Blue Heron Zen Community hosted the 2009 NWDA Teachers Meeting. In foreground is Nomon Tim Burnett of Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham. At center, Genjo Marinello of Seattle's Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji.
Dharma leaders from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Idaho gathered at Blue Heron Zen Community in north Seattle on October 3rd for the Northwest Dharma Association’s 2009 annual Teachers Meeting.
As has been the case for several years now, the majority of participants represented various Zen lineages. Teachers from Pure Land, Tibetan, Insight Meditation, and mixed traditions also attended.
The morning’s open discussion touched on several concerns. One of these was how to understand and meet the needs of practitioners with varying levels of commitment. While some of those present lamented the paucity of “serious students” committed to practicing in depth with a single teacher, the general response was enthusiasm for the challenge of inspiring newcomers and occasional practitioners to become sustaining members of a sangha.
Morning discussion group. Left to right: Koro Kaisan Miles (Open Gate Zendo), Daitetsu Hull (Great Vow), Phyllis Moses (Dharmadhatu), Frances Goldman (Buddha Jewel Monastery), Rein Konpo Kaales (White Cloud Zen Center), Eshin Godfrey (Zen Centre Vancouver), and Greg Eisen (Blue Heron).
Integrating families with children into sanghas was seen as an important step in achieving this goal. To do so, it was recognized, entails an assessment—or reassessment—of values and practices associated with monastic vs. lay Buddhism. Such is the case also with “alternative applications of mindfulness” directed toward teaching Dharma “as a way of life”.
Participants agreed that the experience of community is a strong motivator in attracting people to sanghas. In the last few years several practice centers, including Blue Heron, have added the word “community” to their titles. Some centers, though staffed by monastics, have a strong community element—offering classes and festivals celebrating art and science.
Underlying the entire discussion, the basic question was as always: how to adapt while remaining true to one’s Buddhist training and tradition?
During a delicious lunch prepared and served by Northwest Dharma Association board member Dharmacharya Avichala, teacher meeting participants enjoyed the opportunity to get better acquainted, share experience and plan for future contact.
The afternoon session dealt with some specific planning items. It was decided to hold next years meeting in Seattle once again, at a venue to be determined. The 2010 Teachers Meeting (always the first Saturday in October) will take place October 2. Teachers, please mark your calendars!
Phyllis Moses, Joel Levey, and Greg Eisen chat over lunch while NWDA board member Bill Hirsch contemplates food in the background.
A proposal to produce a general book of Buddhist liturgy for various occasions (weddings, funerals, etc.) was rejected for several reasons, among them the concern that some ceremonies might be attempted by those without specific training in the rituals necessary to accompany them. Some teachers were interested in participating in a Buddhist Speakers Bureau though it remains to be determined how that will be organized.
The meeting concluded without forming a committee to plan for next year’s meeting. Teachers interested in getting involved in planning the agenda for 2010 are strongly encouraged to volunteer! You can do so via the online Teachers Forum at the NWDA website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northwest Dharma Association and all those who attended the 2009 Teachers Meeting wish to thank Blue Heron Zen Community in general, as well as Greg Eisen in particular, for their generosity and support. Thanks also to Avichala for catering the event.
Contributor: Julie Welch.
Photos: Dh. Avichala.