7 Levels of Open Mind Zen Practice



Becoming a Member or Student

In the text that follows we outline the requirements for the various levels of study in the Open Mind Zen School. None of these stages is automatic, in the sense that a given level is the result of meeting requirements. The assessment of the teacher (and in some cases senior students of the Sangha) plays a key role. The requested donation for all student levels is $85 per month and members is $50.


1.      Member

Members are those who wish to meditate at Open Mind Zen and support the Center, but choose not to participate in the specific training methods set up for students. There are no requirements for member status other than completing a beginning orientation class.


2.      Practicing Student

Practicing Students are those who choose to begin to engage in the Open Mind Zen system of Zen practice. The following requirements apply to them as well as all other levels of being an Open Mind Zen student:

  1. Practice regularly at home. We suggest at least 30 minutes a day 5x per week.
  2. When the teacher feels the student is ready, he or she will begin working on the 107 koans of the first group, although alternative practice methods are allowed on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Agree to experience the Zen Dialogue process either in a private or group setting as a prerequisite to koan study.
  4. Agree to do at least one long retreat and one weekend retreat per year.
  5. Attend on Sunday and one other session during the week.


3.      Senior Student

To be considered for this level, a student must first finish the Gateless Barrier  koan collection and have completed at least 10 longer retreats. At this point, a Senior Student should be experiencing and manifesting on a deep level how Zen practice can be integrated into daily life. There is a 6-month period of sitting without koans before moving on to the next level.


4.   Assistant Teacher

Assistant Teachers must demonstrate an understanding of the workings of the Dharma in their lives and relationships and must be firmly rooted in the experience of awakening. Their teacher must feel that they are ready to take on leadership positions within the Sangha.

Zen Assistant Teachers must have completed the initial 107 koans, the Gateless Barrier and the Blue Cliff Record and demonstrate an understanding of the commentary and poetry attached to each koan. They may then be authorized to begin giving Dharma Talks and limited interviews. Assistant Teachers are not authorized to teach on their own and must be supervised by a full Zen Teacher.


5.      Dharma Holder 

A Dharma Holder must have finished the koans of the Book of Serenity and must be a demonstrated leader in the Sangha. The position of Dharma Holder is a confirmation by the teacher that a student is beginning to embody the Dharma in a tangible way and has creatively sought methods to teach on his or her own. Dharma Holders are still under the supervision of a Zen Teacher, although they are beginning to master their own style of presentation


6.      Zen Teacher 

Zen Teacher status is granted when koan study is complete and the  teacher feels the candidate can be trusted to take on students and transmit the Dharma to them on his or her own. At this point, Dharma Tranmission is given and the individual is then a representative of the Lineage.


7.      Zen Master

This rare level of attainment will be recognized when a Zen Teacher has founded a new practice center or retreat center and has been acknowledged by his or her teacher as being worthy of this distinction.



Lay Precepts Ceremony

Jukai means “to receive the precepts” – it is an initiation into the Zen Buddhist Community. In Jukai, you receive the rakusu, which represents the robe of the Buddha, the Blood Lineage Chart, connecting you to the lineage of masters who practiced in the past, and a dharma name, representing qualities of your practice and being. At Open Mind Zen we substitute the English term “Lay Precepts” for the Japanese “Jukai.” Receiving the Precepts is an event one asks for when one’s practice leads one to it. The following are the precepts we embrace during this ceremony:


The 3 Refuges

  1. May I be one with the Buddha, the Awakened Unborn Mind.
  2. May I be one with the Dharma, the teaching of how to awaken.
  3. May I be one with the Sangha, those who practice awakening together.


The 3 Pure Precepts

  1. May I practice not knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about myself and the universe. This is ceasing from evil.
  2. May I cultivate a life of compassion and wisdom. This is doing good.
  3. May I heal myself and then heal others. This is true helping.


The 10 Grave Precepts

  1. May I realize that I am not separate from all that is. This is the precept of non-killing.
  2. May I be satisfied with what I have and not take what is not freely given. This is the precept of non-stealing.
  3. May I enter all relationships with respect and dignity. This is the precept of chaste conduct.
  4. May I listen and speak from the heart. This is the precept of non-lying.
  5. May I cultivate a mind that sees clearly. This is the precept of not being ignorant.
  6. May I unconditionally accept what each person has to offer. This is the precept of not talking about others’ errors and faults.
  7. May I not be prideful and blame others for my faults. This is the precept of not elevating oneself and blaming others.
  8.  May I not withhold spiritual or material aid. This is the precept of not being stingy.
  9. May I transform suffering into wisdom. This is the precept of not being angry.

   10. May I honor my life as an instrument of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This is the precept of not thinking ill of the 3 Treasures.