Virtual Monasteries and Karma Yoga

Virtual Monasteries and Karma Yoga

Shifts and Changes

Just 10 years ago this teaching was more focused around meditation and individual therapy, and more yogic, that is, dependent on the student-teacher relationships wherever in the world that might be happening.

A mere decade later, we have a cutting-edge 310-acre retreat and learning center (Clear Sky), and a growing virtual monastery (PlanetDharma) allowing us to train our hearts and minds via the internet.

We’ve seen our focus shift to include a quadruple bottom line, embracing sangha-centered karma yoga and dharma training as key elements of our path.

dharma blessings

dharma blessings

While most of our practice used to happen in the physical presence of our teacher Doug Duncan Sensei, nowadays our practice takes place with him and Catherine, together with our local sangha, on our own, and virtually with our teachers and other sangha members.

In addition to Doug Sensei, Catherine has a prominent role as a dharma trainer, as do a small number of other senior students. The idea is to grow this team of qualified dharma trainers, so that more practitioners can benefit from dharma training, and in turn share those benefits with other beings.

Similarly, we (Doug and Catherine) are doing more teaching together, both of us also teach independently, and more of our senior students are also teaching. We envision a growing number of qualified teachers spreading the dharma for the benefit of all beings and the flourishing of the Triple Gem.

The Grail: Fuller, more relevant realization

The yogic, meditative path has been a wonderful one for us and others, full of profound learning. We’ve also seen that the informality of its structures make it challenging to pay that learning forward to others and future generations. The many benefits were challenging to measure and diffused by the distances between us.

Our commitment is to awaken as many beings as possible in this lifetime, and to ensure that both the outer and the inner (guru-yidam-dakini) manifestations of the Triple Gem flourish. Our commitment is to do what’s needed to ensure that others carry these commitment forward into the future. We are thinking about seven generations hence, and beyond.

Growing Virtual Monastery,

Growing Virtual Monastery,

We see Clear Sky as the physical container for speedy unfoldment, a world-class crucible for transformation and manifestation of what awakening looks like on the material plane (hint: it’s innovative, generative and sustainable).  Robust Dharma Training, Karma Yoga, and dāna practices are the three pillars that both help us to speedily awaken more fully for the benefit of all beings, and to develop Clear Sky so that as many beings as possible can do this.

“Flourishing” manifests in its spiritual, financial, social and environmental aspects in order for this to all work well, now and for future generations. We call this our quadruple bottom line.

We’re All In This Together

For this to work well, sister sanghas and centers in other cities and countries need their own commitments to thrive. Practice done, training received at Clear Sky only “takes” if we follow it up with ongoing practice and training year-round, at home and with other sangha members.

Karma Yoga Class

Karma Yoga Class

We and other senior teachers are available to teach wherever a thriving center (within our greater sangha, or like-minded) invites us, to help it and its sangha deepen its practice and understanding of the teachings, as individuals and more crucially together as a sangha. A vibrant sangha naturally speeds up our and others’ awakening and benefits more beings. That’s our bodhisattva vow, perhaps the most precious and beautiful vow in existence.

And a vibrant sangha requires Dharma Training, both spontaneous (what we call “drive-by”) and in its more formal, organized sense.

We can use the teachings like gas in a car tank – topping up every time we run low – or we can use it like rocket engines, propelling us into outer space to explore the cosmos, and bring our findings back to share with and benefit others, including the space agencies (Clear Sky and PlanetDharma). Which model are you using?

Do We Really Need to Change?

Yogi Spiritual Path

Yogi Spiritual Path

The short answer is, “Yes.” Change is the nature of the universe. Namgyal Rinpoche said that one measure of intelligence was our ability to adapt quickly and ably to changing circumstances. Since change won’t go away, let’s get good at it. Let’s shape it into the kind of change that will awaken us further and benefit more beings.  Now more than ever, this is essential for the future of the planet.

We have the opportunity to shape this path, our sanghas, and our centers to support the awakening of more beings. Imagine awakened beings working on solutions to climate change, on revitalizing our world’s fisheries, or cancer research.

It’s in our power to adapt the teachings to the reality that few people are going to live and work in monasteries and convents. We can shape our spiritual path to help it be more applicable to contemporary daily life.

This is particularly important since today’s economics make it more challenging to get time off to do retreats and travel with our teachers and sangha. At the same time, due to international travel, our expectations for comfortable accommodation and quality food at competitive prices have risen. Again, this points to the centrality of the quadruple bottom line as part of our teachings.

To better understand the nature of resistance, the secret power of sangha, and dāna as a powerful alternative economic model to capitalism, sign up here to be notified when Part 2 of this blog has been posted.

This blog post was written by Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat.