After cleaning and raking the rock garden outside his temple for about one hour, the Roshi explained to us that this kind of working together and helping each other makes us strong. In modern times, he said, everyone follows his own ideas, setting priority to the own benefit. But together we are much stronger and can live, this is the meaning of Sangha.
I must confess that my ideal image of a Zen-life often has been much closer to a hermit’s dwelling high up in the mountains, and joining other people to help or teach, or for having some fun together, was more or less an exceptional time off, if not some duty. So I always feared Sangha as a too tight community of people following some potentially repressive rules and censored ways of thinking, in cases even blindly following an abusive leader, all of this contradicting the development of a free and healthy Zen spirit and life.
I was wrong. After eating and cooking day by day, all of us together, the food donated by the local farmers, the Roshi’s simple explanation after cleaning and raking his garden made me understand … nobody can live alone.
I feel that the three of us sharing this short time at the International Zen-Dojo, together with the Roshi down at his temple, are a pretty good mini-Sangha. And gratefully I admit that we really do enjoy our days here!