The COVID-19 Era Sangha Needs You

As we all learn to adapt to our new reality with the coronavirus in our midst, we should keep in mind those who work so dedicatedly to keep the Buddhist community going.

Rod Meade Sperry13 March 2020
Photo by Thomas Riggs.

It is really something to see so many sanghas and dharma organizations wrestling with COVID-19—from the smaller practice groups to the bigger centers, and everything in between. In response to the call for social distancing as a means of controlling the virus’s spread, many brick-and-mortar sangha entities are pivoting, adapting, with online A/V offerings: talks, courses, practice gatherings, and so on. Yes, that’s all been available for a long while now, but things have really kicked up in just the past couple of weeks. You’ve probably noticed it: a sudden uptick of Buddhist social-media and newsletter updates announcing closures and, in their place, virtual events.

We should applaud these sanghas and their staff and teachers for their fluidity, their inventiveness, and their dedication to making the dharma available.

We would also be wise to recall: these organizations are quite often underfunded to begin with, and many remain that way. Operating costs are sometimes not merely challenging, but staggering. In some cities—as just one example—rents are in the several-thousands. And have been for years. Now imagine having to keep up with rent like that while no one’s even coming because you’re closed indefinitely.

These sangha groups are working hard to keep things going, social distancing or no. What a gift to us all.

Generosity has always been vital, but with the current extra uncertainty, the Buddhist organizations you care about could almost certainly use extra financial support. Big time. So if you can donate, or pay for a retreat or workshop, do.

There are other ways to be generous, of course. Does your meditation center need bookkeeping help, and you’ve got accounting chops? This could be your moment! … And wouldn’t every Buddhist group like some help spreading the word about their offerings? Especially now?

I don’t mean to lecture; this reminder to be open-handed is as much for me as for anyone else. All I’m saying is: if a Buddhist organization or group really means something to you, try to be generous. With your money, and your time, if you can. And, with your attention: try not to ignore their emails and posts and ads updating you about their new virtual offerings and how they plan to weather the COVID-19 storm. Why not try joining them online? They’d sure love to see you there.

These sangha groups are working hard to keep things going, as they’ve always done, committed to the dharma and to maintaining a sense of community—social distancing or no. What a gift to us all.

Let’s match their generosity. They need it, and we need them.

Rod Meade Sperry

Rod Meade Sperry

Rod Meade Sperry is the editor of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Guide (published by Lion’s Roar), and the book A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his partner and their tiny pup, Sid.