I had a strong experience in Ameland this year, at the gathering of the larger Kanzeon sangha. It prompted me to reflect on the nature of and prerequisites for healthy sangha. Because Diane and I will be opening a practice place in Salt Lake soon, it is an issue that has been on my mind over the past months. I suspect I will be posting on this subject in the future as my thoughts clarify.
First, to have a strong, ethical, and honest sangha, it seems essential that all participants, from the oldest teacher to the newest student, explicitly join in a shared set of values that express why we are practicing together and what it means to be a member of the sangha. Those values, which represent the culture of the sangha, need to be expressed clearly and regularly. They are the interior of the container that holds each of our practices as well as our shared practice.
Second, that culture can be sustained only if the exterior of the container which embodies it--the structures which distribute power--manifest those values. For this congruence to be maintained, both the values and the structures need to be regularly examined to assure their continuing capacity to promote, and not hinder, our separate and shared awakening.
Third, each member of the sangha has a responsibility to be aware of the inside and the outside of the container, of the culture and the structures, to continuously monitor their relationship to it as individuals, and to note when and where dissonance arises. That place can be a rich edge for our practice. And awareness of that edge can also tell us when the dissonance is intolerable and we no longer can comfortably be a "member" of that sangha. Members who reach that point should be free to leave the sangha without pain or penalty.
It is my intention to strive to assure that these tenants are reflected in The Boulder Mountain Zendo's sangha.
With palms together,