A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

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A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby pema tsultrim » Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:37 am

Dear All,

Below is a description of something I have been thinking hard deeply about for a long time, as a committed Vajrayana householder who has seen much financial struggle and little time for study/practice of late (and as former monastic who once had much opportunity to practice and little financial struggle). I also wonder if there is anything like this already and/or precedent for it in Tibet? My main practice lineage(s) are within the Nyingma so I am posting it here, but I welcome feedback from any Vajrayana practitioners. If it would fit better in a different forum, please move it.

What do you think of the near-mid-or-long term idea of gathering support from dharma patrons and lay practitioners (esp. those with children) to purchase land and establish a non-profit cooperative for the full-time study and practice of Dharma created, maintained and operated by the families who live, work and practice there. I underscore this last point because I know how some Dharma centers can be hierarchical, and have bureaucratic structures and often possessiveness of the lama and all that nasty stuff that can make committed practitioners with family responsibilities very uncomfortable and make the them feel they ought to be "committed" (pun intended) for having kids! In my vision, it would be the families themselves who would work together (under the guidance and authority of one or more qualified and uniquely understanding lamas) to maintain the life and land of the place. Less power stratification, more mutual support of dharma families like ours. Essentially the opposite of traditional Dharma centers in the West (or East for that matter) which subtly or overtly stigmatize parents and their children and places them on the outside, perhaps on the "Enlightenment Waiting List" (which is not where we decided to be when we made the decision to bring children into the world.) Here, Dharma families are the FOCUS and get the priority, cause after all, our kids will or should be the future translators and lineage holders in the West, and we parents deserve a fair shot at progress, too!

More specifically, I envision about 4-5 components to such a place.

1. Living units (ideally individual small residences for each family, maybe a small dorm for singles and childless couples, provided that all such residents must unequivocally appreciate, embrace, and adore kids and at least empathize with and respect parents and the daily sacrifices we make to raise our kids in accordance with Dharma). All day-to-day secular administrative decisions made by true participatory "dharmocracy." Everyone who lives here lives by the 5 Precepts while they are here and contributes something to the life and dharma practice of the community.

2. A schooling co-op for the kids who live there, secular and spiritual (perhaps a Dharma inspired summer camp for non-resident kids and resident kids, as a means of outreach and revenue). I could offer my services as a school teacher/education director.

3. A dharma translation project and translator training program for youth.

4. Common shrine hall for daily group practice and receiving teachings from our lamas. AND THIS IS THE SWEETEST PART: 1 or 2 retreat huts for individual retreats. First weekend, then over time 1-2 weeks individual retreats (and eventually longer as kids grow) for every single resident is BUILT IN to the annual calendar on a continual rotating basis, with resident sangha lovingly and willingly picking up the slack for the retreatant, incl. childcare and other work! Think about it: our individual solitary, distraction-free retreat time, knowing our kids are safe and cared for, COST FREE, could go from exactly ZERO days to 4 1/3 weeks per year (if 12 adult residents). If we doubled up retreatants (one parent from each of two different families), this becomes nearly 9 weeks per year possible. Over 10 years, that's 1 2/3 years of solitary retreat, FREE. With FREE BUDDHIST CHILDCARE! That's a lot better than one week every couple of years.

5. A means of income (I'm thinking a modest sustainable/organic fruit orchard/veg farm, and a kitchen for a seasonal indigenous food product line. I'm thinking seasonal pies and other baked goods. A resident with chef skills would be important here . A sustainable farming expert too. All revenue would go right back into maintaining, operating, and sustaining the facility, programs, and its residents' study and practice.

Major consideration is to work carefully to ensure reputation does not become that of an isolated "cult" brainwashing their children, and to ensure longtime harmony, non-violent conflict resolution, connection with greater sangha, welcoming, empathetic, non-hierarchical and non-elitist atmosphere, authenticity and sustainability in all forms. And always reliance on authentic blessings and guidance of the Guru.

Some possible Lamas that might support this kind of project either in word or deed, (in no particular order):
Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche
Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche
H.E. Dodrup Sungtrul Rinpoche
H.E. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (possible an endowment could come from Khyentse Foundation, because Rinpoche has said our generation's kids will be the future translators)
H.E. Lama Dagmola and H.H. Dagchen Sakya Rinpoches
H.H. the Dalai Lama (letter of support?)


I know this sounds dicey whether it could succeed, but I'm pretty much ready to roll the dice. Let me know if you have something to comment on about an idea like this.

Peace,

Pema Tsultrim
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby kirtu » Sat Aug 11, 2012 4:01 pm

Yes, I've been talking about this for several years back on esangha and here but with mixed reception.

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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby pema tsultrim » Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:21 pm

Yes, I've been talking about this for several years back on esangha and here but with mixed reception.


Oh interesting Kirt! Can you direct me to some of those older threads and/or tell me how you came to start talking about it?

PT
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby ngodrup » Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:51 pm

You are describing a classical ngakpa dratsang- gompa.

Lama Tharchin's Rekong tradition worked this way.

Pema Osel Ling's Lama Sonam is very interested in Buddhist Retirement centers--
elder homes for retiring into retreat.

Multi-generational ngakpa community-- not a new idea.
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby Yudron » Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:45 pm

ngodrup wrote:You are describing a classical ngakpa dratsang- gompa.

Lama Tharchin's Rekong tradition worked this way.

Pema Osel Ling's Lama Sonam is very interested in Buddhist Retirement centers--
elder homes for retiring into retreat.

Multi-generational ngakpa community-- not a new idea.


To elaborate: We love families with kids at our center Pema Osel Ling (http://www.vajrayana.org) near Santa Cruz, CA, and our new affiliate the Saraha Nyingma Buddhist Institute in Eugene, OR (saraha.org) would love to have families and youth involved--educating Buddhist youth is envisioned as one of the focuses of that center. It is common to see kids crawling all over Rinpoche during puja.

But, all adults work, one way or another.
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby kirtu » Sat Aug 11, 2012 9:43 pm

pema tsultrim wrote:
Yes, I've been talking about this for several years back on esangha and here but with mixed reception.


Oh interesting Kirt! Can you direct me to some of those older threads and/or tell me how you came to start talking about it?

PT


I had wanted to investigate creating a community where people could practice full-time if possible. At the time it was before the world-wide economic disaster overtook us and I was considering selling my condo in DC and, in an optimistic sale, financing the beginnings of a Vajrayana community through that. However the cheapest land in the US is generally in the Southwest and often in a desert area or an extremely arid area. Most people were not interested in such potential hardships (yurts in deserts for example). This was back on esangha and that forum died in 2008/2009. The actual thread back then was an alternative housing thread.

Some people did contact me and wanted to buy a house at an exorbitant price financed through a mortgage (to be fair I will always claim that purchasing property via a mortgage is exorbitant - if you do that in the US you have to completely pay it off within one business cycle since there is no job or financial security here - people born and raised in the US have other ideas about their society though) with the house generally located not far from a major urban area. People would not necessarily practice full-time but this would be a convenient setup under which people could concentrate into deeper practice as desired.

This idea has been discussed here as well under a few different threads.

So how did I come across this idea? I've had this kind of an idea since I was a kid actually. But reading the biographies of great yogis was the actual spark.

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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby Yudron » Sat Aug 11, 2012 10:22 pm

There was a mother and (adult) son in my three year retreat--it was the second for both of them.
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby oldbob » Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:00 am

http://dharmatavihara.org/about/

Maybe this might work for some.

Right now it is very uncertain - depending on raising some more $$$ by the end of this month.

Hope this helps!

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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby Josef » Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:29 am

A friend and I are actually trying to build a community on an organic farm. We have a ways to go but it's starting to look like we are going to pull it off.
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:45 am

It sounds like you are interested in something like a Buddhist commune or Buddhist co-housing? I was very interested in this idea for years, perhaps decades. I joined some co-housing online groups getting ideas, had a yahoo group on this subject and for the formation of one. But never could get enough interest and there was never enough consensus on even where it could be, which city or even state (in the U.S.) and what other forms it would take. Many have careers and kids in school and can't just get up and move to where the group decides. But I still like the idea.

Marpa House in Boulder I believe is set up that way: http://marpahouse.shambhala.org/

And there may be a few others. Long term residency can be done at some retreat centers, but only if you have truck loads of money to spare or can do a work study to off-set some of the cost.
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby username » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:46 pm

There are a couple of sayings: everyone has got good ideas but it matters when someone does it & Build it (not the whole thing but a start) and they will come. Last Karmapa & a few other lamas who built stupas there predicted the power places in Colorado mountains will be opened up in future. There are other power places found by divination or a master. Or anywhere that is just appropriate & practical will also do. Thirdly there will be a need for a head master/mistress or preferably more from different denominations to offer a variety of teachings & oversee things as things get carried away sometimes plus supervising progress on the path. Finally if we can not live in such a community (face it: samsara sucks even there so no escapism) which is a good thing IMO if they are founded in future, then one can integrate daily life into mindful contemplation like an adventure as all Buddhists realized teachers teach us.
Dzogchen masters I know say: 1)Buddhist religion essence is Dzogchen 2)Religions are positive by intent/fruit 3)Any method's OK unless: breaking Dzogchen vows, mixed as syncretic (Milanese Soup) 4)Don't join mandalas of opponents of Dalai Lama/Padmasambhava: False Deity inventors by encouraging victims 5)Don't debate Ati with others 6)Don't discuss Ati practices online 7) A master told his old disciple: no one's to discuss his teaching with some others on a former forum nor mention him. Publicity's OK, questions are asked from masters/set teachers in person/email/non-public forums~Best wishes
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby pema tsultrim » Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:50 am

username wrote:There are a couple of sayings: everyone has got good ideas but it matters when someone does it & Build it (not the whole thing but a start) and they will come. Last Karmapa & a few other lamas who built stupas there predicted the power places in Colorado mountains will be opened up in future. There are other power places found by divination or a master. Or anywhere that is just appropriate & practical will also do. Thirdly there will be a need for a head master/mistress or preferably more from different denominations to offer a variety of teachings & oversee things as things get carried away sometimes plus supervising progress on the path. Finally if we can not live in such a community (face it: samsara sucks even there so no escapism) which is a good thing IMO if they are founded in future, then one can integrate daily life into mindful contemplation like an adventure as all Buddhists realized teachers teach us.


I definitely think that one or more qualified lineage holding masters would need to be directly involved in the education and training that would take place. I would not advocate a bunch of practitioners running off half-cocked undertaking their own long retreats together and expecting themselves or their kids to come out of something like that without massive trauma.

I take your point about working with the circumstances we have and not thinking of "some place else" as "not samsara." I've had this discussion many times with my wife, who in her defense never experienced the long term focus and group support in practice of a monastic community, but only in short weekend and week long retreats. She sometimes says, "the monastery is samsara, too." I usually agree saying the only place I ever had my shoes stolen was in the monastery. But all the great masters, whether yogis and yoginis or monastics have stressed the importance of the conducive environment for practice. Location Location Location. It's huge. So I think sometimes the integration aspect is sometimes overemphasized in Western Dharma communities, seemingly to the exclusion of the formal practice. Sogyal Rinpoche has said on a number of occasions that you have to have something to integrate :jumping:

It's a hazy memory now, but I do recall having more free time to practice in my pre-parent years. Now I would never wish my kids away but I would certainly like to spend my daytime hours studying texts or meditating with other parents while the kids are in school rather than filling out job applications or trying not to get laid off again.

Many have careers and kids in school and can't just get up and move to where the group decides. But I still like the idea.


Right! Perhaps if I had been comfortably situated in a career and settled geographically I wouldn't have even thought about it. I think it's been the three years of total or near total unemployment while trying to raise 4 kids that got me thinking about the whole thing. WIth the way things are in the US and around the world right now, it seems the need to focus on study and practice just becomes more and more crucial, rather than making a full time job out of trying to land that next "job." Having kids really threw a stark light on how much better I want for our world's children, and how the opportunities to be more immersed in formal study and practice, especially retreat, should be available not only to singles or adult couples, but families that include children. Obviously when the kiddies are really young it isn't appropriate to leave them with other parents or practitioners for long periods, but over time this becomes feasible in a supportive community more reflective of a "village societies" around the world.

I am not personally of the hippie-commune generation of the 1960s but that would be the general idea. A self-sustaining community focused around families who want more emphasis on Buddhist study and practice than typically afforded by the hectic "engaged" Buddhist lifestyle. Work and commerce would be need to be done but on-site and only at a level to sustain and continue the main mission of the place.

It's comforting to see that others have thought about this, too, and that many of you think it would be a good thing. I tried the link to Marpa House but it was only one very simple page, describing nothing about the program. Is there a large cost to live there, and do they admit families with children? I have seen other long-term Buddhist living communities but they either charge rates comparable to living in a typical city (which requires having a day job and thus is at odds with the idea here) or they cannot allow children.

Also, the dharmatavihara page was down. What is the mission and background of this place?

PT
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby username » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:40 am

Dzogchen masters I know say: 1)Buddhist religion essence is Dzogchen 2)Religions are positive by intent/fruit 3)Any method's OK unless: breaking Dzogchen vows, mixed as syncretic (Milanese Soup) 4)Don't join mandalas of opponents of Dalai Lama/Padmasambhava: False Deity inventors by encouraging victims 5)Don't debate Ati with others 6)Don't discuss Ati practices online 7) A master told his old disciple: no one's to discuss his teaching with some others on a former forum nor mention him. Publicity's OK, questions are asked from masters/set teachers in person/email/non-public forums~Best wishes
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Re: A Community for Full-Time Practitioners with Families?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:32 am

I like the idea.
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