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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
58 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 7 After about fifteen years of dharma practice, I went to Thailand and was ordained as a Theravada monk. I will carry the experience with me for the rest of my life. It was during that time that I first encountered the deep and direct experi- ence of community and relationship along a collective spiritual path. Entering monastic life, I entered into a community very different from any I had ever been in, with different norms and expectations and in a foreign culture with which I had only minimal experience. It was intimidating, to say the least. What was surprising for me was that I actually did belong to the commu- nity, whether or not I felt that as an internal experience. The simple fact of my presence within the community meant that I belonged. The acceptance of my presence didn’t depend on my background, origins, upbringing, or status; my heartfelt intention to practice toward happiness and freedom was a sufficient credential for acceptance. There was something special about the basic sense of belonging that came with being ordained in the monastic spiritual community. My usual experience, in order to feel that I belong somewhere, has been to need to be a certain way, think in alignment or agree with a certain group’s viewpoints, look or dress to The Buddha never intended awakening to be a solitary pursuit, says larry yang, so why do many western practitioners resist spiritual community? He invites us to explore the value of sangha— and our cultural biases around it. We Walk the Path Together