Austin Zen Center

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 15 July 2011.

Phone: 512-452-5777

History and Leadership

The Austin Zen Center (AZC) was formed in 1995 when Austin psychologist Flint Sparks and his friend Bill Magness began a weekly zazen practice at Flint’s psychotherapy office. By the summer of 1998, the group, then called the Clear Springs Zendo, was meeting on a daily basis. In the summer of 1999, the zendo decided to form a board and to incorporate as a nonprofit religious organization called the Austin Zen Center. In the fall of 2000, AZC board invited Barbara Kohn, the former President of the San Francisco Zen Center, to move to Texas and take on the spiritual leadership of the center. Austin Zen Center now offers a full schedule for daily practice similar to that of the San Francisco Zen Center and with a teacher offering discussion.

Activities and Schedule

Dharma services are held on weekdays from 5:15 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. There is also a Saturday morning service, including a beginner’s intro class and/or work period, meditation, lecture, and tea and discussion.


People of many ethnic groups participate in religious activities in the Austin Zen Center. While most of the community is Caucasian, the number of Asian, African, Latino members and foreign visitors has increased since the center was established. Large events such as the one day sitting on Saturday or Sunday tend to bring visitors of all cultures. For English speakers who wish to learn Japanese language and culture, a headset system is available. Texts originally in Japanese have also been transliterated into English syllables so that English-speakers can chant in Japanese even if they do not read Japanese characters.


Austin Zen Center moved on August 15, 2001 from a West Avenue house in Austin to the 1400-square-meters Washington Square property, which has three buildings. The main building features offices, a dining hall, an information center, classrooms, a meditation hall, and two rooms for priests. The other two are near the main building. One houses a library; the other one offers two rooms for residents of the center. Before 1991, the two-floor main building was called the Friends Meeting House and belonged to Quakers who had been using this building as their regular meeting place since 1960. In early 2001, the newly founded AZC received a gift from a generous donor who purchased the structure for the center and wanted to preserve the spiritual integrity of the house. In May of 2001 the negotiations and legal processes for closing on the property were completed.

Center Activities

Austin Zen Center offers a wide variety of classes and study groups. One of the most important groups is Ordinary Mind Zen Group. Members of this group meet every Sunday morning to read Buddhism texts and practice walking meditation and zazen. There is also a group for translating Japanese and Chinese texts into English. Most of the members of this group have higher education and diverse linguistic-cultural backgrounds. Austin Zen Center also offers courses in a wide variety of subjects relating to Buddhism including female Buddhist ancestors, Zen Buddhism theory and practice, and Buddhism and Modern Western Societies. There is also a class on dharma sewing, a course in which students learn to sew dharma clothes, the special clothes for Buddhist services, ceremonies or rituals. Regular members and priests at AZC enjoy sewing dharma clothes on their own instead of ordering them from clothing stores. A small group of members also take part in the annual Summer Intensive Practice, a four-week long intensive practice program held in the country.