Refuge in Sangha
It is very difficult to sustain practice on one’s own. We need one another to fully awaken to the truth of this life. Our strategies to avoid real practice are endlessly subtle. How many very convincing reasons not to sit can the mind create?
In Buddhism, practitioners are invited to take refuge in the three jewels — Buddha, awakened mind; Dharma, the truth; and finally, Sangha, the community of practitioners. Because Sangha is listed last, it may appear to be lesser, but in truth, it is equal to Buddha and Dharma — as the field in which awakened mind and truth come to life. Taking refuge means to rely upon or rest in this community which is held together by a common commitment to the investigation of life lived with wisdom and compassion.
Everyone with a sincere interest in practicing Zen is welcome to practice with us. We encourage sincerity and honesty, just being who you are, recognizing that we are all making a good faith effort to be guided by Buddhist principles and to learn together. To be human is to recognize and bring kindness to our flaws, to acknowledge and embrace the ways we fail to live up to our own expectations and those of others. The Zen hall is not a place for saints, but for human beings. There is a common phrase in Zen — Like a lotus in muddy water, the mind is pure and goes beyond. The muddy water is our life. This being human is messy, and yet, when we turn our minds to what is essential, a flower blossoms right in the amidst of the murky depths.
The purpose of the sangha is to support and encourage one another to practice right where we are and to bear witness to each others joys and losses. It is also to see one another clearly, challenging when challenging is the right response, and comforting, when comforting is the right response. If this is of value to you, please consider the greatest gift you can give to the sangha, and that is your sincere practice.