Updates from the North American Dharma Teachers Sangha by Jack Lawlor


The Care-Taking Council of the North American Dharma Teachers Sangha (“NATDS”) meets for approximately one week each March at one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastic practice centers. There, we share in practices in confluence with the daily monastic schedule and meet to attend the many details that make possible the Dharma Teachers Sangha and its coordinated activities across the US and Canada. This year’s CTC gathering included interactions with representatives from Wake Up and ARISE.

Wake Up leaders and the CTC gathered at Deer Park Monastery at the same time, enabling members of the Care-Taking Council and the Wake Up representatives to spend time together and learn from each other. Each group shared how our efforts and practices have evolved. We also shared games and even a lazy afternoon at the Oceanside beach with monastics.

In addition, the DTS Care-Taking Council and ARISE representatives connected one evening by phone link and Skype to talk about ways to enhance diversity within the Plum Village tradition. In 2016, ARISE representatives shared in person at the March gathering of the entire NATDS membership, all in a good faith effort to transform our collective understanding about some of our society’s most stubborn challenges related to discrimination.

Somehow, NATDS Care-Taking Council members also found time to work on other organizational matters among Dharma teachers that make these outreach efforts possible.

Care-Taking Council members attending were John Bell, Dennis Bohn (by video link from snowbound New York City), Chan Co, Karen Hilsberg, Kenley Neufeld, Sister Mai Nghiem, Leslie Rawls, Chau Yoder, and Jack Lawlor. Brother Phap Ho, Brother Phap Hai, Brother Phap Vu, and Brother Phap Man also participated. Wake Up representatives attending were Elli Weisbaum, Vanessa Loucky, David Viafora, Luis M. Gil, Thang Nguyen, Marc Jantzi, Bryan Hindert, Rogelio Moreno, Sergio Marin, Alexis-Michel Schmitt-Cadet, Ashley Prang Huffman, and Nhu-Mai Nguyen. ARISE representatives who participated electronically were Valerie Brown, Victoria Mausisa, and Antoinette Gonzalez.


The Dharma Teachers Sangha CTC recently formed a new Meditation Committee, currently with eight members. Why? Many people turn to meditation in challenging times, and there is increased interest today. Nonetheless, without assistance and encouragement, many become too judgmental about meditation practice and sometimes forego the joy, happiness, equanimity, centeredness, compassion, and understanding that can arise as we cultivate mindfulness, concentration, and insight on our cushions.

Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh has offered a broad and deep range of teachings and practices about meditation in his many Dharma talks, books, and sutra commentaries. His teachings meet the needs of both beginners and long-term meditators. The Meditation Committee’s purpose, as articulated thus far, is to:

  • deepen our collective study and practice of Thay’s teachings on meditation;
  • collaborate on making Thay’s teachings on meditation and related techniques better known worldwide; and
  • develop skillful means to make Thay’s teachings on meditation more accessible and relevant to diverse audiences and to local Sanghas, so not only Dharma teachers and Order of Interbeing members but also local Sangha facilitators and long-time practitioners can joyfully and confidently transmit and share Thay’s approach to meditation widely and for the benefit of future generations.

The current Dharma teacher members of the North American Dharma Teachers Sangha Meditation Committee are Mihaela Andronic, John Bell, David Bohn, Terry Helbick, Mitchell Ratner, Andre Vellino, Chau Yoder, and Jack Lawlor. You can help by sending committee members your favorite excerpts from Thay’s teachings on meditation and suggestions for making his approach more accessible and widely known. If you would like to offer ideas, please write to Jack Lawlor at John.Lawlor@dentons.com, and he will share your offerings with the Committee.