Buddhist Community

Sweeping Heart Zen & Buddhist Community

People want alternatives to the confusion, strife, and ongoing environmental destruction that touches our lives everyday. Seeing this fact, I also know it’s a good time of year to talk about aspirations. Therefore, I’ll share my aspiration for Buddhist community.

I’ll share this aspiration because I believe practicing with, or living in, a community inspired by the Buddha’s teaching can be a healing, life enhancing alternative to the confusion and destruction we see all around us.  I know that through such a life one can reestablish a deeply felt connection with the earth. Moreover, it’s a way to regain a compassionate and sane connection with each other.

Intentional Buddhist Community

I’m not claiming this path is for everyone. What’s more, there are many non-Buddhist experiments in community practice that also hold out great promise for the world. For example, check out the resources at The Federation for Egalitarian Communities and the Federation of Intentional Community at these links: thefec.org and ic.org

However, because I’ve lived and trained in Buddhist residential communities and monasteries, I personally know the potential healing power in this path.  That’s why I recommend and aspire to it.

Sweeping Heart Zen is a Sangha

Sweeping Heart Zen is a community, a Sangha and Sangha is a way of practice. Through Sangha we aim to harmoniously share a way of living that can heal our sense of isolation. Furthermore, this practice centered way of life can help counteract the individualism, competitiveness, and destructive consumerism that we’re constantly exposed to and burdened by in contemporary life.

“I take refuge in Sangha
before all beings,
bringing harmony to everyone,
free from hindrance.”

When Wisdom’s Heart closed in August of 2017, Sweeping Heart Zen soon found a new temporary home. Through the generosity of Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church, we moved our well-established activities to 10 Church Street in Gloucester. Consequently, we are grateful to the UU congregation and leadership for their ongoing generosity and support. Yet, someday we’d like to have a residential practice center of our own.

Mindfulness and the Desire to Benefit Others

As things develop in American Zen practice, it looks like many Zen communities are organizing themselves around readily identifiable foundations of healthy Sangha life.  Virtually all American Zen Sanghas are organized around a meditation hall. And many also have a kitchen, a garden, and serve the broader community in various ways. Of course, all healthy Zen activity is rooted in beneficial ethical conduct, the practice of mindfulness, and the desire to serve and benefit others.

So in the same spirit, we aspire to eventually rent a residential place with a meditation hall.  We’d like our meditation hall to be large enough to accommodate both resident and nonresident members, participants and guests. We aspire to have a space with a kitchen so we can easily enjoy tea and coffee and hang out together after meditation and teachings. Also, it is wonderful to cook and share meals together.

Residential Center

This 4-minute video featuring life at Great Vow Zen Monastery will give you a taste of what I’m talking about. GVZM is a wonderful place where I’ve practiced in the past. Remember, the Zen practice at Great Vow is quite formal. But Zen practice need not be so. If you’ve visited our Sangha, you know we have an informal style. Great Vow is located in an elementary school that the district could no longer afford in a remote area in Oregon: youtube.com/watch?v=Hj_caFckS3M

A residential center would allow Sangha members who want a deeper intimacy with practice to gather.  And, if they wanted, they could practice together nearly everyday. Ideally this place will be large enough to accommodate residential retreats where retreat participants from Cape Ann and beyond can stay overnight for short periods or for weeks at a time.

In the long term, Sweeping Heart Zen would like to own a residential center.

Then Sangha members could contribute further by caring for and improving the space. We could make it suit our needs. Maybe grow and care for an organic garden. We would have a more established base from which to serve each other, and the general community.

Here’s a link to a wonderful 4-minute video about how the garden and farm at Green Gulch Zen Center fits into Zen practice and the community at large: youtube.com/watch?v=27T7JVCvktg

You can just make the choice to reorganize your life around cooperation, solidarity, and cooperation.  You don’t have to wait for the rest of the world to come along to do that. ~GPaul Blendel

Not surprisingly, the adventure of creating the Sweeping Heart Zen residential practice center will take vision, perseverance, elbow grease, much good humor, and money.  And if I don’t talk about this aspiration and work toward it, it will certainly never happen.  If you’re interested in landing a hand in anyway whatsoever, please contact me at info@sweepingheartzen.org.

Please visit a Sweeping Heart Zen event if and when the spirit moves you.  We’re in historic Gloucester on Boston’s North Shore.  Here’s a link to our calendar: sweepingheartzen.org/events/

I hope you have a wonderful week!