Zen Buddhism sounds mystifying to many, but in fact the religion's premise is fairly simple. The word zen means "meditation" and Zen Buddhists believe that they become enlightened through realizing humans already are enlightened beings. Zen Buddhism started in India, but became a formal religion in China during the 13th century. It later became popular in Japan. Many centuries later, Zen Buddhism was found its way to Vietnam and later to western countries after World War II.

How to become an ordained Zen Buddhist

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Become a practicing Zen Buddhist, learning the practices, traditions and religion. First learning the religion's beliefs helps individuals make sure this will be the right path for them.

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Discuss ordination options with your chosen Buddhist temple. Each temple may offer slightly different options for becoming an ordained priest. Current priests will prove fruitful for providing insight and information.

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Reside as a monastery resident for a least one or two years. This allows for more rigorous training in the key elements of the religion, and also allows would-be Zen Buddhist priests to be sure this is the right path for them.

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Individuals interested in becoming ordained Zen Buddhists will then be asked to complete postulancy, an intensified period of training that lasts at least a year. During this period, interested individuals work with an ordained priest to decide whether ordination would be appropriate.

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Following the postulancy, trainees are ordained as a novice priest. This requires an additional five-year commitment for continuous training. While a novice priest, students will review Zen Buddhist texts and concentrate on practices of the religion.


Following the period of novice priesthood, a decision will be made as to whether it is appropriate to continue ordination training and become a full Zen Buddhist priest. Meditation and consultation with teaches will be key in deciding whether this final step should be undertaken.


  • The path to become ordained will take many years and requires a significant spiritual commitment.