By Jack Lawlor
Shortly after dawn on January 25,1998, seven of Thay's Dharma children serving as lay Dharmacharya in North America concluded their first Dharma teachers' weekend retreat by enjoying outdoor walking meditation among the silent grove of coastal redwoods known as Muir Woods.
We don't understand why it took so long for us to come together in this way, but it was worth the wait! In our time together, we learned how helpful it is to share one another's presence, experience, and perspectives in a retreat format which provides time for sitting meditation, walking meditation, and silent meals. Sharing and listening deeply, we also learned:
-how vibrant local Sanghas are throughout this continent; how they are meeting regularly and evolving to address local needs;
-how members help Sanghas grow by inviting friends and relatives to join Sangha events in the long intervals between retreats;
-how Sanghas are helping transform suffering through the practice-by helping transform the loneliness and alienation of individuals into greater openness and tolerance, by helping an individual become a more loving member of his or her blood family, or by collective work in hospices or prisons;
-how interest in the historic roots of Buddhism is growing, in efforts to better understand its flowering in the West;
-how the nascent programs for Order of Interbeing aspirants are helping both potential and current Order members understand the value of local Sangha practice and of mentoring friendships.
Lay North Americans aspire to deepen our engaged practice in ways which help others. Many Sangha members were attracted to Thay's teaching because he acknowledged these aspirations.
We look forward to continuing these explorations with the Sangha, "practicing wholeheartedly so that understanding and compassion will flower ... practicing all aspects of the path with energy, so that our practice will bear fruit."
We look forward to working with the Sangha to enhance the success of recent efforts in Vermont, and the other efforts of the Order and local Sanghas to deepen our collective practice in ways intended to help all beings. We are sustained by Thay's wonderful teachings, which have the capacity to keep us all peaceful and happy, fresh and resourceful throughout these efforts and throughout our lives.
It was suggested that Dharma teacher Jack Lawlor, True Direction, try to summarize the three-day retreat in a few short paragraphs. With the support of those in attendance, Jack offers this effort to describe the ineffable.