Atlanta Soto Zen Center

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 October 2009.

Phone: 404-532-0040

Activities and Schedule

Daily morning and evening meditation services; book discussion on Tuesday nights; Sunday services with more formal meditation, talks, and individual meetings with a teacher, as well as newcomers' instruction; Saturday Sunrise Sangha, an auspicious early morning meditation, including commentary and discussion with Elliston-Roshi; meditation retreats, or Sesshin, offered the first weekend of even numbered months; prison ministry and outreach program, along with Gassho prison magazine; the Zen center is often asked to teach other religious institutions about Zen and contribute to inter-faith dialogue.


Michael Zenkai Taiun Elliston-Roshi, a disciple of Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuorka-Roshi in Chicago during the 1960's, founded The Atlanta Soto Zen Center in the early 1970's. Initially, a few members would meet at various locations, mainly members' homes. Eventually, membership has grown and has met at its current location since 1980.


Membership consists mostly of highly educated, middle to upper-middle class, Whites. Members include college students, professors, and professionals, usually having a Judeo-Christian background, with some being converts to Buddhism and others who followed another religious tradition. There are some Asian members of Buddhist background. Women make up about 50% of participants.


The Zen Center rents its location from the Candler Park Gallery, which shares the building. The structure was an antique filling station. The area itself is dotted with homes and stores, making the center easy to miss. The center is rather small, about the size of a classroom. When entering the center, there is a shelf for bags and shoes. Various books, magazines and pamphlets also line other shelves. The back and left walls are stone, while the right and front walls are not. Along the right wall, there is a bulletin board with center information and schedules. Entering the main area (there is only one room in the center, the book shelves, as well as some screens, form a small pathway opening up into a room), there are benches lining the walls and carpet on the floor. Each bench is covered with black padding and there are many round cushions available to aide in positioning for meditation. There are also chairs in the right part of the room. Along the left wall, there is an area where the overseeing layperson sits and runs the session. In that area there is a gong and drums. Along the back wall, to the right, there is an altar where incense is burned and there is drawing of an ancient roshi. Several pieces of artwork (mainly calligraphy) adorn the walls.

Center Activities

The Zen center is open seven days a week, offering morning and evening meditation sessions. There are discussion groups on Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Every other month there are meditation retreats. The center also has special activities for auspicious occasions, such as the birth of Buddha and the day of his enlightenment.


The Zen center is open to all visitors. There is a special newcomers session on Sunday afternoon, but arrangements can be made for instruction during anytime of the week.
Researcher: Amit A. Patel. Date: May 2001