Bay Zen Center

Our Membership

As a lay sangha, our membership comprises a diverse group of people of various backgrounds and commitments who come together in the shared understanding that our zen practice supports us in meeting the challenges of our lives—our home, our work, our community and our world with wisdom and compassion. We work together to support each other in a down to earth and practical approach to zen practice.


Our Teacher: Dan Myoen Birnbaum

Dan Myoen Birnbaum

Dan Myoen Birnbaum


Dan Myoen Birnbaum is a lay teacher who received Dharma Transmission from Diane Eshin Rizzetto in 2019. He is a member of the Ordinary Mind Zen School, White Plum Asanga, American Zen Teacher’s Association, Lay Zen Teacher’s Association.

In addition to teaching at Bay Zen Center, Dan is a practicing pediatric neurologist. He is the Director of the Division of Neurology at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA.


Being just this moment,
compassion’s way.




Ordinary Mind Zen School

Ordinary Mind Zen School Seal.png

The Ordinary Mind Zen School is evolving a style of Zen that is adapted to Western temperaments and ways of life but maintains the rigour and discipline of its traditional roots. The teaching is highly pragmatic. It is less concerned with the concentrated pursuit of special experiences than with the development of insight into the whole of life. It favours a slower but healthier, more responsible development of the whole character, in which psychological barriers and emotions are addressed rather than bypassed.

It sees practice as working with whatever comes up in our everyday lives, including being in a relationship, family life, the workplace as well as the formal and structured practice of Zen.


The Ordinary Mind Zen School intends to manifest and support practice of the Awakened Way as expressed in the teachings of Charlotte Joko Beck. The school consists of Joko Beck, her Dharma Successors, and teachers as they, as individuals, have been formally authorized.

There has no affiliation with other Zen groups or religious denominations; however, membership in this school does not preclude individual affiliation with other groups. Within the school there is no hierarchy of Dharma Successors

The Awakened Way is universal; the medium and methods to realize it vary according to circumstances. Each Dharma Successor in the school may apply diverse practice approaches and determine the structure of any organization that s/he may develop to facilitate practice.

The Dharma Successors acknowledge that they are ongoing students and the quality of their teaching derives from the quality of their practice. As ongoing students, teachers are committed to the openness and fluidity of practice, wherein the wisdom of the absolute may be manifested in life. An important component of this school is the ongoing examination and development of effective teaching approaches to ensure comprehensive practice in all aspects of living.

May the practice of this school manifest wisdom and compassion, benefiting all beings.

See our listing of affiliated centers.


Our Mission, Values, and Ethics



To support and encourage all those who seek to cultivate a Zen practice, grounded in the understanding that everyday life offers us the opportunity to engage in the world with openness, clarity and wise, compassionate action.


A community of diverse individuals manifesting oneness in the world through a shared commitment to the Dharma teachings, intimacy and relationship, caring for life’s resources, service in community and the world.


  • Do no harm

  • Do good

  • Take action that serves others and relieves suffering of all beings

  • Generosity

  • Effort

  • Patience

  • Ethical Conduct

  • Meditation

  • Wisdom

  • Truthfulness

  • Steadfastness

  • Equanimity

  • Loving-Kindness


The Bay Zen Center welcomes people of different cultures, colors, abilities, ages, identifications and beliefs who can practice within the guidelines that we have laid out below. We appreciate and explore our differences in order to build understanding and openness and foster well being for the entire sangha.

Appropriate Behavior

The well-being of the sangha relies on all Bay Zen Center members to mutually observe ethical conduct. To that end all members are expected to observe high ethical standards by respecting all those that come to practice and endeavoring to understand and avoid abusive behavior, harassment and incompetence that could endanger the welfare of others and the sangha. This is especially so for the teachers and anyone who gives zazen instruction, teaches introductory workshops, leads study groups, teaches classes, or anyone in a position of formal authority as well as board members and officers. Our fundamental ethical guidelines are based on Three Pure Precepts:

  • Do no harm

  • Cultivate the good

  • Serve all sentient beings

Mindful Communication

Mutual respect and trust within our community are built when all members communicate truthfully and compassionately with the intent to be helpful, keeping in mind the subtleties of self-serving talk and non-verbal communication, angry or abusive speech, apportioning blame. Widely sharing a concern to gain support for one’s position can foster conflict, rather than resolution, and must be avoided.


Confidentiality is the basis of trust between members and teachers and between teachers and members. Dokusan, dharma discussions and Council are venues in which highly sensitive personal information may be shared. Members and the teachers are expected to maintain confidentiality among themselves and about matters raised in these venues. However, for the well-being of individuals and of the sangha, there are times when teachers and/or practice leaders need to consult about confidential matters. Such consultations are never done lightly and only as much information is shared as is needed to clarify the situation at hand. The consultations themselves are kept confidential. Furthermore, such consultations are required when a serious ethical breach has occurred (such as a sexual relationship between a teacher and student (member), misappropriation of money or other resources, or unlawful activities.)

Dokusan: The uniquely intimate nature of Dokusan – student/teacher face-to-face meetings- can give rise to questions about confidentiality. Student and teacher are expected to hold private interview interactions in confidence unless there is a strong overriding reason to share information with a third party in which case, that strict confidentiality is broken. Idle talk about interviews is inappropriate and harmful to everyone’s practice.

Dual Relationships

It is the nature of practice to encourage warm-hearted and close intimacy, but it is important for all members to remember that, with the intimacy of practice, confusion regarding certain relationships may arise in a way that can harm practitioners and the whole sangha if not dealt with skillfully. Whenever a teacher and a student are relating to each other in different capacities or roles, a dual relationship is created. For example, a teacher who is a psychotherapist may be asked by a student to become a client/patient. Or a student who is an attorney may be asked by a teacher to provide legal services. These and other such situations give rise to a dual relationship. We recognize that not all dual relationships are inherently unethical. We are, however, mindful of the complexities and risks in these circumstances, and we recommend caution in such relationships. Should they occur, they should be monitored with extreme professionalism.