Organization, Membership and Governance
Mentors and Second Bodies
Members' Decision Circle
Sangha Care Council
Aware of the natural tension between broad-based democracy and effective decision-making, BOPS’ October 23, 2005 Planning Meeting decided to move forward with the structure and procedures described here. We noted that these can be further refined or even substantially revised in the future, should the sangha conclude that a different structure or procedures will better serve our practice as a community.
Boston Old Path Sangha Membership
Membership is open to everyone, without exception. To become a Member, a new brother or sister need only sign the attached declaration of intent and give it to the Practice Coordinator in the hamlet where he or she sits, or directly to the Membership Coordinator. Membership is renewed annually. This form is available at all sittings, and on the BOPS’ website. Suggested dana is $25 a year, but what to give or whether to give is entirely at the discretion of the individual Member: $25 is fine, more is fine, no dana at all is also fine.
As a sangha, we regard each other as brothers and sisters, practicing these concords:
We share our practice space.
We share the essence of our daily lives.
We observe the same mindfulness trainings.
We use only words that contribute to harmony.
We share our insights and understanding.
We respect each other’s viewpoints.
Mentors and Second Bodies
Our practice encourages us to honor and celebrate our interbeing with others in many ways. Nowhere is this more important than in identifying one or two others with whom we can check in on a regular basis.
A new Member is encouraged to choose a Mentor from among Members of longer-standing, and to use that connection intensely at least for a year to further individual practice, as well as to learn more about the life of our community. (At some point the sangha will provide simple guidelines for 2nd Body and mentor/mentee relationships.)
All Members are encouraged to identify a Second Body with whom to discuss the difficulties and the joys of the practice on an ongoing basis. A Member undertaking a specific project (such as conducting a Day of Mindfulness, helping arrange a talk, creating a working document) should always identify a Second Body to provide advice and to share the work. This protects the sangha, too, in the event that unforeseen circumstances arise, and the Member responsible cannot follow through as planned.
The Members Decision Circle
The Members’ Decision Circle (MDC) serves the sangha by organizing and nurturing our life as a sangha body. The MDC by its nature has a fiduciary role similar to a Board of Trustees. In this role it conducts business and makes decisions at Planning Meetings, which are always open to all members.
The Planning Meeting addresses agendas set by the Sangha Care Council in consultation with the members, as well as whatever new business arises. The MDC will actively seek advice from the membership via the Old Path e-mail list and in other ways prior to meetings, as well as during meetings. The MDC makes all decisions by consensus in open meeting.
Any Member may ask to join the Members’ Decision Circle. There is no limit to the number of Members who can join. The sole prerequisite for applying to join the MDC is a demonstrated willing energy to contribute reliably over time to the life of the sangha in any number of ways. This may include acting as a Practice Coordinator in one of the hamlets; leading sittings on a regular basis; preparing handbooks, mailings, website and other communications; helping work out new sangha procedures and ceremonies, such as Beginning Anew, affiliation procedures, Adoption, Marriage, Funeral and so forth; planning such occasions; sitting on the Sangha Care Council; participating in Planning Meetings; helping organize Days of Mindfulness or special events; helping organize a 14 Mindfulness Training Group; working as a Buddhist Chaplain at MGH; acting as Finance Coordinator or Inter-sangha Coordinator and contact person. To join the Members’ Decision Circle, a Member takes the following steps:
- Prospective MDC member attends Planning Meetings;
- member submits a written request to current MDC members asking to join them;
- prospective member meetw with two current members to begin discernment process
- BOPS membership is notified of the request
- current MDC members affirm harmony regarding the request to join the MDC;
- new MDC member is announced to the BOPS membership;
- the new MDC member affirms inteion to contribute sangha life as a MDC member in a special ceremony.
The Sangha Care Council
The Sangha Care Council by its nature combines a concern for spiritual practice with some management duties, giving mindful attention to how the dharma can best inform BOPS’ life as a community in our everyday activities. The SCC is not a decision-making body. The SCC looks deeply at BOPS’ health as a practice community in a number of ways:
Taking action in a timely fashion as necessary between Planning Meetings;
Setting agendas for Planning Meetings in consultation with the membership, and circulating these agendas widely in advance;
Seeing that the Planning Meeting’s intentions as expressed through consensus within the Members’ Decision Circle, are carried out;
Generally looking deeply at all matters bearing on the spiritual health of the community, including offering advice from time to time to the Membership and the Members’ Decision Circle.
The SCC represents seven different parts of the sanghakaya:
- The Beacon Hill hamlet
- The Jamaica Plain hamlet
- The Brookline hamlet
- The Mass General Chaplain’s group
- One of BOPS’ Financial Coordinators
- One Dharmacharya (Dharma Teacher)
- One new Member
Representatives of the hamlets and the Chaplain’s group are chosen by their respective practice groups; the Financial Coordinator, the Dharmacharya and the new Member will be chosen by consensus by the Members’ Decision Circle. No one person can represent more than two of these constituencies.
Establishing a Discernment Process
To help make sound decisions within the sangha, it is always important for those concerned to create conditions which permit them to look deeply into whatever matter is at hand, over an appropriate period of time. The discernment process is flexible, and will vary greatly depending on the nature of the decision. If we allow ample time for questions to be addressed and new insights to arise, harmony among us will deepen.
The SCC suggests that in considering a Member’s request to join the Members’ Decision Circle, six months to a year might be a comfortable time period. The actual choice of a process and a time frame is up to the prospective member and the MDC members he or she is meeting with.