Meeting with a Teacher

There are two different kinds of meetings with a teacher in our lineage. The first is Sanzen (called Dokusan in some lineages), which is a formal one-on-one meeting with the teacher, usually during a time when the rest of the community is in zazen (seated meditation). The second is Dharma Interview, a less formal meeting that can last around 30 minutes and takes place at other times, by appointment.

Both Sanzen and Dharma Interview are Zen practices. They are optional, like all of our practices, but some people find them useful. In both types of meetings the focus is on the student and his/her spiritual life and practice. It is not a time for general social back-and-forth between teacher and student, as might occur in other settings. Meetings with the teacher are opportunities for the student to ask questions, present their understanding or experience, have a witness to their spiritual journey, and meet the challenge posed by communicating about deep spiritual and personal matters with another human being.

Many Zen practitioners visit a number of different teachers for Sanzen and Dharma Interview. You might want to read Domyo’s essay, “What’s the Good of Zen Teachers?” by clicking here


Sanzen usually lasts 5-10 minutes, and should be focused on one main question, issue or topic. Ideally this question or issue will deal with “edge” of your practice – where is your point of growth, discovery or fear? What are you working on? What is most troubling to you, what is most challenging? On the other hand, perhaps the “edge” of your practice is opening up to something like joy.

The more real and relevant to your life and practice you can make your Sanzen, the more useful it will be to you. This benefit is almost independent of the teacher’s response to you; the very effort to clarify and verbalize what is going on in your spiritual practice is what is most instructive. Keep in mind that what you present in Sanzen does not need to be profound. Sanzen actually means “zen (meditation) together” so perhaps all that a Sanzen interaction will involve is a smile and a few deep breaths. Sanzen is offered during the second period of zazen (seated meditation) at the Bright Way Zendo on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings.

Sanzen in Person (at the Zendo)

  1. Sign up on the list just inside the Zendo door when you arrive. Sit the first period of zazen if sanzen is being offered during the second period of zazen (e.g. on Sundays).
  2. If you’re the first person on the list, at the beginning of the zazen period during which sanzen will be offered, you’ll be handed a card. Leave the zendo and wait in the tea area until the teacher rings the bell to indicate s/he is ready. If you’re second or third on the list, stay in the Zendo for kinhin and zazen until someone returns from sanzen and hands you the card.
  3. If you’re the first person, wait in the tea area, and then come into the sanzen room with the teachers rings the bell. If you’re the second or third person, once you receive the card you can come straight into the sanzen room.
  4. Instructions for what to do once you’re in the sanzen room will be found on the card.

Sanzen on Zoom

  1. When the opportunity for sanzen is announced, send a private message via the Chat function to Domyo saying you would like to meet. 
  2. At the beginning of the zazen period during which sanzen will be offered, you will receive an invitation to a breakout room. Be on the lookout for it, and accept it immediately.
  3. Domyo will meet with people in the order they signed up, so you may end up waiting in your breakout room for a while before she arrives.
  4. When Domyo arrives, bow to one another in greeting. Then go ahead and ask your questions/share what it is you want to share.
  5. When the meeting is over, Domyo will bow to you and ring a bell. Bow in return.
  6. Click Leave Breakout Room to return to the main room for zazen with everyone else.

 Dharma Interview

 Meet with Domyo for around 30 minutes to discuss your practice in a more relaxed setting. Dharma Interview is like Sanzen (read description above) but presents an opportunity for the student to cover multiple questions, issues or topics, and provide the teacher with more context. In this setting it is appropriate to tell your story and give a more complete picture of your life, your practice, and your journey. Bright Way Zen members are encouraged to come for Dharma Interview regularly – anywhere from once a month to once a quarter, and as needed in times of stress or change. This helps the teacher get to know you over time in order to be better able to guide your practice. Not a member yet? Feel free to give Dharma Interview a try, we just ask that you become a member if you want to take advantage of this offering more than a couple times. Thanks!

Domyo BurkDharma Interview with Domyo

Domyo is available for Dharma Interview (or practical meetings) by Zoom videoconference (you will receive instructions for meeting by Zoom, a free application, if you choose this option). If you have never met Domyo in Dharma Interview before, please email her about doing so (click here).

If you have had a Dharma Interview/meeting with Domyo before or have corresponded with her about it, feel free to request an appointment via her online booking calendar, click below. NOTE: Domyo will on sabbatical for the month of July, so there are no July appointments available in this calendar. However, if you really need to connect with her, don’t hesitate to email her: info@brightwayzenorg.