Friends of Awakening Sangha
4370 Cooper Rd.
Indianapolis, Ind. 46228
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The Friends of Awakening Sangha is a group of Buddhist
practitioners that come together to grow and learn from and with
one another through silent meditation, thoughtful meditation,
walking meditation, dharma teachings, inquiries, and discussion.
The community was established in 1999 after three Buddhist
followers of the Indianapolis-area went to a Thich Nhat Hanh
retreat in Vermont. The retreat focused on the Sangha as a means
for maintaining meditation practices. As a result of the retreat,
the Friends of Awakening Sangha was born, emphasizing the Mahayana
Buddhism tradition in a modernized, American way with a spiritual
focus on personal betterment. Since the birth of the community, the
group has grown considerably with a regular community of more the
twenty people and frequent visitors. Because of the large size of
the community, not everyone fits into the meditation room, and the
additional members sit in the altar room. However, this separation
of rooms does not make one feel absent from the community; everyone
is equally important in the Sangha, and this is evident in the book
discussions and candle lighting.
The majority of those who attend are middle-aged Euro-Americans.
Yet one can see that the community is very open to people all
nationalities, socioeconomic status, and religious background. This
provides a place for people who have not necessarily been raised in
a Buddhist setting to come to learn more about the religion's
teachings. The community is subject to change over time. This
community is based on the philosophy that one will come and go on
one's own path. Therefore, attendance is not required every week.
However, the congregation has seen several hundred people pass in
and out over the years. The informal atmosphere and philosophy
welcomes one into the community with open arms.
Located in the private home of one of the founders, the Friends
of Awakening Sangha service is held in regular room which has been
transformed into a meditation room. Attendees arrange their
cushions in a circle around the room. In the center of the room,
there is a small Buddha statue, eight candles, and a box of
matches. The service begins with a thirty-minute silent sitting
meditation. Immediately following, everyone goes outside to the Zen
garden to partake in a thirty-minute walking meditation. The
sounding of a bell indicates the changing of activities.
Afterwards, everyone goes back inside to mindfully eat a small
snack while discussing the reading for the current week. The
discussion includes personal interpretations and anecdotes. A short
mediation to think about what was said in the reading and how it
could apply to one's life ends the book discussion. Then, members
can ask questions or share insightful bits of information in a
short dharma inquiry. After the inquiry, members of the community
light a candle to symbolize a private joy or concern. Finally,
quick announcements are made, and the final bell resonates,
concluding the service. The first Sunday of each month a vegetarian
lunch is held after the service. Newcomers are not required to
bring a dish. Regardless, they are welcome to share the meal.
What To Expect
Newcomers of The Friends of Awakening Sangha may want to call
before attending a service in order to inform the Sangha of the
planned visit. This is not required, but it helps them adequately
welcome visitors. Casual dress is appropriate for the service,
since it consists mainly of sitting meditation. One should be
prepared to sit still for approximately thirty minutes at a time.
Also, even in cold weather, the Friends of Awakening Sangha include
the walking meditation in the service. Therefore, during the
winter, dress warmly! The Friends of Awakening Sangha serves a
light vegetarian snack and warm green tea after walking meditation.
This snack should be eaten slowly and quietly so as to experience
the different flavors in the food and to allow the body to feel
what the difference in temperature is telling one's body and mind.
The Friends of Awakening Sangha are very focused on the community
and the affects of the community on the individual. For that
reason, one should be open to listening to different people's ideas
and stories or even sharing one's own. Be mindful about what you
are doing and how you feel within the community because that is
important to ones personal growth as a Buddhist.