On creating a Buddhist community


Dear Dharma Friends,

In his recent public talks the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso has emphasized the need for secular ethics. Secular ethics are based on the universal principles of love and compassion. Secular ethics can lay the groundwork for our society because of our own innate capacity to perfect these inner qualities. Love and compassion originate in an understanding that we are all interdependent – each of us as individuals together make up a greater whole. The strength and beauty of our community is a reflection of our individual purity of heart – a purity shared through our actions, words, and thoughts.

As our local Buddhist community continues to expand in numbers, we should make an effort to grow together, not apart. Just as a plant sends out roots beneath the ground to support new growth, we must nurture our common ties. Many non-Buddhists are showing an interest in Buddhism, and we receive more and more invitations for interfaith discussions with Christian groups. While it is valuable to participate in such exchanges, we also need more intra-faith, community events such as the annual Vesak celebration, or the Maitreya Heart Shrine Relic Tour coming to Washington D.C. this October to draw our own community closer together. Doing so ensures that the Dharma continues to flourish because friction between temples and questions such as “What’s in it for my Center?” will never arise. By strengthening our community spirit, we put into practice secular ethics such as equality and mutual respect rather than simply allowing our fancy talk about love and compassion to remain empty words.

On a personal note, as a an ordained nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, I feel that my ability to wear my robes is somehow related to our society’s collective openness to the BuddhaDharma. In part, I am a nun only if others understand what it means to be a Buddhist nun. In the eyes of those who do not, I’m just an oddly attired, middle-aged Asian lady. My experience is shared by all the ordained sangha in our area. In the absence of a vibrant Buddhist community, it is difficult for us to thrive.

Finally, as many of our great Buddhist masters pass away, it becomes even more important for us to come together much as young siblings must unite when their parents die. Without our teachers’ guidance and presence, we are more likely to stumble. Following the eightfold noble path is not easy – please, let’s walk it hand-in-hand.

With palms together,

Losang Tendrol

Fairfax, Virginia
June 3, 2013

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