Buddhism originated in India and, over the course of centuries, branched out to many other Asian countries. As it migrated and took root, Buddhism incorporated aspects of the indigenous religions and cultures of each country. The Zen school developed in China and was later brought to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. It is a tradition that most often has emphasized direct religious experience through meditation, as well as the love and compassion this experience can generate; whereas scriptural expertise, ritual observances, and adherence to codes of conduct have been variously emphasized across different schools and time periods.

Over the last few decades Zen has become popular in the West. Particularly because it champions actual practice over doctrinal belief, Zen seems to resonate deeply in the modern mind. Its age-old and well-tested training methods for cutting through deeply rooted delusions about ourselves and the world can help us contribute to a more harmonious society. The guiding principle is that everyone can share in the wisdom of the Buddha, who directly experienced the oneness of all beings and found ways to express that experience through the activities of daily life. This living essence of the tradition has been maintained and passed down by generations of practitioners to the present day.

Zen River works to contribute to this process by providing a comprehensive training programme that, while based on the Japanese tradition, allows experimentation and adaptation — in accord with the White Plum lineage — to suit the needs of our time. The importance of having both a direct connection with a qualified teacher and a cohesive community of practitioners is emphasized. Long-term and short-term residents as well as visiting members practise together and support each other in training. The semi-rural location of the temple and the layout of buildings and grounds have proven very conducive to in-depth practice of the various elements of training.