For Beginners

Some of the most commonly asked questions by people new to Zen Center of Pittsburgh.


Where do I begin?

Newcomers are encouraged to come to an orientation before joining any of the scheduled events, retreats or classes. Please check our schedule before paying a visit.

For 2018 we are offering two introductory sessions each month beginning in February with a suggested donation of $15:
The first Sunday of each month from 8:45 -9:30 AM- instruction in Zen Meditation (Zazen)and Zendo (meditation hall) etiquette.  Participants can then remain to join the regular Sunday Program of Zazen, Dharma talk or discussion, and an informal gathering to end the program around noon.
New: The third Wednesday evening of each month from 7:00 -8:30 PM a more in-depth orientation is scheduled to include Zazen,  Zendo forms as well as key aspects of Zen practice with plenty of time for Q&A.
In either case please plan on arriving 15 minutes early. Contact ZCP via email with your interest in attending.

Orientation is open to everyone and can be attended as many times as one wishes.
After participating in any orientation all scheduled meditation periods, classes and events are open for attendance.

Some key aspects of Zen practice 

Fundamental to Soto Zen training is the recognition that one’s practice and Awakening are not separate.

Zen Students consider these important aspects of Zen Practice as guiding principles in their life


Finding a way in the midst of a busy life to include Zazen as an abiding practice can serve to enhance our sense of well-being but also challenge us to put the Teaching in front us; the Path as our own life.

Working with a teacher

Our teaching is rooted in Lineage and is transmitted face-to-face, mind-to-mind from Teacher to student.  Zen students are encouraged to meet with the Head Teacher for Practice instruction. It is the student’s responsibility to request meetings with the teacher at least on quarterly and/or during Sesshin Zen Practice intensive retreat and/or formal Practice Periods- a scheduled month-long -90 day period of time set aside for a student to commit to an increase in meditation or study.

Working with the community

Maintaining the Zen Center inside and out is the responsibility of each person who participates in Zen Center activities. Working with others, we create the Sangha, the Buddhist community.

Temple Life and Zen Training

Temple Life is designed to bring Realization to the forefront of our life through the rhythm and pace of a consistent daily schedule of Zazen, Sutra study, Temple duties and Community service. For those considering Ordination setting a time aside for this is required. For most of us with busy lives a period of time, however short it may be, to commit to resident Practice life can be a life-enriching experience.

In either case, discuss this possibility with the Head Teacher if interested.

Who is the teacher there?
Kotoku Ray Crivello is the Head Priest, a Zen Priest in the Soto Zen tradition in the Lineage of Gengo Akiba Roshi. His Zen studies began in his late teens as a temple resident at the New York Zendo Shobo-ji, in the Rinzai tradition under the Abbotship of Soen Nakagawa Roshi from 1970-1975. In 1976, Kotoku relocated to San Francisco where he lived and practiced at San Francisco Zen Center including two years of monastic practice at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, until 1983. Later, he established a home practice until becoming Akiba Roshi’s disciple in the late 1990’s. Kotoku was ordained in 2004 by Akiba Roshi at his home Temple, Kojin-an in Oakland, California.
Learn more »



How can I find out about activities at Zen Center?
Subscribe to our e-mail list here.

What do I wear?
Wear subdued clothing, appropriate for the activity (bluejeans don’t work well).  No shorts, tank tops, or tights are permitted in the Zendo. Please do not wear strong scents.

How do I find Zen Center?
Deep Spring Temple is on a secluded lane in the hills above Sewickley, about 30 minutes from downtown. You can see a map and get driving directions here.

What does it cost?
In Buddhism, we have a concept of “Dana” which means the teaching is offered freely to all while trusting those receiving the teaching will also be generous in their offerings. We are often asked what that means. We have “suggested donations” listed for classes and retreats but most of our support comes from pledges. A common pledge level is “an hour/week for Zen Center”, in which one’s hourly wage is used as the basis for weekly pledges. We are deeply grateful for your generosity. Find out more about supporting the Zen Center of Pittsburgh.