Hoza: Circle of Compassion


Origin of Hoza

The origin of hoza is found in Shakyamuni's method of teaching his disciples. The Sarasota Zen Center has adapted and revived it for people today so that they can solve their problems and learn how to make practical use of the Buddha's teachings in everyday life. As in Shakyamuni's day, the counsel benefits all the members of the group, not only an individual with a specific problem.


What is a Hoza Like?

The members of a hoza group usually sit together in a circle, creating a warm, intimate atmosphere for open discussion. The range of problems and questions raised in hoza varies from personal problems at home or office, through problems of human relationships, to questions of religion and ethics. As a member of the hoza circle speaks about his or her problem, the other members of the group listen and respond with compassion, trying to understand his or her problem, situation, and emotions.


In order to help people solve the various problems that arise in daily life, hoza leaders need to have a thorough, practical knowledge of the Buddhist doctrines, especially the Four Noble Truths. The leaders need to be able to relate and apply the doctrines to individual problems without using dry technical terms in their counsel.


The Law of the Four Noble Truths is the key to the problem-solving process.

    •    The Truth of Suffering: First, the troubled person and other members of a hoza group take on as their own his or her problem.

    •    The Truth of Cause: Second, they work together to find the cause of the problem.

    •    The Truth of Path: Third, they reach a conclusion about the right way of living. 

    •    Truth of Extinction: Fourth, so that he or she will achieve peace.


Although Buddhist doctrines are unquestionably important for hoza counseling, the true spirit of hoza is firmly rooted in a major concept of Mahayana Buddhism: all living beings possess the buddha-nature, or the potential to attain perfect enlightenment (buddhahood). They reveal and develop their buddha-nature by working together with compassion to solve the problems of someone who is troubled. When genuine sharing and mutual understanding are achieved, troubled people very often express their suffering, disclose their true selves (buddha-nature), and acknowledge their mistaken thoughts and acts. When people can truly realize that they have the buddha-nature, they come spontaneously to recognize that others equally possess it. In hoza, participants try to find the buddha-nature in others; respect it as far as possible; and by doing so, make others become aware of it both in themselves and in others.


The spontaneous confession brought up by awareness of the buddha-nature is essential. At hoza, the troubled person can reflect on and acknowledge his or her own mistaken thoughts and acts, and other members can do so as well when considering the problems of the troubled person. The surface of our buddha-nature is covered with various illusions acquired in the course of our daily lives. But reflection and acknowledgment help to purify our minds and refresh us by removing such illusions from our buddha-nature. Further, we can develop our buddha-nature by being engaged in bodhisattva practice.


How is Hoza Different from Group Counseling?

Hoza, a manifestation of living Buddhism in action, differs from ordinary group counseling in several respects.

    •    First, the members of a hoza circle come together in a situation where they can practice the compassion taught by Sakyamuni Buddha and learn to extend it beyond that circle.

    •    Second, they learn to think of other people's suffering and problems as their own.

    •    Third, together they pray for a troubled person and seek solutions for his or her problems that are based on application and practice of the Buddha's teachings.


Members of the SZC hoza circles meet weekly, not only to learn how to employ the Buddha's teachings as a guide for living or to obtain relief from suffering but also to gain insight and to achieve spiritual growth.


Robert Thurman: Expanding your circle of compassion

short 16 minute video— https://youtu.be/MBZyRlxVd-E