NASBA Fellowship Manual

"Simple" Sangha Model

NASBA Manual Home
Spirit of Shin Practice
"Simple" Sangha Model
Outreach Steps
Element I: Opening the Dharma
Element II: Go For Refuge
Element III: Meditation
Element IV: Prayer or Responsive Reading
Element V: Chanting
Element Vb: (optional ceremonies)
Element VI: Discussion
Element VII: Sharing the Merit
Element VIII: Fellowship
NASBA Site and Chapter Links

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

                                   love and wisdom.


D         Dharma –       the simple sangha has the teachings of the Buddha at

                                    its core.


C         Compassion – the simple sangha nurtures and loves one another and

                                    all beings.


G         Gathering –    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.


M        Mission        the 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.


Element I:          Opening of the Dharma. Includes ritual of candle 

                            and incense offering.

Element II:         Going for Refuge and the Shin Affirmation.

Element III:        Sitting Meditation with the optional voice practice.

Element IV:        Buddhist prayer/aspiration.

Element V:         Chanting practice using the Juseige and Nembutsu.

Element VI:        Discussion on the dharma using books and/or video.

Element VII:       End with the Sharing of the Merit.

Element VIII:     Fellowship & refreshments.


It’s that 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


Gatherings must 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 Amida Buddha. 


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.


Copyright 2008. Buddhist Faith Fellowship, All Rights Reserved

The BFF grants permission to copy this document for personal and BFF Chapter uses only.