A New Zen Temple in the Neighborhood


If you have recently walked, biked or driven past the corner of East Mifflin and North St, you have probably seen that changes are afoot in the old church that stands there. On May 24, the Zen Dojo of Wisconsin purchased the building, which had stood vacant since the Madison Rescue Mission shut down its operations over a year and a half ago. Since then, members of our organization have been hard at work renovating it to serve as a community-based Zen temple. We have named our temple “Daikozen-ji” which, in Japanese, means “Zen Temple between the Lakes”, a name we saw fitting given our proximity to the Isthmus.

Our lineage of Zen came to the United States from Japan via Hawaii and it’s somewhat unusual in this day and age in that we integrate the practice of zazen “Zen meditation” with training in the martial and fine arts. While we have been providing training in Madison for over 30 years, we were limited by the fact that we rented space on an hourly basis. When we saw that the Madison Rescue Mission was for sale, we knew that it provided a wonderful opportunity for us.

Owning our own building has allowed us to greatly expand our offerings. We now hold group meditation every morning (6:00 AM on weekdays and 7:00 AM weekends) and Monday through Friday evenings at 7:00. In addition, we offer classes in a variety of martial and fine arts. People interested in joining our training should attend one of our introductory sessions, which take place twice a month. For an updated listing of all our classes, check out our website at wisconsinzen.org. And, as you’ll see on our website, our organization also has a temple in Spring Green, which serves primarily as a site for residential training and workshops. You’ll also see that we have a sister organization, the Institute for Zen Leadership (institutezenleadership.org), also based in Madison, which provides leadership training world-wide based on Zen principles.

An important aspect of our renovation plans involves building office space for professional practices that are aligned with our mission as a Zen temple. We anticipate that we will have three offices available for rent by the first of year. Red Beard Bodywork, which provides somatic therapy based on Zen principles, is slated to be our tenant. Further down the road, we plan to add a second training area in the basement. This will allow us to expand even further our class offerings. We also plan to renovate the kitchen in the basement.

In addition to the building, one thing that drew us to the neighborhood was the vibrancy of the Emerson East community. While we were excited at the prospect of becoming a part of the community, we’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support we have received. EENA supported our application for rezoning, which allows us to rent office space. And, we have been struck by the friendliness of the neighbors—and their dogs—whom we have met. We are looking forward to giving back to the community. So, even if you have no interest in Zen, feel free to stop in and say hello. We think this will be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Ken Kushner, Abbot Daikozen-ji

This article was written for the Emerson East Neighborhood Association Fall Newsletter

Ken Kushner Roshi