Embodying Refuge: the 2020 online fall practice period

A message from the BZC dharma teachers:

Dear Sangha,

We are very excited to begin our Fall 2020 practice period on Wednesday, October 14th. We will be opening with a ceremony at 7:30pm that evening and hope all can join.

The theme of the practice period this semester will be Embodying Refuge. We aspire to collectively drop this intention into the center of our hearts, bodies, and practice in order to discern it for ourselves and live it for others.

As with all elements of our practice, refuge cannot be fully realized without the clarifying and harmonizing coming together of sangha. Sometimes this meeting is felt as joyous, easeful, and intimate. Other times it is experienced as frustrating, painful, and distancing. May we always welcome honest dialogue and allow the sangha to be a mirror to our minds that grasp our views as the limits of who we are in the world.

As always, we encourage our sangha to live in accord with the six paramitas, sixteen precepts, and four brahmaviharas. These intentions that anchor the bodhisattva path offer an opportunity to align our views, moral behavior, and emotional habits with the dharma of liberation. These are the bedrock of our community, and so our devotion to them is critical to illuminating refuge.

We recognize a practice period in this time will be all the more challenging as the upcoming months will likely continue with words and actions that cause pain, conflict, and violence. We know from speaking with you all that this leaves many of us with a sense of heartbreak, confusion, anger, and hopelessness.

We also know that your practice and relationships with one another have allowed connection and joy to penetrate these wider difficulties. Each of you independently and all of you collectively have been an inspiration and deep motivation for the both of us as well. We want to celebrate your commitment to one another and the dharma, carrying it forward into this next practice phase of our lives together. We have no doubt we will all need one another. We also have no doubt we will do our very best to be fully and lovingly present with one another.

Ours is a time for sangha. It is a time for leaning into the cultivation of a community devoted to courageous dialogue, compassionate action, and liberation. It is a time to take the backwards step and clarify our views, intentions, and values all the way to the bone so we can step into the fire of this life with clear discernment and fearless love for all beings without exception.

The months to come will not be without fear. They will not be without a desire to coat our minds in distraction. They will not be without impulses to attack those seen as dangers. They will not be without flashes of purposelessness and despair. However, because of our sangha we know they will also not be without courage, without forgiveness, without truthful conversations about how to alleviate suffering, and without a desire to hold one another in love and a shared commitment to be free.

So let’s never forget that returning an urgent text or phone call might be the difference between despair and courage. We have to remember that our presence at a sit or a dharma talk or a class provides the strong undercarriage of another’s practice. Let’s keep a compassionate eye out for sangha siblings who might have lost work and be struggling with an electric bill or rent, so we can meet that struggle with meaningful support. Let’s make sure all those who wish to be connected are connected to this community, that no one is left wondering how to enter. It will take each and every one of us living out our bodhisattva vow as attentive action for this to be so.

We will certainly make mistakes and miss opportunities for offering refuge. So let’s vow now together to return to one another when we do. Let’s make sure we are attending to all who are wanting to be in this sangha together. Let’s do our best to live the refuge we ourselves so deeply need. To this end, we will be offering the opportunity for everyone to join practice period dharma groups to study and to be in more intimate community together. When communicating your intentions regarding the practice period, please be sure to let us know if you want to be a part of a dharma group.

Per usual, we invite you to fill out the Practice Period Commitment Form. Deliberately clarifying your intentions and having them witnessed by dharma teachers provides the gift of accountability and bolsters our commitments to the three jewels. We are always inspired by your efforts and look forward to reading your practice commitments for the upcoming months. Please submit the Practice Period Commitment Form by no later than October 11th.

We look forward to practice together and hope to see all of you, whether online or in person, in the months to come. We are grateful to our ancestors for their efforts and love in making this possible for us. May each of you remain safe and healthy, find joy and ease as we move forward together in practice.

With love and appreciation,
Laura and Kosen