Meditation in Cambridge

Cambridge Zen Center T- Central Square 199 Auburn Street, Cambridge (617) 441-9038 Type of Buddhism: Korean Chogye (Zen) At
By A. HAVEN Thompson

Cambridge Zen Center

T- Central Square

199 Auburn Street, Cambridge

(617) 441-9038

Type of Buddhism: Korean Chogye (Zen)

At the Cambridge Zen Center’s weekly Dharma Talk, a meditation novice was readily made to feel at home. A group of 30 participated in a brief meditation and listened to an instructor tell stories and discourse on Zen and life in general. Afterwards people posed questions about issues like death, depression, choices and relationships. The topics were heavy, but provided meaty food for thought.

Conveniently located in Central Square, the Zen Center is an untapped resource for alternative Harvard housing—many of its practitioners live there. If 5 a.m. wake-up calls don’t appeal, sign up for one of their intensive monthly weekend retreats to get a feel for the Zen life, or just go to their Monday beginner meditation classes at 6:45 p.m. Zen is considered the “dogma-less” Buddhism, and is not heavily based on scriptures or texts, so the CZC is a great place for meditators of any religious persuasion.

Cambridge Insight Meditation Center

T- Central Square

331 Broadway, Cambridge

(617) 491-5070

Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful…entering the CIMC kind of makes you want to curl up in a ball on its plush wall-to-wall ecru carpet and sleep away your midterm blues. One member of the Center described the community at the CIMC as “the Episcopalians of Buddhists”—it provides mostly “meditation for the sake of meditation,” as instructor Matthew Daniel says.

The CIMC is a spacious, mainly non-residential center, and includes a library with an extensive collection of books and videos about various types of Buddhism. It offers a wide variety of classes on meditation ($140) and one-day workshops ($60), as well as daily meditation and Wednesday evening dharma talks (5:30 p.m., $5).

Sakya Center for Buddhist Studies

Cambridge Buddhist Association

Type of Buddhism: Tibetan Vajrayana, Mahayana, Sakya Order

(617) 492-2614

The Sakya tradition has “always stressed study and meditation in equal measure,” according to the website of the Sakya Institute. The practice taught at the Institute is “based on the classic gradual approach, beginning with mind-training and concluding with advanced Vajrayana deity practice.” The institute offers classes studying various Buddhist texts, as well as meditation. The Venerable Lama Migmar, who is also Harvard’s Buddhist Chaplain, founded the Manjushri Temple in 1996, which is based on the teachings that seek to “integrate Buddhism into our daily routine.” Some of the classes have requirements or require permission to attend—call the Center for more information.

Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center

C-1, 950 Mass. Avenue, Cambridge

(617) 547-6670

Type of Buddhism: Chinese Mahayana

For an alternative to the typical Friday night, join the GBBCC for their “Thank Buddha It’s Friday” meditation and dinner (yes, the bark in the soup is edible—and healing to boot), held on the second and fourth Fridays of the month at 6:30 p.m. (suggested donation $5). The GBBCC is actually a Buddhist temple in the Chinese tradition of Fo Guang Shan, which Yifa, the Center’s director and resident nun, calls “co-humanistic Buddhism”—i.e. Buddhism that is “engaged with society” and emphasizes “this life, this world, this time, these people.” The GBBCC offers courses in tai chi ($60), vegetarian cooking ($80) and Chinese calligraphy ($180), as well as daily meditation.

Two years ago, Yifa began organizing outreach retreat programs for college students—one is a weekend at Deer Park, a mountain owned by Fo Guang Shan in New York, and the other a month-long program in Taiwan during which students practice a humanistic Buddhist monastic life mixed with research and community service. The retreats include students of all ethnicities, religious denominations and nationalities, and you can’t beat the price: free! For more information about the application process go to

Dzogchen Center

Cambridge Friends Meeting House,

5 Longfellow Park

(617) 628-1708

Type of Buddhism: Dzogchen, Tibetan Rime (non-sectarian)

The Dzogchen Center holds weekly sittings every Monday night at 7:30 p.m. just a hop, skip and a jump from Harvard Square. The Dzogchen tradition hails from Tibet but, according to Lama Surya Das (via the Center’s website), “was a secret teaching in the East, almost unknown even to Tibetans.” It is focused “not on oriental Buddha, not on historical Buddha, not one of stone, not male or female, but the Buddha nature within each of us, true and wise, loving and compassionate.” Some Tibetan lamas consider Dzogchen to be “the teaching of our time” because it is simple, insightful and adaptable. Beginners are welcome, so why not trade-up your usual caffeinated study break for a meditating respite?

Cambridge Buddhist Association

75 Sparks Street, Cambridge

(617) 491-8857

Type of Buddhism: various types

The Cambridge Buddhist Association wins best location—it is about a 5 minute walk from Cambridge Common—nicely accessible from the River or the Quad. Four different types of Buddhist traditions are practiced in the Association: Theravada (South East Asian), Thich Nhat Han (Vietnamese), Japanese tradition and Sayka (Tibetan). They don’t have a website, but they will call you back and give you times, dates and prices of meditation.