Open House
Sokei-an Sasaki
Zen Notes
Zen Notes On Line
Zen Books On Line
Zen Notes T.O.C.
Film Series
Contact Us

The First Zen Institute is Reopening

Following our long closure due to the Corona virus pandemic, the First Zen Institute is once again open to the general public. Our Wednesday night open house is now an in-person event (without Zoom participation). Weekend zen retreats will still be conducted via Zoom. Also, the Institute has introduced an additional meditation evening on Monday nights, which will be accessible via Zoom. Facemasks are strongly encouraged for participation in in-person events, although they are not required.

Welcome to the First Zen Institute of America

Founded in 1930 the First Zen Institute of America is a non-profit religious organization that introduces Rinzai Zen to lay students, provides information on Zen Buddhism and on Zen Master Sokei-an Sasaki to the public through its publications and archives, and offers opportunities for Zen practice.

Located in a five-story brownstone at 113 East 30th St. in New York City, the Institute houses a traditional meditation hall, public meeting room, library and publishing offices.

9th Century Chan Master Rinzai Gigen

The First Zen Institute is open to the public free of charge on Wednesday evenings from 7:30- 9:30 for an introduction to Zen meditation practice, including instruction, if requested. Formal sitting meditations (Zazen), with 10-minute walking meditation (Kinhin) in between, is followed by an informal tea and discussion in the library. Intensive weekend meditation takes place once a month.

Zen Master Tales, Stories From the Lives of Taigu, Sengai, Hakuin and Ryokan, by Peter Haskel © 2022 Shambala


A lively collection of folk tales and Buddhist teaching stories from four noted premodern Japanese Zen masters: Taigu Sochiku (1584-1669), Sengai Gibon (1750-1837), Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769) and Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831).

Three Hundred Mile Tiger, The Record of Lin-Chi. Translation and Commentary by Sokei-an © 2013 IUniverse


Sokei-an translated the Record of Lin-chi (Lin-chi lu) from 1931 to 1933, in his first series of lectures. He felt that Americans needed original Chinese Zen source materials, translated and commented upon by a Zen master, and there were no such materials in those early days. Sokei-an was the first Zen master to translate the Record of Lin-chi and to give a commentary in English to Western students. The real historic value of Sokei-an's Lin-chi is in his commentary with its manifestation of Lin-chi's Zen.

"You know, Lin-Chi's Zen is like a thunderbolt. It is like a screen made of crystal. No one can put a finger on it because it is nothing but reality. He does not speak much theory. What he really does is demonstrate reality itself, discloses it strikingly, without a word..." , Sokei-an Sasaki, New York City, 1933

Original Nature, a translation and commentary on the Platform Sutra 80 years in the making. © 2012 IUniverse.


Based on lecture notes taken by his students back in the 1930s, Sokei-an Sasaki's translation and commentary on the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra is now available in book form, some 80 years after the original lectures were delivered by America's first Zen Master.

"I think the Sixth Patriarch never dreamed that his record, and especially this chapter, would be explained to Westerners in New York. Reading this chapter, I feel that I am in a valley between huge mountains, and that the ancient simple-minded woodcutters, fisherman, monks and nuns who are living in the mountains have come to the place where they always make their gatherings, and that I am one of them now reading this chapter". -- From Original Nature, Sokei-an Sasaki, New York City, 1935

Sword of Zen, a translation and commentary on Takuan's Record of Immovable Wisdom and On the Sword Taie, by Peter Haskel. © 2012 University of Hawaii Press


Takuan Soho’s (1573–1645) two works on Zen and swordsmanship are among the most straightforward and lively presentations of Zen ever written and have enjoyed great popularity in both premodern and modern Japan. Although dealing ostensibly with the art of the sword, Record of Immovable Wisdom and On the Sword Taie are basic guides to Zen—“user’s manuals” for Zen mind that show one how to manifest it not only in sword play but from moment to moment in everyday life.

Along with translations of Record of Immovable Wisdom and On the Sword Taie (the former, composed in all likelihood for the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu and his fencing master, Yagyu Munenori), this book includes an introduction to Takuan’s distinctive approach to Zen, drawing on excerpts from the master’s other writings. It also offers an accessible overview of the actual role of the sword in Takuan’s day, a period that witnessed both a bloody age of civil warfare and Japan’s final unification under the Tokugawa shoguns. Takuan was arguably the most famous Zen priest of his time, and as a pivotal figure, bridging the Zen of the late medieval and early modern periods, his story (presented in the book’s biographical section) offers a rare picture of Japanese Zen in transition.

Other books by First Zen Institute authors available through Amazon.com:
Holding The Lotus to the Rock, Edited by Michael Hotz   The Zen Eye, Talks by Sokei-an Sasaki, Edited by Mary Farkas   Letting Go, The Story of the Zen Master Tosui, by Peter Haskel   Bankei Zen, by Peter Haskel   Zen Pivots:  Lectures on Buddhism and Zen, by Sokei-an Sasaki
Great Fool:  Zen Master Ryokan, by Ryokan(Author), Ruichi Abe (Translator) and Peter Haskel (Translator)   The Zen Koan, by Isshu Miura and Ruth Fuller Sasaki   A Man of Zen, translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya and Dana R. Fraser
FZIA © 1930 - 2024 All Rights Reserved