FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the format for your Thursday evening meetings?
  2. Can you give me advice on parking, public transit, and carpooling?
  3. Do I need to attend an introductory class before I come to a regular Thursday night sitting?
  4. Where can I learn how to meditate?
  5. Do I need to bring my own cushion? Are there chairs?
  6. Is there a fee for Thursday night?
  7. Is there appropriate attire or special traditions that I need to be aware of?
  8. I’m not sure what to do when I arrive early and there seems to be a ritual going on in the meditation hall.
  9. What should I do if I’m unable to arrive on time?
  10. What does it mean to be a member of IMCB?
  11. What are the words to the chants and what do they mean?
  12. Is the monastery wheelchair accessible?
  13. I have a hearing impairment.  Are hearing devices available?
  14. Can you tell me more about Berkeley Buddhist Monastery?
  15. What is meant by metta or loving kindness?
  16. What do the words Buddha, dharma, and sangha mean?
  17. What does Vipassana mean?
  18. How can I sign up for our Bulletin Board and eMail Announcements.

On this page are answers to questions that we are asked frequently. It is a work in progress. If you have a question that is not addressed here or if you have an issue that you would like addressed in this format, please Contact Us with your question and we will try to answer and post it here.

1.  What is the format for your Thursday evening meetings?

  • Doors open at 7:15pm so that people can come early to help set up row of chairs, cushions…etc.
  • We begin at 7:30 pm with forty minutes of silent meditation. There is no introduction, so once you are settled, begin to sit quietly.  (Brief meditation instructions are given on the first Thursday of each month).
  • The meditation ends with a brief chant in the Pali language, the language in which the Buddha taught. You may join in the chant or simply sit quietly.
  • Community announcements
  • Ten minute break to stretch or socialize
  • Dharma talk and/or discussion
  • We end at 9:30pm with a brief loving kindness meditation.

2. Can you give me advice on parking, public transit, and carpooling?

We encourage carpooling and public transit. You can post requests for carpooling on the IMCB Bulletin Board email list. If you need a ride home on Thursday night, raise your hand and state your need at the end of the announcements so you can meet potential drivers during the break. 

There is parking in the evening in the lot to the south of the monastery on McKinley St.  It usually fills early.  There is also street parking in the neighborhood.  Occasionally, due to another event in the area, parking is very scarce.  Arrive early to allow time to find a space.

The Berkeley BART station is six blocks away at Center and Shattuck.  Several bus lines also have stops at Center and Shattuck.  Detailed transit information is available at www.511.org.

3.  Do I need to attend an introductory class before I come to a regular Thursday night sitting?

There are no prerequisites for attending on Thursday night other than an interest in awakening. In the near future, we hope to offer a brief orientation session before our regular gathering. The intention is to give newcomers an opportunity to learn about our history, lineage, and practice in a small group format and to get answers to any questions they have.

4.  Where can I learn how to meditate?

James offers a six-week beginning class two or three times a year. More information about this and other opportunities for learning are on our Growing Your Practice page.

5.  Do I need to bring my own cushion? Are there chairs?

There are cushions for sitting on the floor and plenty of chairs. The front of the hall is reserved for floor sitting. Feel free to use the cushions and mats stacked along the side walls. There are also blankets available for the colder months when the monastery can be quite cool. At the end of the evening, please help out by mindfully stacking the chairs, cushions, mats, and blankets.

6.  Is there a fee for Thursday night?

There is no set fee for the class. The teachers and the monastery in which we practice are supported by dana, which means ‘generosity,’ an important practice within the Buddhist tradition.

7.  Is there appropriate attire or special traditions that I need to be aware of?

In terms of attire, wear something comfortable and preferably not revealing. Out of respect for the teacher and each other, do not lie down in the meditation hall unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from sitting comfortably. Since we practice in an active monastery, please talk quietly, even outside, so that the monks or those who wish to maintain silence are not disturbed.

It is the tradition of the monastery to remove your shoes before entering the meditation hall. If a medical necessity requires that you wear shoes, the monastery requests that you bring a second pair of clean shoes to wear inside the building. If that isn’t possible, please thoroughly wipe off your shoes when you arrive and sit as close to the door as possible.

8.  I’m not sure what to do when I arrive early and there seems to be a ritual going on in the meditation hall.

Berkeley Buddhist Monastery is an active monastery. If monks are chanting in the meditation hall when you arrive, please be silent and stand or sit on the floor at the back of the hall or in the foyer. Wait until the monks have exited the hall before unstacking chairs or placing your sitting cushions.

9.  What should I do if I’m unable to arrive on time?

We reserve a row of seats at the back of the hall for latecomers. You may either sit there or in the balcony. The stairs to the balcony are at your right as you enter the main door of the monastery.

10.  What does it mean to be a member of IMCB?

Anyone who comes on Thursday evenings, subscribes to our email lists, or participates in our activities is a member. There is no need to officially join. We welcome your participation in all our activities.

11.  What are the words to the chants and what do they mean?

Click here to listen to the Chant and read the translation.

The IMCB Brochure has the words on the back, which is available at the greeter’s table as well.

12. Is the monastery wheelchair accessible?

There is a ramp and an accessible entrance at the rear of the monastery. If you need to use this entrance, be sure to arrive before 7:30 pm and ask someone at the main door to either meet you at the accessible entrance or to get someone from the greeter’s table to assist you. To reach the accessible entrance:

From outside the monastery: Follow the driveway on the south side of the building and turn right at the rear of the building where you will find the ramp a short distance away. 

From inside the monastery: Follow the long hallway past the restrooms and turn right when you enter the dining hall. The doorway is located in the far right corner.

Note: the doors of the restrooms are likely too narrow to be accessible.

13.  I have a hearing impairment.  Are hearing devices available?

Yes, hearing-assisted devices are available during our meetings.  Ask at the greeter’s table as you enter.

14.  Can you tell me more about Berkeley Buddhist Monastery?

The form of Buddhism practiced at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery is known as Ch’an, which originated in China. They carry on the tradition of Ven. Master Hsuan Hua (1918-1995), an important figure in Western Buddhism who founded one of the first Ch’an Buddhist monasteries in the United States. The small altar behind the main altar honors Master Hua.

Berkeley Buddhist Monastery has graciously and freely offered us this space for our practice since the monastery opened in 1995. Besides hosting us each Thursday evening, the monastery maintains a full-schedule of classes and dharma activities, including daily open sitting meditation from 6:15 to 7:15 am and from 5:15 to 6:15 pm and daily evening chanting from 6:30-7:30pm. All are welcome. Rev Heng Sure, the director of the monastery, has a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, teaches on the staff at the Institute for World Religions, and is a musician exploring the relationship between music and the dharma.

15.  What is meant by metta or loving kindness?

Metta or ‘loving kindness’ refers to a state of openness of heart that wishes happiness to all beings, including oneself.

16.  What do the words Buddha, dharma, and sangha mean?

Buddha refers both to the historical being who lived and taught 2500 years ago and to our true nature of wisdom and compassion. The word literally means “one who is awake”.

Dharma or dhamma refers both to the way things are (ultimate truth) and the Buddha’s teachings that reveal this truth.

Sangha means community. It traditionally refers to the community of monks and nuns, but we extend the definition to include all those who share our meditation practice.

17.  What does Vipassana mean?

Vipassana or ‘insight meditation’ means to see things as they really are through the practice of cultivating mindfulness, learning to be aware and present each moment without clinging or aversion. From this state arises clear seeing, wisdom, and compassion.

18.  How can I sign up for our Bulletin Board and eMail Announcements.

View our “Keeping in Touch” page where you can find information on our Bulletin Board, eMail Announcements and more.