A short guide to joining or starting a sangha

“The next Buddha will be a Sangha”  – Thich Nhat Hanh

Sanghas are communities of monastic and/or lay Buddist practitioners. A sangha is the best way to practice meditation, as it offers deep support and wisdom for beginners and seasoned practitioners alike, and can start with a minimum of four practitioners. Not only do they help create a routine and improve individual practice, but the energy of a community of practitioners can create ripples of understanding and compassion that reverberate throughout society and the world.

Further reading: ‘Dharma Body, Sangha Body’ is a short teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh for lay audiences, explaining two of the most important terms in Buddhism: dharma and sangha. 

For those who want to either join or create a local sangha, some pointers are shared below.

Finding a local sangha 

There are Mindfulness Practice Centers working according to the Plum Village tradition in Europe, Asia, and America, made up of communities of monks, nuns, and laypeople. There are also dozens of lay Mindfulness Practice Centers worldwide, while over a thousand lay sanghas meet regularly in towns and cities for mornings, evenings, or days of mindfulness practice.

The Plum Village community has created a directory centralizing all known lay sanghas. It includes a map showing them all with detailed information about the closest sangha in the Plum Village tradition. 

Online sanghas, which became popular during the pandemic, are also available. The Plumline website, a support center for anyone wishing to find, establish, build, or maintain an online sangha, provides a place to share ideas and resources as online sanghas develop.

However, if you would like to start a new sangha, online or in your physical vicinity, here are some tips:

Six practises for a real sangha

“Without a sangha you lose your practice very soon” – Thich Nhat Hanh

You will need to learn how to practice with a sangha; therefore, we invite you to listen to key Dharma Talks by Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village dharma teachers on this subject. 

For instance, in this Dharma Talk, Thay takes a deep dive into what it means to be a sangha. Some of what Thay shares relates to monastic sanghas, but much can equally be applied to a lay community, like the Six Togethernesses a real sangha must practice:

1. Body: being physically present in one place

2. Mindfulness training

3. Sharing: dharma discussion; nonverbal action; presence. (View, insight, understanding, wisdom)

4. Speech: loving; calm and gentle

5. Material resources: shared equally

6. Happy and joyful; synthesis of all ideas.

Toward the end of the talk, Thay also explains the difference between the core sangha and the extended sangha.

Sangha in a Box: a start-up kit

This initiative by the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation aims to share Thay’s teachings of understanding and compassion. Though initially available to local sanghas practicing in the Plum Village tradition, this ceased during the pandemic – however, resources from the kit are available for free online.

The kit comprises: a DVD of practice orientation; a sangha handbook and other dharma resources (some of Thay’s books and guides); sangha supplies, such as a bell with cushion and inviter; and practice song resources, such as CDs of chants from Plum Village. 

Find out more about this start-up kit here, and look out for updates about the programme.

The New Sangha Handbook

This 47-page resource includes Mindfulness Trainings, guidance for sangha activities and facilitation, and other practice and teaching information. Included in the Sangha in a Box start-up kit, it can also be downloaded free of charge as a PDF file, here.

Additionally:

➛ Subscribe to the community’s newsletters, especially The Raft – a special bi-weekly series, assembled by the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, Plum Village Monastery, Parallax Press, and the Plum Village App team

➛ Join a retreat and find out firsthand how such gatherings take place

➛ Ask for assistance from the online lay and monastic communities, which can share priceless advice to help you start and run a sangha.  

“In order to cultivate and strengthen our Sangha, we first need to cultivate and strengthen our own practice. Once we know how to generate joy and happiness; once we know how to handle our suffering; and once we know how to listen deeply and speak lovingly in order to re-establish communication with our brothers and sisters, then we will have great success in Sangha-building” – Thich Nhat Hanh


References:

‘Sangha Building: Our Noblest Career’

Dharma Talks: ‘How Do We Practice as a Sangha’

‘Developing a Group’

The New Sangha Handbook

Sangha Building Resources’

The Way Out Is In: ‘Building and Sustaining the Beloved Community’

‘Dharma Body, Sangha Body’


 ☁️ As has been the case with Buddhist teachings for millennia, there is no charge for the Plum Village App and its digital content. However, if your means allow, please consider offering a donation to support our small team’s continued work on the App.


Comments

  1. Breathing in I come to know the wisdom of the cloud, breathing out I experience joy and gratitude 🙏💝🙏

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