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Community Dharma Leaders Program (CDL6)

The sixth iteration of Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader (CDL6) program began in November 2019. Participation in CDL6 started with a nomination by a past CDL graduate, a Spirit Rock or IMS teacher trainee or an Insight teacher beginning in September 2018. Nominees were considered and qualified candidates were invited to apply starting in December 2018 and had until March 1, 2019 to submit applications. All notifications have been sent out, so if you have not received your notification, please contact us at: CDL6@spiritrock.org.

We live in a complex, demanding and divisive world. As an antidote to personal, socio-political and environmental suffering, Buddhist teachings can provide a wise, loving, generous ground from which we can respond to the profound challenges of our time—climate change, immigration, animal rights, growing economic disparity, and entrenched systems of racism, misogyny and oppression.

CDL6 will develop the next generation of dharma leaders with the capacity, resilience and needed skills to carry the dharma forward. This training will cultivate the inner resources to skillfully address these and other issues. Grounded in ancient Buddhist wisdom, graduates of CDL6 will learn to embody, articulate, share and cultivate the dharma within diverse, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural communities, so that it is accessible for all who seek refuge.

The foundation of the training is rooted in the Early Buddhist, Theravada tradition, and the program is designed to encourage innovative ways to live a life of dharma and to integrate and offer these timeless teachings within our contemporary world.

CDL6 provides training for future dharma leaders who reside both nationally and internationally. Our aim is to support the dharma in becoming fully accessible. This includes the participation of young adults, communities of color, a more inclusive class structure, and other underrepresented communities.

This is a Spirit Rock, Theravada-based training program to develop community leaders. Priority will be given to those supporting leadership within Theravada communities.

CDL6 begins in November 2019. The Core Program Teachers are Eugene Cash, Erin Treat, Pamela Weiss, and DaRa Williams. Current Spirit Rock and IMS teacher trainees will assist them: Noliwe Alexander, Devon Hase and Solwazi Johnson. The Program includes five week-long retreats over two years held at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California and at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, New York.

The Program will include comprehensive training needed to:

  • Develop community-based sanghas and dharma organizations
  • Lead sitting groups
  • Teach beginning classes and daylong and weekend retreats
  • Facilitate rites of passage and develop competency with Buddhist ritual
  • Embody attunement, empathy and sensitivity within the role of teacher, the communities being taught, and team teaching
  • Expand access to the teachings through outreach and engagement with underrepresented communities
  • Create and cultivate diverse, culturally competent sanghas

Program requirements include:

  • Attendance at all five retreats
  • Completion of comprehensive homework and participation in online and dharma study groups between retreats
  • Check-ins with dharma “buddies” in the program
  • Maintain regular contact with mentoring teacher(s) and program peers
  • Practice of real-time dharma leadership
  • The practice of Dana (generosity) to support program teachers
  • Completion of a yearly evaluation of one’s personal development and activities within the dharma, to be shared with a teacher/mentor who will consult with the CDL teaching team
  • Interest and commitment to educate and increase individual awareness of structural oppression, internalized oppression and privilege (class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.)

It is required to have a mentoring relationship with an experienced dharma teacher or dharma leader. Program participants must check in with their mentor at least once every two months, or more.  Mentors listen to recordings of selected dharma talks, answer questions, and provide feedback to participants. The mentor relationship is on a Dana basis, and participants are asked to agree to an acceptable arrangement with their mentor prior to the program.

Prerequisites for application to CDL6 include:

  • A minimum of five years of practice and 30- 40 nights of residential Insight or Metta retreat practice.
  • Dharma understanding, including familiarity and understanding of foundational Buddhist Teachings; a history of daily and regular ongoing practice; embodied presence of key dharma principles and practices.
  • Personal and interpersonal maturity, including:
  • Personal maturity, regardless of age, that displays emotional and relational intelligence, including the capacity to work with personal suffering. A history of emotional and psychological self-development is helpful.
  • Interpersonal maturity, which allows the candidate to navigate relational difficulties with peers and teachers.
  • Strong Communication and Leadership skills.
  • Ethical integrity, including:
    • Alignment with the five precepts in all aspects of life, and recognition as models of ethical behavior within their communities;
    • The ability to serve the Buddha, dharma, and sangha with gratitude, humility, and compassion, rather than from ambition for spiritual authority, or expressions of ego.
    • The ability to dedicate time and energy to the program by attending all retreats (unless there is an emergency), and a commitment to undertake all study, homework and supportive practices in between retreats.

Diversity in race, language, class, orientation, gender identity, age, and other underrepresented groups is highly valued. Qualified candidates from underrepresented communities are invited to apply.

Other valued criteria include:

  • The candidate will serve a geographic region or set of communities with no current dharma leadership or teachers.
  • The candidate needs to further training in order to assist an active teacher or to support an existing dharma community.
  • The candidate will reach a population not currently served (or underserved) by the existing teaching community, for example: youth, young adult, communities of color, Spanish speaking communities, seniors, prisons, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) communities, veterans, etc.
  • It may be helpful for participants to have participated in Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioner Program or other Dharma Study Programs at centers such as BCBS, NY Insight, and EBMC, or other Insight Centers which have held multi-year deepening dharma study programs with authorized teachers. However, participation in any of these programs does not guarantee acceptance into the CDL program nor are they a requirement for acceptance into CDL.
  • It will also be helpful for participants to have been educated in or actively engaging in undoing racism or other structural oppression work, and to have competency in some trauma or resiliency intervention.

Financial Commitment and Program Costs
Participation in the CDL program requires a financial commitment. Upon accepting the invitation to join, participants will be responsible for the full program cost if they voluntarily withdraw from the program. Upon acceptance, financial assistance will be made available to the fullest extent possible.

The tuition for CDL6 INCLUDES the following:

  • Accommodations and meals at all five (5) residential retreats
  • All handouts and program materials
  • Access to social media and online community building groups

Tuition does NOT include:

  • Teacher and retreat staff support (dana)
  • Transportation costs to/from your home to the retreat centers
  • Mentor teacher support (dana) for individual interviews with your mentor teacher in your area

Sliding Scale Tuition

Standard Sliding Scale:
$16,100 Supporter Rate with single room guarantee
$13,200 Sliding Scale 1
$10,550 Sliding Scale 2
$7,900 Sliding Scale 3 – Base Rate
Scholarship Sliding Scale:
$6,900 Scholarship Rate 1
$5,900 Scholarship Rate 2
$4,900 Scholarship Rate 3

Please note that scholarship funds are limited for this and every Spirit Rock program. Regrettably we cannot guarantee the full amount of support requested.

Scope of CDL Training
Completion of the CDL program does not guarantee that participants will automatically receive Spirit Rock authorization to teach. Graduation will be dependent upon fulfilling all program requirements, listed above.

Authorization to teach is based upon successful completion of all requirements of the program, and an acceptable level of competency in:

  • Knowledge of traditional scriptures, and the ability to articulate the Teachings;
  • The ability to connect traditional teachings to contemporary life;
  • Leading sitting groups, dharma classes, day and weekend (non-residential) retreats, and/or developing community-based groups and dharma organizations;
  • Demonstration of sensitivity and ongoing skill development in extending the teachings to diverse populations;
  • Basic familiarity and understanding of how to work with trauma in an integrated way within the Dharma.
  • Embodiment of relational skills with empathy and sensitivity in the role of dharma leader;
  • The ability to teach collaboratively;
  • Demonstrated leadership skills;
  • The capacity to create sacred space and conduct rites of passage using Buddhist rituals.

Participants who complete the program and achieve such competency will be authorized by Spirit Rock to lead Insight Meditation sitting groups, beginning Insight Meditation classes, non-residential Insight Meditation day and weekend retreats. Completion of the CDL program will not confer the authority to teach residential retreats or to train other students to become dharma leaders or teachers.

Nomination, Application Process and Information
The CDL6 program begins by Insight teachers, teacher trainees, and previous CDL graduates nominating candidates for application to the CDL6 program. In this way, each applicant is connected to a nominating and/or mentoring dharma teacher or community dharma leader throughout the length of the program. The nomination period ended on November 30, 2018 and nominees will be invited to apply by the end of December. The deadline for completed applications is March 1, 2019. Acceptances will be sent by May 2019.

Retreat Schedule

November 3 – 10, 2019

Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA

April 19 – 26, 2020

Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY

October 12 – 19, 2020

Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA

April 18 – 25, 2021

Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY

November 5 – 11, 2021

Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA


The graduates of previous CDL programs have played a significant role in bringing new dharma opportunities into underrepresented communities, creating new meditation centers, supporting senior teachers in existing communities, and helping extend the dharma.  We look forward to receiving your nominations and applications.

With metta and deep appreciation for your practice,

The CDL6 Teaching Team

Eugene Cash, Erin Treat, Pamela Weiss & DaRa Williams

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