our forms

Forms are the physical practices that support our spiritual work together.

The han

This is the wooden block that hangs near the entryway. It is a traditional Chinese way to call people to the meditation hall to sit. The three “rounds,” each ending in a “roll-down,” summon first the outer community, then the people living in the monastery, and finally announce that the teacher is coming to the meditation hall. By the second roll-down everyone should be in his or her seat. Take a look at the inscription when you get a chance.


We bow on entering the meditation hall (zendo), and to and away from our meditation cushion. We do this to respect the space of silence; to acknowledge our own seat with appreciation and kindness; and to acknowledge that others are doing the same work of untangling suffering and clarifying the mind.

Wholehearted and full attention to each activity

The style of our practice is to give 100% attention to each activity as our-life-in-that-moment, including the person or object we’re relating with. Brooklyn Zen Center provides a community-supported opportunity to encourage a continuity of presence in activity in your own life. Learn more about wholehearted activity here.

“Just sitting”

This is a formless meditation that may begin gradually after a few years of stabilizing the mind. It is held by the forms. Our style of sitting is an embodiment of awakening mind. We sit in faith that we are this awakened mind which we call Buddha.


Silence as the container for direct experience of mind and the manifestation of our true nature.

Slow walking as meditation (kinhin)

Walking is one of the four traditional postures of meditation. The others are sitting, standing, and lying down. Walking practice is a support for bringing meditative mind into the world.


We chant with energy and union, losing the chattering mind in the sound. The words are sometimes studied, but when we are chanting we just do “sound practice,” the whole assembly as one voice. You can download a PDF of our chant book here.

Dokusan (Practice Discussion)

A one-on-one meeting with a practice leader or teacher to discuss zen practice. Students may bring a problem that’s alive or a question about practice.

We aspire to create an environment where students may explore the Dharma and study the self in an atmosphere of trust. If a student requests confidentiality, the teachers will not disclose that information unless serious harm to the sangha might result otherwise. Even without a specific request for confidentiality, teachers will not share information casually. In the collaborative teaching process, however, consultation among the teachers regarding matters that are not strictly confidential may be appropriate; this will be done in a sensitive, compassionate, fair, and respectful manner.

Doan and kitchen roles as practice

We offer opportunities to practice in an environment that helps us remember to be mindful and present without judgment. We do these roles as another way to look at the body/mind.

The rakusu

This is a little Buddha robe worn after a person has taken vows to follow the bodhisattva precepts of our school. The precepts are compassionate practices based on non-harming and connectedness, necessary for people to live together in harmony, especially when studying emptiness teachings.

Fall practice period

Each fall, BZC creates a container to help support our community in taking time to clarify our intentions, deepen insight, embody our commitments and more fully integrate our practice as life. Returning to silence in this way strengthens mindfulness and opens the heart. We call this container a “practice period.” Learn more about the practice period here.