Are you a wanna be Buddhist missionary? Stop here! Learn how to start a home or campus Buddhist fellowship.
Host a Local Chapter
Do you feel the need to share
the Buddha Dharma with others? Are you interested in hosting a BFF Chapter/Practice Group in your home or university? Are
you interested in deepening your practice? Do you want to make new spiritual friends? Do you want to make a positive difference
in the world? If so, we would like to work together with you to fulfill these goals.
What is the Buddhist Faith Fellowship?
The Buddhist Faith Fellowship
(BFF) is an independent and innovative Shin Buddhist community, established in the year 2001, offering an open,
caring, and nurturing environment for all who seek the Buddhist experience. We see ourselves as spiritual pioneers of the
21st century, expanding the boundaries of the Buddha Dharma and helping to create a new American Buddhism. Together, we are
actively engaged in the Buddhist teachings and practices to transform ourselves in service to other beings and the world.
As equals, we encourage one another to understand, accept and live by the Buddha Dharma, sharing its message of peace, hope
and compassion with all. Currently, we have many local chapters throughout Connecticut and North America.
The Role of Chapters
Our Chapters, also referred
to as Practice Groups, are informal local communities, that follow the “simple” format (see below), dedicated in supporting their member’s Shin Buddhist spirituality in a caring and nurturing
atmosphere, thereby, allowing each to naturally grow in the dharma with deeper faith, compassion and understanding. Furthermore, they make available the Buddha Dharma in locations outside the immediate vicinity of the
Buddhist Faith Fellowship (BFF) in Middletown, Connecticut,
USA, and serve as representatives of the BFF mission. Chapters gather on a regular basis to practice the Shin dharma and also may
organize social and outreach events in their local communities.
and small home based communities were the means in which the Shin religion spread throughout Asia,
especially Japan. Ordinary lay people offered small gatherings in which they chanted and discussed the Pure Land dharma as equals. Overtime, these
small sanghas transformed into temples and churches.
Today, we are following this
“simple” model and have Chapters/Practice groups located from New Mexico to Puerto Rico. They serve as mini sanghas (communities), semi-independent, informal in nature yet
provide their members and friends a gratifying spiritual experience and fellowship.
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 love 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
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.
How to Establish a Chapter?
Keeping simplicity in mind,
to establish a Chapter/Practice group in your home or university, you can use any comfortable space available, such as
a living room and a college dorm or conference room. Tell your friends about your new group and place flyers on bulletin boards
around town and/or campus. We have designed a standard flyer for all chapters that have been very successful in publicizing
gatherings. Also, we will design you a web site and we’ll maintain it for
you. Remember to promptly answer your e-mails from the web site and have “ready-made” directions to your location
available to be sent out to interested people. We are here to support you and answer any questions you might have. Please
scroll below to the section called “How to Start?” for more information
on this topic.
Our “Simple” Gathering Format
Hosting a chapter gathering
is very straightforward when following the “simple” model. Our gathering format includes the following 8 easy
- Start off with a little BFF ritual of candle and incense offering.
- Practice Going for Refuge and Shin Affirmation
- Practice basic sitting meditation (10 -15 minutes),
- Practice Buddhist prayer/aspiration.
- Practice chanting practice using the Juseige and Nembutsu.
- Have a discussion on the dharma using books and/or video.
- End with the Sharing of the Merit.
- Offer refreshments.
It’s that simple. Please
refer to dedicated web site called Home or
Campus Fellowship Manual for the step by step details. Click below.
Home or Campus Buddhist Fellowship Manual
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
some of our current Chapters/Groups.
CLICK HERE to enter the EBF's web site.
CLICK HERE to enter the BPG of Farmington's web site.
Who is Eligible to Start Up a Chapter?
Anyone is eligible to start
up a local BFF Chapter/Practice Group but some general knowledge of Buddhism is necessary. We recommend having knowledge and
experience in sitting meditation, such as Zen or Vipassana. Importantly, a little familiarity of the Buddhist basics such
as the life of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, The Five or Tenfold Precepts, the Meaning of Going for Refuge etc. is essential.
Having some knowledge of Shin Buddhism is a plus since our chapters are Shin orientated but this requirement is not necessary.
You do not even have to have formally Gone for Refuge to establish a BFF Chapter.
You just need the deep interest, drive and zeal to do it.
College Students, Isolated Buddhists etc.
This is especially a great opportunity
for college students who have the enthusiasm to establish and maintain a chapter. These
days, university and college students seem to have a big interest in the dharma and you can help inspire them to practice.
Starting up a local Campus Buddhist Group will certainly facilitate this spiritual
Also, if you live far from other
Buddhist groups then it might be a good idea to establish one yourself by following the “simple” model. You will
be surprised on how many other people in your area wished they had a place or group to practice with and talk about Buddhism.
Notably, if you have a deep aspiration to practice the dharma with others and the calling to share your love of the Buddha
Dharma with others, then this is something for you.
Do Chapters have Leaders?
Every BFF Chapter is different
in its leadership style but in general there are similar threads of organization. There
are “leaders” which are referred to as “Practice Leaders;” these folks are not spiritually superior
to anyone else but simply have some formal training in the Buddhist practice and possess a strong impulse to share the dharma
with all. Practice Leaders function as the main facilitators and representatives of their home or campus fellowship. He or
she may not even be the one who is facilitating a discussion; this responsibility can be shared among members.
The BFF community follows the
early Shin Buddhist ideal of total lay control of the sanghas in an egalitarian and democratic format. At its core, in Shin
Buddhism there is no need for monastics or clergy. Therefore, our organization does not follow a hierarchical or vertical
(top-down) organizational format but follows a flat or horizontal design. Therefore, all local fellowships also follow this
In our American version of the
Shin religion, we are all “leaders” in which anyone can be called by the Primal Vow to inspire, encourage, practice
and teach the dharma. In a BFF Chapter, everyone should participate in its organization and directly and personally engage
in the dharma, searching together the scriptures without mindlessly and obediently depending on the so-called “interpretation”
of professional clergy.
Locations, Training & Commitment
If you live in Connecticut
or anywhere beyond, you can establish a local BFF chapter. You need just basic knowledge of Buddhism and a strong aspiration
to deepen and share your Buddhist spirituality with others.
Since it’s pretty straightforward
to start up a group (see above) and training is pretty simple which can be done via e-mail/phone with one of our Associate
Teachers. If you live in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island or Eastern New York State (near Ct), we can personally
train you with our simple chants, prayers and quiet sitting meditation techniques. If
you live outside of these areas, anywhere in the USA, Canada or Latin America, we can help you via phone, e-mail
and send you a cassette tape/CD of the 3 main chants for you to practice. After we train you, you will be considered a local
BFF Practice Leader and you’ll be ready to begin your home or campus Buddhist fellowship.
Chants include the basic Juseige, Nembutsu and Om Mani Padme Hum chants (see our daily practice web page). Meditation includes just basic quiet sitting meditation:
Zen or Vipassana. For discussion topics, Practice Leaders/Hosts choose the readings (or video) from favorite and inspirational
Buddhist books. After we train you, you will be considered a BFF Practice Leader/Host.
Establishing a chapter is not
rocket science but you need a little orientation, training and personal dedication. The most important element for you to
consider is commitment. Dedication to practice and outreach is a key component for success. A seriousness of purpose
is essential or it just will not work out and your efforts and group will certainly flop.
Our Support Network
Please read below to see the
support we can offer you in establishing and maintaining a BFF Chapter/Practice Group. Being part of an experienced and larger
organization has its benefits. The BFF network will support you in the following,
- Train you in chanting the Juseige, Nembutsu and Om Mani Padme Hum
- Design your Chapter/Practice Group web site and post it in local directories and on the BFF sites.
- Help you write up Public Announcement release to local newspapers
- Help you establish an e-mailing list
- Give you ideas for discussion topics
- Offer you free books for group study
- Offer scholarships for Group leaders outside Connecticut
to participate in our courses like the 365 program.
- Offer you our “Opening the Heart for the Cosmos” (a study of the Lotus Sutra) and "Ocean" Practice Group
- Post your information and current topics in our e-mails that reach hundreds of people.
- Post your current schedule on the main BFF web site.
- Send your Group free Buddhist books when available.
How to Start?
Just reply to the below e-mail
and express your interest in becoming a BFF Practice Leader/Host in your area. Include
all of the following information
- State your full name,
- Include your mailing address: town or city, state, zip code
- Include phone number,
- State your experience with Buddhism
- Comment on why you wish to join the BFF and establish a local chapter.
- Tell us where and how you wish to start up a chapter.
Then, we will review your information
and let you know and we are a right fit.
A little exposure to Shin is
good but experience in general Buddhism is necessary; knowledge of the basics such as the Four Noble Truths, meditation will
be important. Need not worry; we’ll help you with the rest. After being
trained, contact friends etc. and you should be up and running within a few weeks. Then you can live out the Bodhisattva ideals,
practicing the dharma on a regular basis, sharing the dharma with others, and supporting peace for all sentient beings.
365 Days of Purpose Program
We can train you in the basic
practice and help you start up your BFF Chapter/Practice Group but also we strongly suggest participating in our continuing
education program called the 365 Program.
If you live in the Connecticut
area, we recommend that you deepen your practice and understanding of the Buddha Dharma by participating in our 365 Program.
This successful program offers the spiritual tools, and nuts and bolts for spiritual leadership, and most importantly to awaken
to experience of the Oneness of reality and discover your life's purpose. If you live outside Connecticut, you may be able to take the course online. Practice Leaders outside Connecticut are legible for a 100% scholarship.
Please visit the 365 program
web site and review the courses and workshops. The 365 Program is accessible through the Buddhist Faith Fellowship web site.
We hope you can participate to deepen your practice and be a blessing to others.