San Francisco Zen Center

300 Page Street
San Francisco, CA  94102

Description of Organization

San Francisco Zen Center is a nonprofit religious organization that was established in 1962 for the practice of Zen Buddhist meditation and teachings. Today, San Francisco Zen Center is the largest Buddhist community outside of Asia. It offers many, varied programs in the Bay Area that make Zen teachings available to all members of the broader community.

Grant(s) Awarded

In 2024, a Women in Buddhism grant in the amount of $10,000 was awarded to explore the teachings of prominent female Buddhist teachers of the past and present via the “True Dharma Eye” program. After much research by contemporary female Buddhist scholars,it is now known that many enlightened women teachers in ancient India, China, and Japan were omitted from the historical records because they were not men. During a week-long retreat at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Dōshin Mako Voelkel, the Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center’s urban temple, will lead up to 25 female practitioners in a deep dive into the lives and teachings of these hitherto forgotten women. By shedding light on their struggles against the patriarchy and sexism of their times, Abbess Dōshin Mako will illuminate how these unacknowledged women teachers influenced Buddhism in the past and opened the door for modern women to study and teach The Way. Because the past, present and future are inextricably interconnected, the program will highlight the teachings of contemporary women Buddhist leaders across several traditions.

In 2018, a grant in the amount of $10,000 was awarded to digitize and preserve the San Francisco Zen Center’s extensive collection of dharma audio recordings and to make them more widely available in the US and internationally. 

In 2017, a grant in the amount of $15,000 was awarded to develop a program to meet the growing need of companies seeking to bring ancient wisdom traditions that include awareness and mindfulness practices into the workplace. The programs were offered to companies in the Bay Area – particular those technology companies who expressed interest in meditation practice-that fostered organizational cultures that supported presence, kindness, and connectedness. The program served organizations that aspired to high standards of ethical practice and that measured their success not only by the bottom line, but by the contribution they are made to the world as well as the well-being of their employees. SFZC’s program was tailored for people working in stressful business conditions to help them become more present, connected, and aligned with purpose.

In 2015, a Women in Buddhism grant was awarded to support the SFZC’s Honoring the Path of the Warrior’s Program.  The mission is to provide returning veterans a safe environment and enable them to rediscover meaning, purpose, and joy in their lives through mindfulness, meditation, and community. HPW programs combine nature and engaging physical activities, meditation, sensory awareness and mindfulness practices. The intent was to provide veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.  HPW offers a number of programs, including programs that effectively address women veterans’ needs and incorporate them into a mixed- gender community of veterans. There are several difficult experiences that many women veterans share.

In 2013, a Women in Buddhism grant was awarded to support a staged reading of the play, “The Fourth Messenger,” by playwright and Buddhist practitioner, Tanya Shaffer.   The play was centered around the question, “What if the Buddha was a woman?”