The Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County was founded in 2000 by James Reis
A Faith Community
by James Reis
As a result of causes and conditions, and with a large measure of support and acceptance, I am moving to the Boston area with my wife, and will have to let go of the spiritual home that has nurtured me for many years. As I order a moving truck for the end of January, I wonder how different my life will be, and how well I will deal with the changes. I also reflect on the past.
I have been fortunate to experience many wonderful things and many roles in one lifetime thus far. I was my loving parents’ baby, a schoolboy, and a Boy Scout. I am a brother, a father, a social worker, and a husband. In 1979 I became a Buddhist, and in 2000, founded the Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County.
As the organization grew, I became an actual President! Now other people are in charge, as they should be. It is a joy to watch others blossom in their roles as members, leaders, and faith practitioners. Over time, I have learned to accept the changes that are part of any spiritual path.
We just bought an enormous and sonorous bell. Our old one was a gift from the Buddhist Sangha of South Jersey. I somehow like the old bell’s quavering tone. It was a challenge to make it sound good. Our liturgy was extensively re-worked and laminated in the past two years, and it is more usable and durable. But I liked the little paper ones we had for years.
When I became a Buddhist, I took ‘refuge’ in the Buddha, the Dharma (the teaching of the Buddha) and the Sangha (the community of practitioners). We all take refuge from the elements, from danger, and so on, but in the Buddhist context, the environment and the body are always changing. Members of the community change, of course, but what remains steadfast is our faith.
Spiritual practice can be a lonely endeavor. At it’s core, our faith asks no one but us to change, and tells us that we are the owners (if only temporarily) of our bodies and our minds. We can own them well or we can argue with them, neglect them, or find a refuge from the very practices that make us whole.
Yet how lovely and poignant it is to have company on this human journey. Our format on Monday nights is to sit in meditation for an hour, followed by a discussion. Last night, we shared our faiths of origin and their impact on who we had become. We shared our struggle, our disagreements, and our joys. Tonight, on this New Year’s Eve, we will sit and walk silently for a few hours together. We will leave knowing that we support each other.
I paraphrase the Buddha when I consider what memories to take with me: “The Sangha . . .who have practiced well… who have practiced straight-forwardly… who have practiced methodically… who have practiced masterfully — . . .worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.” Because of these people around me, I have grown in acceptance and awareness, and an unshakable confidence in the effectiveness of our practice together.
I would not trade the challenges, tears, and laughter of the Sangha for anything. Through the practice of my faith I found myself, and I found my wife beside me, a partner in practice. I am grateful to the Yardley Friends, who invited me to sit and wait in the dark until a Sangha emerged. I thank Al Krass, whose peculiar objectivity and kindness told me to ‘keep going’. I thank the Bucks County Courier Times for their openness to faith.
I am grateful for every single person who came and went over the last decade, listening to silence, searching for themselves, and having the courage to let go. As the now large and strong Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County continues on, I shed a tear that joins with the rain and the earth, flows toward the river, to be reborn elsewhere.