Building Our Orange Blossom Sangha

By Rhoda Reilly During a Dharma talk at the winter retreat, my ears perked up when Thay said, “It is the duty of every Order of Interbeing member to set up a Sangha.” Thay instructed us, “We need to be a Sangha builder; the Sangha is our refuge, our home.” I intuitively knew at that moment the causes and conditions were ripe to build a Sangha.

My husband and I opened our home, set a date, put up flyers, announced our intentions to other followers on the path at Deer Park and trusted our Sangha would evolve. The first evening, one person attended. It was intimate and nourishing. The second week two more people attended. During the course of the next two months, people came and went, but a small, devoted group of six continued to come to practice. Recently, we celebrated our Sangha with a tea and Sangha naming ceremony. We had grown to eleven members (one who practices with us in spirit from afar in Alaska.) We named our Sangha “Orange Blossom Sangha,” in part due to the symbolism of our blossoming together as well as for the beautiful orange trees surrounding our home.

It has been a joy to watch our Sangha grow and develop, to witness the dedication of our members in cultivating understanding and love on this beautiful path Thay’s teachings have provided. In the middle of a busy and hectic work week, we come together to take refuge, to renew, and re-energize like a drink of cool water on a hot summer’s day. We nourish the seeds of happiness in ourselves and support the challenges we encounter working through negative mental formations that cause us suffering. We gain strength from one another and from the collective wisdom of our Buddha natures.

Thay has emphasized that without a Sangha, it is very difficult to practice. Reflecting on the past few months, I can feel my practice strengthening through the support, respect, and love of our Sangha members. When I feel unbalanced and stressed from the demands of my work and daily activities, the sitting and walking meditation calm my mind and body, bringing me back to the present moment. The words of the Refuge Chant now have new meaning to me, “The loving and supportive community of practice, realizing harmony, awareness, and liberation, to the Sangha I go for refuge.” I cherish our Sangha and am grateful to Thay for encouraging us to be Sangha builders.

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The following poem was inspired from the various potential names we came up with for our Sangha:

Our Sangha, Joyfully together, Blooming as a lotus, Sweet as orange blossoms, With mindful and joyful hearts, Our Chi flows peacefully.

Rhoda Reilly, True Attainment of Fruition, lives and practices in Escondido, California.

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