Eight months after becoming an independent center in Los Angeles, Angel City Zen Center is ready to spread its wings (and let you know about it).
“One of the fundamental ways the philosophy of Zen is put into action is not proselytizing, and not trying to make people want it,” said Brad Warner, a Soto Zen priest, author, filmmaker, and punk bassist. “We want people to come to us when they discover Zen and have a need for it. But the problem with that is you don’t get a lot of people.”
Warner started what was previously called “Dogen Sangha Los Angeles,” the California chapter of his teacher Gudo Nishijima’s Tokyo-based Dogen Sangha, after moving back to the U.S. from Japan in 2004. The group met in numerous rented spaces over the years, and all the while Warner hoped he would be able to open a center of their own.
Last year, the sangha—which changed its name to make it more accessible—failed to raise the amount of money they thought was necessary to open Angel City Zen Center. But they had enough for a security deposit and first month’s rent, and a member willing to sign a lease on behalf of the group. The center—located in a house in downtown Los Angeles— opened on Sept. 15, 2016.
“The biggest problem, and we knew this going into it, is that it’s much more expensive to have your own place than to rent someone else’s. Our hope is that we can make it work in spite of the fact that it’s an expensive way to go. It’s a little bit of a gamble on our part,” Warner said. The center now relies on donations from members, including four resident members.
Angel City Zen Center is now open every day but Sunday and offers zazen [meditation] on various mornings and evenings, as well as other programs, such as Dogen koan study, yoga, half-day retreats, and longer retreats twice a year. Once a month the center has a more formal and “religious” Zen service, which Warner hopes to increase to a weekly event in the future. Warner himself isn’t there every day; three teachers he has ordained—Nina Snow, John Graves, and Rylend Grant—also lead sittings at the center.
Angel City Zen Center is located at 1407 W. Second Street, Los Angeles, California, 90026. A half-day retreat and Heart Sutra service planned for June 3 will serve as the center’s grand opening.
The Liberation of Uncertainty: Zen priest Brad Warner talks about his new book, Don’t Be a Jerk, and his quest to make Dogen more acceptable to the modern reader
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