Angel City Zen Center: Let’s Make It Happen!

ACZCWhenever people outside of Los Angeles hear that I want to open a Zen Center in LA they respond by saying things like, “There must be a million Zen places in LA! Why would you want to start another one?”

Curiously enough that is not the case. There is no place in LA right now where you can just walk in and practice Soto style Zen. Rinzai-ji is, as the name implies, a straight-up Rinzai style Zen center. At the Zen Center of Los Angeles they also practice Rinzai style Zen. I know they claim affiliation with the Soto line, but I’ve never understood why. There is also Zenshuji, the Soto-shu’s main temple in the United States. But Zenshuji is designed very much for the immigrant Japanese population who want a temple like they’d find at home. Which means if you want to do zazen there, they send you down to the basement.

There is nothing in Los Angeles even remotely like the San Francisco Zen Center, the Minneapolis Zen Center, the Houston Zen Center or even like the smaller Soto style Zen centers in Milwaukee or Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And for a city this big and this cosmopolitan that’s a real shame.

What there is a whole lot of in LA is phony baloney spirituality. This city was lucky to be the landing place of the late, great Paramahansa Yogananada who started one of the first Indian-style meditation centers in America right down the street from me on Sunset Boulevard, the Self Realization Fellowship. And while the SRF was (and still is) legit, their popularity set off a trend of half-baked imitations.

Pretty soon Los Angeles was full of self-made gurus pandering to the worst in spiritual materialism. This is the home of Power Yoga. Every other block in this city you can find some kind of patchouli-scented oasis selling healing crystals and copies of The Secret. You’ll find a 108 wanna-be Gurus-to-the-Stars all trying to be the next Deepak and pitch their latest bastardization of why quantum mechanics proves the existence of Vishnu on Oprah’s Spiritual Sunday Special. You’ll find Bhagavan Das down in Laguna Beach trying to bed down any cutie in a pair of yoga pants with lines about how wonderful it is to sleep with someone as spiritually advanced as him. And, of course, two Scientology Centers for every Starbucks.

But if you’re really serious about meditation practice it’s like a desert out here.

As I said the last time I posted about this, I’ve come to love Los Angeles. I wasn’t born here, but I feel like I belong here. This is where I want to stay for a while.

But I also want to practice in the traditional Soto style. I’ve been doing that for the past ten years with a dedicated and growing group of people in a series of rented spaces. We’ve been at a few yoga studios and a couple of community centers, and they’ve been OK. But they’re not really dedicated spaces for Zen practice.

If Cedar Rapids, Iowa can have a dedicated Soto style Zen center for ordinary residents, why can’t Los Angeles? Which is not to insult Cedar Rapids. It’s a lovely city and the home of America’s longest standing mosque. But fer-cryin-out-loud the City of Angels needs its own Soto Zen center and if some punk rock kid from Akron, Ohio has gotta be the one to make that happen, then that’s just how it is.

I can’t do this alone, though. Which is why we’ve set up an Indie Go Go campaign to raise funds. In our first couple weeks we managed to take in over $11,000. That’s pretty amazing. I didn’t know if we’d get a dollar. Whatever happens, we’re gonna get some kind of a Zen center going in LA no matter how much we take in. For $11,000 you can rent a bachelor apartment in Hollywood for a year and if that’s what we have to do to make this work, that’s exactly what we will do.

But our goal is $75,000 because we’d like to provide this city and, indeed, the rest of the world with something better than that. This is how much we think it’ll cost to run a substantial center for about a year. You can look at our detailed business plan and see what we intend to do.

This is going to be a place for you.

If we manage to reach our goal this will be the Zen center to end all Zen centers. Those other places I just mentioned will have to close down because ours will be so unbelievably incredible. We’ll have full-on Soto style Zen services with all the incense and bells and bonky wooden things. We’ll have completely secular meditation sessions where nobody is even allowed to so much as think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated. We’ll have retreats. We’ll have cook-outs. It’ll be a-may-zing.

But nothing will happen at all if you don’t help. So send your nickels, send your dimes, send your Euros and Pounds and Francs and Zlotys! Every contribution makes a difference. Let’s do this thing!


I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!


October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

October 30, 2015 Canton, Ohio ZERO DEFEX at Buzz Bin

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”

October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany)5-Day Retreat


Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

* * *

Your donations to this blog are still important. I don’t get any of the Angel City Zen Center fundraiser money. I appreciate your on-going support!

53 Responses

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  1. RickMatz
    RickMatz October 19, 2015 at 11:38 am |

    LA is no Cedar Rapids. Just sayin’

  2. Fred
    Fred October 19, 2015 at 11:44 am |

    Zazen down in the basement in the land of milk and honey

    1. Cygni
      Cygni October 20, 2015 at 2:24 pm |

      Such a great album, attempting to play along here in my basement apartment, hidden land of occasional salvia and meo.

  3. Shodo
    Shodo October 19, 2015 at 12:36 pm |

    “At the Zen Center of Los Angeles they also practice Rinzai style Zen. I know they claim affiliation with the Soto line, but I’ve never understood why.”

    The liturgical form is Soto.

    1. Shodo
      Shodo October 19, 2015 at 12:41 pm |

      … and they don’t “claim” an affiliation. There is one. Maezumi’s dad was a Soto priest, Baian Hakujun Kuroda, gave Maezumi shiho in 1955.

      Do you not know how to wiki…? 😉

      1. Fred
        Fred October 19, 2015 at 1:23 pm |

        “Do you not know how to wiki…? ?”

  4. mb
    mb October 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm |

    We’ll have completely secular meditation sessions where nobody is even allowed to so much as think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated. We’ll have retreats. We’ll have cook-outs. It’ll be a-may-zing.

    Will you also have retreats “where nobody is even allowed to so much think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated”? Or is that strictly reserved for local meditation sessions? Too bad you missed Huell by a few years – I’m sure he woulda loved to visit ACZC!

  5. drocloc
    drocloc October 19, 2015 at 1:56 pm |

    Any chance of a PayPal address? No debit/credit.

    1. mtto
      mtto October 21, 2015 at 9:55 am |

      Make out a check to “Dogen Sangha Los Angeles.” Write “ACZC Indie Go Go” in the memo.
      Mail it to:
      P.O. Box 29001
      Los Angeles, CA 90029
      This is better than Paypal, as we would be paying processing fees twice: 1st for Paypal, 2nd for First Giving.

      1. drocloc
        drocloc October 21, 2015 at 4:05 pm |


  6. Dogen
    Dogen October 19, 2015 at 3:44 pm |

    From the business plan…

    Brad Warner is an internationally recognized and renowned Zen teacher whom has sold literally hundreds of thousands of books. In the Zen game, he is a franchise player, someone you build around. The fact that he has no permanent teaching home is a travesty we aim to correct. Brad will draw the crowds needed to sustain the Angel City Zen Center. If we build it… and he is there… they will come.

    Brad-san has been teaching in LA for years, and in a city of almost 4 million within driving distance, has had like a dozen regulars?

    Number of pledges at an average donation of $50 per month to reach our monthly budget? 92

    One hundred regulars paying $50 a month to make rent. Hmm… might have to charge a higher cover on karaoke night.

  7. Fred Jr.
    Fred Jr. October 21, 2015 at 6:27 am |

    You could open a really awesome vegan restaurant!

  8. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs October 21, 2015 at 7:45 am |

    To me, “Angel City” sounds like a strip club or massage parlor, not that I would know about such things anymore. Hand jobs for Hakuin! Success?

    1. Fred
      Fred October 21, 2015 at 9:45 am |

      As I sit here in my chair McMindfully meditating with my back relaxed, I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect.

      And once I have regained that dignity and respect, and truly transcended the attachment to morals and ethics, I will make my way down to Angel City for a holy hand job.

      1. Fred
        Fred October 21, 2015 at 9:53 am |

        “Merzel said his affairs were “not about sex,” but about his feeling of isolation and loneliness as the teacher at the top of an organization. “I’m working on the whole sexual thing, too,” he said.

        He and his wife are divorcing.

        Merzel accused his critics of envy because of the success of his new way of teaching enlightenment, which he calls Big Mind.”

        It’s worth millions, Brad, and all the sex you can handle.

    2. Cygni
      Cygni October 21, 2015 at 1:15 pm |

      What’s the third precept again? Thou shalt not rub thy naughty bits against thy neighbors ass or something? Don’t think it says anything about a reach around, please correct me if im wrong.

      1. Mark Foote
        Mark Foote October 21, 2015 at 2:54 pm |

        had this at the karioke night just last week:

        been a favorite for a long time.

        1. Cygni
          Cygni October 21, 2015 at 5:49 pm |

          I didn’t realise you were such a dirty dog mark lol, 😉

          1. Mark Foote
            Mark Foote October 22, 2015 at 8:30 am |

            I don’t ask people to dance, in my experience that is counterproductive; but I have so much fun, people sometimes will dance with me, and the style is freaking:

            “When you make the two one, and
            when you make the inner as the outer
            and the outer as the inner and the above
            as the below, and when
            you make the male and the female into a single one,
            so that the male will not be male and
            the female (not) be female, when you make
            eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand
            in the place of a hand, and a foot in the place
            of a foot, (and) an image in the place of an image,
            then shall you enter [the freakin’ Kingdom].”

            (The Gospel According to Thomas, log. 22)

          2. Cygni
            Cygni October 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm |

            Yeah Mark, I gave up on asking people to dance a long time ago. I prefer to get freaky by myself.

            Like the Gospel songs.

            On the blazing surface of the cosmic mirror, Billions of drops of gold amrita coalesce And fall in galaxies of realms, An unceasing rain of all-pervasive radiance; Swirling free in the vastness of space, This rain is mind, is sun and moon, is sky, is mountain, is perfume, Is melody, is sea, is sex, is spice and wine. Its luminosity is co-emergence. Its heat is the union of prana and upaya. Its power is kaya and jnana, Embodiment and wisdom undivided at the core.

      2. Cygni
        Cygni October 21, 2015 at 5:40 pm |
  9. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 21, 2015 at 7:28 pm |

    This really belongs on the last post’s comment string…

    “For to know nothing is nothing, not to want to know anything likewise, but to be beyond knowing anything, to know you are beyond knowing anything, that is when peace enters in, to the soul of the incurious seeker.” -Samuel Beckett, MOLLOY

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 22, 2015 at 8:44 am |

    “Mindfulness is a simple, yet effective form of meditation that enables you to gain control of unruly thoughts and behaviors. People who practice mindfulness are more focused, even when they are not meditating. Mindfulness is an excellent technique to reduce stress because it allows you to stop feeling out of control, to stop jumping from one thought to the next, and to stop ruminating on negative thoughts. Overall, it’s a great way to make it through your busy day in a calm and productive manner.”

    (Dr. Travis Bradbury, from here)

    Freakin’ at the karioke parlor is a simple, yet effective form of meditation that enables you to gain control of unruly, Beckett-like thoughts and “Waiting for Godot”-ish outbursts of speech and odd behaviors. People who practice freaking are more twisted, more rolled, more pitched to and fro– even when they are only freakin’ with the foaming breakers filling the sky.

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 22, 2015 at 9:18 am |

    “We’ll have completely secular meditation sessions where nobody is even allowed to so much as think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated. ”

    s’funny you should say that!

    I’m not good at chanting, and I don’t much care for the ritual bowing either. I can barely sit 40 minutes without shifting around. But I’m freakin’ happy.

    Hey, the check’s in the mail to me, and when it arrives, there’ll be one in the mail to the City of Angels Karioke Parlor and Round Cushion Repository!

  12. Dogen
    Dogen October 22, 2015 at 10:22 am |

    How much do karaoke machines cost? Maybe should start with singalongs. They can be in Japanese.

  13. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 22, 2015 at 10:36 am |

    “This is the conclusion from an analysis of 47 trials of meditation programs, published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine: “We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (i.e., drugs, exercise and other behavioral therapies).”

    …In a nationally representative eight-year study, adults who reported a lot of stress in their lives were more likely to die, but only if they thought stress was harmful.”

    Can We End the Meditation Madness?

    1. mb
      mb October 22, 2015 at 10:52 am |

      Meh. Wherever human beings congregate, they will find a way to either “over-hype” something useful or criticize that useful activity by complaining about the over-hypers’ evangelizing.

      Besides JAMA is the mouthpiece of the AMA, an organization challenged by the very existence non-allopathic treatments, to say the least.

      I’ve got a customized Google News feed by topic and occasionally it turns up interesting contradictions when it comes to announcing the latest scientific study about this or that. I’ve seen articles on the same topic state opposing “scientific” views, because they are citing different studies. The peer-review system is not without flaws.

    2. drocloc
      drocloc October 22, 2015 at 5:38 pm |


      A blessing. Goodbye meditation.

      Simply zazen.

  14. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm |

    I never did well with statistics either: “Well, I don’t deserve it but I sure did make it through, what can I do for You?”

    1. Cygni
      Cygni October 23, 2015 at 5:23 am |

      I once gave a copy of “Saved” to a born again young woman I was fond of. Looking back it was probably a bit of a Dick move as I was born in March of 82 and she was born on January 3, 1992.

      1. Cygni
        Cygni October 23, 2015 at 9:26 am |

        Those Golden Fish nights many Weirdo years ago…

        Today I work from 03 to 09 pm NDT

        AH HIK

  15. sri_barence
    sri_barence October 23, 2015 at 7:34 am |

    This blog is one of the most fun places on teh Interwebs. I love coming here to bask in the warm friendly atmosphere. You guys are the best!

    If the ACZC is anything like this blog, I think it will be a big success. I don’t live in LA (I’m on the East Coast), but I will contribute anyway. Maybe some day I’ll come for a visit.

    I saw a long Youtube video of a Big Mind seminar. It was 2 hours, but I watched the whole thing. I think Merzel may actually have discovered something genuinely useful. I don’t think it can replace traditional Zen study (Merzel repeatedly said it was no substitute for daily zazen), but I think something like Big Mind can actually enrich zen practice.

    Anyway, I hope the ACZC becomes a reality, and if it does, I may come to visit someday.

    1. Jinzang
      Jinzang October 23, 2015 at 10:01 am |

      The problem with Big Mind is that meditators, especially new meditators, are looking for something to hold onto, something to validate their practice. Most typically it’s some bodily sensation: “I felt a shiver go up my spine while I was sitting last night. What does that mean?” But it can also be some emotion or idea. The teacher’s job is to say, “No, that’s nothing important. Keep on practicing.” Of course, there are more serious questions that need another answer. Giving someone an experience and telling them it’s a taste of enlightenment is not a help, it’s an obstruction, something the meditator will have to drop as they continue to practice. So in my opinion, Big Mind does more harm than good. But I can’t say that absolutely. If some experience inspires you to practice and you would have stopped otherwise, obviously that’s good, even if that experience is ultimately an obstruction.

      The point is that no experience is enlightenment, enlightenment is what you are already. It’s what you bring to the meditation cushion, not what you take away from it.

  16. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon October 23, 2015 at 2:27 pm |

    Plug in.
    Tune up.
    Freak out.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles October 23, 2015 at 6:52 pm |

      Cool up!

  17. sakurararara
    sakurararara October 23, 2015 at 5:56 pm |

    zazen, and calligraphy.

Comments are closed.