Introducing ZPI Affiliate: Sweetwater Zen Center

To strengthen our planetary network, ZPI will feature newly affiliated groups.     

Join us here at  to explore some of the offerings of the organizations affiliated with ZPI.

The following is an introduction to the new ZPI affiliate group, Sweetwater Zen Center:

What is your organization’s name?

Sweetwater Zen Center

What is your mission?

Our purpose is to end suffering. Our practice is to study the self, maintain the precepts, and serve others. Our mission is to provide the teaching, training, and transmission to Zen Buddhists; to be engaged with our community and in interfaith activities.

Where is your organization based?

National City, California.

How many regular members do you serve?   55

Tell us a bit about how the group was conceived?

In 2000, Seisen Saunders Roshi left as co-abbot of Yokoji Zen Mountain Center and, with the generous support of ZMC and its members, started SWZC with a small handful of practitioners that accompanied Seisen on the move from the mountain to the coastal city.

Tell us about one exciting project, retreat, or other offerings that you are currently working on.

Through the COVID-19 Pandemic, we’ve seen what a powerful resource Zoom has been. We’ve been able to connect with new and old members around the world in a way we had never thought to. So, part of our 2020 fundraising efforts was geared towards funding a fancy new zoom set-up in our zendo. We plan on incorporating Zoom attendees into our programming well beyond the pandemic era. So we are excited to be setting up a new TV monitor, laptop, wide-angle webcam, and remote microphone to best serve our far-away Sangha.

How do the Three Tenets inform your social engagement? 

Because our mission is to uphold and carry the Dharma and Zen training, we focus on social action as it appears in our daily lives— being kind to family and Sangha, helping with tasks, meeting the moment whether it be ordinary or grand. To help train these practices, the Three Tenets show up in almost every weekly Dharma Talk; they are a part of our Jukai training; and once a month, we renew our vows to practice them and the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts during the Fusatsu Ceremony.

What is the most meaningful challenge your organization faces?

Our organization is dedicated to developing Circle Structure for all of our operations. The circles basically function like committees. This includes a commitment to emphasizing horizontal, shared leadership in contrast to the traditional vertical, top-down leadership typically found in Zen Buddhism. While we fully believe in the power of this move to shared leadership, there is no doubt that it is a difficult transformation, often making operations slower and more complicated as we seek input and engagement from everyone in the circle. But time and again, the extra patience and effort prove to be worth it.

Your main website URL:

Main contact person at SWZC:

Bobby Chowa Werner, Temple Administrator


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Introducing ZPI Affiliate: Sweetwater Zen Center

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