Providence Zen Center

Cumberland, Rhode Island, United States

  • Last updated: October 3, 2017 (2 seconds ago)
  • Listing created on: July 23, 2011

Mission Statement

residential Zen practice

Community Description

Providence Zen Center is a residential spiritual community founded in 1972 by the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn to provide a place where his students could live and practice Zen together. In 1979 we moved to our current location about 20 minutes from the heart of Providence in rural Cumberland RI.

Most residents work outside the community and pay a monthly training fee (currently $675). This fee covers all primary living expenses (room, food, utilities). Food is bought and shared by the community, and community meals are cooked for the community several times a week on a primarily volunteer basis. The remainder of meals are prepared individually. Our spiritual practice is modeled after the practices of the Korean Zen tradition. Zen meditation practice consisting of sitting meditation, chanting, and bowing is offered twice daily in the early morning and evening, and residents are encouraged to practice together daily as their work schedule permits. In addition, residents may attend monthly weekend retreats as well as longer retreats held twice yearly in the summer and winter: these retreats are available to residents at no additional cost. We also have a large non-residential community which visits the center to attend practice, retreats, or other community events, and we offer our hospitality to other spiritual groups which rent our facilities to host their own retreats.

As a community we are committed to working towards greater sustainability. To this end we are transitioning to purchasing as much organic and local food as our budget allows, growing some of our own produce in the garden and greenhouse, and keeping chickens to help provide eggs for the community. We have installed low watt florescent fixtures and bulbs throughout the buildings. We are also working to retrofit the buildings to make heating in the winter more energy efficient. Last fall we replaced the remaining single pane windows in the original wings of the building with energy star rated replacement windows. In addition to this, we work to foster greater connection with the wider spiritual community through participation in ecumenical and interfaith groups, and have hosted interfaith retreats.


  • Type(s): Shared Housing, Cohouseholding, or Coliving (multiple individuals sharing a dwelling), Spiritual or Religious Community
  • Location: Suburban


  • Status: We have land we have developed on
  • Area: 50 acres
  • Current Residence Types: Room(s) in a house or building
  • Current Number of Residences: 2
  • Land owned by: Another form of Non-profit
  • Additional Comments:

    Providence Zen Center is a religious non-profit organization.

    We have a large main building and a smaller house: together these facilities can accomodate up to 40 residents.

    We are considering adding co-housing and encourage interested parties to inquire about this. If there is sufficient interest the board will work together with interested parties to work out a model for financing the development of co-housing.


  • Adult Members: 9
  • Non-member Residents: 0
  • Percent Women: 31-40%
  • Percent Men: 61-70%
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Visitor Process:

    Please call or e-mail our director to schedule a visit. Overnight guests are welcome: the overnight fee is $60 per night: food is included. Short term residency or personal retreats are also possible: contact the director for more information or to schedule your stay.

  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Membership Process:

    1) Three days of retreat; can be consecutive overnights or three daily retreats
    2) Meet with Abbot
    3) Become member of Kwan Um School of Zen

  • Additional Comments:

    People of all faiths or lack thereof are welcome: we share a common practice of Zen meditiation to directly investigate the nature of the universe and our experience of it.

    Korean Zen Buddhism.

    Parents choice of public, private, or home schooling.


  • Decision Making: By a board, council, group of elders, or leadership group
  • Identified Leader: Yes
  • Leadership Core Group: Yes
  • Additional Comments:

    Spiritual guidance is provided by two of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s senior students who have received authority to teach from him and serve as guiding teachers for the community.

    The guiding teachers, the board of directors and managment team work together to make decisions.

    Many issues which arise around daily living are decided by residents at the monthly house meeting.


  • Dues, Fees, or Shared Expenses: Yes
  • Regular Fee per Month: $30
  • Shared Income: None
  • Required Labor Contribution per Week: 5
  • Open to members with existing debt: Yes
  • Additional Comments:

    Primarily on a volunteer basis: we encourage a minimum of 2 hours a week.

    Membership in the Kwan Um School of Zen is $360 per year in addition to the $675 monthly training fee. Membership dues may be paid on an annual, quarterly or monthly basis.

Sustainability Practices

  • Current food produced: 0%, or close to 0%
  • Food produced locally: Up to 25%


  • Common Facilities: Common House, Garden(s), Greenhouse(s), Workshop, Outbuilding(s), Hot tub or hot springs, Large Scale Kitchen, Fire pit, Internet
  • Internet Available: Yes, community provides it
  • Internet Fast?: Yes, it’s fine.
  • Cell Phone Service: Good for some people.
  • Shared meals: 2-5 times per week
  • Dietary Practice: Vegetarian (no animal meat; dairy and eggs okay)
  • Dietary Choice or Restrictions: Somewhat – there are some dietary restrictions or customs.
  • Special Diets OK: Yes
  • Alcohol Use: No, this community does not permit alcohol use.
  • Tobacco Use: Yes, used occasionally.
  • Additional Diet Comments:

    Meals are prepared for the community by community members several times a week. Chances are you’ll always find some company in the kitchen at mealtimes.

    We do not allow meat on the grounds.

    Members are not required to keep a vegetarian diet outside the Zen Center: however, we do not allow meat at the Center.

    While alchohol consumption is not allowed on the grounds, residents may drink off the grounds if they choose.

    Smoking is permitted in designated areas outside the buildings, and anywhere on the grounds more than 50 feet from the buildings.

  • Common Spiritual Practice(s): Ecumenical (accepts all religions or spiritual practices), Buddhist

Additional Comments

Located in the town of Cumberland, adjacent to a town land trust consisting of several hundred acres of forested land.

PZC moved to its present location in 1979

Photo Gallery

Community Affiliations

Kwan Um School of Zen, Cambridge Zen Center


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