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Archive for the ‘sangha’ Category

Reb emphasises that one cannot be still by oneself, only together with all sentient beings. We cannot be ourselves by ourselves. All other beings are helping us, only we tend to forget about it. One cannot do anything by oneself. So Reb defines enlightenment as helping others and helping others as enlightenment. (Oneself is included in the realm of others, of course).

In the place of stillness the action and the actor (practitioner and practice) meet. The actor is the action. The action is the actor. When there is an actor in addition to the action, there is no stillness.

“…all right doing is accomplished only in a state of true selflessness, in which the doer cannot be present any longer as “himself”. Only the spirit is present, a kind of awareness which shows no trace of egohood and for that reason ranges without limit through all distances and depths, with “ears that hear and eyes that see”.

(E. Herrigel, “Zen in the art of archery” )

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This is another year Reb Anderson invited us to have a jam session with him at a Zen sesshin on the tiny island of Idöborg in Stockholm archipelago. I suspect Reb developed a strong bond with the island and the cold waters of the Baltic sea as he keeps returning to this place just as many of us do.

The little experience of sitting sesshins I have come from this environment, with this teacher and basically this gang so in a way it was like going home. Meeting some of the people at the boat terminal on our way to the island was like seeing old friends again – it felt as if we never parted. Apparently, nothing brings people closer than sitting, surviving the contents of one’s mind, and working, walking, eating and sharing living space in silence for about a week.  Quite a few of the people have been to Green Gulch Farm where Reb’s been teaching and/or sat sesshins with him in other countries.

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The two comments to my one of my previous posts on community have been most thought-provoking (thank you Casey and Nathan!) and triggered in me some further reflection on what tribe I want to belong to and what I can contribute with. One of the questions that came up for me was: at what point does a group of people become a sangha? What’s a sangha? Then came the webinar with Dosho that so promisingly was entitled “Ingredients of Community”:

The quotes from Zen ancestors that Dosho offered in the presentation left me with no answers as to what made a community of practitioners and were more about unskillful ways to relate to others in the community (don’t-do-this-be-nice-and-drop-the-judgements). I think if we have a shared intention, we will figure out the ways to be around each other that would be in tune with that intention.

One of the teachers whose teachings and methods resonate with me, Ken McLeod, offers the following words on Sangha:

“…More generally, the Sangha consists of all individuals who practice the Dharma with the intention of waking up into the mystery of being. The Sangha is the community based on shared intention, not on a mutual dependence. Just as the term Buddhism incorrectly implies belief, so does the term Buddhist incorrectly implies believer. A person who practices the Dharma is, more accurately, a follower or traveler of a path, the path that Buddha Shakyamuni discovered.

The path is far from easy… Fellow travellers, companions on the path, provide us not only with support but also with the benefit of their own experience and understanding…” (Ken McLeod, “Wake Up to Your Life” p. 44-45)


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Well, maybe the new way will not be better. But it surely will be different. In retrospective I find that it is definitely worth trying: an external shift makes it easier to take a new perspective which is always enriching. Besides, it’s a great opportunity to learn something new about my own reactivity and resistance to change that I don’t approve of.

For a while I was at a loss: should I encourage my sangha-friend to open up to this change and at least give this new way a try? I noticed how my thoughts went in different directions almost simultaneously: one side of me was concerned with my self-image (how will this influence how others see me?); another side was glad the person spoke up; yet another one wished he had said something in the line of  “I feel uncomfortable and disconnected from the sangha by splitting into groups for the discussion but I am willing to give it a try”. A friend and sangha-member helped me out by voicing the need she sensed coming from the person, that of connection, which I heard in the beginning but lost when it did not make sense to me (splitting into groups is not the same as splitting the sangha!)

Suddenly I felt the tiredness of the last few weeks coming down on me. I saw the person next to me, also quite tired and obviously very uncomfortable. I backed off, invited everyone to rejoin the circle and do it the way we used to do. I felt relieved as the peace in the room was restored and we could finally turn to the poem which,  incidentally, was about impermanence and not clinging to the solid picture of the world we carry with us.

During the discussion one person said that he thought we did not have to be shaped only by “some immense storm” but in fact could allow every little thing influence us. Back then that comment didn’t strike a chord with me but as I am writing this I can see how our everyday lives here in the West are not that stormy but still consist of countless situations in which we can allow ourselves to get softer, let go of holding on to the ways we are comfortable with for the moment. A sensitive soul can feel the touch of a breeze…

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