Dharma Studies / Seminary

Note: The Seminary program has recently been revamped. This description is preliminary, and subject to change as the process is clarified.


Seminary Program is intended to create and maintain a shared body of knowledge within the sangha of Buddhist and Zen philosophy, texts, and history. While enrolled in the program, students are strongly encouraged to be in regular contact with a teacher, and attend a term student program and at least one sesshin.

Seminary Prerequisites and Eligibility

To enroll in Seminary, students will be required to:

  • Have taken the precepts
  • Have taken the Foundational Teachings class that is offered every fall
  • Be a Dharma Rain member
  • Complete an enrollment form
  • Meet with the Seminary Registrar

Seminary Classes

Part 1: Five required core classes (fees on a sliding scale of $25-$50):

  • Lotus Sutra (Fall 2018)
  • History Through Texts (Spring 2019)
  • Lineage (Fall 2019)
  • Wisdom Sutras (Spring 2020)
  • Dogen Studies (Fall 2020)

Part 2 is focused on preparing senior members to express their understanding of the Dharma as speakers, team leaders, and instructors. Students must complete and pass the five required core classes in Part 1 before taking classes in Part 2.

The four required classes of Part 2 focus on dharma expression:

  • Instructor Training (Fall 2018)
  • Methods of Practice (Fall 2018)
  • Issues of Leadership (Spring 2019)
  • Our Daily Liturgy (Spring 2019)

Class Structures

The five core classes in Part 1 meet weekly or bi-weekly on Tuesdays as a group. Instruction is a combination of lecture and group discussion. Weekly reading assignments are required as are writing assignments that vary, depending on the teacher, from one long paper to four or five smaller papers. Students are often required to make a class presentation on a topic of their choosing. Presentations can be in various media in order to express understanding.

The classes in Part 2 are either a weekend workshop (with a fee of $100) or a cohort-based independent study that meets three times over the course of the term (fee is $50).

To graduate from seminary, students will complete part 1 and part 2, and make a public presentation.

The public presentation is a chance to experience expressing the dharma in a public setting. This can be assisting with workshops, assisting with classes, giving a student talk, or doing some type of public outreach. Details of this public presentation will be worked out between the student and a teacher.

Daily Liturgy (history and meaning of our standard scriptures and shastras) and Methods of Practice (study of other Buddhist traditions, at least partly experiential) are taught as a cohort-based independent study. The study takes place over the course of the term. One class will be offered each Fall and Spring. The group of students enrolled in the course will meet with the teacher as a group three times during the term: once to kick off the study period, a second time in the middle of the term, and a final time at the close of the study period.

Instructor Training (developing, and teaching classes, giving lectures, leading discussions, writing a syllabus, creating learning goals and evaluations, and managing group dynamics) and Issues of Leadership (ethics, team leadership skills, dynamics of power, handling crises, mentoring and apprenticeship methods) are taught as weekend workshops with pre- and post-assignments. One will be offered each Fall and Spring term. Instructor Training will be offered each Fall, beginning in Fall 2018, and Issues of Leadership each Spring, beginning in Spring 2019.

Enrolling in the Seminary Program

To enroll to the Seminary program fill out the enrollment form and schedule a meeting with the Seminary Registrar (registrar at dharma-rain.org). The purpose of the meeting is to review the program with prospective students and to clarify any questions.

Fees Payment

Tuition fees are due and payable in full by the first class. We allow a one-week grace period for late payments until the second class. After the second class, the official class roster is finalized and registration is closed. Any prospective student who cannot meet the tuition payment deadline for a particular class should contact the Seminary Registrar before the first class to arrange a mutually agreeable fee payment plan.

Distant Students

Distant students may take seminary classes for the same tuition fees as required for Seminary program credit at the Center. Distant students are required to register, listen to lectures, and do the class projects in the same way as other members. They are encouraged to stay in regular contact with the instructor and make comments to the class through letters or e-mails. Links to audio recordings will be made available to distant students after tuition fees requirements are satisfied.

The Seminary core class for fall 2018 is the Lotus Sutra, taught by Jyoshin Clay. The course will expose students to the richness of the Lotus Sutra. Through reading the text, examining art, songs, and commentary, students will gain an understanding of the importance of the Lotus Sutra in Mahahyana Buddhism and its relevance in Soto Zen. The class begins on Tuesday, September 11, and meets the following Tuesdays: September 11, 25; October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; and November 6, 13, & 20. Cost is $25-$50 sliding scale.

Registration for this class is now closed.

The Seminary Dharma Expression class for fall 2018 is Methods of Practice. This class is only open to seminary students who have completed Part 1 or who enrolled in seminary in 2017 or earlier. It is a cohort-based independent study course, and explores Buddhist traditions outside of Soto Zen. The instructors are Jill Bukkai Washburn and Scott Teijin Grim. Students become conversant in the basic tenets and practices of three or more different Buddhist traditions, including how those tenets and practices differ from or are similar to those of Soto Zen. Students gain firsthand experience with some of the practices and techniques of different Buddhist traditions. Students will describe those practices and techniques as well as their own personal results with and reactions to them. The texts are A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives by Thupten Jinpa, and others as needed for research assignments. Class meetings are 9/18, 10/24, 11/27 from 7-9pm. Two 3000-words papers are required as well as participation in all three classes. Cost is $50.

Non-Seminary Class Offerings

These classes have been offered in the past as Seminary electives. They are no longer part of Seminary, though people are free to explore them as part of a Study Group, and they may be offered as part of Wednesday night or other classes or in other formats.

Major Sutras

  • Avatamsaka Sutra
  • Lankavatara Sutra
  • Vimalakirti Sutra


  • Bodhidharma and the Chinese Ancestors
  • Keizan and the Japanese Ancestors
  • Nagarjuna
  • Women’s Lineage

General Dharma Studies

  • The Bodhisattvas
  • The Paramitas
  • Brahma Viharas
  • Abhidharma
  • Shantideva
  • Mahayana Philosophy
  • The Buddhist View of the Body