Columbia Zen Buddhist Priory

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 19 February 2010.

Phone: 803-772-7552
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Activities and Schedule

(taken from a handout from the priory):
7 P.M.—Introduction to practice (Those new to the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives are asked to attend an Introduction before joining other activities. Please make a reservation.) Wednesday:
7 P.M.—Scripture Recitation
7:15 P.M.—Meditation and Vespers
7:55 P.M.—Dharma Talk
8:45 P.M.—Close
9:30 A.M.—Meditation (2 periods)
10:40 A.M.—Short Morning Service (Full Morning Service on the first Sunday of the month)
11:10 A.M.—Dharma Talk (later on the first Sunday)
12:00 P.M.—Close
Second Saturday: Workday (maintaining building and grounds of the priory) Second Saturday: Workday (maintaining building and grounds of the priory) CLOSED: Sunday afternoon, Monday and Thursday.


Rev. Kroenke is originally from Baton Rouge, LA. He went to college in Portland, OR and became interested in Zen Buddhism while he was there, eventually joining the Shasta Abbey in California, where he lived for over 20 years. After his master died in 1996, he said it “came up in his meditations” that perhaps he should go back to the South, though he had never wanted to return after he left. He moved to Richmond, V.A., thinking that Richmond was perhaps as north as he could go and still call it the South, but he said he quickly realized that he was not in “the South” in Richmond, so he slowly began his progression southward, through other parts of Virginia and North Carolina. Eventually, he came to South Carolina. He said when he arrived in Columbia he immediately knew he was in the South again and decided he would try to establish a center here. Kroenke gave two public talks in Columbia in the summer of 2001 and there seemed to be enough interest to establish a priory, so he started looking for a place to settle. He found the building where the center is currently located for sale at that time. The center is in a house in a residential neighborhood, but Kroenke explained that the former owner had used it as his business for 20 years or so. As a result, Kroekne had no problems establishing the building as a Zen center, since it was already zoned commercial by the city.


There are about 6 to 7 regular attendees as of July 2003. Most of these are white middle-aged, middle-class men, a phenomenon Kroenke was at a loss to explain. (He said as far as he knows, he is not doing anything to particularly attract this particular slice of the population!) He said as of July 2003, there is one woman who comes regularly and there are two younger men, one 19 and one 22, who have been coming recently. Everything at the center is done in English, as the founder of the Order was instructed by her master to bring Buddhism to the West in a way that was particularly accessible to them. Thus, all teaching and chanting is done in English, and Kroenke said they also chant to Gregorian Chant melodies, since these are sounds Westerners recognize as being "spiritual."


The Columbia Zen Buddhist Priory is located in a fairly large house in a residential neighborhood in the Bush River area of Columbia (near the intersection of I-26 and I-20). The outside of the house is a pale peach-colored brick, and the house sits up on a hill overlooking a small pond. Upon entering the house, there is a room to the left of the entranceway that looks to be some kind of sitting room (there was no furniture) and to the right is a dining room. Straight ahead is a living room with sofas, chairs and a fireplace, complete with Buddhist and lotus flower statues on the mantelpiece. Facing the fireplace in the living room, the door to the meditation room is to one’s left, just outside the living room in the hallway (which appeared to lead to more residential-like features of the home). Upon opening the doorway, one must descend a staircase into the basement level of the house, where the meditation room is located. There is a folding table covered with a sheer cloth (that has some sparkly material woven in a pattern in it) and a Buddha shrine, including a gold-colored Buddha statue along with one water offering bowl and a bowl of fruit in front of the Buddha. There is a candle to the Buddha’s left and a small plant (that looked similar to a pine or evergreen tree) to the Buddha’s right. In a window above the shrine was a small stained glass of flowers and three framed photographs of the founder of the Order, along with a small book. Prior to being used as the Zen Buddhist Priory, the house was used by the owner as his business. The home was only used as a residence for a few years after its construction in 1970; most of its existence it has been used as a commercial building.

Relations With Other Buddhist Communities

Kroenke has made contact with other Buddhist groups in Columbia, including meeting the resident Tibetan monk at the SC Dharma Center (Geshe Phuntsok). However, Kroenke said he is not particularly interested in attending their events or participating in “inter-group dialogue.” Kroenke has not been involved with Partners in Dialogue, a local interfaith organization, and did not really know of the group's existence. The Columbia Zen Buddhist priory is the only OBC (Order of Buddhist Contemplatives) priory in the South, and one of only three in the Eastern United States (the other two are in New York—one in Manhattan and the other on Long Island). All the other OBC priories in the U.S. are located in the West—California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Researcher credits

Tracy J. Wells, 2003 Furman University, Greenville, S.C.