Author Archives: Greater Boston Zen Center

Non-Residential Sesshin

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"Every Day Is A Good Day"

"We can't do it by ourselves, and no one else can do it for us."
--from our liturgy book

Non-residential sesshins at GBZC are a wonderful opportunity to deepen our practice by joining together as a sangha (community) in either 2 or 2.5 days of intensive Zen practice.

You can sign up for the multi-day sesshin or you can sign up for any combination of full and half-days. Non-residential sesshins are scheduled from 8am-6pm over either one regular or one long holiday weekend and include up to 8 hours of zazen (seated meditation) per day, liturgy, oryoki (traditional Zen meal ceremony) and dokusan (private meetings with the teachers).

The non-residential sesshin format allows us to practice together during the day and still spend the evening at home. While we will be chanting and eating together during our lunch meal service, we do not serve food at the Center. We will provide hot water for tea. We ask that participants plan to eat breakfast and dinner at home and plan to bring a bag lunch, a teacup, and whatever snacks they may need. 

GBZC Non-residential sesshins are led by Josh Bartok, Kate Hartland, Laura Wallace, and others, and are scheduled for:

  • May 15-17, 2020: Cancelled
  • Sep 18-20, 2020: Cancelled
  • Jan 15-17, 2021

Lunch: Please bring a brown-bag lunch and teacup to eat Oryoki style.

Suggested donation: $50 for each full day; $25 for each half-day
Sliding scale available. Please never let money keep you away. All are welcome, regardless of means. It is our policy that no one is turned away from sesshin because of financial circumstances. And we really mean this. Because it costs money to run the Zen Center and to support our teacher's time, we do ask that everyone make a contribution in some amount to our shared work. We encourage you to donate what you can, and know that your contribution of any amount is gratefully received.

All-day Sit (Zazenkai)

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"Every Day Is A Good Day"

"We can't do it by ourselves, and no one else can do it for us."
GBZC Sutra Book

A powerful way to more deeply explore your practice is to attend a zazenkai, an all-day sit. At GBZC "all-day" means 9:00am-4:30pm. You are always welcome to attend for any portion of an all-day sit, as suits your schedule. The retreat includes liturgy, dokusan/interviews, zazen, walking meditation, and a Dharma talk with discussion.

All-day sits at GBZC are usually led by our spiritual director Josh Bartok and another teacher. Everyone will have the opportunity to have interviews with both teachers, and people may even have the opportunity to see each teacher twice.

Please bring a bag lunch to eat oryoki-style.

Schedule: Our all-day sits are on Saturdays.
Time: 9:00am-4:30pm.  You are welcome to attend any part of the day.

2020 Schedule:
Feb 15
Mar 21 CANCELLED (due to COVID-19)
Apr 25 CANCELLED (due to COVID-19)
Jun 20 CANCELLED (due to COVID-19)
Jul 18 CANCELLED (due to COVID-19)
Aug 15 CANCELLED (due to COVID-19)
Nov 21 CANCELLED (due to COVID-19)
Note that there are no zazenkai in May, September, October, and December.

Suggested donation:
All day - GBZC members: $25 / non-members: $40
Half day - GBZC members: $12 / non-members: $20

Pre-registration is encouraged. You may register online using the "Pay Now" button below, or you may register in person on the day of the event.

Please select option:

Receiving the Zen Precepts

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Recommended books on the Precepts

The Mind of Clover (Aitken)
Waking Up to What You Do (Rizetto)
Being Upright (Anderson)
If You're Lucky, Your Heart Will Break (Ford)
The Heart of Being (Loori)

Recommended Books on the Precepts and Society

The Great Awakening (Loy)
The New Social Face of Buddhism (Jones)
Money Sex War Karma (Loy)
Pavement (Jensen)
Razor-Wire Dharma (Malone)

"Vast is the robe of liberation, 
a formless field of benefaction;
I wear the Tathagata's teaching,
saving all sentient beings."
—GBZC Sutra Book

The Precepts of skillful action are the moral and ethical teachings of the Zen Buddhist tradition. They're not rules to be followed, but suggestions on how to navigate the difficult and messy business of being human in this human world. They describe how to fully actualize the absolute truth of interconnection and oneness in the relative of world of this and that. Moreover, the Precepts are among the Buddha's clearest suggestions about how to find liberation right in the middle of our everyday lives.

The ceremony of formally receiving the precepts is called Jukai, and takes place twice a year. People who have received the Precepts wear a rakusu (pronounced "rock-su") during zazen, the black bib-like garment that is a miniaturized version of the Buddha's robe, the robe of liberation. In this ceremony, each person receiving the precepts has the opportunity to read a sentence or three about each of the sixteen precepts. In this way, the ceremony is extremely powerful, communal, and inspiring. If possible, you should attend at least one Jukai ceremony before receiving them yourself.

Receiving the Precepts is not something we do when we believe we will never act against them, but is itself an expression of our bodhisattva aspiration to return, again and again, to our intention to let Precepts guide our lives.

The process of aspiring to be guided by the precepts, falling short of our aspirations, and atoning for the harming karma we create is the essence of Zen. This three-part process (aspiring, falling short, and atoning) is the heart of practicing Zen in our everyday off-the-cushion lives.

If you're interested in taking the Precepts, you can inquire about this in dokusan with any of our transmitted teachers. Most people sew their rakusu themselves, and there are sangha members who can help with this, including by providing you with a kit to get started. Contact  [email protected] for information.

You can find two Precepts recitations in our liturgy book.

Jukai Ceremonies in which the precepts are given and received are held twice a year: once in spring and once in autumn at GBZC. It is suitable to invite friends and relative to this ceremony.

The next Jukai Ceremony at GBZC (Cambridge) had been, before Covid-19, scheduled for November 2020. How and when this will take place is now TBD.

Our next Jukai ceremony at GBZC is scheduled for November 15th, 2014 at 4:30 PM.

Zen and the Art of Daring to Live the Life You Want

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A workshop
 with Lizabeth Roemer, PhD
 and Josh Bartok, Sensei

Sunday June 12th from 1:00 - 4:30 p.m.
(See Registration details below)

In this newly developed workshop you will:

  • Learn how to clarify what is important to you, including identifying and addressing barriers to this clarity (such as mistaking goals for values)
  • Explore how the tools of the Zen tradition in the form of the precepts and the Bodhisattva Vows can function as a frame for clarifying values
  • Learn how to take actions that are consistent with how you want to be living your life, no matter what you are feeling in the moment.

Liz Roemer is co-author of The Mindful Way Through Anxiety: Break free from chronic worry and reclaim your life and the newly released Worry Less, Live More: The mindful way though anxiety workbook, and a Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She teaches nationally and internationally on the mindfulness- and acceptance-based behavioral treatment of anxiety. She is also married to Josh Bartok.

Josh Bartok is the Abbot of the Greater Boston Zen Center, and the editor of over 175 Buddhist books from Wisdom Publications. He is the co-author of Saying Yes to Life (Even the Hard Parts), and his writings have appeared in Shambhala Sun/Lion’s Roar and Buddhadharma magazines. He's also a Buddhist pastoral counselor in private practice, with a Master's Degree in Mental Heatlh Counseling. He is married to Liz Roemer.


The cost for the workshop is $30 if you register online in advance, $40 if you pay at the door. Financial aid is available (see below).
Space is limited.
Click here to register.

Financial Aid

We do not want financial circumstances to keep you from attending this event. We do offer a reduced rate to people with limited income. We encourage you to pay what you can truly afford, and know that your contribution of whatever amount is welcome. When registering, follow the financial aid instructions on the payment page.


Contact [email protected] with any questions.

Path of Boundless Compassion by Mark Unno

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Here are the audio recordings made during Mark Unno's day long event on Saturday, April 26th 2014.

Early morning:

Late morning:

Lunch discussion:

Early afternoon:

Late afternoon:

Our Trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank

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The GangOn Saturday September 7th the GBZC Sangha lent their hands to the Greater Boston Food Bank. We spent two and a half hours at their warehouse in Boston. After some training on how to properly inspect and sort the food and other donated products we sorted and packaged 4,302 lbs, creating 2,646 meals.

That translates to 63 meals per volunteer. GBZC had 13 volunteers there so GBZC provided for 819 meals.

Some of us sorted, some of us loaded the conveyor belts, some collected and distributed boxes, some helped weigh the boxes. All I think would say they felt fulfilled and enjoyed the experience.

The photos, taken by Laura Wallace, show what it looked like and the joy it brought to us to be able to do this good for hungry families in the Greater Boston area.

I want to thank everyone in the GBZC community for creating and sustaining a community of caring people. And I want to particularly thank those of us that were able to come on Saturday.


Box duty

And thanks to the sangha members who were able to come:
Steve Wallace - who even bought shoes at the last minute so he could come
Laura Wallace
Josh Bartok
Liz Roemer
Joni O'Connor
James Peregrino
Kestrel Slocombe
Felipe Strefling
Harry Gordon

And again thanks to the whole sangha. Without the whole community there would not have been this opportunity to
to help people in need.

Deep Bows,
Mike Cerone


And I want to thank Steve and Laura Wallace for adjusting the usual Saturday morning service schedule so we could make it on time, and ensuring we had time for lunch before leaving.

And watch for future opportunities to go to the Food Bank we will return!

Those who greatly realize delusion are buddhas

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A talk by Josh Bartok on part of a text written by Shohaku Okumura "Those Who Greatly Realize Delusion are Buddhas—Guidance in Zazen"

No matter how hard we practice, our motivation for practice is
always based in some amount of self-centeredness. The act of truly
seeing this self-centeredness is itself Buddha. To awaken to the reality
of our delusion is itself Buddha.

To realize delusion is to be a buddha. Awakening to the incompleteness
of our practice and returning to our path is the meaning of repentance,
of atonement.