Buddhism is a vast umbrella of many practices. As such, there is no such thing as a unified Buddhist tradition, or religion for that matter. Although each form of practice is crafted from the same timber passed down to us by the Buddha, the stem of which is the Four Noble Truths, how the various traditions have adopted language to express what the Buddha taught has become diverse. From this single branch of thought all our legacy traditions have arisen in order to provide the foundation for the core principles they have chosen to acknowledge as essential in representing their unique understanding of the dharma. What is critical for us to understand is that while there is no dualism in Dharma, there is no single entity that can be called Buddhism in the 21st century. Buddhism is a concept that works to give meaning to the Universe and how we are in it. The elements of this concept is what gives each Buddhist tradition “purpose in practice” as they have chosen to define the world around them. These intentional actions is what gives Buddhism meaning. It is our individual practice and understanding of thought that creates Buddhism, not vs. versa. Although this is not clear in the beginning of our study of it. OEB values this diversity and pluralistic worldview by embraces the challenges it presents in our training program. Our foundational teaching platform follows it’s Mahayana Ch’an and Soto Zen roots enriched by a contemporary pragmatic perspective with an eye to what modern science can teach us about the Universe we call Dharma.
Those that choose to join us bring a world of experience and knowledge that becomes a springboard into the formal training structure and intentional practice routines that our founder, Rev. David Shen-Xi Sensei, has developed to facilitate a contemplative life that nurtures both the interior and social aspects of a Buddhist contemporary ministry. Each one of us have developed unique spiritual perspectives that sustains our personal inner journey as we learn to walk the Buddhist path together. No matter what style of contemplative practice one has adopted from their previous experiences, OEB honors those experiences and works to find common ground from which one can grow and strengthen a pragmatic worldview based on the cultural language of understanding a Western spiritual experience can bring to Buddhist thought.
The modern trend in Buddhist training is moving toward a more secular model in the West as many that seek to explore Buddhism has expanded and challenged the nature of what Sangha means. It is no longer just about monks and nuns supported by the laity. In fact, most community Sanghas today are comprised of lay members of 25 individuals or less. Mediation and Dharma discourse makes up the activities of these centers along with part-time community engagement. They are often led by lay leaders supported by a venerable monk from their main affiliate. This trend will continue over the next few decades expanding the Western Buddhist community. This is traditionally how cultural transformation works. OEB has been establish to fulfill a growing interest from some in how they can live a contemplative structured life-practice reflecting a monastic pattern and lifestyle yet remain outside the walls of a traditional temple. Many come from other ministry traditions, and are looking to transition to a Buddhist practice with the purpose of community involvement. Not many Buddhist groups exist where one can augment their previous education and experience in a framework that takes these experiences into account. OEB has been developed to help in this transition, or continue the formal training one has started but with a more structured format.
Our training is comprehensive and acknowledges the value in balancing contemplative and meditative training with an academic approach to Buddhist philosophy, physiology, and the writing skills necessary to effectively become involved in various leadership roles in our Sanghas or in community ministry using all the tools available to us in a technologically sophisticated world. While we may respect the time necessary to follow the quite life of a contemplative, it is imperative we also engage others in a well rounded focus that promotes human flourishing. We accomplish this by living in our communities and making ourselves available for social interaction when the time is right.
The training structure will be individually tailored to the unique expectations, educational accomplishments, previous knowledge of Buddhism, and skill sets each brings into the Order based on one of the two paths they have chosen to follow. The nature of the discernment experience may determine one’s training path. While there is no specific period of formation required, it often depends on many factors based on what each individual brings with them into their area of interest OEB has to offer and the Order’s consent as to what is best for the individual and the Order’s needs. The sense that life-long-learning and development of a contemplative practice prevails when we become committed and professed to a socially engaged monastics practice and life.