While sanghas in traditional Buddhist lineages are often founded on hierarchical notions of the teacher–student relationship, secular Buddhists emphasize that sanghas should be based on a more equal participation of members. The New Jersey, USA, sangha is one example of an effort to develop more democratic, participatory sanghas.
In meditation, we cultivate an inner space of openness and acceptance free of judgement. But this space should not remain private: sooner or later we have to extend it, and before we try to cover the entire world with an enlightened society, let’s start with smaller circles.
Check out the list of secular Buddhist groups and communities in Europe and South America.
Check out the list of secular Buddhist groups and communities in the USA.
Take a look at the secular Buddhist groups and communities in Australia
Check out the variety of secular Buddhist groups and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Mike Slott argues in this article that traditional meditation retreats in insight and Zen centers are too individually-focused, that there needs to be more opportunities to develop a sense of community and comraderie among retreat participants. He offers “practical suggestions on how solidarity and support between retreatants, as well as a greater focus on our engagement in the world, can become part of meditation retreats.”
Martine Batchelor discusses the four bonds of fellowship that help build community at a Gaia House talk. What are these four bonds? Generosity, kind words, beneficial help and consistency.
Winton Higgins has written extensively about democratic communities and the development of secular Buddhism. In this article Winton offers some defining characteristics of a democratic sangha.
… Winton Higgins writes ‘When western societies imported various strains of Asian Buddhism from the 1960s on, few converts noticed the organisational culture that came with the imports. Rather like the tarantula that arrives in the crate of imported bananas…’