Reflections from Emerging Sangha Leadership Training

Peter Nichols

Zen Center of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

ESLT was a great, intense, exhausting experience. The schedule was packed— it felt like a sesshin with talking—but the days/evenings off, along with interspersed fun activities, provided much-needed relief from the intensity of the curriculum and sharing. The warmth and humor of participants and facilitators was a big plus too. The food was more than fine and accommodations weren’t exactly 5 stars—but who cares?

Perhaps a surprising aspect of the experience was how welcoming the Dharma Rain sangha was—but it was more than that. I didn’t so much feel like a guest as I did part of the sangha. Every resident was welcoming and solicitous of our needs. I only had to whine twice about how cold and raw the weather in Portland is before a Dharma Rain resident (Shin’yu) offered me an extra sweater for the duration of my stay.

One of the most surprising and valuable outcomes from ESLT for me was the group itself. I hadn’t realized how isolated I’d felt since my dharma transmission. I’d been thinking about what that meant—for me and for my sangha—but didn’t have anyone to talk to candidly about the challenges it presented. Attending the program was an opportunity to think out loud about the transition our sangha is undergoing from its founder to the next generation. ESLT provided a community of peers with whom I could articulate what this meant and the issues it raised. It helped me discover what I think and to begin formulating a course of action and sangha consultation when I returned to Philadelphia. On the plane ride home, I used the spiral notebook we were given at the start of the program to write out a plan and a series of next steps.

Eva Ziduliak 

Po Lam Buddhist Association, Chilliwack, British Columbia

Dear Dharma Rain Sangha,

The ten days spent within the kindness and warmth of your temple and community were a gift of solace, creativity, and connection. The content was informative and helpful, and the ways it was expressed were creative and engaging. I appreciated most the openness and sincere connections that we formed as an entire group, and as individuals within that group. We shared difficulties with one another, and also celebrated our Dharma service work. 

I feel tremendous gratitude, especially for the teachers, participants, and residents from Dharma Rain. You all were so generous with all of us – the teaching and sharing, the food, the accommodations, the friendship. I felt a part of your Dharma family immediately. Thank you so much. 

Wishing you all continued happiness and growing freedom!

With gratitude,


Suzanne Zenshin Kilkus
Open Door Zen Community, Madison, Wisconsin

Top Ten Dharma Lessons I learned from Ananda, the Temple Dog

10. Know who you are and give generously

9. Give yourself wholeheartedly to the rug of Being

8. Let your loved ones love you. It’s good for you and good for them

7. Take care with all the chickens in your life

6. Savor what you receive with joy, especially all the juicy bits of food

5. Life involves some rain; have a place to go when it becomes overwhelming

4. Bark only when necessary and use it only for good

3. Know your boundaries and protect them

2. Be kind to all the coyotes in your life

And the #1 lesson I learned from Ananda, the Temple Dog is….

Stay on the Path no matter who is barking at your or how loud they are


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