Brooklyn Zen Center

505 Carroll Street, Suite 2A
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Telephone: (718) 701-1083
Website: brooklynzen.org

Description of Organization

The mission of the Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) is to maintain a space for sitting meditation, for formal Soto Zen Buddhist practice, and for the study of Buddhist ethics and philosophy. The vision is to embody the wisdom, compassion, and community of the Buddha as they have been carried down through the tradition.

BZC’s vision and values are represented in its three program areas:

  1. Soto Zen Buddhist practices that are both mindful of tradition and flexible within our current American context,
  2. Engagement and dialogue with the artistic communities represented in our city; and
  3. Social outreach programs designed to bring mindfulness and meditation to the community to alleviate suffering in the world.

Grant(s) Awarded

In 2024, a Women in Buddhism grant for $12,500 was awarded to support a Women’s Leadership Retreat: The first retreat would serve fifteen to twenty of BZC’s female leaders. This includes two of our head teachers, two senior priests, the Director of Ancestral Heart Temple and the Director’s Assistant, our Board President, our Development and Membership Manager, our ino (head of meditation hall), shika (guest coordinator), and several ryo heads, among others. We hope to create an opportunity for all of these women–the majority of whom are volunteers or modestly stipended–to gather at an offsite retreat center for three nights of rest, reflection, and meditation. The retreat would be structured around: Two to three daily periods of meditation Buddhist ceremony and service Discussion on the impacts and experience of being a cis, trans, or non-binary woman in a leadership role at BZC Discussion on the past, present, and future role of women in American and global Buddhism We hope to use this time to both honor the support that women have lent to the BZC sangha, and to fortify our commitment to creating a religious space that is aware of patriarchal and gender conditioning. Doing so offsite, at a center where meals and lodging would be provided, will allow participants to take full advantage of this opportunity. These women won’t have to plan a retreat in order to attend one. While BZC leaders will be responsible for laying out the daily schedule and facilitating discussion, lifting the responsibility of guest coordination, meals, and other logistics will allow for a weekend of true renewal. Additionally, going off-site will help to generate more open, honest, and vulnerable conversation on leadership at Brooklyn Zen Center. We are looking into The Watershed Center (where BZC holds an annual summer retreat and with whom we have a strong relationship) and The Won Dharma Center, a Korean Buddhist center just 30 minutes from Ancestral Heart. All-Gender ‘Women in Buddhism’ Retreat: To complement that retreat we want to offer a second retreat–open to all genders–focused on women in Buddhism and connection to the feminine. This would include: Several periods of meditation each day Service and ceremony Dharma talks focused on Zen women ancestors, historical and current Exercises and/or guided meditation that cultivate our feminine energy Discussion on patriarchy and gender conditioning We’ve invited Paula Arai to lead this retreat. Paula is the Urmila Gopal Singhal Professor in the Religions of India at Louisiana State University. She is the author of Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Women's Rituals and Women Living Zen: Japanese Soto Buddhist Nuns. Her forthcoming book is on the subject of women liberating Buddhism. Arai holds both historical and practical knowledge on the experience of womanhood in this tradition. One of BZC guiding dharma teachers, Sarah Dojin Emerson, plans to co-lead. Having an all-gender group is important to elevate the role of women in our sangha–and in Zen at large–to our entire community, and for all of us to acknowledge the vast generosity and stewardship of women in Buddhism the world over, and the sacred feminine that lives in us all.

In 2021, a special COVID-19 Operational Grant of $5,000 was awarded to Brooklyn Zen Center grant to provide short-term financial stabilization by helping cover operational and payroll costs resulting from both the loss of revenue and the Boundless Mind Temple, a rented space in Brooklyn that had been occupied for ten years.  The COVID-19 Impact:  Due to COVID-19, BZC decided to terminate the lease on their Boundless Mind Temple, a rented space in Brooklyn. Without this physical space, their main sources of revenue including retreats, donations, event rentals of the space as well as fees for short-term stays at Ancestral Heart Monastery, two hours outside of New York City, either vanished or were dramatically decreased.  The prolonged and uncertain timeline for reopening required BZC to drastically re-think both their practice and business models. They transitioned their programming entirely online, hosting retreats, talks, classes, and other events from Ancestral Heart Monastery. The affinity groups have also continued to meet virtually since the beginning of the closure.

In 2016, a grant in the amount of $20,000 was awarded to build capacity and to expand BZC’s leadership and organizational capacity, while aiming to secure and nurture a wide donor base through creative membership, fundraising and organizational development initiatives to serve the increasing need. 

In 2012, a Women in Buddhism Grant was awarded to support training young women as peer-to-peer leaders in their Awake Youth Project program, thus laying the ground for young women to carry the dharma on in their way.

In 2011, a grant in the amount of $20,000 was awarded to support the first annual Sit-a-Thon 10 hour meditation marathon benefiting the Next Generation Initiative, including the Jazz Mindfulness Program for children and teenagers, the high school-based Mindfulness of Anger workshops, and the Peer-to-peer Mindfulness Leadership Training program for Brooklyn teens.

In 2010, a grant in the amount of $5,000 was awarded to support ongoing operations.