Dear Thay, dear Sangha, In conjunction with Thich Nhat Hanh’s 2009 U.S tour, we are delighted to publish this special issue on Sangha building — the first time in many years that we’ve had a whole issue devoted to a single theme. Even with sixty-four pages, we didn’t have room for all the excellent submissions; our heartfelt gratitude to all who contributed.
“Ever since I was a young monk,” Thay writes in Joyfully Together: The Art of Building a Harmonious Community, “my dream has been to build a happy Sangha. Now, after sixty years of monastic practice, I continue to feel that Sangha building is the most precious work that we can do as practitioners. The Sangha is our community of practice, and it is also our refuge. We rely on it and trust it to support our deepest aspirations and to give us energy and inspiration on the path of practice.”
Anyone who has been to Plum Village or Deer Park or Blue Cliff knows that Thay has succeeded in building a happy Sangha. Anyone who has been on retreat with Thay’s monks and nuns or his Dharma teachers has felt a touch of Sangha joy.
At my first big retreat, in Colorado in 2003, I knew no one. By chance, in our first Dharma discussion, I was the first one to introduce myself. I said my name and explained that I was from Fort Collins, just an hour away. The person to my left then introduced himself, and said he, too, was from Fort Collins. And so on around the circle, all twenty-some of us! A number of them met regularly in town and so I started to attend Peaceful Heart Sangha. My life has never been the same.
The Dharma talk in this issue is the speech on “Leading with Courage and Compassion” that Thay delivered to the Parliament of India when he was there last fall. It is followed by a moving article about President Obama’s inauguration; the section on “Sangha Fruits” explores the wider meaning of Sangha — our place in the world.
“Buddha’s Medicine” provides wisdom from Dharma teachers who have been building Sangha for decades. A host of practitioners describe their personal experiences in “Living Sangha,” and then specific practices are described in “Nuts & Bolts.” A few articles delve into more advanced practice in “Order of Interbeing & Beyond.”
Sister Chan Khong sent us a report on the India trip, which closes out the issue, along with the book reviews. As usual, Thay and his monks and nuns traveled and taught tirelessly; we have room for only a few stories from the trip.
A personal note: one Sangha that is not mentioned elsewhere is the Mindfulness Bell Sangha. For the last four years, I have had the privilege of immersing myself in this amazing worldwide community. Most of you I have not met in person; nor do you know each other. Yet your love for the Dharma, for our beloved teacher, for your Sangha brothers and sisters comes through in many ways — your beautiful submissions, the comments you make in e-mail or in person, your subscriptions, your donations, the copies you send to prisoners. You reprint articles in your newsletters and in major newspapers in Israel and India; you share readings in your Dharma discussions.
These are challenging times. As Thay has often said, we need not sink in the sea of despair — we can take refuge in the raft of Sangha. May all beings find Sangha and realize their deepest aspirations.