I have joined a sangha, a Buddhist community. A sangha is roughly the Buddhist equivalent to the Christian idea of a “church,” though in this case, it’s less overtly religious. (Buddhism is a practice, and it can be a religion; like many other Buddhists, I follow the practice, but I do not see it as a religion.)
This particular sangha is called Treeleaf. Specifically, we practice Zen Buddhism, and even more specifically, we practice Soto Zen Buddhism. It’s not the only path to enlightenment, but it’s a path that works.
Treeleaf is an unusual sangha, because it’s all online. It’s designed to accommodate the thousands of people worldwide who want to practice with others, but don’t live close enough to a physical sangha. (In my case, the closest sangha is the Buddhist Temple of Toledo, which isn’t particularly close.)
We talk to each other on forums and via e-mail. We watch our teachers lecture on YouTube.
Why join a Zen community?
For me, it’s about taking the practice to the next level. It’s about motivation and encouragement. And it’s about clarity.
I’ve read seven or eight books on Zen and Buddhism in general, but that can get confusing. Each author has a different perspective, a different tradition, a different focus. Not that any are necessarily wrong, but it helps to be consistent. A plane and a ship can both get you to Argentina, but if you read a few chapters on sailing and a few chapters on piloting, you’re going to end up awfully lost.
One set of teachers, one community, one focus. Simple.
I still read the books, of course. It’s still important to get other perspectives. You just have to be able to keep the other perspectives, in perspective.
And you know what? My practice has improved. Both in meditation and in daily life, it’s getting easier to find the still point in the midst of the daily storm.
The path leads all sorts of interesting places, doesn’t it?