Buddha Jewel Monastery Expanding Zen Offerings
In Larger Facility in Shoreline, North of Seattle

Written by: Bob Baumgartner

Sangha members gather for a medicine Buddha ceremony in 2016.

Sangha members gather for a medicine Buddha ceremony in 2016.
Photos by Bob Baumgartner, Buddha Jewel Monastery

For Buddha Jewel Monastery the past year has included change and continuity.

The change came with a move last May from the Rainier Valley in south Seattle to Shoreline, a smaller city north of Seattle.

The building was formerly a church.

The building was formerly a church.

The continuity is in the teachings, the group’s main emphasis. The monastery offers a complete curriculum of classes designed to bring a person’s understanding of Buddhist ideas and practices from zero to an advanced level, gradually over time.

Buddha Jewel Monastery moved primarily to offer more space, because the Rainier Avenue site only had space for 30 people while the new space can hold 100, said a senior teacher there who asked to remain unnamed. The new site also offers about 130 parking spaces, compared to 40 before.

“Therefore it was a great opportunity for us when this property became available,” she wrote in an email. “We feel that our regular members are better served here, and so many more people also became regulars since discovering us here. We can accommodate so many more people in this convenient location, and look forward to providing a comfortable environment for Zen practice after the remodel.”

The spacious interior offers three times the space as the former location.

The spacious interior offers three times the space as the former location.

By teaching Zen meditation and Buddhism, Buddha Jewel Monastery aims to serve the greater Seattle area by helping people purify their minds and promote mutual understanding and social harmony.

The move to a former church in Shoreline is helping with sangha members’ travel time.

“Members already were coming from far outside the Seattle location, from neighboring cities Bellevue, Redmond, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Bothell, Lake City, Kirkland, and Vancouver, B.C.,” the teacher wrote. “Being in Shoreline greatly helps with their commute, saving them one or two hours on the road.”

The monastery offers free classes and events in Zen Buddhism and meditation, which will expand once the group gets permits for a planned remodel.

After the remodel is done the monastery will offer a fuller schedule with more classes during the day, in different levels for adults and children. On weekends the monastery accommodates more people for what they call “one incense meditation” sessions, Buddhist ceremonies and retreats.

A nun makes an offering during the medicine Buddha ceremony

A nun makes an offering during the medicine Buddha ceremony

The monastery carries on Buddhist traditions, such as a recent ceremony for “Bathing the Buddha” May 14. The event included a lamp offering, chanting the “The Sutra on the Profound Kindness of Parents,” a dharma talk and meditation, along with a meal offering and blessing and memorial services.

In a 2013 story about a July 4 temple event, Abbess Master Jian Yan said, “Buddhism is about passing along and learning from the teachings of the Buddha. Our lineage comes from our founding abbot Grand Master Wei Chueh. Grand master modernized the format of Buddhist teaching to fit the practical modern-day life. He has brought the joy of the dharma to so many that he has been asked to establish over 100 Chan (Zen) centers around the world, including eight centers in the U.S.  Buddha Jewel Monastery is one of these eight.”

After much planning and fundraising, Buddha Jewel Monastery opened its doors in September 2008.

Buddha Jewel Monastery is not only Chung Tai’s largest U.S. branch in terms of meditation hall size, but also Chung Tai’s highest global branch in terms of degree of latitude.

The group also recently started offering regular classes in Vancouver, B.C. 

Bowed heads during the ceremony.

Bowed heads during the ceremony.

Buddha Jewel Monastery is a branch monastery of Chung Tai Chan Monastery in central Taiwan, which was established in 2001 by Master Wei Chueh.

Said to have an “inimitable aura of calmness, a penetrating mind, and the ability to clearly elucidate the profound wisdom of the Buddha, the grand master was instrumental in revitalizing Chan (Chinese Zen) Buddhism in Taiwan,” according to the group’s website.

Master Wei Chueh had been living alone in a hut in the Taiwanese mountains, until disciples asked him to establish a monastery.  After first establishing the Lin Quan Chan Monastery and running out of room, Master Wei Chueh and his disciples began planning the Chung Tai Chan Monastery, a huge, golden dome-topped building with meditation halls, outdoor parks and lecture halls. The monastery is now associated with three schools and more than 74 branches in Taiwan.

The Shoreline building has new life.

The Shoreline building has new life.

Venerable Master Wei Chueh came to Seattle to offer teachings in 1998.  Ten years later, Buddha Jewel Monastery opened in Rainier Valley.

Buddha Jewel Monastery welcomes everyone to classes and events, to discover the joy of meditation, and to learn the wisdom of the Buddha. One 12-week class, which began May 5, is held Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. Meditation sessions are held most Wednesdays 7 to 8 p.m., and Sundays, 10 to 11 a.m. All programs are free and supported through donations. Contact buddhajewel@ctzen.org or (206) 721-9921 for information.