Dharma Studies / Seminary

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


Dharma Studies / Seminary Program classes are intended to create and maintain a shared body of knowledge within the sangha of Buddhist and Zen philosophy, texts, and history. The curriculum is composed of five classes. Time to complete seminary is two-and-a-half years. Classes are taught by ordained and lay transmitted teachers. To graduate, students must complete and pass all five classes.

The purpose of Seminary Program is to train members who expect to move into leadership and instructor roles and is also for personal enrichment. Seminary students must formally enroll in the program and meet the criteria listed below. Their class work will be subject to a higher level of observation and review (than for non-credit students), with a focus on their ability to integrate and express the material.

The Seminary Program is for the training of members who expect to move into leadership and instructor roles. These students must apply and meet the criteria listed below. Their class work will be subject to a higher level of observation and review, with a focus on their ability to integrate and express the material.

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

To graduate from the Seminary program, seminary students must complete and pass the five classes listed below. While enrolled in the program, students are strongly encouraged to be in regular contact with a teacher, and attend at a term student program and at least one sesshin.

Seminary Fees

Fees for seminary classes are on a sliding scale of $25-$50.

Seminary Classes

A series of five required classes:

  • Lotus Sutra
  • History Through Texts
  • Lineage Studies (may be either Chinese or Japanese)
  • Wisdom Sutras
  • Dogen Studies

These five classes will be offered in the order in which they are listed above beginning with the Lotus Sutra in Fall 2018. The five classes can be completed in two-and-a-half years.

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

The Lotus Sutra class may include a briefer look at an additional sutra such as Vimalakurti, Platform, Lankavatara, or Avatamsaka, at the instructor’s discretion.

History Through Texts will focus on early texts such as the Pali Canon, Nagarajuna, or Abhidarma, with a lighter emphasis on Zen and Ch’an texts.

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 dot 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.

Dharma Expression (post-seminary)

To prepare senior members to express their understanding of the Dharma as speakers, team leaders, and instructors, a post-seminary program exists called Dharma Expression. To enroll in Dharma Expression, students must first have completed and passed the five required classes of Seminary program. (Exception: students enrolled in Seminary in 2017 or earlier, may continue to Dharma Expression classes prior to completing the five classes).

This continuation of studies is optional for those who have graduated from Seminary and are interested in developing their ability to express the Dharma.

Four classes of the Dharma Expression program:

  • Instructor Training: developing, and teaching classes, giving lectures, leading discussions, writing a syllabus, creating learning goals and evaluations, and managing group dynamics.
  • Issues of Leadership: ethics, team leadership skills, dynamics of power, handling crises, mentoring and apprenticeship methods.
  • Our Daily Liturgy
  • Methods of Practice: study of other Buddhist traditions, at least partly experiential.

To complete the Dharma Expression program, student are also required to make a public presentation

Instructor Training and Issues of Leadership will be taught as all-day Saturday workshops with pre- and post-assignments. One will be offered each Fall and Spring term. Instructor Training will be offered in Fall 2018 and Issues of Leadership will be offered in Spring 2019, then alternating each term in subsequent years. The fee is $100 per class.

Daily Liturgy and Methods of Practice will be taught as a cohort-based independent study. The study takes place during the term. (Students do not choose separate independent dates of study.) 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. The fee is $50 per term.

The required final project for each independent study class will be assisting with workshops, assisting with classes, giving a student talk, or doing some type of public outreach. Details of these projects will be worked out with the instructor.

Non-Seminary Class Offerings

We will continue to offer our open Wednesday classes, and others, on texts or topics that fall outside of Seminary offerings. Such as:

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