About Living Vow

Living Vow Zen is a collective of Zen practice groups (sanghas) with lineage roots in Japanese Soto, the Harada-Yasutani koan curriculum, and Korean Seon. We are comprised of three practice groups: Shining Window Sangha, Henry David Thoreau Sangha (“Hank”), and Morning Star Zen Sangha. Our teachers are Bob Waldinger and Mike Fieleke, dharma heirs of Melissa Blacker and David Rynick. Our root teacher is Shakyamuni Buddha.

The purpose of Living Vow Zen is to provide inclusive opportunities for the study and practice of Zen Buddhism, emphasizing the realization of nonduality and its compassionate actualization.

Why “Living Vow Zen?” According to mythology, in a previous life, the one who would become Buddha reflected that, were he to practice diligently, he could free himself from Samsara in that very lifetime. But rather than practice for his liberation alone, he decided that it would be better to delay his liberation to train for many lifetimes so that he could guide others across the river of suffering to the farther shore.

In his final incarnation, Shakyamuni Buddha was born into nobility and great wealth, but he again renounced that place of comfort when he saw that others in the world were suffering. Once more he vowed to attain enlightenment so that he might conquer suffering not only for himself but for all beings.

Upon awakening, Buddha was true to his vow. He returned to his sangha that he might share with them his teachings. Because of his generosity, Buddha’s awakening reverberates to this day, and it is in the spirit of his living vow that we practice not only for our own awakening but to alleviate suffering in the world.

Our Living Vows. Those of us in Living Vow Zen aim to embody the Mahayana Way by cultivating compassion and wisdom and alleviating suffering in the world. The Four Bodhisattva Vows are a guiding light in our practice.

Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.

To realize these vows, we nurture and protect our community and our continuing practice by choosing to bind ourselves consciously to a code of conduct that you can read here. To ensure that ethical concerns can be addressed confidentially and responsibly, we maintain an Ethics and Reconciliation Committee (EAR). Living Vow members Heidi Koelz and Eddie Gosselin have agreed to serve as an acting member of EAR, and if you have any questions or concerns you can reach him at the email in the document above.

Membership. You may wish to become a formal member of Living Vow Zen to support its central missions: nurturing the Dharma in our communities, providing practice and retreat (sesshin) opportunities for those who want to follow the Zen way, supporting engaged practices, and training future practice leaders, priests and teachers. Only formal members have the right to vote at annual meetings, become or to choose officers and members of our Board of Trustees, help determine budget priorities, and set overall policies for the organization.

Anyone who practices with a Living Vow Zen sangha and contributes annually to Living Vow may apply for membership to LiVZ. To become a formal member of Living Vow Zen, please complete this application.