"Lay Sangha" in monasteries?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

"Lay Sangha" in monasteries?

Postby starter » Sat Aug 07, 2010 5:40 pm

Hi friend,

Thanks a lot for the very helpful comments. Considering the difficulty in establishing and maintaining a buddhist co-housing commune, now I think the best option would be for monasteries or meditation centers to build the communes on their ground where some qualified lay practitioners can be allowed to stay there permanently. The lay practitioners can donation money or labor. More than likely, these lay practitioners will donate more than they actually use there, especially at the end of their lives. So the monasteries can be benefited in terms of not only volunteer service, but also income. Of course the lay practitioners can also benefit greatly from the monasteries.

I hope this idea gets across to the friends in monasteries. Your comments are welcome and appreciated very much.

Metta,

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Re: Establish a Hermitage for Lay Practitioners?

Postby Sobeh » Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:39 pm

Building up a new Vinaya?
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Re: Establish a Hermitage for Lay Practitioners?

Postby starter » Sun Aug 08, 2010 2:11 am

Hi Probably Hermitage isn't the right word. I mean more a society or center, where lay practitioners live and practice together. They only need to follow the Buddha's teachings for lay practitioners.
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Re: Establish a "Hermitage" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:26 am

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Establish a Hermitage for Lay Practitioners?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:45 am

starter wrote:Hi Probably Hermitage isn't the right word. I mean more a society or center, where lay practitioners live and practice together. They only need to follow the Buddha's teachings for lay practitioners.

so like a buddhist commune? they have something like that in thailand, search for santi asoke
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Establish a "Hermitage" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby Wind » Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:11 am

Yea. I have thought about that idea too. I would definitely join. But I would prefer it to have more individuality than to have the board rule over everyone and set the rules. I prefer more freedom. In China, there is a mountain where hermit monks would go and set up residence, most of the monks there live a very secluded life but they are still part of community of hermit monks. That is the type of system I want with a lay hermitage. Just a bunch of retired Buddhist lay follower who decides to live close in proximity to each other and to a monastery. Everyone will learn to be self-sufficient while still helping out the neighbors when they are in need. A community that is structure together through compassion and loving-kindness instead of rules. This system will allow everyone to fully devote to their practice without the burden of social tasks and long periods of total isolation is also possible since everyone will be providing for themselves.
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Re: Establish a "Hermitage" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby altar » Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:29 am

hi Wind,
sounds ideal.
Monks are mendicants and can easily live an aloof detached life. They don't need to transport houses or money or assets so much.
Lay people must earn a living or support themselves.
Monks can live aloof and stay supported by society.
Lay people support themselves and can remain aloof running the risk of being cut off or cutting themselves off.
I guess perhaps these are people who will live on very frugal means, almost spartan like? That way they will not need to work much. But then where is the line before monkhood? And why not join the monastic order? I guess it is an easier life, a life of "retirement" like Wind says. Certainly we would all like that at some point, and that's why right effort goes against the grain I guess.
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Re: Establish a "Hermitage" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun Aug 08, 2010 8:04 pm

tiltbillings wrote:http://www.dharma.org/ims/fr_general_i.html


Yeah, I was thinking "Why not go on an extended retreat?"
http://www.dhamma.org

For that matter, many monasteries permit laity to stay for extended study retreats.
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as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

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Re: Establish a "Retirement Commune" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby starter » Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:41 pm

Wind wrote:Yea. I have thought about that idea too. I would definitely join. But I would prefer it to have more individuality than to have the board rule over everyone and set the rules. I prefer more freedom. In China, there is a mountain where hermit monks would go and set up residence, most of the monks there live a very secluded life but they are still part of community of hermit monks. That is the type of system I want with a lay hermitage. Just a bunch of retired Buddhist lay follower who decides to live close in proximity to each other and to a monastery. Everyone will learn to be self-sufficient while still helping out the neighbors when they are in need. A community that is structure together through compassion and loving-kindness instead of rules. This system will allow everyone to fully devote to their practice without the burden of social tasks and long periods of total isolation is also possible since everyone will be providing for themselves.


Hi Wind, I like your idea. But such a small lay buddhist "retirement center" would have to be located really close to a monastery or an insight meditation center, so that the community doesn't need to build its own main hall, but can use the facilities of the monastery or the meditation center (e.g. meeting room, tea room, walking path, ...) and join their retreats, ..., while offering volunteer help when it needs. This way both parties can benefit each other. I don't know if it's possible to find a small piece of land for establishing such a lay commune in the close neighborhood of a monastery like Birken Forest Monastery (located near Kamloops BC). There's a good opportunity now in Lake Cowichan, BC, where Vancouver Island Vipassana Centre [Dhamma Modana, www.modana.dhamma.org] has purchased 120 acre land and is looking for land development options which will provide the capital to finance its center. This area was recently named one of the top ten rural places to live in Canada by Harrowsmith magazine. I don't know if more friends would be interested in establishing such a commune, so that enough capital can be gathered to purchase a small piece of land from the Vipassana Centre. Or probably try to get some funds/donations to purchase the land for establishing the commune?

My summer vocation will soon be over and will be too busy to try these options. I wonder if you or some other friend will have time to try?

With Metta,

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Re: Establish a "Retirement Commune" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby Will » Mon Aug 09, 2010 9:51 pm

A few already exist on the grounds of an existing temple complex. Also many retreat centers will let one stay for extended periods, if you are qualified. But many more would be good, provided these are used by folks 60+ who are retired. I worry that support for monastics might be ignored if these centers are set up apart from any connection to any existing temple or lineage.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: Establish a "Retirement Commune" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby starter » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:46 pm

Will wrote:A few already exist on the grounds of an existing temple complex. Also many retreat centers will let one stay for extended periods, if you are qualified. But many more would be good, provided these are used by folks 60+ who are retired. I worry that support for monastics might be ignored if these centers are set up apart from any connection to any existing temple or lineage.


Hi Will, would you please tell me those communes which already exist? Indeed the most ideal solution will be setting up such a commune on the ground of a monastery or in the close neighborhood of it. This way the lay commune and the monastery can benefit each other to the best. I hope that the monasteries with enough land/resources can set up such communes for the lay practitioners who wish to stay there permanently. It's much easier for a monastery to raise funds for such a purpose than the lay people. If monasteries can build some nice "Kutis" for this purpose, the lay people should make a monthly "donation" which at least covers the "rent" and all their other costs. That would be really nice.

Even if these lay communes are set up apart from monasteries, e.g. in the neighborhood of a meditation center, I don't think support for monastics would be ignored. These lay practitioners will still need spiritual guidance from the monks and will still visit the monasteries. Not to mention that the number of people staying in such communes is really relatively small, which will not make that big difference.

Hope to hear comments from the monastics. With Metta,

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Re: Establish a "Retirement Commune" for Lay Practitioners?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:36 pm

I wrote this post in the "Developing Community Support" thread, but see it is also appropriate (more so) here;

There have been many attempts to create a Buddhist co-housing, but most have never left the planning stages. There are at least two yahoo forums devoted to the topic. One of them, BuCoHo, had a message from the administrator just the other day stating:

Dear People,
I have been the moderator of BuCoHo since 2001. In that time it has grown to 211 members but has not yet produced a Buddhist Cohousing Community. It takes a core group of 5 fire starters to get going and 25 or more sustainers to finish. I know you are on the list but just don't know how to meet.
To that end I am turning over the management of BuCoHo to Raines Cohen.


I have one of the other groups too, here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/buddhistretirement/
which also gets almost no activity.

The main problem I see with co-housing is what if one of the members of the community (a Buddhist) wanted to leave and sold his house or condo or townhome (however the community was comprised) and found a non-Buddhist to buy his place? I don't think it would be legal for the community to deny the sale simply because the buyer of one of the homes was non-Buddhist? And then if it continued, before long there could be more non-Buddhists than Buddhists in the Buddhist co-housing community.
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Re: "Retirement commune" in monasteries or meditation centers?

Postby poto » Fri Aug 13, 2010 5:05 am

I've given this subject some thought. I don't see why somebody couldn't build a retreat/retirement center for lay people from the ground up and do it for dirt cheap.

All anyone would really need would be some rural acreage with lax/no building codes, a few thousand dollars and a handful of able bodied volunteers. Basically, just start with a campground and build one central building with community baths and a meditation hall. Then build a few dozen hermitages/homes across the site. You could probably even convert the central building to a monastery if the need arose.

Rather than build expensive conventional western buildings, I think the key here would be find people who were willing to live in alternative structures like those based on Mike Oehler's designs:
http://www.undergroundhousing.com/index.html

Those underground structures seem to have many design features that would appeal to Buddhists. Although, I can imagine that some may not want to live in them. Surely, if it was made affordable enough there would be a good number of Buddhists who would want to live in them. Since the costs of building and maintaining these structures are low, they could be rented out for a lot less than conventional buildings.

Such a center would cost a tiny fraction of the one in the link that Tilt posted. And for people that can't even afford that, but want to do some retreats, campgrounds could be made available for free. It doesn't cost much to let people camp on some land. Camping might appeal more to some folks who are interested in doing shorter retreats.

To the point that David brings up. I think such a community would be best suited by maintaining central ownership (in a non-profit organization) and renting out the buildings. I would think one could write up rental agreements that would give the people free reign to do as they pleased with their structures. Also, if the rent was cheap enough, people could pay for years in advance and not have to worry about it.

If I had the land and the money to do something like this I'd probably give it a shot. Anybody want to donate some acreage?
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Re: "Retirement commune" in monasteries or meditation centers?

Postby starter » Tue May 17, 2011 4:46 pm

Hm... since I've been practicing alone I was longing for joining such a Buddhist commune, but today I realized this kind of physical mundane companionship is probably not what the Buddha would encourage, since he apparently didn't encourage the monks dwelling together in MN 122:

"Ananda, a bhikkhu does not shine by delighting in company, by taking delight in company, by devoting himself to delight in company; by delighting in group, by taking delight in group, by rejoicing in group. Indeed, Ananda, it is not possible that a bhikkhu who delights in company, takes delight in company, and devotes himself to delight in company, who delights in group, takes delight in group, and rejoices in group, will ever obtain at will, without trouble or difficulty, the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment. But it can be expected that when a bhikkhu lives alone, withdrawn from group, he will obtain at will, without trouble or difficulty, the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment.

We have actually already gotten some "admirable (supramundane) companionship in this forum[/b], which might be what the Buddha encouraged in SN 45.2: "Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.' " It's probably more worthwhile to put the energy and effort in improving such a forum / e-sangha instead of building up mundane "retirement communes".

Just some thought for food for those who are still striving to set up such mundane communes ...

My sincere thanks to the founder and staff of Dhammawheel for the great contribution, and to all your helpful input to our "sangha".

Metta to all,

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Re: "Lay Sangha" in monasteries?

Postby starter » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:33 pm

Hi friends,

After some investigation, my current thought is to establish an admirable lay Sangha commune in a suitable monastery in each region/country for the dedicated lay practitioners to practice together in the best possible way according to the Buddha's teaching. Some monasteries might be willing to allow some qualified lay practitioners to build their own kuties or park their RVs on their land on potentially permanent basis (or probably better for the lay to "donate" the money to cover the cost of the land?); some monastery even provides decent accommodation for such long-term lay residents. It can allow those devoted practitioners with limited income to live and practice without having to spend lots of years on earning money. This way not only the lay practitioners can help each other on their path but also the lay Sangha and the monasteric Sangha can help and benefit each other.

In my last post in this thread, I quoted MN 122 for the Buddha’s seemingly disencouragement of the monks’ dwelling together. Now I realize it’s probably because these monks have reached the stage to practice alone in seclusion.
MN 27:
Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble mindfulness & clear comprehension, he seeks out a secluded dwelling: a wilderness, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a forest grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After his meal, returning from his alms round, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and brings mindfulness to the fore. ...

Depending upon how the lay Sangha communes are established, they could be very helpful for our practice, especially during the first stage of training. Community living/working is probably necessary to cultivate the sila aggregate, sense restraint, mindfulness and clear comprehension. After these qualities are well established, it's then better to live in seclusion during the second stage of the training to cultivate 4 developments of mindfulness and Samadhi. Since it's difficult to survive alone in complete seclusion as a lay practitioner in our modern society, the communes could help those who practice in seclusion with food/medicine, like done in the "Bi Guan 闭关" practice (complete seclusion without leaving the kuti) in Mahayana tradition.

The alternative way is to purchase some land and establish lay hermitages in the immediate neighborhood of suitable monasteries. But I'm not sure if kutis and RVs are allowed on the ground of lay hermitages, and if the land and buildings are tax-free. By the way, if some of you are interested in this option, there's a good piece of100 acres of farm land on sale right on the opposite of Tisarana Forest Monastery in ON, in a very quiet (end of a road) and good location which is about half an hour drive from Perth and 1.5h drive from Ottawa.

Metta to all,

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Re: "Lay Sangha" in monasteries?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:49 pm

Why not just get temporaroly ordained or stay at a monastery or retreat center?
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