All Souls Grows a Sangha

- Sep• 30•16

Contemplation may be low on the list of activities at All Souls , but that could be changing. Sunday, October 2, at 1:30 p.m.,  will be the sixth time that the church’s monthly sangha will meet for meditation and  talks about Buddhist teachings by Dr. Pilar Jennings, a follower of Tibetan and Vinyassa traditions and a licensed psychologist.

At the invitation of the Rev. David Robb, Pilar has been a frequent and popular speaker at Adult Education on Sunday mornings, and she agreed with Pamela Patton, Interim Director of Pastoral Ministries and a Buddhist, to offer participants the opportunity to form a Buddhist community, or sangha. To their surprise, about fifty people turned up on a chilly Sunday afternoon last April. Subsequent sessions had somewhere between 35 and forty-five attendants, and now there are ninety church members and friends on the mailing list.

A typical All Souls sangha session begins with an introduction by Pilar, followed by a guided meditation, then another talk about Buddhist teaching and an opportunity to ask questions, followed by a shorter closing mediation. The sangha is open to beginners as much as those experienced in meditation.

The association between Unitarians and Buddhism goes back to the nineteenth century, although the association with Universalism is not as long. The Eastern practice is consistent with the Unitarian Universalist “free and responsible search for meaning and truth,” and neither tradition dictates what to believe. Today about one hundred UU congregations have sanghas.

American Buddhist Lama Surya Das writes about our shared values in his introduction to Buddhist Voices in Unitarian Universalism: “Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism value many of the same things, including experiential practice, study and self-inquiry, mindful awareness cultivation, insightful wisdom development, and loving-kindness, combined with active compassion in the world. This is the heart of sacred activism—empowering, educating, edifying, elevating, transforming, and liberating.”

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