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Buddhist community

edited August 2010 in Sanghas
I have a few questions in regards to practicing with the Buddhist community.

Just so you know where I am coming from, I was raised Christian, but seem to have issues with the idea of organized religion and I do not identify myself as a Christian. At the same time, I have become rather interested in Buddhism and am even contemplating finding a Buddhist center nearby (I know, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me either).

I'm not sure how much this influences what the answers to the following questions will be, but I would probably find a Zen center considering that it is what exists nearby. There aren't many places nearby that support the other schools.

So here are my questions:

1. What is a typical experience of attending like? What is expected from the moment you walk in until you leave? What is proper attire (I can guess what it's not, but I'm not sure what exactly is acceptable)? Is it essential to go each week (is it rude to not go)?

2. Why do you choose to be part of the greater Buddhist community instead of practicing on your own? I understand that this question can have many different answers for different people, but I am curious.

3. When looking for a community, what things are important to look for?

4. What effect has practicing Buddhism, alone and within the community, had on your life? I understand this question is personal, and I would understand if you choose to ignore this question.

Thank you very much for your time!

Comments

  • edited June 2010
    Starbreeze wrote: »
    So here are my questions:

    1. What is a typical experience of attending like? What is expected from the moment you walk in until you leave? What is proper attire (I can guess what it's not, but I'm not sure what exactly is acceptable)? Is it essential to go each week (is it rude to not go)?

    2. Why do you choose to be part of the greater Buddhist community instead of practicing on your own? I understand that this question can have many different answers for different people, but I am curious.

    3. When looking for a community, what things are important to look for?

    4. What effect has practicing Buddhism, alone and within the community, had on your life? I understand this question is personal, and I would understand if you choose to ignore this question.

    Thank you very much for your time!
    Well, these answers are going to vary greatly from one sangha to the next......but here are mine.

    1. We have services on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Proper attire for visitors is anything you would be comfortable wearing in public. Many of our members don't show up each week (although we wish they would).

    2. Sangha is one of the three Jewels for many reasons. Practicing alone has two drawbacks for me; one is that I don't always notice when I am getting off track, and secondly there are insights and awakenings which I would never have had without the interaction with the members of the sangha.

    3. What's important in a community is going to be very individual; we found this out when we built ours. The original group that we started with ended up falling out over the goals of the sangha and the way it should operate. Some of us wanted to start a temple, and others wanted a small informal group. We ended up going our separate ways; there are both a temple and a sangha operating out of a UU church today.

    4. The simplest answer is that practice has become an integral part of my life; I have been practicing for over half my life now, so the changes are integrated into my life enough that separating them out isn't really accurate any more.

    I hope this helps.........
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Hello Starbreeze !!

    Thankyou for your very lovely questions and comments, they are a delight to read.

    Let me also try to give some answers, and also - like Engyo an old bud, I hope they help.
    Starbreeze wrote: »
    and am even contemplating finding a Buddhist center nearby (I know, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me either).

    Marvellous.

    Starbreeze wrote: »
    So here are my questions:

    1. What is a typical experience of attending like? What is expected from the moment you walk in until you leave? What is proper attire (I can guess what it's not, but I'm not sure what exactly is acceptable)? Is it essential to go each week (is it rude to not go)?

    lol You really have to go to see, I have been to Tibetan centres, Theravadan monasteries, Zen centres and also Zen monastic monasteries. :)
    Before you go, one can ring and ask what attire is appropriate.
    For example, in Australia I attended a Diamond Sangha centre once wearing polka dotted attire. Standard attire is long sleeved black, but I quickly learnt and people understand what it is like for first timers, beginners exploring. Of course Starbreeze, everyone started where you are , as a newcomer, as someone still inexperienced in the world and etiquette of Zen yet being drawn somehow...sometimes oft times inexplicably.

    If you attend for a sitting, then it is common to attend a beginners session first (again ringing to ask is best) where they will introduce some oft seemingly very foreign etiquette - what we call forms (the physical or outer shell of things)

    Then if it is a sitting, it would be common to go along with what is being done. Most commonly, in Zen centres, chanting, bowing and sitting i.e. zazen, one of the fundamental tenants of Zen student training.

    As to being rude or not to go, it is really not like Church in Zen centers. I believe, we believe, in freedom. For those of us drawn to Zen practice it is extreme discipline within extreme freedom, this principle is sometimes hard to yield but wonderful to manifest. It takes time.

    Starbreeze wrote: »
    2. Why do you choose to be part of the greater Buddhist community instead of practicing on your own? I understand that this question can have many different answers for different people, but I am curious.

    Yes I believe there can be many different reasons. A strong practice is fundamental and what helps you achieve that is helpful. If one can come across a genuinely realised teacher that is also very helpful, but that is not always so easy.

    As for this one, I am about to stay again in a monastery, for that reason there is a Zen master and very real training which cannot be easily explained, let alone over the internet.
    Starbreeze wrote: »
    3. When looking for a community, what things are important to look for?

    Trust
    Practice
    Responsibility

    Your mileage may vary. But remember there is no perfect community or perfection in the community, the practice is always your own and when it flowers you will see the very real beauty and potentiality in all of life amidst all its very real tumbles and turns, including love and hate.
    Starbreeze wrote: »
    4. What effect has practicing Buddhism, alone and within the community, had on your life? I understand this question is personal, and I would understand if you choose to ignore this question.

    Preferring to practice more alone it has taken longer for me to acquiesce with a committed community/teacher But having found a genuine living Zen master, it has helped me just to practice with him, in ways that can not easily be understood.

    I am however part of communities and have witnessed many people in Sanghas, the benefits I believe are mutual support, understanding (it is not necessarily easy for people whom do not practice our practice to understand what it is about. Looking in the form can seem odd but remember it is not the form that is the genuine jewel, the true cultivation is within your own heart mind and the knowing, the understanding will flower from within your own heart and not from someone else telling you how or what it is) and also of course very importantly the discipline and motivation of sitting.

    For example in sesshins, which I have always and would attend, one cannot get up when one wants to, one is held within a very strong container and that pressure is a blessing of sorts, in my own opinion only. It is much easier for me to watch TV at home :) but a Sangha and a group sitting can help you help it with the discipline of meditation, which is very very valuable in our lives of cultivation.
    Starbreeze wrote: »
    Thank you very much for your time!

    And thankyou so much for yours, dear Starbreeze, dear friend.

    In Gassho,

    Abu
  • edited June 2010
    Thank you both for your answers! I really appreciate reading about the experience of others.

    I have actually just sent an email to the center because, knowing me, I would find an excuse to not go due to nerves. Now they are expecting me and it would be rude to not attend this week (that is assuming they check their email).

    It seems that being part of a community keeps your practice in check (something I certainly need) and that, at the very least, attending (if only once or twice) might be a good experience in regards to furthering my understanding of Buddhist practice. Hopefully it will be a good experience I will start attending regularly.

    Once again, thank you very much for your time and thoughtful responses.
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Starbreeze wrote: »
    Thank you both for your answers! I really appreciate reading about the experience of others.

    I have actually just sent an email to the center because, knowing me, I would find an excuse to not go due to nerves. Now they are expecting me and it would be rude to not attend this week (that is assuming they check their email).

    It seems that being part of a community keeps your practice in check (something I certainly need) and that, at the very least, attending (if only once or twice) might be a good experience in regards to furthering my understanding of Buddhist practice. Hopefully it will be a good experience I will start attending regularly.

    Once again, thank you very much for your time and thoughtful responses.

    You are so very much welcome, friend.

    Don't worry, see how it goes and never stop exploring.

    Love and metta.

    Abu
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited July 2010
    I am sure every centre has it's own way of doing things.
    To understand one centre that follows Tibetan Buddhism, and how things are done there, go to:

    www.gadensamtenling.org

    click on the logo
    select "Dharma Practice"
    select "What to expect at the centre"
    also look at "Dharma etiquette"
  • edited August 2010
    Does anyone have a website that may assist me in finding a temple close by? or a Buddhist Teacher?
  • mugzymugzy Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Does anyone have a website that may assist me in finding a temple close by? or a Buddhist Teacher?

    I don't live in the area, but a quick google search turned up this: Arizona Dharmaweb

    Hope that helps!
  • edited August 2010
    .

    There's a search facility at the big Buddhanet site for Buddhist centres all round the world.




    .
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