Volker Kenko Ecke at our affiliate, the Zen Center on Main Street, in Northampton MA, asked his fellow sangha members "What is the experience of being a Sangha and Zen Center with its own flavor and persona, while also functioning as an affiliate?"
K: "Sitting with the Village Zendo in NYC or on retreat a few times a year is just like coming home. The container of the form feels familiar, yet slightly different. Connection with Roshi, Sensei, assistant teachers, senior students, jukai buddies, and fellow Zen practitioners feels like a deep connection, a link to the broader tradition and history. Looking at the larger Sangha at the Village Zendo also gives a clearer impression of what kind of place is this, what kind of training is going on here, what kind of people are drawn to this practice and what kind of transformation can become visible, what is the energy of the place, how do people interact and support one another. And yet, Zen on Main is also its own beast, whatever that is.
The aspect that is perhaps most visible to our members are retreats lead by Roshi, Sensei, or assistant teachers from the Village Zendo. For some of us, the annual summer and winter retreats are a great gift of the larger Sangha."
P: "What does it mean to function as an affiliate? That aspect has not had much effect for me. I tend to regard zen on main as a distinct entity but then I don't travel to New York or spend much time in the company of Village Zendo members. I don't like to think of myself as marginal to the organization as a whole. I certainly feel connected to zen on main and the "world of zen" whatever that phrase might conjure up. Right now I am away from the physical location, zen on main, sitting alone for the most part, staying connected to the sangha through practice and intention, at home and homeless simultaneously.
If I sit facing west, the warmth of the setting sun permeates my body, breathing in, breathing out."
J: I had to do a little pondering on this question because, Zen on Main was already an affiliate when I arrived therefore, I've no reference for anything otherwise. So, what came up you might wonder. Well, let me tell you. As I thought about the question I remembered Jean Auel's series of books that started with "The Clan of the Cave Bear." In my mind I drew an analogy between our separate existence and the opportunities to gather with the Village Zendo people during Ango and Sesshin, and the types of gatherings that Auel depicted in her books. The gatherings she wrote about brought together people that had their own separate existences but were also affiliated to various degrees. It struck me as an opportunity to share and learn from others, and to have community beyond our own little one.
B: Over the years, I have been involved in the life of Zen on Main in different ways and to different degrees. Zen on Main has always meant a lot to me and to my life. Last year, when I had all these health issues (fibromyalgia and a lot of pain in my body) and was not able to sit, it meant so much to me to know that the sangha was there, and that you were all sitting regularly! When a couple of months ago I returned to Zen on Main to sit, still feeling cautious about my body, I was welcomed warmly by everybody! That meant a lot to me! Also, Anraku's encouragement helped me do my first zazenkai in a year, when I am still feeling some hesitation about how to do Zen practice with fibromyalgia.