The San Francisco Buddhist Center offers an unpretentious and grounded alternative to practitioners who feel daunted by the monastic upshots of Buddhism. Tucked away into an unassuming corner of the Mission District, the SFBC is part of an international network of communities called the Friends of the Buddhist Order, founded by a British monk named Sangharakshita in 1968.
All meditations are held in an airy adjacent room that has an elaborate Buddha shrine as its centerpiece. Morning meditations, which take place five days a week, are free -- drop-in meditations and classes for both the seasoned practitioner and wide-eyed beginner are on a reasonable sliding scale, and the seasonal meditation retreats that happen at the SFBC's Santa Cruz cabin are also amazingly economical. -- Nirmala Nataraj