Joshu asked Nansen, “What is the way?”
“Ordinary mind is the way,” Nansen replied.

“Should I try to seek after it?” Joshu asked.

“If you try for it, you will become separated from it,” responded Nansen.

“How can I know the way unless I try for it?” persisted Joshu.

Nansen said, “The way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is delusion; not knowing is confusion. When you have really reached the true way beyond doubt, you will find it vast and boundless as outer space. How can it be talked about on the level of right and wrong?”

With these words, Joshu came to a sudden realization.

What is the Ordinary Mind Zen School?

The Zen Center of Philadelphia is affiliated with the Ordinary Mind Zen School–a network of of independent Zen centers that share a common purpose and teaching. Established in 1995 by American Zen teacher and author Charlotte Joko Beck (1917-2011) and her Dharma successors, the School currently has a number affiliates (see the partial list below.)

Charlotte Joko Beck

Author and founding teacher of the Ordinary Mind School, Charlotte Joko Beck was born on March 17, 1917 in New Jersey and spent much of her life in Southern California. The mother of four children, she worked as a teacher, secretary, and university assistant before discovering Zen Buddhism in her forties.

Joko Beck went onto receive Dharma transmission in 1978 after practicing with and studying under several prominent Zen masters. She founded the Zen Center of San Diego in 1983 and served as its head teacher until 2006. A gifted writer, she is well-known for her books Nothing Special and Everyday Zen.

Ordinary Mind–A short film by Claudia Willke featuring Charlotte Joko Beck. Uploaded to YouTube by the St. Nederlands Boeddhistisch Archief (Dutch Buddhist Archive) with Dutch subtitles.

Joko Beck died in 2011 at the age 0f 94. Members of her Dharma lineage carry on her legacy to the present at a number of Zen Centers throughout the country. She encouraged her students and successors to be independent and develop their own talents as practitioners. As one of her Dharma heirs, Zen teacher Barry Magid, said

“One of her great virtues as a teacher was that she did not try to clone herself. She let us digest her teaching and grow in our own different directions. Her Dharma seeds are scattered far and wide. They will go on sprouting in ways we cannot predict and cross-fertilize with other lineages. The Ordinary Mind School may grow or wither, but her influence is now everywhere.”

Founding Statement

Charlotte Joko Beck and her Dharma Successors have established the Ordinary Mind Zen School, whose purpose is set forth in the following statement.

The Ordinary Mind Zen School intends to manifest and support practice of the Awakened Way, as expressed in the teaching of Charlotte Joko Beck. The School is composed of Charlotte Joko Beck, her Dharma Successors, and teachers and successors they, as individuals, have formally authorized. There is no affiliation with other Zen groups or religious denominations; however, membership in this School does not preclude individual affiliation with other groups. Within the School there is no hierarchy of Dharma Successors.

The Awakened Way is universal; the medium and methods of realization vary according to circumstances. Each Dharma Successor in the School may apply diverse approaches to practice and determine the structure of any organization that s/he may develop to facilitate practice.

The Successors acknowledge that they are ongoing students, and that the quality of their teaching derives from the quality of their practice. As ongoing students, teachers are committed to the openness and fluidity of practice, wherein the wisdom of the absolute may be manifested in/as our life. An important function of this School is the ongoing examination and development of effective teaching approaches to insure comprehensive practice in all aspects of living.

May the practice of this school manifest wisdom and compassion, benefiting all beings.


Affiliated Zen Centers

Along with ZCP, the following centers are affiliated with the Ordinary Mind School

Barry Magid, teacher
Ordinary Mind Zendo
107 West 74th Street
between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues
Apt. BR
New York, NY 10023
T 917-608-3348

Larry Christensen, teacher
2050 NW Lovejoy
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 319-8548

Elizabeth Hamilton:
Ezra Bayda:
2047 Feldspar
San Diego, CA
(619) 273-3444

Elihu Genmyo Smith, teacher
515 South Prospect
Champaign, IL 61824
(217) 355-8835

Diane Rizzetto, teacher
5600A Snake Road
Oakland, CA 94611
(510) 482-2533