Love it or hate it, I can tell you that from 13 years of being apart from it here in Japan (except for the internets), the concept and participation in Sangha is vital to the path. All who are Buddhists have witnessed the fights, the hugs, the pouts, the gossip, the sharing, the sadness, the care, the pride, the completely getting under your skin and exposing all your faults and ugly, beauty-ness of it. Who is in, who is out, who wasnt invited, who didnt come, who is missing, the pride and poverty of it all in an instant. As both participant and spectator, it in an important lesson in itself. No wonder one of the three jewels!

Love it or hate it, reject it or embrace it, it is the path. Your path. Sangha is all a lesson. Your teacher or Rimpoche sits there with twinkling eyes and watches it all, like some cheap form of free entertainment, which it must be! There is no greater mirror than the interactions we share. I have missed it, my friends, the people that I once struggled to connect with, the ones that made it all so easy, those I competed with, those I rejected.

For those of you who are part of an active sangha and able to meet each other regularly, and to go to teachings often, you have immense merit and good fortune. But it took me being apart from it, to realize it and appreciate.

May we all meet some day.


It snowed in Tokyo last week- a rare occurrence in this city of 17 million now. The usual frantic rush each morning was dimmed by the reality that the roads today are slippery and every step potentially treacherous. The usual grumpy faces were now grumpy with fear and their own fragility, carefully stepping forward each step, slowed, cowed by a force they cannot control. People could not ride their bicycles; instead, leading them forwards carefully, gingerly,  missing the usual grip on reality that allows them for brief moments to feel some element of control as they rush to work, darting this way and that, regardless of those around them.

People turn inwards, forced into contemplative movements. Space pervades, each in a private struggle with balance- ah, if it were only so easy!

I have only ever seen Tokyo like this once before; last year, when the earthquake/tsunami hit, and the Tokyo train lines ground to a halt, forcing everyone to walk miles in pitch darkness. Today, the sun shines brightly, the snow storm over, leaving a brisk frosty freshness that forces everyone inwards, ever inwards….

If only every day awareness was like this… AP photo.