Dharma Studies / Seminary


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.

Spring 2019 Classes

The Seminary core class for spring 2019 is History Through Texts, taught by Kakumyo Lowe-Charde and Ko’in. Cost is $25-$50 sliding scale.

Primary sources will expose students to some of the most important texts not covered in other classes, and secondary reading sources will provide historical context. Class lecture and discussion will focus on understanding the texts, using them for insight, and expanding on historical details most relevant as practitioners. The class meets February 5 and 19, March 5 and 26, April 19, 23, and 30, May 7, 14, and 21. See the preliminary syllabus.

The two Seminary Dharma Expression classes for spring 2019 are Issues of Leadership and Daily Liturgy. These classes are only open to seminary students who have completed Part 1 or who enrolled in seminary in 2017 or earlier.

Issues of Leadership covers ethics, team leadership skills, dynamics of power, handling crises, mentoring and apprenticeship methods. It is taught as a weekend workshop with pre- and post-assignments. Students must have either completed the five core Seminary classes or have been enrolled in Seminary since 2017 or before. To register, click on the link above. Genko and Jiko teach this class.

Jill Bukkai Washburn and Scott Teijin Grim teach Daily Liturgy, a cohort-based independent study that meets three Thursdays: June 6, July 11, and August 8. These three meeting will cover material that formerly required nine class meetings.

Although students may expect to build on other seminary studies that explore the liturgy from a historical or philosophical perspective, this class will emphasize liturgy as practice and expression. Individual study inclinations will be added to a common exploration of the main Soto school scriptures that are chanted regularly at Dharma Rain. Students will pay attention to source materials as well as exercising an experiential eye. Assignments will include 2 papers and class presentations.

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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