Frequently asked questions

What is Zen?

Zen is understanding your true self. Zen is also a formal practice and branch of Buddhism.  It emphasizes the role of personal experience and direct insight into the nature of reality, through practices such as sitting meditation and chanting, and through everyday life.

What is Monkey Mind Zen?

It is a Zen practice group based in Philadelphia.  The organization is simply devoted to practicing Zen in the tradition of the Kwan Um School of Zen, an organization of more than 100 zen centers and groups.  

Monkey Mind Zen is a satellite group of the Delaware Valley Zen Center, and is part of the Kwan Um School of Zen, an association of more than 100 Zen centers and groups, founded by Zen Master Seung Sahn, the first Korean Zen Master to live and teach in the west.  

Philadelphia's Monkey Mind Zen group was started by Steven Valerio Jr., a lay teacher (Dharma Teacher) practicing in our tradition for 9 years. The guiding teacher of the group is José Ramírez JDPSN, who has been practicing for 20 years in the Kwan Um School of Zen. Other members share in organizing responsibilities as needed.   

Do I need to be a member?

You do not need to be a member. Meditation practice is open to everyone. Membership supports activities of the group through dues and other assistance they provide. Mutual support is very important for helping all of us to maintain our practice, and anyone can become a member. However, it is not necessary to be a member to participate.

How can I participate?

Join us for meditation practice on Saturday morning at Studio 34 Yoga. There is usually a Dharma talk and question/discussion period.  After that, some of us go to brunch together.

Is it necessary to wear a robe?  What do the robes signify?

It is not necessary to wear a robe.  Certain members wear robes, for a variety of reasons.  Wearing robes is part of the zen tradition. In the western world, some lay members wear robes and others do not.

How is the group financed?

The group is financed solely through donations by participants or through dues paid by our members.  Our main expenses are rent for practice space, and practice materials, such as cushions, incense and candles.

Who runs Monkey Mind Zen?

Monkey Mind Zen is volunteer based.  The guiding teacher for the group is José Ramírez JDPSN, who has been practicing for 20 years in the Kwan Um School of Zen. Another member, Steven Valerio Jr., is an authorized teacher (Dharma teacher) in the Kwan Um School of Zen.  Other members perform organizational duties as needs arise. The group is a satellite of the Delaware Valley Zen Center, a non-profit 501(c)3 religious organization incorporated in Delaware, under the umbrella of the Kwan Um School of Zen, which is a non-profit 501(c)3 religious organization incorporated in Rhode Island, where it is based. Each teacher follows the teaching and ethical guidelines set forth by the Kwan Um School of Zen’s teachers’ group. An ethical statement for the whole Sangha is here.  Everyone is welcome to join the Kwan Um School of Zen as a member.