Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the Ventana Wilderness area of the Los Padres National Forest, southeast of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, is the oldest Japanese Buddhist Sōtō Zen monastery in the United States.
The Center is very isolated, more than 16 miles (26 km) from the nearest paved road, and only accessible via a narrow, steep, one-lane dirt road.
During the winter months, practitioners live on site. During the summer months, the Center is opened to day and overnight guests.
The hot springs have been developed into Japanese-style baths. It is the first Zen monastery established outside of Asia.
The name is a corruption of Tasajera, a Spanish-American word derived from an indigenous Esselen word, which means ‘place where meat is hung to dry.’"
The 126-acre mountain property surrounding the Tassajara Hot Springs was purchased by the San Francisco Zen Center in 1967 for the below-market price of $300,000 from Robert and Anna Beck.
They improved the property and renamed it The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, or Zenshinji (Zen Mind Temple), during Shunryu Suzuki's tenure as its first abbot. When it was purchased in 1967, it was the first Zen monastery outside of Asia.
Calendars and schedules
A practice period (ango in Japanese) denotes a period of intensive monastic practice. During the fall (September–December) and spring (January–April) practice periods, Tassajara is closed to the public.
The rigorous schedule is a defining feature. Activity revolves around zazen (meditation), study, and work.
After the practice periods, Tassajara is open to the public from mid-April through early September.
For students, this period also allows them to earn credits toward the fall and spring practice periods.
The guest season, with less rigorous daily schedules, is a cornerstone of Tassajara's economic well-being.
The guest program includes a major kitchen operation. Tassajara is renowned for its vegetarian cuisine.
Tassajara personnel also founded the Tassajara Bakery in Ashbury Heights and Greens Restaurant at Fort Mason in the Marina District in San Francisco.
Edward Espe Brown's Tassajara Bread Book, published by Shambhala Publications in 1970 and revised in 1986 and 1995, is often credited as a major catalyst for the popularity of artisanal baking in the United States, while his Tassajara Recipe Book is the best known of several books of general vegetarian cuisine produced by authors connected with the Center.