On the traditional first Saturday in October, the Northwest Dharma Association held its eighth annual Teachers Meeting at the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Seattle. The 2011 event was possibly the largest and most diverse of the NWDA teacher gatherings yet.
In addition to ample representation from Sakya, those attending included a contingent of monks from Chua Co Lam Pagoda, Seattle’s largest Vietnamese Buddhist temple. Other teachers came from various Zen lineages, Hua Yen, Pure Land, Dharma Punx, and Vipassana meditation sanghas.
Ven. Kenpo Jampa, abbot of Sakya monastery, led the gathering in an opening prayer, following which we had two hours of spirited discussion on a subjects of concern to virtually all teachers and sanghas.
First up was the subject of outreach. It was widely agreed that we could benefit from emulating our Christian friends and be more outgoing in our efforts to find new members. Koshin Cain and others agreed that Buddhist sanghas often act too coolly towards newcomers looking for a Buddhist “home” and while that attitude may be in keeping with Buddhist tradition, it doesn’t work well in the American milieu.
Dagmo-La (Sakya Monastery) pointed out that Buddhism is all about loving compassion. Our treatment of newcomers should reflect that.
Tashi Paljor of Sakya came up with a neat idea: each year a different sangha submits a “Buddha’s Birthday Card” to NWDA, who then emails it to all members. Great way to foster inter-sangha fellowship!
After a delicious vegetarian lunch, Ven. Khenpo Jampa talked on the subject of “bringing the Dharma to western minds.” He stressed that Buddhism cannot be learned from books – a true seeker must have a qualified teacher. And we as teachers, before attempting to teach others, must be sure we have a thorough and complete understanding of the Dharma ourselves.
As the conference came to an end, Ven. Khenpo Jampa closed with dedication of merit, and gave each attendee a small vajra pendant.
Many thanks to our hosts, Sakya Monastery, and to all who attended for making the 2011 NWDA Teachers Meeting a super event!
This article is excepted from one that appeared in the Fall 22011 Northwest Dharma News, written by Bill Hirsh: http://www.northwestdharma.org/news/Fall11/teachers-meeting.php .