Sacramento Zendo is a Zen practice community with a focus on awakening to this Buddha Heart/Mind that is simultaneously the root and the everyday activity of every moment of our lives. We are a small group of practitioners who meet each Monday evening, to sit zazen together, to study together, and to practice together. 

We offer personal instruction in sussokan (breath meditation), koan introspection and shikantaza. One-on-One meditation interviews with the guiding teacher are available for regular participants. Reading groups on various topics related to practice are scheduled along with zazenkai’s (all day zazen) which are an opportunity to deepen our practice through sustained zazen. All who are interested in learning more about Zen Buddhist practice are welcome.

The Zen teacher at Sacramento Zendo is Desmond Gando Gilna. Gando is a Zen priest and began his Zen practice over 30 years ago in England. He spent 13 years in residential Zen monastic training both in Japan and the US, studying with Harada Tangen Roshi at Bukkoku-ji in Japan and John Daido Loori Roshi at Zen Mountain Monastery. He completed formal koan training with his teacher James Myoun Ford Roshi who authorized him to work with practitioners through the complete Harada-Yasutani koan curriculum.

If it is your very first time coming to a Zen group and you are unfamiliar with Zen meditation/zazen please contact us so we can arrange for you to have an introduction to zazen.


There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth;
Indeed, it has no form, much less a name;
Eyes feel to see it;
it has no voice or ears to detect;
To call it mind or Buddha violates its nature,
For it then becomes like a visionary flower in the air;
It is not Mind, nor Buddha;
absolutely quiet, and yet illuminating in a mysterious way.
Dai O Kokushi

Zazen or sitting zen meditation is at the heart of what we do at Sacramento Zendo and serves as a base for all other activities. We offer instruction in sussokan or breath zazen, koan practice*, shikantaza** or silent illumination, and awareness practices. We all begin with sussokan, practicing this one breath zazen to help us learn how to settle the mind. In sussokan practice we give ourselves completely to the breath, senses wide open, breathing from this deep ground, quieting the chattering mind and learning to rest in just one breath. In time this relaxed awareness extends into our daily activities and we discover what it is to give ourselves completely to whatever we are doing or experiencing- we learn to rest in each moment of our life as it arises.

Once a student has developed some stability of mind and concentration, they are encouraged to take up a practice that cultivates deep insight into their awakened Buddha-nature, such as formal *koan practice, shikantaza ** (silent illumination), or working with their own naturally arising life question.

*Koans are recorded dialogues between teachers and students of old that express a particular aspect of the teaching and are a presentation of our Buddha-nature. Koan practice is not about solving riddles, nor is it about an intellectually understanding. In taking up a koan the student is being invited to awaken personally to the truth expressed by the koan. This is no different than awakening to ones awakened-nature – which is no other than the complete reality of this Great Limitless Life itself. In the same way we give ourselves completely to the breath, in koan practice we give ourselves completely to the koan. The full koan curriculum taught at Stone River Zen Sangha involves a collection of introductory koans, followed by the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate), Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record), Shoyoroku (Book of Serenity), Denkoroku (Transmission of the Light), Goi (Five Ranks), and Kai (Precepts) koans.

**Shikantaza or Silent Illumination is the most simple and the most difficult practice. In shikantaza we sit in the mind of Great Faith, that practice and awakening are one. It is sitting as this ungraspable life, the three treasures as our very life itself. It is simple because it is effortless and it is the most difficult because it is effortless.


Bodhisattva Vow.
When I, a student of the Way
look at the real form of the universe,
all is the never-failing manifestation
of the mysterious truth of the Awakened Life.
Torei Zenji

Within traditional Zen practice we see that the three disciplines necessary for a practice conducive to awakening are Samadhi/concentration, Prajna/insight, and Sila/morality. Each one of these disciplines informs and supports the other and each needs to engaged for true understanding to arise. At Sacramento Zendo, along with our practice of zazen, we see the conscious practice of the precepts as an important part of the training. We take them up as a daily life practice, as guidelines, and as ways of reflecting upon how we relate to each and everything in the world. When we engage with these precepts on an ongoing basis we see that they are kaleidoscopic in depth. The more time we spend with them the more they open our hearts and reveal this Buddha-nature that we are. When we engage and learn to manifest them in our lives and actions they guide us to this heart of gratitude that is a natural outpouring of an awakened life.

The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts

I take refuge in Buddha; this Vast Awakened Nature that we are.
I take refuge in Dharma; the unfolding of THIS Life.
I take refuge in Sangha; the harmony of the myriad things.

Not creating Evil
Practicing Good
Actualizing Good for Others

Affirm life; Do not kill
Be giving; Do not steal
Honor the body; Do not misuse sexuality
Manifest truth; Do not lie
Proceed clearly; Do not cloud the mind
See the perfection; Do not speak of others errors and faults
Realize self and other as one; Do not elevate the self and blame others
Give generously; Do not be withholding
Actualize harmony; Do not be angry
Experience the intimacy of things; Do not separate the Three Treasures


As most of us in the west have not grown up within a Buddhist culture and are unfamiliar with the Buddhist teachings it can be useful to study the richness of the traditional teachings. When we engage in academic study within the context of Zen training then the texts and teachings can begin to resonate on a deeper level and encourage us to further clarify this life that we are. We can test our growing understanding with the reading of the texts and we are also challenged and prodded into further understanding by allowing the words to sink deep into our lives and see what relevance they have for us as practitioners today. In this way they can become alive in our lives and do not remain dead words on a page.

So, academic study, along with zazen, the taking and practice of the precepts, and liturgy, is an important facet of training that supports and nourishs a life of practice and insight. We study the sutras, the teachings of the Buddha and the various teachings of the teachers of old to assist us in our vow to awaken to our Buddha-nature.

Bodhisattva Life

The Mind of Nirvana is easy to clarify;
the wisdom of discrimination is hard to enter.
Zen Capping Verse

Developing a daily life practice is about how we take our understanding and lived expression of the dharma out into our interactions with the world. It is the many varied ways in which we can practice, manifest, and share this dharma in every aspect of our lives. How we can live the Bodhisattva life. Each one of us has different causes and conditions that make up our lives so for each of us this will look different. In waking up to the causes and conditions of our life we will see how our unique life energy is manifest in relationship with others and with the world. We will begin to see how our life is an expression of the life of the Buddha.

At Sacramento Zendo our daily life practice is guided by the Mahayana teachings of the Six Paramitas: Generosity (Dana), Morality (Sila), Forbearance (Kshanti), Vigor (Virya), Settled Focused Meditation (Dhyana), and Wisdom (Prajna). As a sangha we consciously take up each one of these paramitas and spend time reflecting upon them. Exploring each of these paramitas or virtues, we see how they can challenge and help us loosen our identity with self and our habitual patterns of seeing ourselves and the world. They call to us to awaken and manifest this life of not-self and see our life realized as the wisdom of differentiation with the mind of nirvana as its root.