On the evening of Wednesday, April 8th, about 40 residents and local MRO students gathered in the performance hall for the first Sangha Treasure Meeting, a new forum for the sangha to reflect on and share their experience of practice and training within the MRO community. The idea for holding such a meeting arose in the aftermath of Ryushin Sensei’s departure; up until now, there really hasn’t been a place for sangha members to raise their concerns, particularly when those concerns have to do with a teacher. Although the idea for the meetings was born from a troubling situation, their purpose is not necessarily to explore problems but simply to give the sangha a chance to communicate with each other, providing a window onto how others are experiencing things. However, if problems arise that need to be addressed, then these meetings are also a space where people can give voice to them.
During Wednesday’s meeting, participants were invited to share their thoughts on what they were finding encouraging and what they were finding challenging regarding their experience within the sangha. After sharing in small groups, group reps brought back several points to share with the large group. Comments and concerns ran a broad spectrum, from people feeling that Ango was helping them move through recent emotional upheaval to questions about the softer tone of training in the MRO that has emerged in the past few years. A number of comments related either directly or indirectly to Ryushin Sensei’s absence. Should anything emerge within the meeting that requires action or would benefit from follow up, the Guardian Council is charged with addressing the matter.
On Thursday morning, after the caretaking service, Shugen Sensei thanked the residents and local sangha for being present at the meeting and acknowledged that it would naturally take some time for all of us to learn how to use this new forum. He stressed that the meetings are primarily an opportunity for each of us to offer a window into our own experience of practicing and living together to help create a stronger sense of unity and inter-relatedness within the sangha. They also provide a forum for recognizing and addressing issues and possible conflicts that might arise. Together, these Sangha Treasure Meetings can help us to create—everyday—a healthy and open spiritual community.
The Order plans on holding these Sangha Treasure Meetings on a quarterly basis.