The Intimacy of Sangha

After my nourishing week in the mountains, and a turn-around in the city just long enough to do my laundry and catch up on emails, I headed up to Oregon last Wednesday to attend the Gen X Buddhist Teachers Conference at Great Vow monastery. This is my third time attending the conference, after 2013 and 2015 (I missed 2017 for various reasons that were extremely frustrating at the time – thus there is no record of these in either of the blogs I have written); I knew at least half the people in attendance, and even if we have only spent a few days together over the years, the sense of sangha connection was very strong for me.

The basic premise of the group is peer support across lineages, and this was amply offered throughout, from the large group meetings, to breakout conversations, and of course just in the joy of hanging out with people who have spent years practising the dharma. There was a small contingent of people who had trained at Zen Center, David Z, Charlie P, Mako and myself, and it was great to have time to sit with them, especially David in his new role, to talk about things. I also got to meet some lovely new people from various traditions and countries of origin, as well as talking to some of the young monks in residence at the monastery about their practice.

That aspect of the visit was also very sweet for me, having spent a little over a month at Great Vow in 2006, on my way back to Tassajara after a little sabbatical. I kept getting flashes of memories, and enjoyed seeing how much had been done over the years (I will post some recollections of that time tomorrow), as well as the energy that the residents brought to supporting the conference.

The main theme of the discussions was ethics: a number of attendees have been directly impacted by scandals involving teachers in their organisations breaching ethical guidelines. Since we had very clear confidentiality guidelines, I won’t go into details, but the energy around this was strong, and the mutual support around such painful topics felt very valuable, and also nourishing. For the same reason, I won’t post pictures here of the participants, but I also had a good time taking photos of the venue, so here are some of those:

DSCF7942.jpgThe heatwave in San Francisco followed me up to Oregon, and the first day was very hot.

DSCF7997.jpgIn many places the foliage was denser than on my previous visit.

DSCF8026.jpgThe jizo forest was a beautiful place to spend time in, when I needed a break from interactions for a while.

DSCF7957.jpgThe entrance to the jizo forest, with later evening sun from being further north.


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