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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 37 |summer 2007 munity has evolved. After inviting Ruth Denison, Christopher Titmus, Christina Feldman, Vimalo Kulbartz, and others to teach at IMS, conflicts periodically arose about the best way to teach, because people were teaching from different per- spectives. We started having teacher meetings to try to work out our conflicts. Robert Hall was our psychiatrist. He would come in as a friend of the community at that time, before he was a dharma teacher, sit down and listen to the arguments and problems, and help us sort them out. One particularly instructive teacher meeting at IMS involved the center’s first fifteen vipassana teachers. The dharma conflict was most strongly represented by a polarity between two teachers, one who at that time was devoted to a strict Mahasi Sayadaw style of meditation taught in a very sys- tematic, conservative manner. The other teacher, though equally devoted to the Buddhist texts, was more formless and free, in a “Krishnamurti-like” phase. He valued the radical side of the Buddha’s teachings of liberation: “Throw out the bondage of tradition and live in the reality of now.” This conflict had carried on over a number of years. As I look back, I often find it somewhat amusing, although sometimes it was very painful and still is. Nevertheless, I think conflict is part of human expe- rience, and I’m actually interested in how conflict is incorporated into practice rather than avoided. So there were conservative voices that wanted to keep things the way it was done in Mahasi’s retreat center in Burma, and there were voices that said, “We’re in a new culture; we have to adapt and be free.” We were polarized concerning how to set the wisest direction. At that point Robert Hall did a very skillful thing. He said, “I’d like one of the most polarized voices to leave the room. Go out, and we will call you back later.” So the most radical teacher of those who wanted to adapt the teachings in new ways left the room, and Rob- ert said to the group, “Suppose this teacher was banished from the community, so that we didn’t have him to bother us any more. How would that affect you all?” We sat in the circle and reflected on it. Of course, without the conflict, our lives would be easier and more relaxed. But then something else became quite clear. If that voice weren’t here, the need for that voice would be so apparent that it would have to be supplied by the rest of us. Then Robert invited this teacher back in and sent the most conservative teacher out of the room. He asked, “Now, suppose this teacher – who is concerned about tradition and conserving Burmese forms of practice quite strictly – was no longer part of the community. How would that affect the rest of you?” At first we could feel the relaxing of the ten- sion. But then several of us said, “If he were not teaching the traditional perspective that he does, we would do more of it because it’s so important that people get it. His conservatism allows us to be more creative.” It became apparent to everyone in that circle that the approaches of the various teachers complement each other, that we needed each other, that we do best when we represent not one particular stream or lineage but rather a mandala or a whole, where we each have a piece to contribute. This, then, is some of the ground on which Spirit Rock was founded twenty years ago. When we came together in the early years to try to estab- lish what guidelines and what sense this center on the West Coast would hold, we created a vision statement, which you can still see on our website. Spirit Rock is a mandala that includes the practice of intensive retreats and the ongoing embodiment and integration of dharma in all of the dimen- sions of one’s life. We wanted this whole range. We While we are dedicated to preserving and sustaining the core teachings of our lineage, we are also willing to be innovators. Of course, no matter what we do, we will be criticized as well as praised. Jack Kornfield giving a tour of the land at Spirit Rock in 1993. SpIRItRoCKaRChIveSSpIRItRoCKaRChIveS