On a rainy day in November, 15 teachers from various Theravada, Tibetan, Zen, and Pure Land lineages gathered at Seattle’s Sakya Monastery to get to know each other and to explore together the challenges of teaching dharma practice and leading organizations.
As the circle of teachers introduced themselves, they suggested a broad range of topics for discussion, including:
- The pros and cons of Buddhist-inspired mindfulness programs in education, health care, and other social arenas.
- Appropriate ways of reaching out beyond self-identified Buddhists.
- Resources on illness, death and dying.
- The relationship between teachers and organizational leaders.
- Resources and opportunities for bringing the dharma into prisons.
- Responding to catastrophes and disasters.
- Buddhist programs for children and teenagers.
Several challenges in particular rose to the top and led to deeper discussion:
- Ways to respond skillfully to students’ difficult life questions, offering support for deep looking rather than formulaic policies;
- Helping students go beyond study and conceptual understanding to integrate practice into their daily life; and
- How we can support women to be dharma teachers and leaders.
The teachers were passionately engaged, and the stretching and mutual support in the room were palpable. They were also aware of the time constraints of any single meeting, and several future events are being organized.
One meeting will focus on the changing roles of women in Buddhism. Another will explore Buddhist chaplaincy, hospice, and funeral services. These teachers meetings will be listed in the Featured Events section of the NWDA website, as soon as dates and locations have been determined.
Northwest Dharma Association has been sponsoring regional Buddhist teachers’ gatherings for 14 years, and they have become a powerful way to cultivate Mahasangha (greater community).
We’ve moved beyond the single annual meeting format, and we’re encouraging teachers to get together as often as they can. If your group would like to host a meeting, NWDA can get the word out to the region’s teachers, and can help facilitate the discussions.
For more information, contact NWDA Executive Director George Draffan at email@example.com or 206-659-1954.