Saturday, May 15, 2010

Independent Buddhist Sitting Groups: A Wave of the Future?

For awhile now, I've been interested in the ways sangha is manifesting or not manifesting in the 21st century. In addition to the varieties of online activities which may or may not be "sanghas" (or Buddhist communities), I've noticed a number of bloggers living in areas where there isn't much in the way of established Buddhism starting their own sanghas. Last month, Kyle over at Reformed Buddhist started up a Zen group in his Virgina hometown. And this morning, I ran across this post from Jordan, who is stationed over in Okinawa, Japan, and trying to start a group as well. I've seen others doing similar things, including members of my own home sangha, who have started up sitting groups on the side.

It's an interesting experiment, isn't it? There's a great democratic spirit in all this, and clearly an intention to fill a gap being called to be filled.

I also wonder about leadership issues, training in working with group dynamics, messages being given about Buddha's teachings. Things can get messy fast if you don't have some grounded people around helping to navigate everything.

What do you think about these groups popping up? Is this a sign of the future of practice? A temporary stepping stone to something else? A road to trouble?


Kyle Lovett said...

Thanks for the nod Nathan. Also, you might be interested in reading some of the comments left in an article written about another bloggers sitting group in Deming, NM.

You ask a lot of good questions, that I struggle with as well. I am not a teacher, like I've said many times, but I found a pretty big want, and maybe need for a Zen group where I live. So the discussions stay basic, with some 'guest' speakers when I can get them, and general readings when not.

I don't know where this will go, but I figure, something is better than nothing. And perhaps, these seeds can grow into a 'real' something with some effort. I don't think anyone can question that there is a growing need around North America for Buddhist sangha's, the question is how best the can be filled.

Mumon said...

I thought this was going to be about something else. Re: your subject, it's good for for folks to practice together. Just that they should know when not to teach.

Jordan said...

Hi Nathan,
You raised some interesting questions.
I've no answers that are not biased by my own practice and experience, but I'd add in a few more questions:

How did the first sangha pop up?

How did the Buddha's teaching Spread?

Is Buddhism stagnant or ever evolving?

Is there any lineage that has not had trouble?

panchenlama said...

Zen is not Buddhism.

Zen is a sexual cult, in which Zen priests engage in sexual relations.

Buddha established full chastity in the Buddha Sangha.

Zen is not Buddhism.

Nathan said...

Thanks for the comments and questions everyone. Part of why I brought this up is that I support the development of these kinds of groups, but wish success for them as well, and know that maintaining a healthy group requires intelligent practice around conflict and the mission/direction of the group. Jordan, I think your questions speak to the sense that Buddha's teachings spread often through these kinds of independent groups and that similar groups have probably existed throughout history.

And your point about constant evolution also applies to any group - which is why good leadership of some sort, and agreements on why the group exist and what it's functions/roles are seem essential.

As for Panchenlama, nice attempt to start a fire.

May you be well.


arctic dreamer said...

When I moved to the arctic 10 years ago, I had no choice but to practice on my own. I helped start a group, which was initially a success, but became a coffee klatsch when my co-founder moved. I waffled internally with it for a few years, coming & going & then decided I had enough background to sit on my own, take part in online teachings & pick thro resources available in libraries, magazines, etc. When I do go visit my (big) hometown once or twice a year, I do go sit with the group in my old centre. But I feel settled sitting on my own. Anyone with a good background, a strong grounding can do this.