Giving and Receiving

A message from Alexandra Gekas and Tom Weinreich, BZC Membership Committee co-chairs:

Dear Sangha,

Last September, forty or fifty of us gathered for a ritual of generosity. It was the beginning of the fall practice period at Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC), and we had devoted ourselves to practicing together for the coming ninety days. We sat in a circle. Each of us shared our specific intention for our practice that season, and then joined our hands and said, “giving and receiving, I take refuge in sangha.”

But what is given, and who gives? It seems that we give our intentions to the sangha. Maybe the sangha gives us support with the insecurity and doubt we feel about fulfilling our intentions. We may offer the sangha the courage of speaking up in the midst of that insecurity and doubt. Certainly the ancestors who passed on this way of supporting each other are also giving us something. Is there an offering we are making to them in return?

Actually, there is no way to break these apart. Giving and receiving, we take refuge in sangha. All enumerations and accounts of it will be incomplete. This generosity is endless, dynamic, and whole.

This month, we are having a membership drive. Becoming a BZC member, like joining a practice period, is an act of sangha generosity. In the conventional view, it looks like a practitioner making a monthly payment to support BZC, and BZC offering that practitioner discounts on programs and events. It is also a complete expression of generosity which cannot be separated out into a giver, a receiver, and a gift.

Regardless of your current membership status, we are inviting you to take some time this month to reflect on how this sangha nourishes you. The fast pace of our lives can make this difficult. See if you can slow down and savor what has been freely given.

There is no price to pay for this generosity, no debt accrued. If this reflection awakens generosity in your heart, membership is one opportunity to practice expressing that. We want to caution against the idea that one “should” become a member, or that being a member entitles us to ignore the next request which arises. We give our membership dues as freely as the dharma is given to us.

On Saturday, March 11th, please join Ryan Lee Wong, BZC Administrative Director, and dharma teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny Senseis for a sangha meeting on Membership, Engagement, and Stewarding a Tradition at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn, from 12 noon to 1pm, followed by pizza.

In addition, on Tuesday, March 21st, from 7 to 8:30pm, we will host an online gathering on Practicing with Membership, for members and non-members alike. This will be an intimate conversation for us to share how we relate membership to the practice of dana and stewardship of Soto Zen Buddhism at a socially engaged temple in America. We will sit, reflect, and discuss our experience together. We hope to see you there! You can find more details here.

Finally, we will close out the month with a movie night for all old and new members on Friday, March 31st. The evening will include dinner and socializing at 6pm, followed by the film screening at 7pm. Join us!

With love,

Alexandra Gekas and Tom Weinreich
BZC Membership Committee co-chairs