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Community Dharma Leaders Program (CDL7)

Applications available late 2023


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.

CDL 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 CDL 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.

CDL 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.

This program is designed to support your ability 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

  • Attendance at all in-person 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.


  • 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

  • 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.


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