One day Mrs. Pang went into the Deer Gate Temple to make an offering of food. 
The temple priest asked her the purpose of the offering in order to transfer the merit. 
Mrs. Pang took her comb and stuck it in the back of her hair. 
‘Transference of merit is completed,’ she said, and walked out.

The Pacific Zen Institute is a community that embraces koan practice, creativity, and real life. Our mission is to create a culture of transformation through meditation, koans, conversation, and the arts. Join us

Thank you for being part of this one seamless body
we call the world.

We find each other in the dark.
We hand on the light. 
Our practice was born in times such as these.

with John Tarrant & Friends
December 2nd at 10:30 am Pacific Time

Meditation is not a task with a known goal.

It’s something you can’t do wrong, a chance for the things of this world to come towards you and to meet you, for doors to open by themselves, and for us to see where the ancient paths lead.

Waking up is something we do in the Online Temple on Sundays. We love it when you join us.

—John Tarrant

Why Did Bodhidharma …?

One true thing is all it takes to open the body of reality.

What is the heart of a question? Our questions could rest on erroneous assumptions, so that beneath them is way too much knowing. The mind resists uncertainty, wanting to fill in the blanks. Even our cells like predictability—but we are swimming in a sea of uncertainty.

Ask the universe any question and it will answer, though it may not take the form you expect or plan for.

Our questions are much smaller than what’s on offer, what’s possible as an answer: the whole universe might be doing something through me.

—Jesse Cardin on October 29, 2023

Losing Things, Finding Things

In meditation things come and go, as in life.

In Zen the experience of loss contains a treasure. There is gold inside the loss whether of a person, a country, or a beloved house.

Grief dissolves everything. The valleys of life are important for developing empathy.

Buddha’s loss, his leaving, was extreme. Mazu gives us the path to walk through the demons: Help others cross. Make yourself a raft.

An Indigenous saying: Inside the last tear, happiness is hiding. 

—John Tarrant on November 12, 2023

Explore Our Archive of Luminaries Talks

Here you’ll find audio of PZI’s Jon Joseph in conversation with exceptional figures in modern Zen: teachers, authors, poets, historians, activists, and artists.

Check Out PZI on YouTube!

Hakuin’s Blind Men Crossing a Bridge

Upcoming Luminaries

January 24th
Zen Teacher Susan Murphy

February 21st
Author Mark Epstein, M.D.

March 27th
Poet Jane Hirshfield


Koan Meditation w PZI Leaders
Nov 6–Jan 5, M–F Mornings
6–7AM PT, 7–8 AM ET

Most Recent Luminaries

Buddhist, Sci-Fi Writer & Earth Advocate Kim Stanley Robinson

AUDIO: The High Sierra –
A Love Story

VIDEO: The High Sierra –
A Love Story

Writer, Traveler & Essayist Pico Iyer

VIDEO: The Half Known Life

AUDIO: The Half Known Life

A conversation with prolific writer and former journalist Pico Iyer about his fascinating life traveling to conflict zones, relationship to religion, friendship and spiritual journeys with the Dalai Lama, and his life in Kamakura, Japan, where he now spends most of his time.

Calendar of Events

Upcoming Events

Coins in the River


Hosting the Life You Have: Koans for Hard Times

When times of great difficulty visit us, how should we greet them?

Rilke said, “Life is always right.” Whatever I think about that saying, this is the life I have and I can’t have another life. And, fundamentally, I don’t want another one because this one is so rich and compelling, no matter what’s going down right now.

Maybe, if I can be the host, I can really get to know it, and be a good generous friend to this moment of life.

—John Tarrant, Summer Sesshin 2016


A Great Current Carries Us

The world and human life are never still. You are on the Way, carried by the great current of the Dao.

Allowing koans to have you when you work with them is the same as opening to your life—there are no steps. You are already free. You can feel happy despite your stories. And there is unexpected help on difficult paths.

—John Tarrant, Sunday Zen 2022


Drifting Toward the Land of the Rakshasas

We’re in a time that is difficult, but it is our time, and difficulty is not the only thing going on.

Demons can be overwhelming or gnawing away at you. A koan can be annoying, tugging at you for attention. It pops up and points things out when you are caught! It just appears, and we find it is good to spend time with the demons—they are all of us.

—John Tarrant, Sunday Zen, Fall 2021

Door After Door


New to Pacific Zen Institute? – Welcome!

WELCOME! At PZI we’re creating a culture of transformation through meditation, koans, conversation, and the arts. Explore and connect in PZI Zen Online events, our extensive Koans and Liberation Project Archive (KALPA), and more.


Thursday Zen with David Parks

PZI Zen Online: 4PM PST
The Universe


MEMBERS FREE: Into Winter Open Temple Pass – Weekday Morning Meditations

NOV 6th–JAN 5th
PZI Online Temple
The Universe


Zen Luminaries: A Fire Runs Through All Things – Zen Teacher & Writer Susan Murphy in Conversation with Jon Joseph

PZI Zen Online: 6PM PST
The Universe


Sunday Zen with John Tarrant & Friends

PZI Online Temple: 10:30AM PST
The Universe


Monday Zen with Jon Joseph

PZI Zen Online: 6 PM PST
The Universe