Some 20 years ago, when I started volunteering with the Northwest Dharma Association, it was about old-fashioned mailing parties, loading bundles of original paper version of Northwest Dharma News into giant post office sacks, and getting event flyers out. After a while I served on the board for a few years, and then I focused on organizing and facilitating gatherings of Buddhist teachers.
In the six months I’ve been back at NWDA in an official capacity, I’ve noticed a LOT of changes — in the organization, in the community, and in society at large. Buddhist teachers and organizations are much more cooperative. Sharing meditation halls is not as rare as it was. There are quite a few teachers and practitioners who have trained in more than one Buddhist tradition. And as mindfulness and compassion are shown to have measurable results, hospitals and prisons and corporations and schools are more open to incorporating Buddhist insights and tools.
I am really gratified to see the work of so many people with extraordinary vision and energy coming to fruition. And I’m proud that NWDA, and this region, are helping to lead the way.
In late April a dozen Buddhist teachers from different traditions gathered in Vancouver. Among their priorities for discussion and action were how best to use their dharma insights and skills to help relieve mental illness, addiction, and reentry after prison.
In early May, a small group of Christians and Buddhists met to engage in an interfaith / multifaith exploration of their spiritual paths and communities. The roundtable was followed by dinner and a book reading at Elliott Bay Book Company by Paul Metzger, author of Evangelical Zen.
Also in May, nearly 100 people joined in a multi-ethnic celebration of the Buddha’s birthday at Chua Doc Su in south Seattle. Monastics and lay practitioners of the Pure Land, Zen, Theravada, and Tibetan traditions, celebrating side-by-side. New friends, new insights, new opportunities.
In June, chaplains and hospice caregivers will gather at the 100-year-old Seattle Betsuin temple to participate in a seminar on compassionate care in home care, hospitals, and hospice settings. And other events are in the planning stages, including a 2017 conference exploring how Buddhist practice is supporting recovery from substance addiction.
There’s more work to do and more fruition to appreciate. NWDA’s members, donors, and volunteers are leaders in making it happen; and the benefits are felt by everyone in the Buddhist community and beyond.