Sangha A Sangha is a community of friends practicing the Dharma together in order to bring about and to maintain awareness. The essence of a Sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony, and love. When you do not see these in a community, it is not a true Sangha, and you should have the courage to say so. But when you find these elements are present in a community, you know that you have the happiness and fortune of being in a real Sangha.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Friends on the Path
Sangha is one of the traditional Three Jewels of Buddhist practice in which we take refuge. Great importance is placed on the practice of community. The sangha has existed in an unbroken line since the time of the Buddha as the living embodiment of Buddhist teachings.
Thich Nhat Hanh has said that spiritual friends are the most essential element of our practice, and that it is difficult or even impossible to practice without a sangha. The sangha surrounds us with a group of friends who are motivated by the same ideal and aspirations; they keep us grounded in the practice in the face of the material success, achievement, and busyness that our society values. Further, Thich Nhat Hahn has called the sangha a community of resistance, resisting the speed, violence, and consumerism that are so prevalent in our society.
The sangha is a true community of spiritual friends who together create a place of acceptance, trust, love, and support in which transformation and healing of our fear, our suffering, and our feelings of isolation and separation can occur. The Florida Community of Mindfulness, as one overall Sangha, offers several practice communities, in support of one another's mindfulness and meditation practice. When we are part of a sangha we are practicing not for ourselves alone; we are practicing for the whole sangha. We become “bells of mindfulness” for each other as we practice to create peace, joy, solidity, and freedom in ourselves, in our sangha, and in our society.
Come and be part of one of our practice communities. Meditation, chanting, dharma talks, and/or dharma discussions are offered at each location below. Please join us at the next sangha gathering near you.
For more information regarding meeting times and dates, including special orientation sessions for newcomers, please click on FCM calendar and the link for the location nearest to you.
Tampa Practice Center
St. Petersburg, Florida
Other Florida Sanghas
When I Attend a Sangha, What Can I Expect?
Although each FCM practice center follows its own schedule, the following activities are practiced in each weekly meeting.
Cushions, benches, and chairs are available for sitting. While many people sit on cushions, it is most important to find a stable posture that you can hold comfortably for the entire sitting period, which lasts 30 minutes.
After everyone is seated, the Bellmaster invites the large bell to sound three times to signal the beginning of meditation.
Often there is a guided meditation to bring us into the present moment and help us become established in meditation.
Briefly, during sitting meditation we are invited to focus attention on the breath, simply following its natural rising and falling without trying to change it at all. When we notice that we have become distracted, we simply return our attention gently to the breath. If we have difficulty concentrating, we can silently count our breaths, from one to ten and back to one, starting the count over again each time we find ourselves distracted. Returning again and again from distraction to focus on the breath is a key part of meditation practice.
After 30 minutes of meditation, the Bellmaster will invite the bell to sound one time to signal the end of the sitting meditation period. At the sound of the bell, many people enjoy bowing silently in respect before they stretch their legs and rise for walking meditation.
The Bellmaster invites a small bell to sound one time to signal the start of walking meditation and then gives instructions for enjoying this wonderful meditation. We walk slowly, mindfully, in single file around the meditation hall. If a small bell sounds during walking, it is an invitation to stop walking and simply enjoy the in-breath and the out-breath. When the bell sounds again that signals that it is time to resume walking meditation until we arrive back at our cushion or chair. People who enjoy bowing may do so at the sound of the bell, which signals the end of walking meditation.
Many FCM locations enjoy chanting and recitations as part of their sangha services. There are booklets containing texts so everyone can participate.
Dharma Talk & Discussion
Teachings offered by our Dharma teacher Fred Eppsteiner cover all aspects of Buddhist teaching as they relate to daily life. Senior practitioners will often lead specific discussions on topics selected for the current Path of Awakening. Each talk or discussion, through the practices of deep listening, deep sharing and skillful means is designed to meet the specific needs of the listeners and to be appropriate to the situation in which it is given.
Arriving & Leaving
If possible, please arrive 10 minutes early so you don’t have to hurry. Someone will be there to greet you and help you feel at home. If you need to leave early, please slip out quietly in between activities.
Entering & Exiting The Meditation Hall
The Meditation Hall is a beautiful, serene space. Before entering we take off our shoes and leave them on a rack outside the door of the meditation hall, symbolically leaving the cares of the day behind. We enter the Meditation Hall respectfully, silently, enjoying the stillness.
Many people enjoy placing their hands together in a silent bow as they enter and exit the hall, acknowledging the quiet place in each of us that calls us to meditation.
As we sit quietly, we come into the present moment, establish ourselves in our body and begin following our in-breath and out-breath to help calm and focus our minds.