Term Student Program

The Term Student program is designed to provide structure for members of Dharma Rain Zen Center who wish to intensify their practice and Sangha connections for a specific period of time. Terms are three months long, with one term in the Fall, and sometimes one in the Spring. Committing to a term provides a clear beginning and end to a period when Zen practice and involvement at the Zen Center take a higher priority in your life. Because you are not making a long-term commitment, and because you are joining others in the term, the chances of following through on your intention to intensify practice can be greatly improved.

The Term Student program consists of three basic elements:

  • your own daily practice at home and/or work;
  • regular involvement at the Zen Center, especially monthly Fusatsu;
  • and the special events (see below).

These are tied together with a Vow of Practice. A Vow of Practice is something that can be done on your own, independent of the Term Student program. It often includes a theme, or statement of purpose. When we wish to intensify our practice, there is usually an underlying motivation that calls us to do this. It can be helpful to recognize and identify this purpose, and include it in the vow.

After the statement of purpose, include a description of your basic daily practice. This includes things like your daily zazen, any service you do, verses you incorporate in daily life, reading and study. We encourage flexibility, with a “bottom line” description, i.e. “I will try to do morning zazen five days a week, but will always do it at least two days a week.” The idea is to make a vow that will cause you to stretch, but is doable over the whole period of time. Then list the weekly Center events you plan to attend: things like Wednesday night sitting and class, Sunday morning practice, etc. You can include weekly events like Saturday Dharani Chants (Fudo Ceremony, Special Kanzeon Ceremony, and Victor’s Ceremony) if these are meaningful for you. Here we emphasize monthly Fusatsu, which is scheduled on one Thursday each month. Monthly Fusatsu is an important element in the Term Student program that helps maintain the deeper connection we establish at the special Term Student events.

Finally list the major events in which you plan to participate. These include the sesshin held each term like Rohatsu in the Fall term, and Jukai in the Spring, and other special events like practice with a visiting teacher. Out of all these events, the only ones that are required are the Term Student retreats. Even here, there is some latitude, especially for those who have done a number of terms. During the opening retreat each term, students summarize their vows during the term dedication ceremony and then place them on the altar. This ceremony is taken from the monastic term dedication ceremony in which monks agree to spend the term in training together. Sharing our vows at this time permits the group to witness each person’s commitment, and we also have the opportunity to share something of what it is that brings us together to practice.

One major purpose of the Term Student program is to create a venue in which a group of lay people can go through a practice period together. Because we are not a monastery, it can be difficult to meet each other in the intimate way that develops when people live in close proximity for an extended period of time. Much of the first retreat each term is spent connecting with each other. To do this, people new to the program are asked to prepare by taking the time to write out three personal outlines. You would start by looking back over your life and writing a chronological outline of your life events. Next, you would write a “karmic outline.” This is a list of events or circumstances that have marked you in some way, and have contributed in making you who you are. These can be specific things like alcoholic parents, or more general ones, like growing up in the country, or near a lake. Third, make a “spiritual outline.” This is, perhaps, not very different from the “karmic outline,” but we have found that what people have in mind when they take the time to look back on their lives causes different things to emerge. Think specifically about things that have formed your spiritual point of view. So please take the time to look back from these different perspectives. What you write can be for your own use only, or you may give it to the teachers if you wish. This exercise is to prepare you to make a five or ten minute presentation at the first retreat of the term. We want people to say something about who they are, what has brought them to this practice, and what they bring to the practice and to the group. After each person speaks, the others will ask questions.

Other elements often included in the Term Student program are a text that is studied for the term with Dharma Talks during meditation, and mondo practice, which is an exercise that brings the way we meet each other into the realm of Dharma. The Dharma is not something that is grasped in the mind, but something that is realized in our lives. Deep and intimate Sangha connections are vitally important in helping us bring the Dharma to fruition in a real way. That is what we hope to accomplish in the Term Student program.

In fall of 2016 the teachers will be Kakumyo, Bukkai, and Genko. Sign up below. If it is your first time doing the Term Student program, you will need to schedule an interview with one of the teachers.

Events for Fall 2016

Application Deadline Sunday, September 11
Events in Bold are recommended

Daily sitting and service (see schedule)
Wednesday Evening sitting and class
Tuesdays — Dharma Studies / Seminary, Buddhist Views of the Body
Sunday morning practice: sitting, sanzen, service, Dharma Talk

Zazenkai: October 8

Leading or helping at classes or workshops
Segaki Retreat, Friday, October 28 – Sunday, October 30
Rohatsu Sesshin, Sunday, December 4 – Sunday, December 11

Opening Retreat: Saturday, September 17, 8:30am–4:30pm
Mid-term Retreat: Saturday, October 15, 8:30am–4:30pm
Closing Retreat: Saturday, November 19, 8:30am–4:30pm