Two current events assisted me to see how the same principle applies in two contents that seem quite separate, though both are Sangha and practice.
We just completed a beautiful Precepts Retreat, our 31st. As we were cleaning up from yet another delicious meal, it occurred to me that for the first time in my memory all 35 people on the property were Precepted. What seems to have launched that awareness was a conversation we had during the final group after the ceremonies.
I was attempting to communicate that when we say “our practice,” that “our” refers to all of us. More so for those who have taken Precepts? Not necessarily. The “our” applies to everyone who feels “this practice is my practice.” All those “my’s” make up an “our.”
When we were writing the invitation to the Africa Vulnerable Children Project campaign, we kept stumbling over how to communicate we/our in writing. When we say, “We invite you to join us,” it sounds as if there’s a group that makes up the “we” that is inviting the “you” to join us. That’s because our conditioned language and ways of thinking make it difficult to convey that “we” are inviting “we” to join “us all” in this campaign!
There’s a group of people putting together the campaign, getting it edited, tested, and up on the web. That group also puts together the emails and support calls. But that doesn’t in any way suggest or represent an “us” and “them” orientation.
When you receive a thank-you for your contributions, please know we agonize (to the degree that people devoted to ending suffering allow themselves to agonize) over how not to make it sound as if we’re saying that “we,” those of us “here,” thank “you,” separate entity “out there,” for the contribution. That thank-you comes from we/us/Sangha to we/us/Sangha, and the fact that only one person could hold the pen that wrote the message implies no separation. Quite the contrary. Everything that everyone does is done for everyone, and everyone is grateful to everyone for everyone’s contributions.
There’s a small group of individuals who devote their lives fulltime to offering this practice. There’s a large, ever-expanding group of individuals who devote from some to much of their lives to offering this practice. There’s a much larger group of people who participate in this practice, from keeping the mothership of the Zen Monastery Peace Center to reading and sending in Peace Quotes and tweets. All of us, us.
One of my favorite EST quotes is, “How you say it is how it is.” True here. If you say this is your practice, your Sangha, then that is so. And, “we” are grateful and happy for that! Yes?