This vision was crafted by the original Spirit Rock teachers and board members as the center was being created. In the decades since, our community has evolved, and not all elements of this maṇḍala have been realized, but the core vision of a thriving Dharma center has come to beautiful fruition. As we head into the future, this vision continues to guide the teachers and staff of Spirit Rock as we grow into a global community of practitioners dedicated to the liberation of all beings.
Spirit Rock as a Living Maṇḍala
Spirit Rock Center is being created as a living maṇḍala, a western Dharma and retreat center dedicated to discovering and establishing the Dharma in our lives. As a community, we dedicate ourselves to realization. Together we give birth to a new center in which the heart of wisdom can unfold through traditional Buddhist practice and its actualization in the world. We see this maṇḍala as an interdependent form in which each facet is both a reflection of the truth and leads back to the truth. With the Dharma as the core of the maṇḍala the outer expressions include these Dharma paths: retreats, right relationship, study, hermitage, integration and service.
The Dharma of Liberation
Spirit Rock Meditation Center is founded to create an enduring Dharma retreat, practice, community and study center rooted in the Buddhist tradition. The teachings at Spirit Rock are based upon the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha, as expressed in the discourses (suttas) of the Pāli Canon. These suttas offer clear, ethical, social, and ecological teachings supportive of a wise and compassionate life in the world, as well as instruction in a range of meditative practices. The primary meditative practice taught at Spirit Rock is vipassanā or Insight Meditation, as described in the Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta) and other supportive practices including mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness meditation. The purpose of the teachings and practices is the realization of wisdom, known in the words of the Buddha as “the sure heart's release.”
Spirit Rock Meditation Center is a place where these traditional teachings can flower in an American form. For centuries in Asia, most Buddhist practice has been preserved in monasteries. In the west, the focus is shifting to a growing community of lay meditators, whose vision of spiritual practice includes preserving the depth of traditional wisdom and teachings while also developing an integrated and open-hearted life of engagement in the world. Following the Buddha's teachings of interconnectedness and nonduality, our commitment is to realize liberation by making the practice of mindful awareness the basis of our lives.
In establishing Spirit Rock Meditation Center, we are guided by such basic principles of the Dharma as mindfulness, patience, kindness, ethical conduct, non-harming, non-grasping, trust, and wise attention. The principles serve as the foundation for a community which holds no bias towards anyone who comes seeking Dharma instruction and the company of the saṅgha (community). In all matters of instruction, administration and social conduct we hold respect for each member of the community as a person sharing the path of practice.
While drawing on the wisdom and experience of the elders in our lineage, we are committed to the ongoing process of developing democratic and cooperative forms for decision making with which to guide and conduct the organizational affairs of our community. Personal responsibility and participation as well as systems of peer review and support will contribute to a nurturing community environment.
Developing a conscious and mindful approach to our community and organization relationships is fundamental to our practice and provides a clear framework for Dharma life.
A primary purpose of Spirit Rock Meditation Center is to offer opportunities for training and practice of Insight Meditation, the practice of mindful awareness, through silent meditation retreats. It is our intention to offer intensive group retreats of varying lengths, including one day, weekend, ten day and two month retreats, as well as opportunities for longer periods of practice. Special retreat formats may also be developed and offered including individual retreats, family retreats, retreats for women, retreats for men, retreats for hospice workers, retreats for social activists, and mettā (lovingkindness) retreats.
Spirit Rock is being established with its roots in a plurality of styles of vipassanā practice as expressed by the different teachers of our lineage. We value and respect this richness of varied approaches to meditation. We understand and affirm that the work of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and its teachers is both to preserve the heart of the Buddhist teachings and to adapt them in wise and instructive ways to contemporary life. The teachers at this center may emphasize one or both aspects in their teachings.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center will make available the study of traditional and contemporary Buddhist literature and practices, providing a rich foundation for engaged inquiry and investigation of the Dharma.
The program of study will include introductory courses in Insight Meditation, as well as study groups for experienced practitioners in such topics as traditional Buddhist suttas, contemporary Buddhist practice and social action, and comparative study of Buddhist and western psychology.
For the long-term benefit of the saṇgha, and in the spirit of kalyāṇa mitta, or “spiritual friendship,” Spirit Rock Meditation Center is committed to implementing an ongoing training program for the development of new teachers. We are also committed to providing training and support for senior students and opportunities for experienced practitioners to offer support and guidance to newer saṅgha members.
The master plan for Spirit Rock Meditation Center includes a hermitage offering interested individuals the opportunity to experience the simplicity and dedication of the renunciate life. The hermitage will be based on principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion closely aligned with present day needs and culture, while honoring and drawing from the wisdom and practice of traditional Buddhist renunciate life.
For centuries in Asia most monasteries, meditation centers and village temples have been community-oriented. In addition to offering meditation instruction and opportunity for practice, they are centers for study, counseling, ceremonies, rites of passage, community work and nourishment for the lay saṅgha.
Following this tradition, we are developing a contemporary western Dharma center in which the teachings of the Buddha are reflected in every aspect of our lives. Classes, workshops and activities will be offered to support the community in developing skill in the art of practicing mindful awareness in daily life. Buddhist teachings of right speech, right action and right livelihood will be explored, along with their application in family and community life. We will investigate the relationship of meditation to important areas of contemporary practice including the arts, psychotherapy, peace work, and environmental ethics.
Spiritual counseling and Dharma support will be offered for community members through an ongoing program developed by teachers and experienced Dharma practitioners. We believe that continuity of support between periods of intensive retreat practice is essential to integrating the practice of awareness into our daily life.
We will develop a Dharma program for children that invites them to discover the joy of the peaceful mind and the cultivation of a kind and generous heart. We are committed to providing an environment where families can practice together. The master plan for Spirit Rock Meditation Center includes a housing area for families and childcare facilities.
Residential staff and short-term volunteer work positions will offer an integrated form of practice while living within a Dharma community. Staff life will be supported by ample opportunity for silent practice as well as conscious attention to the ongoing group process. Recognizing the challenge of re-entry following a period of living in the special environment of the meditation center, appropriate support, including peer counseling by former staff members, will be offered to those completing staff service.
Rituals and ceremonies have always been an important part of practice in Buddhist communities. At Spirit Rock, ceremonies will be offered to bring the sacred into our daily lives, evoking our connection to the path of realization and to transcendent wisdom. Rituals will act as reminders of the source of the teachings and as inspiration for our awakening to the embodiment of wisdom.
Service and generosity are fundamental to the Dharma and will be a core aspect of the teachings at Spirit Rock. In service to others, we express our Buddha Nature; by wise and compassionate action, we cultivate liberating qualities of mind and heart (pāramī), including generosity, patience, and lovingkindness.
Participation as a student and community member will include service and dāna (generosity) as an aspect of practice. Spirit Rock will encourage each individual saṇgha member to include some form of service in their practice, according to their hearts and Buddhist values. Service may include work on the land at Spirit Rock as well as exploring the application of right livelihood to our own lives.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center will consciously support and develop service opportunities and programs both within the saṅgha and within the broader community, based on care and respect for all living things. The center will provide inspiration and support for such service opportunities as work with those who are dying, with refugees, and work toward right relationship with the earth and peace among all beings.