The “Simple” Sangha Model
As stated above,
originally Shin Buddhism was a simple faith, in which people met at home, without a professional clergy, egalitarian, democratic,
without temples, budgets and fancy programs. The core of these simple sanghas (groups) had the following 5 elements of A. D. C. G. M.
A Amida – the simple
sangha focuses and entrusts itself in the
nembutsu as the living embodiment of the universal
D Dharma – the simple sangha has the
teachings of the Buddha at
– the simple sangha nurtures and loves one another and
– the simple sangha provides
a clear and egalitarian
“meeting”format that anyone can
follow. The BFF has
8 easy liturgical elements to run a meeting.
simple sangha moves to embody the Buddha’s
ministry and share the dharma with all sentient beings.
We found that this
“simple” model is a great way to experience the Shin Buddhist religion and the transformative light of the dharma.
The “simple” model is so uncomplicated that it becomes a practical vehicle by which anyone, with a little knowledge
of the dharma, can start up and facilitate a “simple” fellowship.
Is “Simple” Another Word for Lower Quality?
Not at all! There
is not any organizational form or any specific liturgical design that can insure the quality of practice. In our experience,
we have found that the small, interactive, personal and friendly setting of a home or campus sangha is the best way to cultivate
a deep practice and help people become passionate disciples of our Buddha.
Our “Simple” Gathering Format
Hosting a chapter
gathering is very straightforward when following the “simple” model. Our gathering format includes the following
8 easy elements.
Opening of the Dharma. Includes ritual of candle
and incense offering.
for Refuge and the Shin Affirmation.
Meditation with the optional voice practice.
Chanting practice using the Juseige and Nembutsu.
on the dharma using books and/or video.
with the Sharing of the Merit.
VIII: Fellowship &
simple. Please refer to this dedicated web site as your simple step by step manual to facilitate a BFF Chapter/Practice Group.
Length of Gatherings
offer at least an hour of causal discussion of the dharma. Discussions cover Shin and general Buddhist topics. Interactive
discussions are important in the sedimentation process of incorporating the dharma and the nembutsu into our daily lives.
In addition, chapter
meetings serve as a social gathering where people of similar ideas and values can meet. So, Chapter Leaders should offer refreshments
and/or have a potluck informal meal. Chapters can gather every week or once a
month and should meet for two hours. You choose the days and times, and discussion topics. Please review the web sites of
our current Chapters/Groups for examples of successful groups.
What is the Spirit of Our Gatherings?
The attitude or spirit that you
should have when hosting or leading a BFF Chapter/Practice Group is the following. Remember, we are a circle of equals. We
don't have hierarchies or gurus, though we do have a certified dharma teacher to facilitate the service. As practitioners
of the Shin path, we stress an egalitarian and democratic community and attitude. We call each other friends (kalyanamitra), dress casually, and are very welcoming. In
our gatherings, we practice deep hearing, quiet sitting and voice meditation, prayer and the voicing of the Nembutsu-namu-Amida-Butsu as an expression of our trust in and gratitude for the ultimate Oneness of life, symbolized as
Instead of sermons, our spiritual
community is known for its insightful and lively dharma discussions. As our founder, the 13th century Japanese
reformer, Shinran Shonin, taught, "We are all fellow travelers on the path," and, as such, anyone may share his/her opinion
and experience. Learning from one another in this fashion creates a strong, nourishing environment. We care for and love one
another and live in service to the world. This is the true meaning of our religion.