Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Community of Excellent Friends

Convert Buddhists have under-emphasized sangha (or community of excellent friends, as one of my dharma sisters frequently says). There are many reasons for this, and I have written about the ones I know about on this blog in the past. For those of us in the United States, there often seems to an extra layer of hindrance to building sangha that comes from the mainstream cultural emphasis on individualistic pursuits and privatized everything as priority.

But enough of the macro-level narratives. Today, I want to share a few stories of sangha actually functioning. Of a group transcending whatever hindrances are there. These are simple stories. Nothing earth shattering.

On Sunday, we had our monthly board meeting. Having just had board elections the previous month, a new member arrived to the group to experience her first meeting. Her dharma name is Gentle Dragon, and for a few years now, her and I often exchange dragon's roars whenever we see each other. Seriously, we roar out loud at each other. It's fun. It keeps us both light. And it's kind of become a way we recognize and support each other.

Anyway, as the meeting opened, I looked over at her and gave a roar. She roared back. And then, the thought came to me to bring everyone else in. So I called the meeting to order, and made the first item of business a group roar.

Here are two other stories with a different flavor. This morning, I had a meeting with our Executive Director to plan a talking circle about our current financial status. There are a lot of big, long range issues on the plate for the sangha right now, and while part of the meeting was planning, part of it was simply sharing our own questions and ideas about how things are going. Our Executive Director is also dealing with the challenges of having an ill family member, and our meeting ended with some sharing about that and a big hug.

And then a little while ago, I opened my e-mail and found that another dharma sister, who works with me on the board, just gave Dangerous Harvests a donation. On the donation e-mail, she wrote:

"I love your blog, Nathan. It helps me to lessen how static I can become."

This from one of the major players in creating our sangha's development and strategic plan over the last year or so, and also someone I consider to be one of those excellent friends on the path.

It's fairly easy to find stories of spiritual communities gone awry. Of sex and power scandals. Of people failing to not only get along, but to truly embrace each other. So, I offer these experiences as a small counterpoint. As a small taste of what it can be like to be apart of a community of excellent friends.

May you all be well today.

* photo is from our Segaki Day/ Hungry Ghost Carnival 2011


Arun said...

I'm really glad to hear of your strong community of excellent friends. Thank you for this post.

As a somewhat related note, was your group ever able to help the Cambodian temple in Rochester that was vandalized last year? I remember you said there was some discussion on that front, but it sounded like it was still a work in progress at the time.

Nathan said...

Hi Arun, I know we had a couple of members who went down there to offer support, but I don't know any specifics about what happened.

Arun said...

I would love to hear more about that! (And post on it too!) Is it okay if I contact you via email? (I think I have your Yahoo email.)

Nathan said...

Sure, you can send me an e-mail. I wish I had more of a story to offer. We have a few members who live in southern MN, and I think they were the ones who headed over to the temple in Rochester. It makes me think that maybe we could do a better job of recording some of these stories. Because I know a few years ago, another few members of our sangha gave a lot of time and energy to the building project of another Buddhist center in Minneapolis. But like the situation in Rochester, I heard about it a few times from dharma friends, and that was that.