Ethics Guidelines

Ethical Guidelines and Procedures


The intent of the Des Moines Zen Center (DMZC) is to cultivate an environment which protects and nourishes the sangha’s (community of participants) spiritual development and practice. Our commitment in this endeavor is to each other, all living things and the universe itself. Along with Right Action and Right Speech, the bodhisattva precepts serve as our path to facilitate a practice based on awareness, trust, selflessness, kindness and honest communication. Aligning ourselves with these precepts is a guide for our thoughts, words and actions so we may live in peace and harmony.

The Three Refuges:

  • We take refuge in the Buddha
  • We take refuge in the Dharma
  • We take refuge in the Sangha

The Three Pure Precepts:

  • Do no harm
  • Do good
  • Live to benefit all beings

The Ten Grave Precepts:

  • A follower of the Way does not kill but rather cultivates and encourages life.
  • A follower of the Way does not take what is not given but rather cultivates and encourages generosity.
  • A follower of the Way does not misuse sexuality but rather cultivates and encourages open, honest, and acceptable relationships.
  • A follower of the Way does not lie but rather cultivates and encourages truthful communication.
  • A follower of the Way does not intoxicate self or others but rather cultivates and encourages clarity.
  • A follower of the Way does not slander but rather cultivates and encourages respectful speech.
  • A follower of the Way neither extols self nor demeans others but rather cultivates awareness of the interdependent nature of self.
  • A follower of the Way does not attach to anything, even the teaching, but rather cultivates mutual support and shares the dharma with all beings.
  • A follower of the Way does not harbor ill will but rather cultivates loving-kindness, understanding, and forgiveness
  • A follower of the Way does not turn away from the Three Treasures but rather cultivates and encourages taking refuge in them.

Right Speech – Right Action

Being connected to the sangha is a wondrous part of the practice which is appreciated and cherished. Any action that does not cultivate good dharma relationships harms these connections.

Good relationships are built on right intent. The intentions of any action should be considered before acted upon. Connections within the Zen community can be intimate, caring and loving which is a source of joy, acceptance and nourishing. If not guarded through right intention, they can be a source of rejection, mistrust and destruction which violates the spirit of the precepts and the sangha community.

Honest and compassionate communication is also vital in good relationships. We always encourage open communication with everyone at all times with the intent to be helpful and understanding of others. This, we feel, is the best way to resolve any issues and stay connected.

EAR (Ethics and Reconciliation Committee)

The EAR Committee is made up of three members, appointed by the Board of Directors, whom will serve to protect the spiritual practice of all involved. To view a current list of EAR Committee members, please click here.

If you feel someone in our community is not acting with the right intent, we encourage you to talk directly with that person. However, it may at times be necessary to talk with someone else who can be neutral and bring a skillful approach to the situation. The EAR Committee is available for such situations. Any EAR Committee member may be contacted informally or formally. Their intention is to restore the connection to its original state of peace and harmony.

Informal concerns can simply be contacting an EAR member directly, one on one. If a formal concern is warranted, you may fill out the Ethics and Reconciliation Committee Complaint Form. If any support is needed with these processes, please reach out to someone you trust for help.

Upon receiving a formal concern, the EAR Committee will investigate it and bring their findings to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will make any decisions regarding discipline. If an EAR or board member is the subject of the concern, they will be removed from all investigative meetings. If the situation warrants, the EAR Committee or board of directors may consult with an outside mediator as well.

The EAR Committee is also available for guidance when you may, yourself, question whether your actions or intentions align with the precepts. By deeply opening yourself up, you allow yourself to be directed on the right path.

Atonement is part of our spiritual practice to bring balance and harmony back to the community. Every effort should be made to be realigned with the spirit of the precepts.

In some situations, it is expected that an EAR member be notified. These include inappropriate sexual behavior, abusive conduct or harassment, incompetence that threatens the sangha, use of a position for personal gain or exploitation and misuse of sangha funds. Hearing of or seeing any of these activities and doing nothing is unethical. Furthermore, if an incident of abuse of children or vulnerable adults is learned of, such incidents must be reported to the appropriate legal authorities.


Confidentiality is another component of good relationships and is a right for everyone practicing at DMZC. This creates an environment of openness and trust. Our practice lends itself to having sangha members share personal information with others and that sharing comes with an expectation that the information will be guarded.

However, if such information is shared or heard that legally cannot be held private, appropriate authorities will be notified. Legally and morally this is the right thing to do for the ones involved.


It is DMZC’s deep wish for you to feel connected to our community, practice and all living things. We vow to maintain an environment that is accepting of you because we are all connected together on the path to peace and happiness.