Zen master, poet, and peace and human rights activist Thich Nhat Hanh has written over 45 books in English. In this paperback, he shares some of the spiritual practices that have been used in Plum Village, a meditation community he founded in France. He salutes Sangha building as a necessary step for those on the path of spiritual practice. Although all communities have their shortcomings and weak points, they are the seedbed for our growth as mindful, sensitive, and compassionate human beings. As the author reminds us, Sangha is one of the three precious jewels along with Buddha and Dharma.
One of the most important practices in any community is equanimity "the mind that does not take sides and treats everyone equally." It is the kind of love that a mother has for all of her children even though one is easier to love than another, some bring suffering into her life, and others make her feel sad. Equanimity, Thich Nhat Hanh points out, is the antidote to jealousy. He gives the example of a person in the community who always walks mindfully. Instead of being jealous of that person, we should admire his or her diligence and mindfulness, aspiring to cultivate those qualities in ourselves. Equanimity in this instance enables us to appreciate and love those around us.
Thich Nhat Hanh outlines the seven practices of removing conflicts that have been used in Buddhist communities for over 2,600 years. These elements of deep listening, remembrance, determining sanity, self-confession, investigation of the nature of the conflict, majority vote, and general amnesty can also be used in families, nonprofit and professional organizations, and governmental agencies.
Our favorite section of the book contains some wonderful Sangha building practices. "Shining Light" is explained in the excerpt. The practice of "Second Body" involves not only looking after oneself but also caring for someone else: "Looking after means taking care of and helping our second body when she is physically ill, afflicted in mind, or overworked." Another Sangha building activity is "The Art of Watering Flowers" whereby we give encouragement and compliments to those around us so that their good qualities will bloom. Joyfully Together is an excellent resource for nurturing community.