For Beginners

The San Antonio Zen Center offers the following programs for people who are new to meditation. Please refer to our calendar page for the times and dates offered.


Beginner’s Instruction

This class is offered for people who want to learn Zen meditation. It is taught by one of our senior members and lasts approximately 2 hours. Please sign up by calling 210-257-8383 or emailing


This is a mini-retreat geared toward new meditators, people who want to sit for a longer period of time without attending a full retreat, or even for people who have limited time. The retreat consists of shorter sits alternating with walking meditation. We’ll have time for tea and questions at the end of the retreat. Please sign up at SAZC.


The programs of the San Antonio Zen Center are made possible by donations offered by members and attendees of the San Antonio Zen Center. We do not charge for our programs, but your donations ensure that we can continue offering the Dharma to the San Antonio community.


A little bit about Buddhism and Zen…

The origin of Buddhism
The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, lived in India from roughly 566 to 486 BCE. Emphasizing liberation from delusion, the Buddha (which means Awakened One) taught various techniques to recognize and come to terms with obscurations. He emphasized meditation as the essence of practice. The central insight of the Buddha’s enlightenment experience was a deep understanding of no–separation. According to the traditional Zen texts, the Buddha, on the morning of his great awakening, said “I, together with all beings and the great earth, simultaneously achieve the Way.” Buddha’s awakening then, is your awakening, our awakening. Zen practice is concerned with freely expressing that awakening in all our daily activities, here and now, moment after moment.


Dogen Zenji is considered the founder of the Soto school in Japan. Born in 1200 CE and ordained at an early age, he traveled to China in 1227 and immersed himself in Zen. In 1230 he returned to Japan where he would teach for the rest of his life. Eihei–ji, one of the two head temples of Soto Zen in Japan, was founded by Dogen Zenji in 1244. Dogen’s voluminous writings, including his most important work the Shobogenzo (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye), continue to be studied closely by Zen students.

Zen has flourished in Japan to this day. In the 20th Century, important Zen Masters began to visit the United States. The first important visit actually took place in 1893 when the Japanese priest Soyen Shaku was invited to address the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He was deeply impressed with the sincerity of the Americans in attendance and recommended that more Soto teachers visit the West.


Shunryu Suzuki Roshi came to America in 1959 to lead Sokoji in San Francisco, one of the official Zen temples in the United States. At that time, Alan Watts was living nearby and began to visit Suzuki Roshi. Alan Watts’ influential radio program allowed many people to hear about Suzuki Roshi and Westerners came to the temple in increasing numbers. Eventually the Westerners were encouraged to set up a separate building devoted to meditation. Thus the San Francisco Zen Center was established in 1969.

The word Zen simply refers to meditation itself. Its meaning has grown and now extends to include the way of life of a person who practices meditation and mindful living. Meditation is the central practice of the Zen school as it has been transmitted teacher–to–student through the centuries. It can be practiced while sitting on a cushion or in a chair. It can be practiced while standing, or while walking mindfully. Once it is experienced, it can be carried into daily activity and expressed in the way you move, speak, work, play — in all interactions.