Purpose and History


Our purpose is to offer a Zen Temple as a vibrant home in Portland for the Zen Community of Oregon and the larger community. We envision this temple as a place of stillness in a busy urban environment. In this temple we intend to; practice the Buddhism, offer Buddhist teachings, and embody the qualities of unflagging optimism, compassion and courage. Our specific vision for this temple is for a hearth, a bridge, and an offering.

A Hearth: We seek to create and maintain a city practice center that honors and supports the ten thousand facets of householder life.

A Bridge: We seek to provide a bridge from our Portland community to the deep well of practice at Great Vow Zen Monastery, mutually benefiting both.

An Offering: We seek to reach out to the larger Portland community by putting the Bodhisattva Vow to work in the world by benefiting all beings, and protecting and healing our earth treasure.


The Heart of Wisdom began as the Zen Community of Oregon in 1976. It operated as a small sitting group that met in yoga studios or people's houses until 1990. In that year Dharma Rain Zen Center purchased the Portland Dharma Center, and ZCO began renting space there. After some experimentation with scheduling, we settled on renting from them one morning and three evenings each week.

Over the years our community in Portland grew steadily, and the students that trained earnestly for many years began to lead introductory classes and events. As our community grew we began to outgrow the space and time restrictions of the Portland Dharma Center. As this growth continued our Board of Directors created a vision for our own property in Portland. As that vision came into focus, the Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple was born.

The first step in the vision of founding the Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple was to expand out offerings in Portland. Around this time we learned of St David of Wales. St Davids is an Episcopal Church in SE Portland very close to the Portland Dharma Center, and they were looking to bring in fresh energy, specifically in the form of Buddhists. In order to expand our offerings and support St Davids we began renting space from them twice a month to hold workshops. We began renting from them in January of 2009, and our first event with them was a twelve-hour interfaith Chant for Peace.

Even as we were renting space from St David of Wales we were actively looking for a property of our own. We viewed many properties between January 2008 and September of 2010, and in May of 2010 we made a serious offer on one of them. That offer didn’t work out, and we found ourselves back to square one in terms of finding our own place.

Then in late October of 2010 we heard about a church that was available. Because of the specifics of the seller, we needed to move fast if we wanted to purchase it. Many members of our community viewed the church, and everyone had a positive reaction. The selling price was also such that we could purchase it without going into debt. On November 14th the ZCO Board decided to move forward with the purchase, and on December 3rd of 2010 the sale was completed.