How to start a sangha? Any ideas?

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How to start a sangha? Any ideas?

Postby A Medic » Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:33 pm

I'm trying to start a Dharma group/Sangha in my town. I started a group on meetup.com. We have had one meet up so far and have another one on the 5th. Basically I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know where this group will go, or what it is all about. A few of the other members gave the impression that I should be the leader of the group or something. I feel very uncomfortable with that because I consider myself I beginner as far as Buddhism goes. I have been studying Buddhism on my own for 7 years, have never had a teacher, and the only temples I've ever been in were while I was on vacation in Japan. Another problem is it seems like all the members are from different Buddhist traditions. I respect all Buddhist traditions, but I just think it may be difficult with different backgrounds, and ideas. Basically I want this group to work out, be a place for the Dharma to be introduced to my area.

Any ideas or suggestions?

Also I'm trying work it out to meet at a Unitarian church once a month or so. I like this idea because it could give us a place for group meditation.

:anjali:
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Re: How to start a sangha? Any ideas?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:02 pm

Several meditation groups in the UK use the Friends Meeting Houses. They used to invite a monk or nun to teach about once a month or once a fortnight. It can be quite difficult to get a group established, but we used to find a lot more people would turn up when a member of the Sangha was invited. It depends how practical it is to provide transport for the guest and if you have any Sangha in your area.
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Re: How to start a sangha? Any ideas?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:37 pm

Hi Casey,

Good advice from Bhikkhu Pesala. I have run some Dhamma groups over the years and always received a good turn-out when there was a guest speaker by a monk or nun.

The other alternative is to just participate in existing groups. What city or town do you live in? There may be plenty of existing groups already.

If you decide to go the peer-led, lay group, one format that I have used and like is:

Introduction, introducing the group and what we are doing: about 5 minutes
Some simple and basic meditation instructions, going over the different postures: about 10 minutes
Sitting meditation: 30 minutes
Walking meditation: 10 minutes
Sitting meditation: 15 minutes
Standing meditation: 10 minutes
Sitting meditation: 15 minutes
Lying down meditaiton (at the same place where sitting was done): 10 minutes
Dhamma talk or a reading from the Suttas: about 10 minutes

All together about two hours and then there can be some tea and social time after that. That schedule has worked well for me if the meeting is only once a month or twice a month. For a regular, once a week meeting, the times could be shortened, except for the sitting periods.

Since you said that you are a beginner and have not had a teacher, you could skip the Dhamma talk or just do a reading or just skip that part and focus on the sittings.
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Re: How to start a sangha? Any ideas?

Postby jonno » Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:55 pm

Hi. I recently started a sangha in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition. It's held weekly at my home. We only have about 5 members so far but hopefully it will grow. As you all are from different traditions, my advice would be "keep it simple". We usually "sit" for about thirty minutes , followed by a simple tea ceremony. Sometimes we may watch a short inspirational video. "You can find loads from most traditions on you tube" Then we have a dharma discussion for about 30 mins. We usually end up by just socialising for a few minutes before breaking up for the evening. As you can see, nothing heavy or over formalized . Simplicity is the key. You can avoid becoming a leader figure by asking each person to "lead" the meditations on a week by week rotation. I also invited the sangha to decide for themselves what shape they wanted it to take, so everyone feels they "own" the sangha . In the warmer weather we intend to add walking meditation in the garden, but as we are in the UK it would take a brave little buddhist to risk hypothermia in our winter climate. I wish you and your sangha well. Love JONNO
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