Who is Sangha?

A message from Doreen.
“Who is the Sangha?” is a question asked repeatedly years ago by VIMS founding member, Joe Quattrone. Joe knew that Sangha refers to a community of meditation practitioners; but in his wanting to get more of a handle on the composition of Valley Insight Meditation Society, he would pose this question at almost every steering committee meeting. We would sometimes tease him by responding with a paraphrase of the old, enigmatic Pogo cartoon message with its deep element of truth: “We have met the Sangha, and they are us.”

In his clear and pragmatic way, I think Joe was asking one of those basic existential questions, the type that the poet Rainer Maria Rilke encourages us to live: to live until one day, perhaps without actually realizing it, we live our way into the answer. It is a question related to our most basic needs as human beings. Where can I find safety and friendship that I can trust in this world where everyone sickens, ages and dies; this world which, undeniably, is not fully under my control? VIMS has been living this question since its inception twenty-two years ago.

“What is Sangha?” is a question that was answered last August by VIMS members in anticipation of an organizational workshop with Maddy Klyne. They said Sangha is “a safe place, a community, home, rest, companionship, peace, a deepening of faith or confidence, solidarity, guidance, friendship, compassion, support, respite, caring.”

In the subsequent workshop with Maddy, we gathered to look closely at the Valley Insight Sangha in order to appreciate, critique, deconstruct and nurture it. In so doing we collectively came up with two possible focus areas equally important for our continuance: 1) creating clearer lines of communication and connection among ourselves and with the greater community; and 2) finding a space of our own. We decided the first was the most immediate area to work on at this time, and we have done a lot to address it in the last six months.

Since then the VIMS community together has created clearer teacher policies, offered several new opportunities for beginning meditators, and resumed weekend retreat and monthly day-long practice times for more experienced practitioners. We have expanded our membership policy in such a way that, with a basic entry level of $0, no one is excluded, and we’ve included opportunities for those who are able to give more. We have created new board teams for planning retreats, offering Sangha-based social activities, establishing outreach programs, budgeting our funds wisely and reviewing our future financial stability. We are also here and now launching this clear and easily readable new newsletter format with a monthly section on board news as well as easy links to our web-site.

In the working community of this Sangha, we at VIMS are finding and offering support for our belief that a beneficial change is possible in our lives, as well as in the lives of our families, friends and community. We are finding help in the process of letting go of our unskillful habits, those which perpetuate suffering in our own lives and in the lives of those we share this would with; and finding help in cultivating more skillful habits, those which lead towards less suffering. Change is difficult; at the same time, it is possible. A community helps us to know directly that we can steady our minds and hearts towards peace, generosity, friendliness, compassion, and joy. Together we are intentionally evolving towards wisdom and kindness as a way of life and into a group of people witnessing and rooting for one another.

We are continuing to live Joe’s question on towards its answer.



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