Who are we?
Pacific Zen Institute is a community in the Rinzai Zen tradition embracing Chan and Zen koan practice, creativity, and real life.

Our mission is to create a culture of transformation through meditation, koans, conversation, and the arts.

After twenty years of teaching koans in a classical way, John Tarrant discovered ways of teaching koans that can orient anyone, including people who have no experience with meditation or Zen, towards a rich, full engagement with their own lives, and towards awakening.

In Zen, awakening comes of letting go of things. All rests on uncertainty.

John Tarrant, Gates & Obstacles, February 28, 2021

How to begin a Koan Meditation Practice:

Working with Koans: A Transcribed Talk by John Tarrant Roshi 

We encourage people to take one step into freedom, and then the next, and then the next, and everything we do in PZI is directed to that end.

A koan is a piece of old wisdom in a very concise form. I think of it as a vial of ancient light that has been passed down to us. It’s the same light that was in the heart of the teacher who invented the koan. So, if you can get the vial open, what will pour out is your inheritance. It won’t be the usual kind of inheritance with bank accounts, real estate, debts and family feuds. This inheritance will be a perspective—the way an old master saw and experienced the world.

—John Tarrant

—This page outlines the basics of PZI’s meditation tradition: Koan Practice

—This article introduces koan practice: The Power of Koan Practice by John Tarrant, Shambhala Sun magazine

More Ways to Explore PZI Zen Practice:

All of this is open to you as a newcomer – no experience necessary.

•Check our Calendar for upcoming online sessions

which will feature meditation with a Zen Koan spoken into the meditation by the teacher, followed by a dharma talk and generally some shared conversation, reflections, insights afterward on how this is appears your life. No obligation to share here. Click the ‘Register here’ link in each event posting for your zoom link to attend. You may opt to donate $10 to help us keep the online temple going, or join us for FREE. 

Morning Meditation! M-F is a great gift of PZI Membership and the core of our practice. JOIN US! Open Temple registration is always FREE for PZI Members.

•Our KALPA library is the heart of the PZI website.

Here you can delve into koan meditation practice by listening to dharma talks or reading transcriptions going back many years. John Tarrant is our founder and senior Roshi, but PZI has many wonderful Teachers within the tradition who all offer regular or occasional online sessions. These gatherings are always open to you as a newcomer and a great introduction to each teacher.

•Some KALPA library files are open, others will require you to be a member.

If you find you would like to spend more time in our library and with our teachers to get to know the larger community, you can become a PZI Member at a level that is comfortable for you. Who are we? Visit our Member Stories page for some introductions.

Members are able to participate in our private Google Group, PZI Talk,

which focuses on community and practice. Members may download all audio files from the KALPA library and receive significant discounts for retreats and sesshins.

•You may wish to and attend online meditation sessions, retreats and seasonal sesshins.

Joining as a member or donating to Pacific Zen Institute helps keep the Dharma lamps lit!

A Zen koan for you to take with you right now:

Dizang asked Fayan, “Where are you going?”
Fayan said, “Around on pilgrimage.”
Dizang said, “What is the purpose of pilgrimage?”
Fayan said, “I don’t know.”
Dizang said, “Not knowing is most intimate.”

—Book of Serenity, Case 20

From the KALPA Library – Our extensive archive of teacher Dharma talks from1989:
Not Knowing Is Most Intimate with John Tarrant

A dharma talk for you on koans from the Book of Serenity, given by John Tarrant at Fall Sesshin 2019, Land of Medicine Buddha.

Pages you may find interesting:

Ask the Tea Lady – What question in most present for you? Take a step off the 110 foot pole and ask the Tea lady!

How to Join Us and what is a Membership

Koans: healing stories and poems passed down in our lineage

Meditation Practice: The basics with koans or sitting.

Member Stories: where our members speak about themselves and koan practice.

Koan Lineage: How the teachings were passed down, teacher to teacher for centuries.

The PZI Way – What makes PZI different in Buddhism and Zen?

Women in Zen – A long lineage in Chan (original Chinese koan practice) of influential women, nuns & teachers. 

Uncertainty Club: our online magazine of Field Notes on Zen & the Arts

For any questions or navigating the website or about navigating in our PZI community, contact Jan Black at [email protected]

If you would like to contact us by mail, our mailing address:

Pacific Zen Institute
P.O. Box 2972
Santa Rosa, CA 95405