My workplace for the next month, the dining hall at Tassajara.

My workplace for the next month, the dining hall at Tassajara.

From August 3rd through September 9th this year I’ll be waiting tables at Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery. There is no Internet access at Tassajara and cell phone signals can’t make it into the valley.

It’s up a winding dirt road seven miles into the mountains and then down seven more rocky miles into a canyon. So it’s about as remote as you can get anymore in these here United States of ours. While I’m away you can send me postal mail at the following address.

Brad Warner

c/o Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

39171 Tassajara Rd.

Carmel Valley Village, CA 93924

This is something I’ve been doing every year. It’s good for me to do the monastic thing whenever I can. Some argue that working at Tassajara in the summer is not a true monastic experience. But they’re wrong. It’s not the same monastic experience as doing a 90-day ango (practice period). The rules are slightly less rigid, the wake-up bell rings at a somewhat more reasonable time, there are guests staying at the place and not observing any of its rules and so on. But it’s a real monastic experience nonetheless. Just a different one.

They wake you up at 5:10 AM, you start zazen at 5:40, do an hour of zazen, then there’s morning service with chanting of the Heart Sutra, the Enmei Juku Kannnon Gyo and the names of the Buddhist lineage ancestors (male and female) plus a bonus chant that changes each day. Then there’s breakfast which starts off silent but at which talking is allowed after the first ten minutes, after that there’s a “work circle” at which the community gathers and the upcoming day’s events are announced, then you go to work. At the end of the work day there’s another short service where the Dai Hi Shin Darani is chanted. Dinner is served after that. At ten minutes before 8 in the evening the residents gather for another 40 minutes of zazen and then everybody goes to sleep.

This is the daily schedule for all student workers and staff. Paying guests do pretty much whatever they want. Student workers are not paid for their service unless they elect to spend the entire summer. If they do this, they are “paid” in the form of being eligible for a free practice period (current charge is $3,500 for the 90 days). Otherwise you only get paid in good vibes, karma, plus free room and board. Hopefully the mice in your room won’t be too noisy. But the food is great and it’s a really nice place to be.

I’ve asked some folks to put up audio files of a few of my recent talks during my Northeast Tour while I’m away. So you’ll have those to listen to. And I’ll be back soon!

*   *   *

I’m not making any money at Tassajara, so your continuing donations are still appreciated. The “thank you” notes I send when I receive them will be a bit delayed, though. Sorry about that!

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8 Responses

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  1. Justin Lewis
    Justin Lewis August 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

    Looks pretty cool. Good luck! I was a dishwasher at a sushi joint for over a year and I probably enjoyed that job as much as I hated it.

  2. shikantony
    shikantony August 2, 2013 at 10:17 am |

    Hi Brad!

    It’s so exciting to comment on your blog. I’ve read all of your books multiple times and I have been practicing shikantaza for 14 years. I am not a member of a sangha (I’m an eye doctor with a wife and two kids…No Time!) but I have been faithfully sitting and your books have been instrumental in that. I love how you take Buddhist practice out of the stratosphere and down to earth. I also appreciate how you are able to expose some of the wild claims made by some teachers/gurus that make Buddhism seem like you need to earn some kind of enlightenment degree before you can learn how to stay in the present moment and taste as much of it as you can. You may not want to hear this but your intellectual honesty, authenticity and insistence that Zen is a doable and thisworldly practice are a welcome addition to all the books on Buddhism out there. I am also an admirer of Sam Harris and I can’t wait for his book on spirituality to come out next year. I also play guitar and piano. I have a Peavy Tracer from 1990 with humbucker pickups and a locking tremolo system. I am not that much into punk but my bass player Michael “Spider” Cotterman played with Kid Dynamite and The Loved Ones. I eagerly await your next publications. Hope you’re able to make the rent…I’m sure I can help with that from time to time.

    Warm regards,
    Tony Callan

  3. Fred
    Fred August 2, 2013 at 10:37 am |

    Sam Harris:

    “We need a discourse on ethics and spirituality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourse of science is. What we need, in fact, is a contemplative science, a modern approach to exploring the furthest reaches of psychological well-being. It should go without saying that we will not develop such a science by attempting to spread “American Buddhism,” or “Western Buddhism,” or “Engaged Buddhism.”

    If the methodology of Buddhism (ethical precepts and meditation) uncovers genuine truths about the mind and the phenomenal world–truths like emptiness, selflessness, and impermanence–these truths are not in the least “Buddhist.” No doubt, most serious practitioners of meditation realize this, but most Buddhists do not.”

    F*ck Sam Harris and f*ck science.

  4. Fred
    Fred August 2, 2013 at 10:50 am |


    “Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left and settle into a steady, immobile sitting position. Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen”

  5. Fred
    Fred August 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm |

    Mark, on Kouns blog discussion of non-thinking, you ended up having a
    discussion with a speculative non-Buddhist.

  6. mjkawa
    mjkawa August 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm |


    You are a scientist.

    And it appears, not a very skillful one.

    1. Fred
      Fred August 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm |

      “I really dont mean to be so literal, or materialistic, but Im not sure how we can communicate ideas back and forth, when we use words in such an obscure way.”

  7. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm |

    If the methodology of Buddhism (ethical precepts and meditation) uncovers genuine truths about the mind and the phenomenal world… these truths are not in the least “Buddhist.” No doubt, most serious practitioners of meditation realize this, but most Buddhists do not.”

    I agree; the pictures on the walls of the Egyptian temples speak of the same truths, as do the practices associated with Tai-Chi IMO.

    Fred, I knew the conversation on Koun’s blog was actually a case of two parallel conversations without intersection, but I have those with Seventh Day Adventists sometimes and I still feel uplifted; shot-in-the-dark similarities and images, if someone has a real practice there can be communication. Ok, that’s my belief, today I had a rough time with an old friend, and in the end it was only the stuff in the hara that let me know it we were still communicating something; stuff happening in the hara is really some kind of hynogogic phenomena, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real, it just can’t be done. IMHO!

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