The morning in June, 2002, that I was going to be ordained in the Order of Interbeing, I was doing walking meditation after breakfast. I was staying at Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, in France, where the ceremony was going to be held. Because people who were staying in the other hamlets had to travel, on foot from Lower Hamlet, and by bus from New Hamlet, to reach Upper Hamlet for the ceremony, I had quite a bit of time after breakfast and before the ceremony started. So I was doing walking meditation on a oval path in Upper Hamlet that goes around the lotus pond and by the dharma hall.
As I walked, I reflected on how I came to be there at Plum Village to be ordained in the Order. As I reflected, I realized that I would not have found my way to SnowFlower and to Thay if it were not for my ex-wife. As some of you know, my relationship with my ex-wife, particularly since our divorce, has been difficult at best. But if it had not been for my divorce, and the suffering and loneliness that created, I would not have found my way to my local Sangha and started going to retreats with Thay and would not be walking there that morning. So even though I often thought of my marriage to my ex-wife as a horrible mistake, without that mistake I would not be having this blessing. Continue reading
Dear Dharma Teachers, Dear Order Members, Dear Aspirants,
In 2013 there will be three opportunities for aspirants from North America to be ordained into the Order of Interbeing. In order to facilitate the process, the Care-taking Council of the Dharma Teachers Sangha of North America (including both monastics and lay) have clarified the requirements, criteria, and procedures for North American students of Thich Nhat Hanh.
The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings offer clear guidance for living simply, compassionately, and joyfully in our modern world. They are a concrete embodiment of the teachings of the Buddha and the Bodhisattva ideal. Anyone who wishes to can live his or her life in accord with these fourteen trainings.
To formally join the Order of Interbeing means to publicly commit oneself to studying, practicing, and observing the trainings and, also, to participating actively in a community which practices mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Continue reading
I became a member of the Order of Interbeing in 1991. At first, I was intimidated with some of the Mindfulness Trainings because I thought some of them seemed dogmatic. But the longer I have been a member and study the trainings, the more I have learned their wisdom and depth.
One example is in the Fifth Mindfulness Training which reads in part “We will practice mindful consuming, not using alcohol, drugs, and any other products that bring toxins into our own and the collective body and consciousness.” I love movies! So when I see a new movie that looks good, I usually watch it. Usually the movie gives clues about the theme and where the plot is going. Sometimes the movie leads to scenes of violence or cruelty. I have realized that movies like this damage my spirit and make me feel awful about myself and the world. I don’t want to feel this way!
So, I have learned that the Mindfulness Trainings are more than trainings. They are also guidelines to protect us from unhealthy practices and thoughts. Now when I sense that a movie will be unhealthy, I can easily decide to avoid it.
In my sangha, members read out loud the Mindfulness Trainings on a regular schedule. I have noticed that the trainings speak to me in different ways from time to time. Some trainings have a deeper impact on me at a different time than they did some months go. Clearly the words did not change over the months, so I must have changed! In a similar way, we may crave certain foods for their vitamins or tastes at one time and not care about them at another time.
As the years have gone by and my awareness of the trainings have deepened, I more easily note when people around me are unaware of certain of the behaviors that the trainings speak to. When certain people get angry and yell at another person, because of my awareness of the trainings, those people become my teachers. I have begun to thank them silently for helping me understand the mindfulness training Number Six.
For the past three years, I have lived in a small retirement community in Philadelphia. It is common that residents and staff share information about each other and developments in the community. Sometimes I have seen this information sharing becomes hurtful when it is inaccurate and misleading. This is when I have been grateful for a statement in The Ninth Mindfulness Training: “We will not spread news that we do not know to be certain nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure.” The training helps me reconsider statements I might say. The longer I am a member of the Order of Mindfulness, the more grateful I am of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings.
I really had no expectations of this retreat (October 2011 at Blue Cliff Monastery), except to participate in the OI ordination ceremony, and to spend five days with Thay and 1000 of his brothers and sisters. But of course, I found that they were my brothers and sisters too, my sangha also. It was wonderful to be with my FCM OI friends John and Bill and Barb and Chris and Mary and Martina, and of course with my lifetime heart companion Nancy – I knew that would be so. But I also took my place as one cell in a larger sangha body, the Plum Village – Blue Cliff – Deer Park – FCM – everywhere sangha that has grown around Thay and his teaching.
Nancy and I camped at Blue Cliff, in a tent village with hundreds of others, in simple, silent harmony. How beautiful to see many dozens of colorful tents grouped naturally together, each with just enough space around it, without fuss or clutter. When we rose in the early mornings the only noise to be heard was the unzipping of tent doors as we made our way in ones and twos under the bright stars to the great Dharma Hall. Continue reading
Setting my feet on the Path of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings standing on the fertile soil of Ireland.
Into the sea,
Snow dissolves silently.
In the Plum Village tradition there are wonderful, mindful paths of practice laid out for lay people. These are the Two Promises for children, the 5 Mindfulness Trainings for all, and the 14 Mindfulness Trainings for Thay’s Order of Interbeing (OI). The Promises and Trainings are Dharma doors through which one may enter formally by a transmission ceremony supported by monastic or lay Dharma teachers, one’s sangha and the wider community.
Some time after I received the transmission of the 5 Mindfulness Trainings I noticed that my commitment to training and practicing in their direction became more solid. I had found the public commitment and the support of the community during the ceremony both helpful and joyful. Reading and studying the trainings after the transmission ceremony created a deeper path of practice for me. Continue reading
After announcing your intention of aspiration, as per the Charter of the Order of Interbeing, the form linked below implement the Aspirancy process. An Aspirant to the Core Community of the Order of Interbeing (OI) is on the Bodhisattva path. Bodhisattvas appreciate the
help of all teachers and mentors. To promote consistency in mentoring and ensure that mentors and aspirants are supported, the North American Plum Village Dharma Teachers Council asks that everyone in North America who is pursuing formal acceptance as an Order of Interbeing aspirant use this form.
This application assists your local Sangha and supporting Dharma Teacher as they begin formal mentoring with you. In deciding whether conditions are ripe for formal acceptance and mentoring to begin, your mentoring Dharma Teacher will use this form and consult with your sangha and any other OI Mentors as appropriate.
View or Download the Application to Become an Aspirant to the Order of Interbeing Core Community (PDF Document)
Mentor qualification in our sangha has a long history of experimentation and evolution. We have arrived at a point where we can now bring all this experimentation and evolution together into a coherent and comprehensive system.
Our basic goal in mentoring has always been to to support each other in deepening our practice and strengthening our Sanghas. A mentor’s practice needs to be fresh and alive to mentor an aspirant effectively. To support both mentors and aspirants, the North American Dharma Teacher Care Taking Council has integrated our order’s past extensive experience into the following qualification statement for mentors. The underlying requirement for mentoring is that a Dharma Teacher must be involved as part of mentoring, as set forth in the aspirant application.
There are three situations which qualify one to mentor.
During the past two years, the Dharma Teachers Sangha of North America has been working diligently to produce a more formal application process for Order of Interbeing aspirants. The work is completed (approved 11/07/2012) and the information will be distributed to dharma teachers in the coming month. In managing this web site, a very common question that I receive pertains to readiness for formal aspiration. Here is a pre-aspiration checklist that is outlined in application to become an aspirant.
- I practice regularly with my local sangha.
- I formally received The Five Mindfulness Trainings one or more years ago from Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh or a Tiep Hien Dharma Teacher.
- I am aware that by aspiring I am committing to practice 60 days of mindfulness each year; to study, practice, and observe the 14 Mindfulness Trainings; to regularly recite the trainings, and to actively participate in and support my Sangha.
- I recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings at least monthly.
- I study, practice, and observe all five mindfulness trainings.
- I have a daily practice that includes meditation.
- I am alcohol- and recreational chemical-free and will remain so.
- I have the support of my partner for becoming an Aspirant.
- I am familiar with the Order and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and the Charter of the Order as reflected in the book Interbeing and use and study the book.
- I have begun to observe regular Days of Mindfulness.
- I am working with the reflection questions that are to be written as part of this application. [see the Dharma Teacher for application]
- I have identified a Dharma Teacher or a qualified Order Member(s) who is/are willing to serve as mentor(s).
- A Tiep Hien Dharma Teacher has agreed to support my Aspirancy and work with my mentor(s). [This is necessary when the mentor is not a Dharma Teacher]
In a future post, I will share the recommended mentoring qualifications document. If you have any questions or comments about the pre-aspirant checklist, please comment below.
I was 28 years old when I joined the Order of Interbeing in 2007. I didn’t feel ready at the time to join the OI ranks of brown jackets and not much has changed for me in that regard, I still don’t feel qualified 5 years later, whatever qualified means. And on retreats I still struggle to wear the brown jacket, concerned it will set me apart from other sangha friends on the path. So why did I join the Order? Why am I on this path? Have you ever been walking in the woods and come to a fork in the trail and decided which way to go based on what simply felt like the right direction? It was like that for me. Sometimes the answer doesn’t have to be clear in order to take a step on the path. All I knew for sure is that I enjoyed the practice and wanted to be of service to others. And that really was enough.
Becoming an OI member isn’t about having a perfect practice or mastering sutras and recitations, it isn’t about having knowledge that others don’t or gaining status and high rankings, it’s about seeing where our particular skill-set shines and offering that to others. You can’t build a house with only one tool just as you can’t build a community of practice with only one practitioner.
For me, joining the Order at a younger age has been a wonderful practice in stepping up and saying, “Yes!” Yes, I can do this, yes I want to commit myself to this beautiful tradition, yes I have a lot to offer. To embrace ourselves fully just as we are with authenticity is of great value to to the world. When we embrace ourselves we embrace others. And when we embrace others we embrace ourselves. Being a part of the OI brotherhood and sisterhood is about embracing. Embracing the practice, ourselves and one another.
What are the times when we need to be Thây? How often do we find ourselves in situations for which having Thây Nhat Hanh present with us would be very helpful – situations in which the only Thây present is the Thây within us?
Our SammaSankappa Sangha (California Medical Facility State Prison) was approaching its first Five Mindfulness Trainings Transmission (June, 2009). As facilitator, I wanted the sangha to appreciate the honor of having three Dharma Teachers join us for our Transmission. I spoke with the inmates about the designations within the Order of Interbeing. I described what it meant to receive The Five Mindfulness Trainings, receive The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and receive Lamp Transmission. I explained that I had received both The Five Trainings and The Fourteen Trainings but that I was not a Dharma Teacher. Continue reading