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Engaged Practice Practices Sangha

A New Paradigm For Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic

Meeting suffering where it is – a path to freedom.

Centering the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in our practices meets the suffering where it is and offers a path to freedom. A New Paradigm for Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic” is an offering by Marisela Gomez and Valerie Brown. We encourage all Order members to read and practice these Contemplations on the Five Mindfulness Trainings

A New Paradigm For Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic

By Marisela Gomez and Valerie Brown

Let us open to a new and deeper way of understanding the Five Mindfulness Trainings, guiding principles for mindful and ethical living, which call us toward individual and collective awakening, compassion, and peace.  We are aware that we are interconnected.  What happens in Wuhan, China affects people in New York City. What happens to the Black body affects all bodies.  We are called forward.

The global pandemic is a gateway to suffering worldwide, disproportionately impacting Black people, indigenous, and people of color, who face poverty, sickness, displacement, and death.  They, we are not alone. Our lives and livelihood are interconnected. We are called forward.

We cannot exist independent of low wage workers, health care workers, un-housed people, single mothers, undocumented people, the unemployed and underemployed.  If one such person lives on the knife edge of racial, ethnic, social, structural, and systemic oppression and discrimination we are all affected.  We are called forward.

The practitioner dwells in the now, recognizing equanimity and instability, discrimination and non-discrimination, ill-being and well-being, practicing right view and engaged through compassionate action.  Aware of the cycle of racial, ethnic, and social inequities and discrimination, we courageously turn to practice wholeheartedly.    We are called forward.

Lighting a stick of incense, listening to the sutras, sitting upright and solid, palms joined, the practitioner looks within and in concentration the path and fruit of skillful action is revealed.  We are called forward.

Speak aloud these words with the sangha voice, a true river of understanding:

Acknowledging Beauty as Reverence for Life

Aware of the suffering caused by oppression and  generational harm based on racial,  cultural, social, and ethnic  inferiority and superiority and its resultant structures of injustices and harm, I acknowledge the beauty and violence inherent in life. I vow to resist being complicit in systems and structures that continue to perpetuate violence and hatred instead of reverence of life for marginalized groups. I recognize that  each person contributes to my individual and our collective awakening, and the co-creation of a world that celebrates  and affirms differences and similarities. All living beings can teach me something,  when I remember to pause, breathe, listen deeply  with a calm and open mind and heart, and ask myself: ‘is there more’ or  ‘ what else is here with me’’?’ I  honor  and respect  all life guided  by Right View and Right Energy.

Belonging and Connecting as True Happiness

Aware of the suffering caused by ignorance and aversion of my own and other’s racial, ethnic, cultural, and social history, its legacy and how this affects me whether I am aware of it or not, I am committed to connecting to these histories. I know that turning toward these histories with an open heart is my journey of awakening to true belonging. I will take the time to learn the history of the racial and ethnic group with which I identify as well as for other socially constructed racial and ethnic groups. Aware that there is no genetic or biological difference between different racial and ethnic groups, and that these identities were constructed by one group to establish dominance over others, I will turn toward racial and other forms of othering with an open heart and compassionate action. I know that this history has led to fragmentation inside and outside body and mind and brought much suffering to all beings. I vow to transform this suffering through the practice of connecting with an open heart. I will notice when emotions of belonging and othering arise and I will ask myself ‘why’? Whatever feelings, perceptions, or mental formations arise, I will embrace and when needed engage with love in action. I am committed to practicing Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood so I can help relieve this legacy of racial and social suffering.  I will practice looking deeply to see that true happiness is not possible without true connecting leading to belonging and understanding. 

Cherishment as True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by discrimination and oppression, I vow to understand its roots within my consciousness and my body and the collective body of the sangha and larger society.  I vow to recognize the ways in which I have benefitted or not-benefitted explicitly or implicitly from systems and structures that foster discrimination and injustice.  I am aware of the legacy of violence, especially unlawful police violence, perpetrated against Black people, indigenous people, people of color, differently abled people, people of various gender identities and expressions and sexual orientation, and others who are marginalized. I acknowledge the lived experience of all people to deepen my capacity for understanding and for greater compassionate action.  I am aware that narrowly constructed, prevalent interpretations of intimate relationships constrain how we cherish each other in our expression of love, leaving many further isolated and alienated. I am committed to looking tenderly at my suffering, knowing that I am not separate from others and that the seeds of suffering contain the seeds of joy.  I am not afraid of bold love that fosters justice and belonging and tender love that seeks peace and connection.  I cherish myself and my suffering without discrimination.  I cherish this body and mind as an act of healing for myself and for others.  I cherish this breath.  I cherish this moment.  I cherish the liberation of all beings guided by the wisdom and solidity of the sangha. This is my path of true love.  

Vulnerability as Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware that vulnerability is the essence of our true nature, our humanness, I vow to risk listening and speaking non-judgmentally with understanding and compassion to alleviate suffering and support peace in myself and others.  I vow to live with empathy, compassion, and awareness and to listen for understanding rather than disagreement. When I’ve hurt others through my unskillful action or speech, I vow to practice making a good apology that acknowledges what I have done and offers sincere regret, knowing that this supports the other person and me. I am committed to speaking that aligns with my highest aspiration and encourages honesty and truthfulness.  I am committed to generous and courageous listening that bridges differences and supports understanding of others who may be different from me.  I am committed to taking meaningful steps to become a true instrument of peace and to help others to be the same. When I am not able to understand the experiences of others, I vow to come back to my breath and my body, and to offer myself gentle patience while learning to support myself in developing greater awareness and skill.  I vow to practice awareness of my beliefs, perceptions, and feelings, aversions, and desires and to take refuge in mindful breathing and in the sangha to support greater stability, peace, and understanding.  Through my practices of vulnerability, patience, forgiveness, and deeply listening, I know that my speech will be guided by love and understanding. Practicing in this way supports Right Speech and Right Action and guides me to Right Insight. 

Welcoming as True Nourishing and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by the consumption of an inadequate history of racial and ethnic forms of social segregation, I am committed to healing myself and the world by welcoming, and practicing with this awareness. I will notice how my thoughts, perceptions, feelings, words, and actions may have been influenced by this inaccurate history. I will look deeply to understand how both physical and mental health, for myself, my family, and my society have been influenced by embracing and denying this racial, social, and ethnic history of inferiority and superiority and its legacy of inequities and injustices. I will cultivate joy to support me toward individual and collective wholeness. I will practice mindfulness of the Four Kinds of Nutriments to become aware of how edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness are all influenced by this history. Practicing with Right Energy and Right Resolve, my Right Action of consumption will include awareness of certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations and how they continue to foster wrong perceptions of racial, ethnic, and social injustices. My understanding of interbeing supports my conscious consumption that sustains a healthy understanding of differences, one that does not oppress or discriminate. This Right Insight will preserve peace, joy, and bring healing in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth. To assure that my descendants do not live in a racially, ethnically, and socially unjust world, I commit to diligently practicing with true welcoming on this path to nourish and heal myself, the sangha, and society.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings keeps us centered in life’s storms and joys and reminds us that life is a precious gift. The Trainings are a path to liberation and transformation.  Practicing these Trainings supports us toward racial and ethnic reconciliation and social change and heals deep suffering. The Five Mindfulness Trainings  helps us cross this shore of suffering and brings us to the side of true awakening and love

We are called forward.

Categories
Engaged Practice

Buddhists Help Get Out the Vote

In this time of great fear, it is important that we think of the long-term challenges—and possibilities—of the entire globe. Photographs of our world from space clearly show that there are no real boundaries on our blue planet. Therefore, all of us must take care of it and work to prevent climate change and other destructive forces. This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face. – The Dalai Lama

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

This is a truly critical time in American society. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, financial collapse, climate change emergency, and approaching a November election that threatens to exclude many eligible voters. As Buddhist teachers and leaders, we recognize that every vote and voice needs to be heard to help guide the next years of our society wisely.

A mutual caring community is one of the central teachings of the Buddha. In these times so marked by divisiveness and a lack of compassionate leadership, many of you have wondered how you and your whole community can help move us in this direction. Here are two crucial activities to encourage for everyone in your community:

  • Register to vote; and sign up for an absentee ballot: You and your community can do this through Vote.org. Over thirty states now have no-excuse absentee voting, and many others are considering allowing COVID-19 as a valid excuse.
  • Get your friends and family to register, sign up for an absentee ballot, and vote.

There’s more we all can do, and these actions don’t demand a lot of time.

1. Volunteer to do voter registration, absentee sign-ups, and get out the vote through these organizations.

  • State Voices: A network of nonpartisan state coalitions of hundreds of grassroots organizations. Reach out and see if there are volunteer opportunities.
  • National Voter Registration Day (Sept 22): Provides training and support on how to conduct voter registration, and will be making a heavy pivot to remote options this year, as well as a push to sign up for Vote-By-Mail (absentee). Includes legal guidance for voter registration drives.
  • Vote Early Day (Oct 24): Inspired by National Voter Registration Day and anchored by a number of large media and tech companies, this organization will also be providing toolkits and training opportunities for impactful work, including recruitment of election workers. Will be assisting voters with both mail and in-person early-voting options. Was in the works pre-COVID-19, but is likely more critical in a pandemic.
  • When We All Vote: The best-resourced, truly nonpartisan voter engagement organization.


2. Help ensure that eligible voters get to vote in key states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin. Whether non-partisan or partisan there are many ways to help. There are many ways to do this.


3. Sign up to be a poll worker. Serving as a poll worker offers a dramatically under-appreciated opportunity to have an impact. Problems are made markedly worse or are mitigated to a substantial degree based on the quality of the poll worker. Chronic shortages of election workers nationwide cause long lines at the polls, especially at polling places that serve communities of color.

You can sign up to be a poll worker using this form and be connected to your local elections office.

Our collective involvement leading up to the November elections can really make a difference. Please forward this to as many teachers and Buddhist communities as you can throughout the United States. And thanks for joining us!

With lovingkindness, compassion and blessings,
Yours in the Dharma,
​100+  Buddhist Teachers

Categories
Engaged Practice

The Paradox of Globalization: An Engaged Buddhist Analysis

From an engaged Buddhist perspective, globalization involves a seeming paradox. The growth of global telecommunications systems and cheap long distance travel means that we have more opportunities than ever to learn about people distant from us. Geographers such as David Harvey speaks of globalization involving “space-time compression”—that, in practical terms, the world is becoming a smaller place as we communicate and travel more and more quickly over longer and longer physical distances. This potential to learn more about others means we should be able to deepen our understanding of them and therefore strengthen our compassion for other members of our global society. There is plenty of evidence of this at work—there are a lot of people involved in global humanitarian work and social justice activism, motivated by compassion for those physically distant from them, people they will often likely never meet.

But this does not seem to be the dominant social trend. Instead, the current manner in which society is globally integrating seems to be promoting social dynamics characterized by a lack of compassion, such as the exploitation of workers in sweatshops and xenophobia towards migrants. Even many people who don’t actively support such injustices react with indifference, pleading compassion fatigue.

Categories
Order of Interbeing

Behavior & Mental Health Difficulties

The Care Taking Council (CTC) of the North American Dharma Teachers Sangha adopted a statement on behavioral and mental health difficulties in sanghas. It was initially posted here in August 2016 but wasn’t easily discoverable. Therefore, we are reposting that document in hopes that it will better serve the community.

Mindful Approaches to Behavior & Mental Health Difficulties In Plum Village Sangha Practice (PDF) from the Mental Health and Well-Being Practices Committee.

Categories
mentoring

Teacher Student Relationships

This article came across my email recently and I think it deserves a deeper dive. Although in our tradition we don’t have student-teacher relationships like what you might see in other traditions. Nonetheless, we definitely do mentoring and a dharma teacher is always involved for new aspirants. Even as we progress on the path, we may have a spiritual friend that we turn toward for guidance and support.

Andy Goldsworthy image
Andy Goldsworthy

I have been under a guidance of a Zen teacher for over 10 years. However, when I began to experience challenges in the process of meditation, I was misguided or misunderstood. In the end I felt more confused and discouraged. Please respond to this letter if you can, because your advice could help to shed a light on some aspects I cannot see. 

The question is posed by a student to Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel who has studied and practiced the Buddhadharma for 35 years under the guidance of her teacher and husband Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Read the article.

Dharma Teacher Lyn Fine poses a few follow up questions to consider. What resonates with your experience and thinking? What’s missing that you might want to add? What’s relevant/less relevant to the Plum Village form of practice? 

Feel free to respond below in the comments or respond to the OI email list (where this is also posted). And perhaps this could lead to a webinar or a sharing group on these topics.

Categories
Engaged Practice

Engaged Buddhism and Businesspeople

A History

Back in early 2013, a random encounter brought two strangers together that led to the Technology Leaders’ Circle Event with Thich Nhat Hanh and a small group of Silicon Valley CEOs on October 25, 2013. That event took place at the home of Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. 

Circle of CEOs at Dreamforce
Small group sharing with business CEOs.

Then in the fall of 2015, the Plum Village monastics participated in the annual Salesforce user conference known as Dreamforce. That year we were placed in the main (outdoor) thoroughfare of the conference where we offered individual consultations and a series of workshops on mindfulness and meditation. The intention was to bring the ethical dimension of mindfulness to the corporate world. The Plum Village community has participated annually since then and just completed our fifth conference on November 22, 2019. 

Our Purpose

The Plum Village monastics recently wrote about our participation in this conference. “It is our aspiration to help people touch insight and transform their suffering right where they are, ideally transforming their workplaces and companies as they do so. Suffering and wrong views are abundant in Silicon Valley, and we are committed to continuing to offer the True Dharma there. To seed collective awakening, we need to be everywhere in the world. We see how important it is to bring our spiritual voice to tech companies, which have a disproportionate influence on the direction of our civilization and the planet. When we share the Dharma, we share the complete teaching, with a clear ethical dimension. We have been actively challenging the companies where we offer the Dharma, and encourage them to re-examine their business ethics. We are confident that the authentic practice is transforming people in profound ways. We’re practicing as a community and we trust in the collective fourfold Sangha Eye and the Mindfulness Trainings as a compass to guide us as we tread this fine line, being vigilant and open-minded (not  careless nor dogmatic) about where and when to offer the Dharma.”

Teaching the dharma.
Teaching the Dharma in the Dreamforce meditation hall.

Dreamforce 2019

Through the years, we have offered feedback to Mr. Benioff and his team about how best to offer the dharma during this large (170k people) conference. As a result, in 2019 we were offered a larger and more dedicated space. We were situated near the exhibit hall and Salesforce bookstore where the vast majority of conference goers pass. The space included two dedicated meditation halls and three huts (smaller spaces) for small-group consultations and meditations. The images surrounding us were mindfully created and living plants were present all around. It felt very much like Plum Village, down to the mats and cushions, the bell, and monastics in brown. Throughout the convention center there were signs and directions to “Plum Village” and we were mentioned numerous times by both keynotes and fireside conversations (including a conversation between President Obama and Marc Benioff). Plum Village was in high demand and our dharma sessions were mostly full. 

The deepest part of the offerings was likely the individual and small-group consultations. During these periods, conference attendees were offered a short guided meditation followed by an introduction to our practice. In the program, these were called 20-minute Power-up. Then we could listen to the suffering and joys of those attending. Our team of 25 monastics (from Deer Park, Magnolia, Blue Cliff, and Plum Village) and one lay dharma teacher (that’s me!) were kept busy meeting with people and offering panels on the various aspects of our practice. 

Sr. Peace introduces walking meditation.
Sr. Peace introduces walking meditation.

In addition to the Power-Up sessions, we offered Guided Tea Meditation, Embodied Mindfulness, Mindfulness & Communication, A Mindful Look at Leadership, Total Relaxation, Eating Meditation, Walking Meditation, Innovative Decision Making Through Mindful Collective Insight, Compassionate Communication, Zen Deep Dive: 90-minute Immersive Mindfulness, Radical Mindfulness for Challenging Times, a film screening of “A Cloud Never Dies” and “Happy Teachers Change the World,” and a final dharma talk with Sister Lang Nghiem and Thay Phap Luu. Many of these sessions were offered several times throughout the four-day conference. Additional sessions were offered at the Executive Summit (a conference within a conference). All of these sessions were offered in a non-sectarian manner and each felt like any dharma talk you would hear at one of our monasteries. 

It was a lot! And this was just the four days in San Francisco, not counting the months of planning and preparation to pull this event off. The True Dharma was shared with thousands of people, mostly customers of Salesforce from around the world – from large corporations to small nonprofits and educators. One of the beautiful aspects of this experience is that we did touch a handful of people more deeply. In particular, the Salesforce employees who were with us almost 24/7, the production team, the audio technicians who sat through every session, and the ambassadors who welcomed people to each session. I heard from several who were very moved by the experience and how they felt blessed to be a part of our team for the week. 

Plum Village sign at Dreamforce.

Transformation and Healing

Even though we were only able to touch a very small number of people, there was likely thousands more that may have only heard of our community in passing. It could be that attendees will followup on their own by looking for a local sangha or may have the capacity to attend a full retreat. Regardless of the number, many were touched and perhaps have begun on the path of transformation. 

Cedar Grove Relaxation Room.

A few take-away quotes from those of us offering the dharma:

“We’re moving within the wave of Thay’s virtue. Marc is also Thay’s continuation.”

Br. Phap Luu

“As a monastic, I was able to offer more, because the conditions were more supportive.”

Sr. Le Nghiem

“It’s very satisfying to feel that the energy we put in was not wasted… people were helped, touched transformation.”

Br. Phap Linh

“We offer our Dharma with all our love, and we continue Thay’s wish to offer the practice to Businesspeople.”

Sr. Hoa Nghiem

“Thank you for inviting me. I super enjoyed the event. I really liked the Power Ups because we can be very close to the people. I led the total relaxation. It was wonderful.”

Thay Kai Li
Floating Cloud Meditation Hall.
Categories
General

All Retreats Calendar

As a member of the Order of Interbeing, we are asked to participate in 60-days of mindfulness each year. Even though this is only about one day per week, it remains a tall order for many. One method to fulfill this requirement is to join a retreat. In the Plum Village tradition, there are dozens of retreats to select from each year throughout the world. To assist with this, a calendar has been created listing all the retreats around the world offered by the monastics in the Plum Village tradition.

You also have the option to add this calendar directly to your own system by using this iCal link. If you notice something missing from the calendar, please complete this form to let Kenley know.

Categories
Engaged Practice

Engaged Parenting as Spiritual Practice

by Leslie J. Davis
This essay was originally published on Lion’s Roar at https://www.lionsroar.com/engaged-parenting-as-spiritual-practice/

When I first learned about Buddhist practice, I immediately saw its parallels with parenting. The two practices share the same basic tenets for living an ethical life. We are asked to transform suffering. We practice non-violence, loving speech, and deep listening. We vow to do no harm, protect our children from sexual misconduct, and practice mindful consumption. As a Buddhist practitioner, I was attempting to live by this code of ethics, but I wanted to go deeper. My role as a mother seemed the perfect place to begin.

At the time, my two teenagers were just a toddler and an infant. I sat in meditation when I could, but it wasn’t often. After my first retreat at Deer Park Monastery, I was inspired to make mindful parenting my daily practice. I tried to remember to breathe as I changed diapers, picked up Legos, and stirred the oatmeal. I mindfully cleared tables of paints and Play-Doh, trying not to complain about the mess. I aimed to view my tidying up as providing a clean canvas for my son’s next creation. It was difficult at first. Following my breath helped me reframe my complaints into gratitude. I could smile at the gift and privilege of having a healthy, creative, and messy toddler.

But it was exhausting to be mindful all the time. I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I experimented in short blocks of time. I would set a timer and bring as much presence to the present moment as I could for just 15 minutes. And then I would stop. That was all I could handle. I gave myself a lot of leeway and permission not to practice mindfulness perfectly. It’s a practice after all, and I had to keep practicing, embracing my imperfections as I stumbled along.

I started learning about what my Buddhist teacher, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, called Engaged Buddhism. Referencing the Vietnam war and his tradition of socially engaged Buddhism, Nhat Hanh said, “Engaged Buddhism is just Buddhism. When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time.”

I’ve found the same to be true with parenting — you cannot stay in a meditation hall and be a parent. You have to be in the trenches with the present moment.

For years, I thought I wasn’t practicing “Engaged Buddhism” because I wasn’t as politically, socially or environmentally active as I wanted to be. Being a mother of two children, one with special needs, took most of my energy. I had a nagging and harsh judgment of myself that I wasn’t doing enough. But, eventually, I realized that day in and day out my children demanded that I show up for them and be in the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Engaged Buddhism is the kind of Buddhism that is present in every moment of our daily life. While you brush your teeth, Buddhism should be there. While you drive your car, Buddhism should be there. While you are walking in the supermarket, Buddhism should be there.”

Buddhism was there as I helped my kids brush their teeth. As I drove the carpool, grocery shopped, tied shoes, and wiped noses. As a mother, every moment is an opportunity to practice. Parenting was my spiritual practice, and parenting was indeed a form of Engaged Buddhism.

Thich Nhat Hanh also says that to be an Engaged Buddhist is to be connected to your breath and being present in every moment of daily life. For parents, the word “every” is a tall order. I don’t try to be present in every moment. I try to simply be as present as possible for as many moments as possible. Practicing this way, I am more connected to myself and my children. I experience more joy. When I forget to bring mindful attention to individual actions, entire days slip by in a blur. When that happens, I find myself harboring regret and guilt. When Buddhism is there, I suffer less.

Meditation has deepened my ability to accept what is actually occurring with my family instead of focusing on what I would prefer to occur. When children are young the quality of the moment can change in flavor and intensity quite rapidly. When anger flared and food was thrown, yelling inevitably happened. I used my breath to anchor myself and tried to calm everyone down. It didn’t always work, that’s for sure, but with practice, the kids were soon reminding everyone to take a deep breath.

“Buddhism has to do with your daily life, with your suffering and with the suffering of the people around you. You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time,” says Thich Nhat Hanh.

Children and teens suffer, and their suffering is very real. They need our action and support as they navigate their own difficult experiences. As a mom, I have the opportunity to see my actions as meditations every day. If I stay connected to my breathing and respond mindfully to homework stress, and struggles with a disability, then my actions are a beautiful meditation.

“As a mindfulness practitioner, we have to be aware of what is going on in our body, our feelings, our emotions, and our environment. That is Engaged Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is the kind of Buddhism that responds to what is happening in the here and the now,” says Thich Nhat Hanh.

This awareness of the body is so important for parents. Are we sleep deprived? Are we in physical pain? Are we sad or lonely? What is happening right now in our environment whether we’re at work or in the grocery store? Tuning in to these conditions allows us to respond more mindfully to our ourselves and our children.

When I sit and meditate on my cushion, I can bring the quality of my meditation into my daily life. The very essence of the sitting experience — awareness, presence, calmness — carries over into my mothering. It is at the root of how I treat myself, my spouse and our children. When I practice Engaged Parenting, I experience it as a deep spiritual practice that brings me joy and transforms my suffering.

As parents, we may not think we are doing enough, but mindful parenting is enough. “The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment,” says Thich Nhat Hanh. As we care for our children in the present moment, we care for the future. That is Engaged Buddhism.

About Leslie J. Davis
Leslie J. Davis (True Auspicious Dwelling) is a writer who practices meditation and mindfulness in the Plum Village Tradition of Thích Nhất Hạnh. She lives in Ojai, California, with her husband and two teenagers. Leslie is the founder of DharmaMamas.com — a community for mindful mothers. lesliejdavis.com

Categories
Engaged Practice

A Preferential Option for the Poor and Oppressed in Buddhism?

In the Plum Village tradition, we all embrace the idea of engaged Buddhism as central to our practice. However, we have very diverse ideas about what constitutes skillful means in practicing engaged Buddhism. I have met people who think that simply by practicing loving-kindness meditation for all beings they are helping to make the world a better place. Others are involved in the helping professions, charitable work, efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation, or social justice protest and other forms of activism. These various things are, of course, not mutually exclusive, but it is also certainly the case that we do not all see eye to eye on what we ought to be doing. And yet we relatively rarely seem to have conversations about which of these activities are really skillful means. I’m contributing this column as my part of my thoughts on this matter. I don’t imagine everyone will agree with it—and I think it is important that the sangha remain a place of refuge, where people with very different ideas about the most skillful means are all feel included.

In Roman Catholic liberation theology, there is a concept known as the “preferential option for the poor.” The core of this idea is that, in the social conflicts in our society, it is the duty of a virtuous Christian to support the movements of the poor in the struggle to create a society based on social and economic justice. So, a good Christian would support people fighting for democracy against a repressive military regime; slum dwellers fighting for basic services such as running water, electricity, trash pickup, and schools in their neighborhoods; or workers struggling to unionize—even in the face of active opposition from those in power, whether military leaders, business-owners, or the wealthy who don’t want to see resources go those in most desperate need of them. (I should also add that I am by no means an expert on liberation theology or Roman Catholicism more broadly—I’ve principally read up on this one aspect of liberation theology.)

Categories
Documentation Ordination

North American Ordination (2019 Only)

Dear Dharma Teachers, Dear Order Members, Dear Aspirants,

In 2019 there will be one opportunity for aspirants from North America to be ordained into the Order of Interbeing at Magnolia Grove Monastery. In order to facilitate the process, the Care-Taking Council of the Dharma Teachers Sangha of North America (including both monastics and lay Dharma Teachers) have clarified the requirements, criteria, and procedures for North American students of Thich Nhat Hanh.

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings offer clear guidance for living simply, compassionately, and joyfully in our modern world. They are a concrete embodiment of the teachings of the Buddha and the Bodhisattva ideal. Anyone who wishes can live their life in accord with these fourteen trainings.

To formally join the Order of Interbeing means to publicly commit oneself to studying, practicing, and observing the trainings and, also, to participating actively in a community which practices mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Monastics, Order of Interbeing Members, and Aspirants

The minimum requirements for joining the Order of Interbeing, as established by the Charter of the Order, are that the aspirant:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Has received the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Three Jewels
  • Practices with a local Sangha in this tradition
  • Is committed to observing at least sixty days of mindfulness a year
  • Has been mentored by members of the Order of Interbeing for at least a year, and
  • Is ready to begin the work of an Order Member: Sangha building and support, explaining the Dharma from personal experience, and nourishing the bodhicitta (the mind of love) in others while maintaining a regular meditation practice in harmony and peace with one’s family.

The process of becoming an aspirant and receiving support and training varies depending on the region and on local circumstances. In a region in which the Order of Interbeing has been established for many years, there may be clearly defined procedures; Dharma Teachers and Order Members available to train and support aspirants; and a community of Order Members that meets regularly for recitation ceremonies, study, and days of mindfulness. In other regions an aspirant may have to travel a considerable distance to practice with an Order Member or Dharma Teacher and the training of aspirants may be much more informal. Nonetheless, the Care-Taking Council and the Dharma Teacher Sangha of North America has developed and adopted an OI aspirant process that is now required in the process of receiving the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in North America.

The decision that an aspirant is ready for ordination is a joint decision involving the aspirant, the aspirant’s local sangha, the OI mentors, and one or more lay Dharma Teachers who either have been directly mentoring the aspirant or who have been working with the OI mentors.

It is not possible to specify the exact criteria that determines whether an aspirant is “ripe enough” for ordination – for ultimately it depends on heart-to-heart insight and recognition of a mature Bodhisattva spirit – however, some general guidelines can be stated. To be eligible for ordination into the Order of Interbeing, there is the expectation that the aspirant:

  • is a stable practitioner who has learned to transform suffering and embodies the practice of mindfulness in his or her own life,
  • practices with a spirit of generosity, attentive to the needs of others,
  • is committed to continue deepening his or her practice of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings,
  • is able to teach the basic practices to others,
  • participates (and will continue to participate) regularly and harmoniously in their local practice community and in the Order of Interbeing community, and,
  • has the intention and capacity to be an active Sangha builder.

In order to be ordained at a retreat in 2019 it is requested that the aspirant and his mentors put together a packet containing the following:

  1. Completed Application to Become an Aspirant to the Order of Interbeing Core Community (this is the application you completed at the beginning of your aspirant training)
  2. Completed Order of Interbeing Application for North American Applicants (this is a password protected resource and you may obtain the application from your Dharma Teacher mentor, if the Dharma Teacher needs assistance, please contact Kenley)
  3. letters of support from OI mentors and
  4. letters of support from Dharma Teacher(s)
  5. letters of support from local Sangha members and family members (when available)
  6. original letter of aspiration to join the OI (if there is one)
  7. a letter to Thay articulating the aspirants desire to be ordained into the Order of Interbeing. This letter should include a brief spiritual history and a clear commitment that the aspirant will be a Sangha builder in a community which practices in the Plum Village tradition.
  8. a copy of the 5 Mindfulness Training certificate, or at least the date, place, teacher of that transmission and the name you received.

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If the aspirant wishes to ordain at Magnolia Grove Monastery (Retreat is August 7 -11), please send a copy of the packet by June 28, 2019 to Sister Tri Nghiem, Magnolia Grove Monastery, 123 Towles Rd., Batesville, MS 38606. 

You may also submit the materials via email at the address below.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding ordination at Magnolia Grove Monastery please contact Sr. Tri Nghiem: office@magnoliagrovemonastery.org.

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The aspirant should also bring a copy of the full packet to the retreat where they wish to be ordained. We thank you for your nourishing mindfulness, understanding, and compassion in North America.

Sincerely,

The Care-Taking Council of the Dharma Teachers Sangha of North America and The Monastic Organizing Team

April 23, 2019