Dear Still Water Friends,
In Creating True Peace Thich Nhat Hanh defines “the Sangha River” as “a community of friends who practice the way of harmony, awareness, and compassion.” He writes:
The sangha radiates a collective energy that can support us and make us strong. The sangha is a boat that transports us and prevents us from sinking into the ocean of suffering. This is why it is so important that we take refuge in the sangha.
This Thursday evening, after a shorter than usual sitting meditation, we will have a celebration and sharing in honor of three treasured members of our community: Eliza King, Lori Perine, and Scott Schang.
Lori and Eliza recently received the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and were ordained into the Order of Interbeing at a retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery. Both have been practicing with Still Water for more than seven years and are members of the Still Water Working Group that helps guide the community. Eliza participates in and often facilitates our Thursday evenings in Silver Spring and our morning sittings in Takoma Park. Lori co-founded and is the primary facilitator at our Tuesday evening gathering in Gaithersburg.
The Order of Interbeing was established by Thich Nhat Hanh in Saigon in 1966, when the conflict and the suffering in Vietnam was escalating. The first six members, colleagues and students at the School of Youth for Social Service, committed to living their lives in accord with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, a distillation of the Bodhisattva (Enlightened Being) teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.
In 1981, wanting to encourage and support those who wished to lead a life focused on meditation and service, Thich Nhat Hanh began again to ordain committed practitioners into the Order of Interbeing. Since then the Order has grown tremendously and today there are about three thousand lay and monastic members across six continents, including fifteen ordained members in the Still Water OI community.
Scott Schang and his husband, Doug Gross, will be moving this month to North Carolina so that Scott can begin work as the Professor of Practice in Environmental Law at Wake Forest University Law School.
Scott has been a pillar of the Still Water community for more than 17 years, supporting individual practitioners and the community as a whole in numerous ways. He was ordained into the Order of Interbeing in 2007 and in 2018 he was asked by the Plum Village monastic community to receive Lamp Transmission and become a Dharma teacher.
You are invited to be with us this Thursday evening. In addition to sharing and songs, there will be chocolate, cookies, and fruit.
There are excepts below by Thich Nhat Hanh on the Sangha River and on what it means to be an Order of Interbeing member.
The Sangha River
by Thich Nhat Hanh from Creating True Peace
If we are a drop of water and we try to get to the ocean as only an individual drop, we will surely evaporate along the way. To arrive at the ocean, you must go as a river. The sangha is your river. In our daily practice, we learn how to be a part of this river. We learn how to look with sangha eyes, how to walk with sangha feet, how to feel with a sangha heart. We have to train ourselves to see the happiness of our community as our own happiness and to see the difficulties of our community as our own difficulties. Once we are able to do this, we will suffer much less. We will feel stronger and more joyful. As members of a sangha, we can develop our individual talent and our individual potential, and at the same time contribute to and participate in the talent and happiness of the entire group. Nothing is lost; everyone wins. A sangha has the power to protect and carry us, especially in difficult times. We have a better chance to develop our potential and protect ourselves when we participate in the work of sangha building.
The Sangha River is a community of friends who practice the way of harmony, awareness, and compassion. In the sangha we practice mindful walking and breathing. The sangha radiates a collective energy that can support us and make us strong. The sangha is a boat that transports us and prevents us from sinking into the ocean of suffering. This is why it is so important that we take refuge in the sangha. Allow your community to hold you, to transport you. When you do, you will feel more solid and stable and will not risk drowning in your suffering. Taking refuge in a sangha is not a matter of belief. “I take refuge in the Sangha” is not a statement of faith; it is a practice. As a river, all the individual drops of water arrive together at the ocean.
To Be an OI member
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from a Teaching to the Order of Interbeing, August 28, 2001.
What is the meaning of wearing a brown jacket? It’s not to declare that I am an ordained member of the Order. That’s nothing. It’s like the value of a student identity card: you got into a famous university and you were given a student identity card but if you don’t study, what is the use of having the identity card? Having the ID is about making use of the library, sitting in the classroom and having professors and the means to study. So, when you are ordained, you receive the fourteen mindfulness trainings and get the jacket. These are identity cards which allow us to profit from the Sangha, from the teaching, from the practice.
There are Dharma centers, there are monasteries, there are teachers, there are Dharma brothers and sisters who practice and being a member of the Order of Interbeing helps us to profit from all of these in order to advance on our path of freedom. With enough freedom we can make others around us happy. We know that practicing without a Sangha is difficult so we try our best to set up a Sangha around us, where we live. To be an OI member is wonderful. Wonderful, not because we have the title of OI membership, but because we have the chance to practice and to organize.
As an OI member you have to organize the practice. Wherever you are it is your duty to set up a group of people to practice, otherwise it does not mean anything to be an OI member. An OI member is expected to organize the practice in his or her area – for five people, six people, ten people, twenty people – and to practice very reliably, at a local level and sometimes at a national level. You have to take care of the Sangha [community] and support the Sangha because the Sangha is what supports you in your practice. So building the Sangha means building yourself. If the Sangha is there, you practice with the Sangha so as a Sangha-builder you enjoy the benefit, the opportunity to practice.