Engaging the Buddhist Community

Last weekend I participated in a small panel on Buddhism, where a Buddhist student in the audience asked me how I incorporate Buddhist practice into my everyday life. I gave her a fairly lame response along the lines of, “I meditate daily and—gosh, Buddhism practically permeates my life!”

Here is my attempt to give her a slightly better idea of how I have been engaged with the Buddhist community, along with the types of opportunities she likely will have in the Buddhist community after graduation.

On a personal level, Buddhist practice is weaved into my day with meditation, prayer and reflection. I try to meditate every day in the morning after waking up and in the evening between the time I get home and go to bed. But I’m involved quite a bit beyond my day-to-day work life.

I am also involved in my local community. Recently, it’s easy to forget this, as the last six months have inundated my schedule with work. When I’m not beholden to pressing deadlines, I participate in a local meditation group, volunteer with a local temple youth group and make occasional trips to temples and monasteries farther afield—sometimes as far as an eight hour drive!

In the past, I’ve also attended a number of meditation retreats. There are free retreats, such as the Vipassana retreats, which I highly recommend. I was in fact expected to participate in a short-term temporary ordination program, but I bowed out due to work obligations.

Of course, beyond these bits of involvement, I blog here and also here.

So if you’re a young Buddhist college graduate who’s moved across the country and looking to participate in a community, start simple. Figure out how you would like to get involved in your community. If you’re interested in meditation, you could find a meditation group. If you’re more interested in social action, you might want to find a local chapter of Tzu Chi or the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, for example.

I would also encourage you to blog and/or tweet about your Buddhist struggles and experiences in the community, especially if you find yourself in a place without many Buddhists. There are millions of Buddhists online, and they likely be more than happy to reach out and let you know that you’re not alone. If you’re worried about snarky bloggers (like me!) then turn on comment moderation—or turn off the comments altogether!

You might even find that through a deeper involvement in the Buddhist community, you look toward monastic ordination. There are many opportunities for ordination—many more opportunities today for young Buddhists in the West than there were just ten years ago. Or you might even explore becoming a Dharma teacher or academic.

There are many opportunities to be engaged in the community, but a key piece is to take your time. Much of my involvement in the Buddhist community has come about through opportunities rooted in friendships that I’ve made over the years.

I’m interested in thoughts from readers—what are some other ways someone new to Buddhism could get involved in the community?

2 Replies to “Engaging the Buddhist Community”

  1. When someone asks how to incorporate Buddhist practice into everyday life, I think immediately of Anagarika Munindra, a Bengali Buddhist meditation master who taught many of our prominent Western dharma teachers. Because he never confined practice to a cushion, a retreat, or a monastery, this is what he used to tell his students:
    “Everything is meditation in this practice, even while eating, drinking, dressing, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Whatever you are doing, everything should be done mindfully, dynamically, with totality, completeness, thoroughness. Then it becomes meditation, meaningful, purposeful. Meditation is not only sitting: it is a way of living. It should be integrated with our whole life. To develop mindfulness is the most important factor in the process of awakening.” This quote is from “Living This LIfe Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra.”m

  2. Thank You Mirka for this post. I am a Bengali Buddhist, and have met Munidra from a distance in mid 1970’s. When asked for the first time in a Buddhist sangha here in KY, I was kind of confused how to describe my practice because i did not have a regular sitting practice at that time…. Just intentional mindful living which permeated every thing in my life slowly in an organic way…including my decision to quit my full time job in 1993 and choose the Middle way of becoming a lay practitioner.

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