How do I write about my experience as a new member of the Santi Maha Sangha when I am still only a newish member of the wider Dzogchen Community? I had thought that perhaps joining the Santi Maha Sangha training might be too advanced for me or that it might demand a level of commitment that would be too much. I joined simply because I wanted to deepen my practice. Each new activity I have taken on since receiving transmission has enhanced the quality of my life and Santi Maha Sangha does not disappoint. It is amazing and in a short period of time it is already transforming my practice as well as the ways I perceive my life.
We meet via Skype about once a month to read and discuss sections our Master’s book,ThePrecious Vase,as well as a few other select readings and practices. We also have retreats with advanced and talented teachers. Already, I have learned so much from our monthly Skype sessions, led by our lovely, patient and knowledgeable Snow Mei, as well as through our group discussions. Within Dzogchen, I have heard (and myself used) vocabulary and phrases while only having a fuzzy concept about what is meant, because I have picked the meanings up only through context. In SMS, I am gaining a better grasp of what our beloved master meant (or actually, what he was pointing us towards).
The synergy of our group facilitates questions that I never would have thought of by reading alone and this in itself broadens my understanding. Another wonderful aspect of discussing Dharma with other practitioners is the intimacy we develop as we share how we each integrate the practices/teachings, into our everyday lives. In this way, complicated vocabulary and concepts are made more clear. I often do not understand the meanings immediately, yet I have found that over the following days and weeks they unfold, revealing a greater understanding of the SMS discussion as it informs my lived life. What an inspiration, to be in the middle of doing something ordinary and then to have an Ah Hamoment: “Oh that’s what such and such means…” (to me). Little spurts of release and freedom.
It is true that Dzogchen is beyond any words, concepts and even experiences. Yet most of us need scaffolds and supports, in the form of study and discussion, to build a context in which to frame our practices, experiences and beyond. Our Master would not have created the base level for us if not to help us. The Santi Maha Sangha is notlofty intellectual philosophical Buddhism. It is about taking our Master’s View, Conduct and Practice and making it accessible to those of us who simply love what we have and want more.
In my short time in Santi Maha Sangha I have gained greater insight, personal understanding, and shifts in how I perceive my reality, in proportion to my capacity to integrate my practice with ordinary life. I am developing a connection with my Sangha sisters and brothers that is deeply satisfying. I am sometimes seeing through my mistaken ideas and fantasies. I am so very happy to have had the courage to try this very special group and to begin to experience its fruit. Thank you so very much, Snow Mei, Julia Lawless and our Beloved Namkhai Norbu.
If you are interested in joining a study group for Base Level Santi Maha Sangha please contact: