Work Practice Apprenticeship at City Center

Work Practice, Gardening at the Fountain

To better accomplish the mission, “to express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha,” the San Francisco Zen Center has developed the Work Practice Apprenticeship (WPA) Program for Zen students who are ready to enter a two-year, entry-level Zen training program.

As a work practice apprentice, each student will be working and practicing full-time at City Center, wholeheartedly engaging with all aspects of the daily practice life in the temple, as well as the many other aspects of living, working, and practicing together in sangha. This program is modeled after the WPA programs at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara. The goals of the program are three-fold:

  1. To support Zen students to establish a solid foundation in Zen meditation, work-practice and the spirit of the Buddha’s teachings as passed down to us by Suzuki Roshi and his dharma heirs.
  2.  To offer a low-cost way for sincere students to make a commitment to full-time, residential Zen practice.
  3. To reward those who successfully complete the initial three- to six-month period with the opportunity to continue and deepen their practice at Zen Center.

kitchen practice at City CenterThe initial three-month period of the WPA Program begins upon acceptance through application to the director and practice committee. All applicants must have completed a minimum of two consecutive weeks as a guest student at City Center prior to applying to the apprenticeship program. Upon successful completion of the three-month session, WPA participants receive a scholarship for one practice period that may be used at any one of the three Zen Center practice places, with some limitations (see below).

The work-practice program requires a commitment to the following practice activities:

  • Early morning zazen, service and temple cleaning six days per week
  • Afternoon zazen at 5:40 pm, five days per week, work permitting
  • 30 hours of work-practice per week (M-F, 9 am to 4 pm)
  • At least one class per study session
  • Regular private meetings with a resident practice leader
  • Monthly one-day sittings
  • Scheduled sesshins, depending on work and practice assignments
  • Saturday morning oryoki breakfast, when scheduled
  • Saturday morning and Wednesday evening Dharma talks
  • Various monthly and yearly ceremonies and events

Two Zen practitioners agreed to share their experience as work practice apprentices at the City Center Temple. Read their stories here.

Additional Information About the Program

Buddhist Precepts: All members of the WPA Program are expected to practice in relation to the 16 Bodhisattva precepts. In particular, students are asked to refrain from initiating new sexual relationships during their first six months of residency and to refrain from all drug and alcohol use at City Center. Please obtain a copy of the Zen Center Ethical Principles and discuss any questions or concerns regarding these guidelines with the City Center director prior to submitting an application.

Expenses and Stipends: There is a one-time $70 application fee for the City Center WPA Program. After this initial fee, all room, meals and tuition are provided while in residence during the apprenticeship program. During participation in the program, each apprentice will receive an allowance starting at $75 per month for essential purchases. After three months, depending on timing, the apprentice may participate in a practice period or apply for another three-month apprenticeship.

Practice Period Scholarships: After successfully completing a three-month apprenticeship, a work practice apprentice is eligible to receive a scholarship for one practice period at Tassajara, Green Gulch Farm, or City Center. This allows students to continue in residential practice or return to Zen Center at a later date, acknowledging that a variety of life situations may not allow continuous residency. To attend a Tassajara practice period, one must have first completed a practice period at either City Center or Green Gulch Farm, including a sesshin. Upon completion of each WPA, the work practice apprentice will receive a confirmation letter by the director confirming that a practice period scholarship has been earned. Apprentices must apply and be accepted for each practice period. Acceptance to the practice period is subject to space availability, as well as review by the practice period applications committee at the respective practice center.

Health Insurance: Zen Center does not provide health insurance for work practice apprentices. City Center apprentices are not considered to be on staff, and thus time as a WPA participant does not count toward the accrual of the staff time necessary to qualify for Zen Center health insurance.

Continuing on in a Staff Position: Upon successful completion of the two-year WPA Program, students are eligible to apply for a City Center staff position. A description of staff policy, benefits and stipend levels is available from the City Center director.

How to Apply: Please fill out the program application and submit it, along with the $70 application fee and a recent photo, to the address found below. Work Practice Apprentice Application: PDF | Word

All applications for the City Center WPA Program should be sent to the following address:

City Center Work Practice Apprenticeship Program
CC Director
San Francisco Zen Center
300 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

For more information, call the City Center director at 415-354-0383, or email