Christopher delves into his understanding of sangha as a practice, drawing inspiration from a mid-20th-century Jerusalem teacher named Régine. He shifts the traditional notion of the pure land from being a distant place to conceptualizing it as the sangha itself, emphasizing that the transformative and blissful space is within the community. Christopher’s evolution in the Buddhist tradition involves a transition from traditional aspects to a manifestation centered on sangha as a form of practice.

He reflects on his personal journey through various meditation practices and underscores the significance of sangha as a transformative force. In his fellowship, the practice goes beyond meditation, incorporating elements like compassionate listening and open sharing. During these sessions, participants share without receiving advice or comments, creating a space for acknowledgment through bows. Christopher highlights the communal practice as a “rock polisher,” smoothing out rough edges and challenging preconceptions.

The narrative touches on the profound impact of being part of a community, noting its role in peeling back layers of personal stories and helping individuals see the world more objectively. While meditation is integral, Christopher emphasizes that community engagement is equally crucial. He shares experiences of holding space for individuals in moments of vulnerability, from comforting those in tears to supporting people in recovery. Christopher acknowledges the challenges in Western Buddhism, where sangha often becomes a secondary consideration after Dharma and Buddha.

Reflecting on the potential of moving to a new location, Christopher wonders how his practice might evolve without the same sangha connection. He expresses the limitations of virtual sangha compared to the profound intimacy found in silent companionsh


Pema, having assumed a leadership role at a Dharma Center shortly after embracing Buddhism, underscores the significance of community involvement in the learning process. Emphasizing the embodied nature of the learning journey, she views volunteering and maintaining the community as integral to personal growth, rejecting the notion of repayment and asserting its necessity, even in small acts of service.

Acknowledging the pervasive background noise in today’s fast-paced world, with factors like social media and work-related challenges, Pema and others at Joyful Path analyze prevalent issues. They identify stress, fatigue, mental health struggles, and a sense of being out of control as key problems. Seeking to reframe Buddhism in a way that resonates with people grappling with these challenges, they position it as a solution to underlying suffering.

In their approach, Pema recognizes the risk of materialistic interpretations but believes that connecting with individuals through relatable questions about their struggles opens the door to deeper spiritual aspirations. She shares her method of addressing diverse groups, asking them about their most significant challenges and tailoring teachings to help them understand how Buddhist practices can alleviate their specific issues. Pema concludes with an invitation for individuals to explore beyond immediate relief, emphasizing the broader spiritual context of the teachings.


In reflecting on his Dharma practice, Ryan emphasizes the pivotal role of community as its foundation. He acknowledges the inherent challenges of Dharma practice, describing it as a difficult path that involves dedicated efforts to confront and diminish the impact of the ego. Ryan highlights the potential loneliness of practicing alone but contrasts this by emphasizing the importance of communal support.

For him, walking into Dharma communities like One Dharma or the Wild Heart becomes a source of inspiration and sustenance. The collective experience of individuals at different stages in their practice, from beginners to seasoned practitioners, deeply resonates with him. Ryan finds equal amazement and inspiration in the journeys of those who have recently started practicing and those who have been on the path for decades.

The energy derived from the community, coupled with the inspiration drawn from fellow practitioners, acts as a driving force for Ryan. He expresses that the support, understanding, and inspiration he receives from his Dharma community are essential for maintaining his commitment to the practice. Without this communal energy, he envisions the metaphorical train of his practice running out of steam, emphasizing the significance of the collective in sustaining his spiritual journey.


From the onset of her Dharma journey, Lisa recognized the crucial role of Sangha, considering it an essential facet of the Three Jewels. Driven by her own meaningful experiences within a spiritual community, she felt a deep commitment to share this opportunity for collective practice. Lisa underscores the potential for insularity in solitary practice, emphasizing the enriching aspects of communal engagement.

In her Sangha, diverse experiences are shared during Dharma talks and discussions, fostering a sense of normalization and self-acceptance. Lisa strives to create a welcoming and compassionate space for individuals at varying levels of experience, facilitating a sense of community that extends beyond personal boundaries.

Recognizing the significance of community in the spiritual journey, Lisa offers diverse opportunities for engagement, such as Back to Basics sessions for newcomers. She believes that a shared sense of community fosters a broader perspective, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all beings. Lisa goes beyond the ordinary by organizing local meditation retreats, providing an accessible space for dedicated practice and deeper immersion into the Dharma.

Her Sangha extends beyond the meditation hall, reaching out during challenging times, such as the Nashville shooting, exemplifying a commitment to inclusivity and outreach. Those desiring deeper study with Lisa are encouraged, and the Sangha’s offerings aim to create a space where individuals can cultivate their practice, grow within the Dharma, and find solace in shared experiences.

The Residential Community 

Ani Lodro

Ani Lodro shares insights into the dynamics and challenges within spiritual communities, drawing from her extensive experience. She emphasizes the importance of the Sangha, recognizing it as one of the three jewels in Buddhism. Ani Lodro underscores the positive impact of a supportive community, providing genuine peer support that may be lacking in individual lives.

However, she points out challenges, particularly in Western spiritual groups, where skepticism and criticism prevail due to misconceptions and sensationalized stories in the media. Ani Lodro notes the diversity within Sanghas and compares Western and Eastern approaches, highlighting the acceptance of ashrams in Eastern cultures, while in the West, skepticism and scrutiny are more prevalent.

Ani Lodro discusses the delicate balance needed within a Sangha, citing the need for mentally healthy individuals to outweigh those who may be mentally unstable. She acknowledges the attraction of mentally ill individuals to spiritual communities seeking healing but warns against an imbalance that can disrupt the Sangha’s harmony.

Drawing from her experiences, Ani Lodro emphasizes the need for Sanghas to maintain a balance and avoid an overwhelming number of mentally unstable individuals. She underscores the significance of genuine motivation among Sangha members, distinguishing between those seeking personal healing and those genuinely committed to supporting others on the path.

Ani Lodro extends her observations to monastic communities, noting the need for a certain percentage of mentally healthy individuals for the community to thrive. She draws attention to the structured nature of monastic life, where disruptive behavior can lead to dismissal, ensuring a healthier community environment compared to lay Sanghas.

In conclusion, Ani Lodro emphasizes the challenges of maintaining a balanced and mentally healthy Sangha, especially in Western spiritual groups. Her insights highlight the delicate interplay between providing support for those in need and maintaining the overall well-being and harmony of the spiritual community.


Jogen reflects on his 16 years of living in a spiritual community, acknowledging the challenges and rewards of communal living. Despite occasional difficulties arising from diverse backgrounds and personalities, he values the shared aspiration that brings people together. Living in a residential Sangha becomes a powerful mirror for his practice, revealing the state of his mind and the openness of his heart through daily interactions.

Jogen highlights the transformative nature of living with challenging individuals, recognizing them as blessings that unveil his own shadows and projections. He emphasizes the learning process of getting along with others and understanding one’s reactions. On the positive side, intentional community living inspires him, creating a deep sense of friendship and camaraderie among those committed to Buddhist practice. The shared intention fosters meaningful conversations and a sense of spiritual peer pressure, a positive force that keeps practitioners aligned with their aspirations even during times of weakness. Jogen appreciates the supportive environment where fellow community members uplift and sustain one another on their spiritual journey.


In the span of six intense years, Shinchok immersed herself in a daily routine centered around Buddhist practices. Her mornings typically involved one to two hours of focused practice at the Buddhist center, where prayers and pujas were integral. Engaging with teachings, she occasionally took on a teaching role herself. Beyond personal practice, Shinchok actively contributed to the center’s activities, playing a role in marketing and advertising, and assisting as the education coordinator.

Contrary to her expectations, life at the Buddhist center went beyond a singular focus on Buddha and philosophy. Instead, it encompassed a holistic approach, intertwining meditation, prayers, and practical involvement in the center’s operations. Shinchok found joy in this multifaceted engagement. Her time was further enriched by participation in retreats, ranging from half a day to a month, providing her with cherished opportunities to delve deep into meditation and diligently train her mind.


Genjo describes the unique composition of the residential practice center, where participants engage in morning and evening meditation, weekly retreats, and communal activities. The center accommodates residents, with a requirement to attend at least one daily meditation session for those pursuing ordination. Genjo himself commits to five sessions annually, emphasizing a practical application of the teachings.

Residents, whether ordained or not, maintain individual apartments and personal lives while sharing meals and activities. The center’s experimental approach bridges the gap between ordination and lay life, providing a more intense practice than occasional meditation but less rigorous than traditional monastic life. This approach aims to serve both individuals and the broader community.

The center fosters a community ethos, engaging in charitable initiatives like preparing meals for the homeless and serving as an emergency hub. Genjo emphasizes that the center isn’t structured like a curriculum, allowing individuals to decide the duration of their commitment, with a suggested minimum of one year. The blend of daily practice and ordinary life, situated in the heart of a city, offers a unique opportunity for sincere integration of spiritual and everyday pursuits.