Tending a Sangha

By Cherry Zimmer

Not long ago I'd never heard the word "Sangha." I now know that I had built myself one with animals, plants, and minerals, though I did not know that this is what I had done until I was with a Sangha of people.

Sanghas are built because people—and animals, plants, and minerals—need one. If one does not exist, we form one. People Sanghas come to be when enough like-minded people come to know each other and realize that they need a Sangha. So, with much dedication, they bind together.

When we use the word ''build,'' we may expect that "built" will follow. This is not true of my nature Sangha. I must constantly tend to the needs of the animals, plants, and minerals. The annual flowers must be planted in the spring. The perennials which did not return must be replaced. All must be watered and fed. The plants grow in the spring and summer, but become compost in winter. Even the minerals require tending. We have clay, not soil, where I live and I must amend it so the plants can send out roots and worms fInd their way through. In a similar fashion, I think that a people Sangha is never "built." For a Sangha to flourish, it must be conscientiously tended.

Having just started to join with a mindfulness people Sangha (and one which is quite young), I see the many ways its members tend it. I believe, however, that the most important Sangha tending is the way I fInd myself and other newcomers treated. It reminds me of discovering a new variety of bird at my feeder or the fIrst daffodil of spring. Although I am unable to attend meetings often, when I come I am greeted with honest joy and excitement by all. When they say "It's nice to meet you" or "It's nice to see you again," I know that they mean it.

From my experience, I deduce that the most important task in Sangha tending is reaching out and loving people who need a Sangha, but perhaps don't even know what a Sangha is (just as I add plants and amendments to the soil). It is easy to give love and attention to those you already know; it is so much harder with new people. But this is the way to build, tend, nourish, grow, and stay alive.

Cherry Zimmer practices with the Breathing Heart Sangha in Atlanta and Athens, Georgia.

PDF of this issue

Step into Freedom and Taste True Happiness

Five-Year Monastic Training and Service Program When we train as a monastic we have the opportunity to find the root of our freedom, solidity, joy and happiness, and to help our society. When we ordain and wear the brown robe, we learn to cut through our illusions and our afflictions. We learn to transform our deepest suffering into a bright future and into an even brighter present. In this process of knowing ourselves and facing our difficulties, we will also learn how to change our society into one that is more compassionate, understanding, and happy. This is a natural process, because as we discover the root of virtue in our own life, we will also be able to help other people to stop creating suffering for themselves and for the world.

Five years of monastic training is a great chance for you to learn how to live your life meaningfully, to discover brotherhood and sisterhood, and to make possible right here and right now the social change we have always dreamt about. Tasting the simple life of a monk or a nun and cultivating your spiritual life, you will be able to assist your elder brothers and sisters in organizing retreats and events all over the world. You will be able to share your practice and transformation and help a great number of people. When we let go of the pursuit of wealth, power, and sensual pleasures, and put on the brown robe, we do not need to wait five years to be able to help people. Right from the first day, we inspire those around us by simply walking with mindfulness, solidity, and freedom.

Basic Requirements:

Age from 17 – 32. If you are under 18, you must have the consent of your parents.

Single or divorced. Your relationships with those close to you are settled, and your decision is in harmony with them, so that they will not be an obstacle to your training as a monastic.

No incurable disease or serious medical condition. Your mental stability and physical health should be sound enough not to be an obstacle for your training and for that of the community.

No debt or financial ties.As monastics we take refuge in the Sangha, and do not have debt or hold bank accounts and/or credit cards.

Commitment to study, practice, and serve. Our training is to flow as a Sangha. You commit to learn how to practice as a community and to follow the guidance of the Sangha, including attending all Sangha activities.

Letting personal possessions go. As part of your training you will be asked to release items such as laptops, cellphones, etc. and to come into the community with your hands empty.

Family visit. You can visit your blood family members for fourteen days after training for two years as a novice. You can keep in contact with them by writing letters and calling them from time to time.

Come to any of our centers in the U.S., France, Germany, and Thailand and practice as a retreatant for two weeks before inquiring about the program.

Please visit for a more detailed description of the Five-Year Monastic Training Program.

PDF of this article