Starting a DIY Sangha


8 comments posted
Touch the earth

I just came across this site while searching for Jack Kornfield Dhamma talks. What a fantastic resource!


Posted by Brent (not verified) on May 20, 2011 - 10:25am
I love this website! I also

I love this website! I also love all of the comments on this thread. What a wonderful and helpful group of practitioners. I am curious what the average size DIY group is and how you "advertised", if you did at all? I'm not an "official" Buddhist, but it's safe to say that I'm headed that direction....also, being smack-dab in the middle of the "Bible Belt" here in Middle America, I'm not sure how a group like this will be looked at...of course, I'm not so sure I care :)


Posted by Pete (not verified) on December 15, 2010 - 8:28pm
Hi Pete. DIY got started by

Hi Pete. DIY got started by word of mouth, though nowadays a lot of newcomers find us by means of this wonderful website (many bows to Scott). An average sit is about a dozen people--a nice size for discussion--though it can be anywhere from just a few to a couple of dozen. Also, if you think that the word "Buddhist" will cause consternation, just call your group a mindfulness group...even avoid the word meditation if you're really in hostile territory! What you call it doesn't matter at all. What you do and why you do it matters a whole lot. As I said below, get a couple of like-minded people and just do it.

Posted by Rachel on December 16, 2010 - 5:36pm
just do it

 I heard a talk by Tan Geoff (a.k.a. Ajahn Thanissaro) given at the opening festivities for some retreat centre or other. He said he'd been asked by the organizers for advice about how to make their centre a success. His advice was simple: if you want a successful meditation centre (or, in this case, group), you have to meditate. If enough people come together regularly with the intention of meditating, word will spread on its own that this is a good place to sit and look at your mind. If you spend a lot of effort arguing about protocols and promotion strategies, it will sap energy from what should be the main deal--sitting. (or standing. or walking. or lying down. whatever.) 
So yeah. Start on your own if you have to, but if the intention is to have it be a group eventually it's probably better to have multiple people there at the outset so that it isn't any one individual's project. (I'm personally rather bored by the concept of a teacher-led class: I'm way more excited by the idea of a group of individuals getting together to explore their collective wisdom, with maybe a more experienced meditator acting as a facilitator. I think we could all use more practice sharing and listening and participating and co-creating.) 

Posted by Rachel on June 6, 2010 - 3:50pm
my advice

Oh, and for those of you who would like a piece of this yo! I think I would suggest the following:
1) that you disgard any and all suggestions that don't fit and feel free to go on ahead and do what works for you.
2) start small and simple. a few people sitting once a week in a living room? why not? 30 minutes? 40 minutes? bells, yeah! sure!
3) be welcoming without being demanding. once enough people are involved that no one person has to be always in charge, then get over it. it was a fine and strange day when I realized, to my amazement, that DIY will happen whether I, or any individual member, can show up or not. and at this point, is every one of the origonal group were to get a resentment and leave, DIY would keep happening.
4) know your purpose and remember it. our group is pretty consistent that we exist to sit and offer others a place to sit. anything else is cream. anything else is also expendable, especially if it gets in the way of sitting.
5) be brave. I can't speak for the rest of us, but I have personally gone through a myriad of semi fits worrying and wondering is this right? is this ok? are we going to go to Vajra hell for saying that? what if no one shows up?! and each time I have found it in me to trust ... tru-ust ... t-r-u-s-t ... ...  This is not natural to me. I don't know where it came from in fact. but really, a bunch of pretty decent people trying their pretty decent best to do a pretty decent thing ... I mean, no one sends you to Vajra hell for that, do they?
Admittedly, there is a good chance that no one will attain perfect , complete, enlightenment in this lifetime just by sitting with DIY once or twice a week. I have had to come to terms with that.
But I've been to some pretty high-fallutin' retreats and centers, and seen some pretty high fallutin' dharma practitioners and, do you know what? never met a one of them who claimed to have reached perfect, complete enlightenment. so, in that sense, DIY is in pretty good company.
Oh, and one more thing: Please Try!

Posted by zotar on June 3, 2010 - 9:28pm
starting simple

I agree with the above, that anyone desirous of teaching dharma should do so through one of the many excellent lineages of meditators who have been trained by someone who was trained by someone who was trained ... all the way back to the Buddha. But no one needs to be a teacher to get together and practice, discuss, share, and support.
When I came to DIY it was a few people getting together in someone's living room to meditate and talk. The group had been inspired by, but was not affiliated with, Noah Levine. Unlike any practice environment I had ever been to, I felt I could go and practice meditation with other people interested in the same without joining, agreeing with, or paying any one sect of Buddhism or another. No dogma, no rules (except our continued request to refrain from either "primal scream" or "slugging the person to your right hand side" meditations- not to say anything against those for whom that might be their path), no sign-up sheet at the door. We sit in a circle(ish shape) with no one at the front of the room demanding attention or agreement. Since then we have found a couple of spaces to use regularly, and developed a basic format that everyone can agree doesn't cause harm. And we get to practice together!
We takes turns leading the group week by week- "leading" meaning keeping time and guiding metta meditation at the end of the sit, or finding someone to do it if we're not comfortable with that. Regular members encourage newer comers to take up the bell as soon as they are comfortable. No one claims to be a teacher (even our friend who is, in fact, a teacher now, having trained and received empowerment since helping start the group, doesn't try to take charge), but we do share our experience with each other, and might try to help a new comer who hasn't done it before, or an old-timer who's having a tough time. Oh, and we pass a hat or pillow at the end of the night and the rent keeps getting paid. Goodness forbid we should ever end up with much more than we need.
And through this simple stuff, over the last four years, I've watched my friends do major retreats, find teachers, even become teachers, and most importanty, I've personally had the sanest, most regular meditation practice in 13 years since taking refuge. All through support without demands, discipline without expectation, and people just trying to do what they feel is best and inviting others to join them. Pretty great.
It isn't demanded that anyone join anything here, or that anyone NOT join anything. I feel free to check out other sanghas, hear many teachers, or even become a member of any Buddhist or non-Buddhist religion that I see fit, and as long as it seems valuable to me to come together with people I don't hate and sit quietly for a given period of time, I feel I will always have a home at my DIY.

Posted by zotar on June 3, 2010 - 9:16pm
this is really great for

this is really great for starting a meditation group up... but to authorize yourself as a qualified dharma teacher takes a lineage in order to back you...

Posted by anonymous (not verified) on June 3, 2010 - 12:11pm
"this is really great for

"this is really great for starting a meditation group up... but to authorize yourself as a qualified dharma teacher takes a lineage in order to back you..."

or you could just let your practice and understanding of the dharma back you. that would be even better.

touch the earth...

Posted by anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2011 - 2:54pm

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