Jeffrey Butts Reporting, Virginia Beach, VA
One year ago this month, our Virginia Beach sangha became the latest DTO sangha, joining a flourishing network of other sanghas spread throughout the country. Although we have an existing sangha thriving here, members of our sangha welcomed the development of the Dharma Teacher Order.
In our inaugural year last year, we had the honor of being visited by Venerable Thich Tri Hoang. He shared his time entreating us to the Dharma and introducing us the Dharma Teacher Order and its mission. Upon his departure, we were set with the colossal task of initial implementation of the DTO into our existing Sangha–that meant spreading the word and gaining interest, getting volunteer coordinators, establishing meeting times, etc. With the aid of early interest, we had enough momentum to get things unpacked right away. Indeed it was miraculous that within only a couple of weeks after Venerable/s visit that we were held an interest meeting and eventually held our first class.
Summarily, through our first year of study, we read through powerful and easy-to-read books by Thich Nhat Hahn, and an insightful book on the history of Buddhism, perused through a profound anthology of stories of women in Buddhism, and more. In April, we traveled together to attend the annual three-day DTO Spring Retreat at a beautiful retreat center in New York, meeting some of the most endearing people on the planet. At home, we have had some very courageous and creative presenters in our classes who have given sublime and personalized instruction on the reading material. Each of us have chosen to bring our own personal experiences into the presentations; it has allowed us to grow even closer to one another.
Now in our second year, we aspire to continue to study and practice the Buddha’s teachings in an effort to strengthen our understanding of the Dharma in our everyday lives. We commenced our first meeting of this year in the early part of September and will advance this month to our second and third presentations on the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. We’ve gotten off to a big bang of a start and class attendance continues to increase.
On a technical note, one of the very unique aspects about this entire experience this year is that we have continued to build upon our in-class moments by fine-tuning our class formats, but perhaps also more interesting and noteworthy, we have considered how one can experience our class online – we have developed an online Google Drive archive storing all of our presentations and summaries, our class practice and chants, the class schedule and photographs, copies of the DTO newsletters, and more. In many ways, it has proven effective in our class feeling more accessible, traceable, and substantial.
We are very excited for the entire network of our DTO brothers and sisters and look forward to continuing to grow and share with you on this path. And we simply can’t wait ‘til the next spring retreat!
DTO – Virginia Beach, Virginia
Dong Hung Temple | Buddhist Education Center of America