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Friday, September 07, 2007

Taking Refuge Gets Confusing, Part 2

I had a great talk with a friend about the Chattering Dharma Sangha, the group that was fond of interrupting each other during dharma discussion. This friend was on the TNH retreat with me, and she has lived in this area longer than I. She had the privilege of visiting Chattering Dharma when it was not so Chattering, back when its founder lived locally and ran the group. It was a strong and lovely group then. But shortly after the founder moved far away and the leadership changed, my friend felt that Chattering was no longer the group for her. She couldn't remember exactly why. She listened to my account of the group dynamics. When I said, "But maybe I'll go again Monday and see," she made some baseball metaphor I didn't quite get (something about 3 strikes and 4 balls), which I took to mean or you could just let it go. I thought she had a good point.

We talked about other sangha options in the area. There's the Tibetan one (led by the wonderful monk from afar while he works to renew his R1 permit and reenter the US), the Korean Zen one she just heard about, and the possibility of starting our own.

Neither of us felt qualified to start a sangha. We aren't Dharma teachers in any formal way. "Speaking of Zen without truly understanding it is no better than being a parrot," says an old expression. But we wanted to share in certain of the rituals of Thay's lineage, like Touching the Earth and reciting the 5 Mindfulness Trainings.

We decided there was a middle way. We would each choose a sangha we liked for regular practice and Dharma lessons. But monthly, she and I would get together and invite others to join us, to meditate and practice some of the rituals. I think this will work beautifully.

Last night I visited the Tibetan group. It was marvelous. Of course, it's different in subtle ways from Thay's teachings and practices, and that will take some getting used to; but I loved it. People were warm and open and interested in my "Zen take" on matters. Tibetan Buddhism is very medieval in some ways, but that's OK. I'll just reinterpret the medieval elements quietly to myself. Buddhism is not like Catholicism; I will not be forced to recite things I don't believe every week. In Buddhism, there's an acknowledgment that regardless of our own views, ultimate reality is what ultimate reality is. In any case, both Zen and Tibetan are Mahayana schools, so I'm not stuck in some harsh Theravada climate. (I'd link Mahayana and Theravada, but it seems the Theravadic Buddhists wrote all the articles online.)

It turns out many people in this sangha have also studied Zen. One practices Zen archery and invited me to watch! This month, there will be a Zen incense ritual after the Zen archery! I'm so excited! I'd never even heard of Zen archery before!

(One of my Big Life Goals is to learn Zen tea ceremony.)

On Monday, my friend and I will go visit the Korean Zen group. Maybe it will be even better than the Tibetan group, but I really really like the Tibetan group. We'll see!


Blogger Narya said...

My college had a PE class on zen archery . . .

8:02 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

No WAY! Cool.

9:18 PM  

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