Dharma-stream in the Time of Quarantine
Stories from Beijing
Covid-19, known also as the coronavirus, is now all over the world. We all need to take precautionary measures to take care of others and ourselves. One of these measures is to not gather in groups, whether that be in theaters, concerts – and in a Dharma context: for Dharma-stream group sessions.
Dharma-stream is Phakchok Rinpoche’s offering to students–making it possible for us to remain in connection with Rinpoche and the precious Dharma teachings and to support and inspire each other in the Sangha. A fundamental aspect of Dharma-stream, is that the groups meet in-person in order for students to practice together, view a teaching together, and discuss the main points and share their individual experiences, challenges and benefits in putting the teachings into practice.
Adapting to the Challenge
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these meetings have now become challenging and in some places impossible to do. The newly established Dharma-stream group in Beijing, China, was the first group to experience this challenge.
Here, Eileen, the Dharma-stream facilitator in Beijing, shares with us how they quickly adapted to the new situation in China–and how they are using this situation to spend more time in contemplation, practice, and in deepening their understanding of the Dharma – and to support each other in challenging times!
How It All Began
Our first Dharma Stream group meeting was on January 18, 2020, just prior to the Chinese New Year. We thought that the 2nd meeting would be held in 2 weeks’ time when we returned from our holidays.
On January 20th, the experts announced that coronavirus could spread from human to human–and immediately our quarantine began. In early February, we all realized that we can not have meetings for the next few months. We requested to hold our meetings online during this period of time.
Our plan for Dharma-stream in China was to start in Beijing, and then gradually expand to other cities in China. However, the online meeting format gave us all the opportunity to start together, regardless of where in China we were. So we began our first online meetings on February 4th, offering 3 sessions daily. We joined together with members from other cities, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Kunming.
Making Meaningful Connections
Some members attended sessions every day, some even 2-3 times daily. Thus, the sharing and discussion became so sincere and meaningful. Many newcomers said that they benefited from our discussion and sharing, and that was one of the reasons that attracted them to stay in Dharma-stream. Non-practitioners said that it was so different from what they imagined Buddhist teaching and learning would be like.
Beginning on February 11th, we started offering 2 sessions daily–watching the same two teachings each day for 5 days in a row, and then moved on to the next two teachings. This allowed us to view each teaching up to ten times – providing much deeper understanding, rich learning and discussions. So from a certain perspective, we were fortunate, because the current situation provided us a window where we had the luxury of time and effort to meet in this way.
In addition, through Rinpoche’s teaching, people learned how to observe and reflect on their daily lives. The experiences and honest reflections that they shared influenced each other, and people become so excited and started looking forward to attending sessions every day, to share their experiences of the day or new discoveries they found, and to hear from others. If someone was feeling down and disappointed with themself, people would openly share their own experiences to comfort the one who was down.
Everyone so appreciates this sangha that we have built–one where we learned to support each other in practice and in life.
Now we are sure that when this coronavirus pandemic is over, in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing, there will be 5 Dharma-stream groups. People love our sangha and greatly appreciate the teaching and the support.
As of tonight, March 15th, we have already met together for 92 sessions. We are so grateful to Rinpoche and his teaching, and despite all the hardship and suffering it has caused, one bit of silver lining to this outbreak is that we have such a rare opportunity to concentrate on learning and practicing the Dharma together.
Eileen, Dharma-stream facilitator in Beijing, China
Please note: If you are facilitating a Dharma-stream group, are unable to do physical meetings, and are interested in doing online meetings until circumstances change for the better, you can reach out to Jesper, the Dharma-stream coordinator at [email protected]. You will then be assisted in proceeding with doing online meetings.