02 June 2013

Lay Leadership Training for Tendai Practitioners

This is big news.  The Lay Leadership program will give an avenue for training and practice for laypersons in our sangha, which will deepen and enrich sangha life for all of us.  I could not be more excited by this, which is why I bring it up here.  The vision for the future of our community internationally included here is itself worth reflecting on.

The following is reproduced entirely from the June 2013 Shingi, which is the newsletter of the Tendai Buddhist Institute.   The author is my teacher, Monshin Naamon.

I propose the pillars of International Tendai, for laity and ordained, should be:
  1. Spiritual awakening of the participant through practices, devotion and study,
  2. positive contributions to self, family, society, and the environment,
  3. engaged service to others 
  4.  integration of the sacred and the provisional to attain peace and equanimity on earth and an assurance of liberation from dukkha, now and in future lives."
We have already accomplished some of the goals in a number of ways. We have lay and ordained members on the Tendai-shu New York Betsuin board of director's. We include lay participation in the daily and meditation services. We educate the laity at a very informed level through activities, such as the monthly sutra class, as well as the weekly discussions.
A continued move in this direction is the Lay Leadership Program. This program is a one year long training program that is intended to bring appropriate lay people into a more active role in the temple and sangha experience, and provide leadership at the lay level for Tendai in North America. In many ways such people would be referred to as shinja in Japan.

The training will provide the lay leaders skills to assist the temple or sangha leader in organizing and hosting services and practices. They will be taught how to lead meditations, set up the ken-mitsudan and other ceremonial elements for services, maintenance and other ongoing roles, and perform various sangha member functions.

The program will encompass a one year long period. The first year will include a four-day long leadership retreat (this year starting the Wednesday evening of July 17th through the Sunday afternoon of July 21st), attend at least two retreats, attend the New Year's eve service, and attend a concluding training session next summer at a time similar to this year's leadership retreat. Additionally, there will be online training each month for which the participant will be responsible.

In order to participate in the training a person must have been a member in good standing of a Tendai sangha for at least two years, must receive the recommendation of the sangha or temple leader, have taken refuge, and submit a formal application.

As mentioned before this is not training to be a priest and does not result in ordination. Ordination is physically and emotionally demanding.  It is clearly not for everyone.  However, the lay leadership program, while not being physically and emotionally demanding requires a commitment to the Buddhist Path and to one's sangha brothers and sisters. It can be a very rewarding activity and provides a mechanism by which one will be rewarded with a deepening of their spiritual path.

If you are interested in participating please contact Monshin for an application and more information. This is another step in Tendai's development outside of Japan. I look forward to exploring this new dimension with dedicated sangha members.

In peace and love,  
Gassho . . . Monshin

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