Last fall, the Zen Center of Denver purchased a property in the DU area, where we intend to build a new Zen temple. We hope to have your support in this exciting and important endeavor.
The Zen Center of Denver is a lay Buddhist community offering Zen Buddhist practice and training in Denver since its founding in 1974. Its mission is to provide Zen practice and training to all those who wish to uncover their innate wisdom and compassion and live with greater awareness in their everyday life. Of course, one need not be Buddhist to benefit from the stability and equanimity learned through meditation, so especially vital in these turbulent times.
Originally named the Denver Zen Center, the sangha first functioned as an affiliate of the Rochester Zen Center (of New York) in a small house in Congress Park. Amidst a tide of steadily growing membership and activities, the Denver Zen Center became the autonomous Zen Center of Denver in 1989, upon Danan Henry receiving Dharma transmission from Philip Kapleau Roshi and assignment as spiritual director.
In January 1998, the ZCD purchased the historic former Fourth Church of Christ Scientist at 3101 W. 31st Avenue in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver. For many years the building served us well, offering a great deal of a space in a prominent location. However, the enormous maintenance and renovation costs proved to be impractical over the long term, and in many other respects the building was less than ideal for Zen practice. After much deliberation, the decision was made to sell, and this was accomplished in summer 2015.
In the meantime, Danan Henry Roshi retired, and the ZCD came under its current leadership when Karin Ryuku Kempe, Ken Tetsuzan Morgareidge and Peggy Metta Sheehan – as the dharma heirs of Danan Roshi – received full transmission and jointly assumed spiritual directorship in September 2010.
Since selling the 31st Avenue temple, we have been using rented spaces for our daily practice of zazen (seated meditation). But in the fall of 2016, after a year of searching, we purchased a 12,000-square-foot residential property at Columbine Street and Buchtel Boulevard, where we intend to build a new temple tailored to our needs.
Our new center will be, first, a superb place to practice zazen, or seated meditation, providing a serene place of refuge in which to “forget the self and be enlightened by the myriad things,” in Dogen’s phrase. Along with daily zazen practice, it will also facilitate regular meditation retreats (sesshin). An attached garden with a walking path will afford a beautiful setting for outdoor reflection and walking meditation.
Second, both the zendo (meditation hall) and additional classroom spaces will allow us to greatly expand the range of activities offered at the center. These may include classes and groups for yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), addiction recovery, Zen-related disciplines such as calligraphy and flower arranging, and other community- and service-oriented activities.
Third, we hope the new center will be a warm and welcoming social space, where those engaged in this critical work of meditative inquiry may meet, converse, play, and deepen their relationships.
At the heart of our practice is zazen, and so naturally the heart of our new building will be the zendo, or meditation hall. The zendo will be spacious at 1500 square feet, with seating for 36-50 participants in a regular configuration. It will be a beautiful, serene hall with glowing wood floors, attractive ceiling and gentle lighting, capable also of accommodating secondary activities such as classes, weddings and the like.
Other core spaces found on the first floor include a multipurpose dining room or large classroom, a Kannon room for intimate devotional practice, multiple dokusan rooms (for one-on-one instruction with the teachers), a foyer, living room with space for socializing, kitchen and public bathrooms.
Second-floor spaces include a library, mixed-use changing rooms/space for retreat participants, additional showers and bathrooms, a caretaker bedroom, and rooms for storage and mechanical necessities.
Where We Are Now
To develop our initial design, we have been working with Semple Brown Design, an award-winning architectural firm responsible for some of the most beautiful and creative buildings in Denver. Their extensive experience gives us tremendous confidence in their ability to guide us throughout the planning and construction of our new temple. We have recently also engaged Spectrum General Contractors, a company with an established reputation for quality construction.
The sale of our former temple on 31st Avenue, minus the Columbine property purchase price, left us with about $1.15 million, without any debt. With a building budget of $1.68 million, plus additional project costs including architectural fees, we estimate our total project costs at $2.03 million. We have already been successful in raising $334,000, with individual donations ranging from $500 to $5000 to $150,000, and need to raise another $543,000 to complete the entire project. Your support is vital for us to be able to commit to the full scope of the project and provide Denver with a lasting home for authentic Zen practice and a vital community resource for fostering greater awareness and compassion.
In this tumultuous world, it is often difficult to know how to nurture understanding and equanimity in ourselves and others. We all want to support what is good; yet everywhere we see harmful actions taken in ignorance and indifference. How do we know what is right? What is our life purpose? What is the truth of things, of ourselves?
However we reply, our response can only be as profound as the depth of our inquiry. In a world often given over to consumerism, violence and self-preoccupation, how do we protect the space and community to support our deepest spiritual aspirations? Can we learn to work skillfully with our own habits and cultivate our own inner peace, at one with ourselves and with all beings?
Then, from this settled place, recognizing our essential unity with those around us, can we step forward wholeheartedly, with open hands, to act for the benefit of all beings?
One of the first American Zen pioneers, Robert Aitken, wrote:
“Our practice gives us unique readiness to realize … that while each of us is unique, we are not separate. We are organic elements of something far grander – and ready to put our understanding into practice.”
We hope that you too are ready to put your understanding into practice by helping us create this place of refuge. To quote another wise teacher, “One should give even a single coin or a single blade of grass – it causes roots of goodness in this age and other ages to sprout.”