Santa Barbara Zen Center

Sensei Gary Koan Janka, Head Teacher and Officiating Priest




The Santa Barbara Zen Center (SBZC) envisions an enlightened world in which all sentient beings transcend suffering and experience wellbeing. This vision includes an ever-growing community of individuals who joyfully and wholeheartedly support one another in studying and practicing the Buddha Way.


SBZC’s mission is to provide instruction in Buddhist teachings and opportunities to explore and develop a Zen practice. The Center offers weekly meditation (Zazen) at formal and informal gatherings. In addition it provides opportunities to deepen practice through classes, private interviews with Zen teachers, retreats, and participation in traditional Zen ceremonies. Grounded in the Soto Zen tradition, SBZC welcomes participants from diverse meditation traditions. SBZC aspires to conduct its activities in a manner that embodies the wisdom and compassionate teachings of the Buddha.


As Zen students, we embrace the wisdom and ethical conduct found in the core teachings of the Buddha, the Mahayana School of Buddhism, and the teachings within the Soto Zen tradition, including:

As Sangha members working to fulfill our vision and mission and to focus our efforts to accomplish the Buddha Way, we do our best to:

Our Core Practices

The Four Noble Truths & the Eightfold Path

Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths encompass the first teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and express the basic orientation of Buddhism.

  1. Life involves suffering.
  2. The origin of suffering is craving and fundamental ignorance.
  3. Ending craving and fundamental ignorance is possible; therefore the cessation of suffering is attainable.
  4. There is a path that leads to the end of suffering. It is called the Eightfold Path.

The Eight-fold Path

The eightfold path provides guidance in how to practice and achieve awakening. Because they represent the actions and comportment of one who lives in accord with the Dharma, these eight aspects of Buddhist practice are described as “wise,” “skillful,” “correct,” or simply, “right.”

    Development of Wisdom
  1. Right View: Develop a true understanding of the first three noble truths as well as the transient, empty, and interdependent nature of all things.
  2. Right Intention: Develop aspiration and resolve to think and act in alignment with right understanding.
  3. Development of Ethical Conduct
  4. Right Speech: Developing non-abusive speech and abstaining from lying and misleading self and others.
  5. Right Action: Behaving with the understanding of right view, which culminates in non-harming, non-stealing, and appropriate honest relationships.
  6. Right Livelihood: Earning a living in an ethical way, not resorting to illegal activities, not exploiting other human beings or animals, not trafficking in weapons or intoxicants.
  7. Development of Meditation
  8. Right Effort: Consciously directing our will in the direction of the other seven categories. Recognizing and releasing unwholesome habitual effort and recognizing and cultivating wholesome effort.
  9. Right Mindfulness: Developing the mental ability to see things anchored in clear perception, to include the nature and activity of one’s own mind, without being carried away by conceptualization.
  10. Right Concentration: Development of a one-pointed mind whereby all mental faculties are unified and directed (Zazen).

The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts

Refuges (Treasures)

I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha

Pure Precepts

I vow to refrain from all evil – avoiding causing harm to oneself, to others, to animals, to the earth
I vow to cultivate goodness – acting from loving kindness and compassion
I vow to live for the benefit of all beings – offering people the opportunity to express their awakened nature

Grave Precepts

I vow not to kill, but to cherish all life
I vow not to take what is not given
I vow not to misuse sexuality
I vow to refrain from false speech
I vow to refrain from intoxicants and activities that cloud the mind
I vow not to speak or gossip about the faults of others
I vow not to praise self at the expense of others
I vow not to withhold spiritual or material aid, but to give freely when needed
I vow not to unleash anger, but to seek its source
I vow not to speak ill of the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha)

The Six Perfections

To become a Buddha, a bodhisattva has to practice six perfections:

  1. Perfection of Giving (Dana): The giving of material items, the giving of dharma, the giving of refuge, and the giving of active love;
  2. Perfection of Morality (Sila): To protect ourselves and others from performing unskillful deeds of the body, speech and mind. To cultivate skillful action;
  3. Perfection of Patience (Ksanti): Exercise patience when we are harmed by others when we are suffering. To exercise patience in keeping our concentration focused on the Dharma.
  4. Perfection of Energy (Virya): Cultivation of energy of a Dharma-directed mind, energy that protects against the tiredness and weakness of practice, and the energy of our ability to awaken and realize Buddhahood;
  5. Perfection of Meditation (Dhyana): Perfecting the skills of concentration, awareness and reflection while resting at ease will result in “calm abiding.” A balanced mental stability is required to cultivate unsurpassable wisdom;
  6. Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna): Development of deep understanding into reality by seeing and overcoming defilements and coming to the complete comprehension of emptiness.