso, head of the Meditation hall, Benji, assistant to the Shuso and Tenzo, head cook and kitchen manager.
- Attending weekly classes covering a comprehensive range of Buddhist principles including the Sutras and teachings of the Zen masters as well as the study of methods of psychological introspection such as the Voice Dialogue process.
- Private Dharma encounter, sanzen, with both Chozen Bays Roshi and Zen Teacher Hogen Bays. Sanzen is a Time when students receive personal guidance and an occasion for the student to bring her/his Insight to Life in non-conceptual, embodied expression. The inevitable challenge of this ever-unfolding practice is a key part of the character work and Body- and -Mind Buddhist study that mature the ordained priest over the years of training.
- Leading classes on occasion to build experience in communicating The Dharma.
The Bodhisattva ("Wisdom Being") known as Jizo (in the Japanese tradition; Ksitigarbha in Sanskrit) embodies the Spiritual energy of Great Vow Monastery. Traditionally depicted in Monk's attire, Jizo Bodhisattva is a representation of the archetypal energy of optimism, fearlessness, benevolence, and determination. Jizo is the guardian of children and the patron of all beings caught in the uncertainties of Life's transitions.
Practice with Jizo Bodhisattva includes daily Chanting the Jizo Mantra; manufacture for sale of Jizo images; a Meditation Retreat designed to foster the qualities Jizo represents; biannual ceremonies for children and loved ones who have died; and a yearly Jizo-Bon festival event in August.
The Monastery is sustained by the members of ZCO, which includes a substantial lay congregation that meets for sitting Meditation in Portland, and a handful of associated satellite groups in Oregon and Washington.
Visitors Interested in Meditation in the Buddhist tradition may arrange a short-term stay at the Monastery in Order to experience work and Meditation in a tranquil and supportive environment. Longer-term residency—including investigating one's possible vocation as a Zen priest—is by arrangement and at the discretion of the teachers.