Updated on June 17, 2013
The location was the hidden valley of Deer Park Monastery near San Diego, California. This 500-acre sanctuary provided the space for about 60 dharma teachers to meet for five days in early June. The weather was perfect, the sharing intimate, the facilitation exceptional, and the practice grounded. The dharma teachers came from Theravada, Ekayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Triratna streams bringing a richness of experience to our gathering and conversation. Though the gathering was located at Deer Park Monastery, this gathering was organized and facilitated by a team of five dharma teachers from each of these lineages. Much gratitude to the monastics of Deer Park for opening up their home for our practice.
As active dharma teachers in a tradition of Buddhadharma offering refuge in the Three Jewels, we gathered as a continuation of a similar retreat at the Garrison Institute in 2011. We came together to share our experience, and support each other, as young dharma teachers (born between 1960-1980) teaching western Buddhism. The intent was to connect teachers for whom Dharma teaching is a (or the) significant life activity, whether through teaching retreats, guiding a Buddhist temple, or other format. Being together demonstrated that we are truly a community of teachers and not independent nor separate because of our tradition. We need not teach in isolation and can support one another in our practice and teachings. Continue reading
Deer Park Monastery
I’m going to continue my non-library trend of late and talk about the Stick Ceremony. This past weekend I had the opportunity to return to Deer Park Monastery, one of my favorite places on earth, to celebrate the start of the Rains Retreat. This 90-day retreat occurs annually and is a time for us to look deeply and focus our practice and energy. The retreat begins with a ceremony that identifies those who are participating in the entire 90-day retreat and to set the boundries of the monastery. We enter the mediation hall, the monastics are sitting in their sangati robes surrounded by the lay community of practitioners. After a bit, we stand for an incense offering and some touching the earth paying respects to the Bodhisattvas, and for me, to honor those characteristics and aspirations in myself. We sit again and chant together.
At this point four of the monastics stand and process to the front – each holding a tray. Update: Two of the monastics, one monk and one nun, each have a tray full of sticks to distribute. The other two monastics will collect the sticks after they have been distributed to each participant. Thank you Caleb for seeking this clarification. A bit more touching the earth and bowing before the tray is brought to the front and a stick is offered to the Buddha present for the retreat. This is done by the first monastics, followed by the second monastic who then picks up the small stick and places it on his tray. The next person to receive a stick is a place held for our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. Again, the second monastic picks up the stick left by the first monk. This continues through the entire row of monks and nuns. Each picking up a stick and then returning it. Thus the process of taking a stick occurs.