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FAQ: Practicing at Hokyoji


How big is your “monastery”?

Hokyoji sits on 105 forested acres of land, and comprises two main buildings and a series of small outbuildings. We have indoor sleeping accommodations for a maximum of 15 people (depending on season); it is also possible for participants to bring tents and camp in the meadow. The zendo holds a maximum of 24 people for zazen and meditation.

While Hokyoji is a place of residential practice, it’s not a “monastery” with a large group of long-term resident practitioners that engages in a daily round of formal observances or clerical training. There are two residents on site, and a small group of lay and ordained practitioners that come and go regularly. Outside of special practice events, the residents participate together in a daily schedule of zazen, chanting and work. Others are welcome to visit and follow this schedule, though most visitors come to Hokyoji as part of a practice event.

Are there any prerequisites for Hokyoji practice events?

Mindfulness days include an optional introduction to meditation just prior to the official start. While there are no formal prerequisites for sesshin and practice periods, it’s assumed that participants know how to do zazen, can sit for 40 minutes, and are familiar with taking formal meals using oryoki.  Those who need training in the use of oryoki can receive it at the beginning of the sesshin upon request.

What are the travel options for getting to Hokyoji?

Hokyoji sits close to the intersection of the Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin borders; the airport and train station in LaCrosse (WI) are about 45 minutes away.  We may be able to pick up visitors arriving in LaCrosse, though rental cars are available at the airport as well. Hokyoji is about an hour and a half drive from Rochester,  three hours from Madison, and four hours from the Twin Cities or Des Moines.

How do I register for a Hokyoji practice event? 

You may register for any event here.  Please sign up for scheduled Hokyoji events (or contact us about individual practice) at least 48 hours before your planned arrival.  Not only does this give us the time we need to make sure we can feed and accommodate you, it gives you the opportunity to be thoughtful about your practice commitment.  

Visiting groups have their own registration procedures and deadlines for their events; please contact them directly.

Can you accommodate my special diet?

Meals during practice events are vegetarian.  It may be possible to accommodate a minor adjustment to the menu in order to accommodate medically necessary dietary needs, but those assigned to the kitchen cannot be asked to create multiple additional dishes or acquire special ingredients.  If you are concerned that you will not be able to eat what is served to everyone, you may bring your own meals.  Please contact Hokyoji to make provision for this, and arrange to arrive early to discuss your plan with event leaders.

Is there regular daily practice at Hokyoji?

Yes, except during the winter and spring breaks or when a scheduled event is in session.  Please click here for information on daily practice.

Are there things I should or shouldn’t do while I’m at Hokyoji?

Our practice behavior is aimed at creating an environment that is conducive to quiet, communal, contemplative practice. The ability to be open and flexible while living in very close quarters with other people is paramount to one’s appreciation of the experience of retreat. We aim to always communicate in ways that are honest, gentle, intimate and respectful. In the spirit of encouraging ourselves to enter as deeply as possible into the contemplation and realization that Buddha’s life is our very own life, we maintain precept practice, not diverting our energy by using alcohol or other recreational drugs or by engaging in sexual activity while practicing together at Hokyoji.

Should I bring my own sitting cushion or bench?

Sitting cushions are provided, but if you have a bench or cushions you particularly like, you are welcome to bring them. Chairs are available for practitioners who would like them.

What should I wear?

So as not to distract others or draw attention to ourselves, we wear modest clothing and keep our bodies covered appropriately. The clothing worn for zazen and meditation should be quiet and comfortable; robes are not required for zazen, but if you have them and wish to wear them, you are welcome to do so.

What else should I bring?

See our list of packing suggestions.

Are deer ticks a concern at Hokyoji?

Hokyoji is located in one of the large parts of the country where deer ticks (black legged ticks) are found. These ticks can be carriers of Lyme disease, but with simple precautions the chances of picking up a tick are remote, and with proper attention the risk of Lyme disease is even more remote. Hokyoji provides information and supplies to attend to this issue.

What are the accommodations like?

Accommodations are very simple, ranging from dormitory-style beds to the zendo floor to personal camping equipment. Private indoor accommodations are limited, and may or may not be available. Each person has a small space in the men’s or women’s shower room for clothing and toiletries; please keep personal gear compact. A tent can be useful for storing belongings on longer stays, even if you don’t sleep in it.

Will my cel phone or other devices work at Hokyoji?

Maybe.  Some cel phones do work here, but some stop working several miles from Hokyoji because of the topography, the placement of towers or for other reasons.  Hokyoji does have a land line, which is available to practitioners on a limited basis because it is the main business line.  WiFi is available at Hokyoji, but bandwidth is limited.  Checking e-mail or looking up simple information is not a problem, but streaming media or uploading or downloading large files will hold up the entire system for everyone.  While some practitioners may feel it necessary to call their families regularly or check in at the office while at Hokyoji, many take the opportunity to put aside their devices and focus on practice.  Since access may be limited anyway, it can be a good chance to let people know that you’re going to be unavailable for a period of time while on retreat.  In case of emergency, a message can be relayed to you from Hokyoji’s land line. 

Is Hokyoji wheelchair-accessible?

Unfortunately, no.  Getting to or around in the zendo and residence requires the use of stairs.

Can I come to Hokyoji to practice on my own?

Yes. Click here for information on individual practice and personal retreats.

I’d like to do some long-term residential practice. Can I live at Hokyoji for an extended period of time?

It may be possible. Because the residential community is very small, the personality and characteristics of each resident have a strong impact on everyone; thus we are quite careful about adding new people. Part of the acceptance process will be an extended communication with guiding teacher Dokai Georgesen. In general, residents need to be healthy in body and mind, self-sufficient, prepared to engage in physical work, personally mature and disciplined, able to live and work with others at close quarters, and willing to do whatever is being done.  Hokyoji’s modest facilities and accommodations are comfortable but rustic and removed from town, and are subject to the forces and creatures of our natural environment. This is not a place of self-indulgence, special treatment or luxury.

Can I bring my group to Hokyoji?

Yes!  We offer several options for group events at Hokyoji, ranging from events we plan and host for you to those for which you simply rent our facilities.  All events held by visiting groups must be in alignment with our mission and vision.