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Rating: 5

This Soto Zen temple is a wonderful intimate place for contemplation and to practice Zen Buddhism. Tucked away on a side street in the Castro, it has a beautiful garden in the back and a quiet zendo in the basement. I enjoy Saturday zazen at 9:25 am usually stay for the short dharma talk at 10:15 am and tea and cookies with the group. The place has an amazing history. Hartford Street Zen Center was founded by Issan Tommy Dorsey whose life story is told in the book "Street Zen" by David Schneider (winner of the Tricycle Prize for Best Book on Buddhism in America). Issan, who served as the temple's first abbot, founded Maitri Hospice at Hartford Street Zen Center. The beat poet Zenshin Philip Whalen was the temple's third abbot. He read at the famous Six Gallery reading in 1955 that marked the launch of the West Coast Beats into the public eye. Whalen appears, in barely fictionalized form, as the character "Warren Coughlin" in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, which includes an account of that reading.