An OI member is someone who’s been ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh, or other monastic Brother or Sister in our community, into the Order of Interbeing. To borrow directly from the orderofinterbeing.org website:
The Order of Interbeing, Tiep Hien in Vietnamese, is a community of monastics and lay people who have committed to living their lives in accord with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, a distillation of the Bodhisattva (Enlightened Being) teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. Established by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh in Saigon in 1966, the Order of Interbeing was founded in the Linji tradition of Buddhist meditative practice and emphasizes the Four Spirits: non-attachment from views, direct experimentation on the nature of interdependent origination through meditation, appropriateness, and skilful means.
The first six members of the order, ordained together on February 5, 1966, were colleague and students of Thich Nhat Hanh who worked with him relieving the suffering of war through projects organized by the School of Youth for Social Service. In joining the Order of Interbeing, they dedicated themselves to the continuous practice of mindfulness, ethical behavior, and compassionate action in society.
Yesterday, I put together my first OI mentorship meeting with three of our sangha members (plus my husband) who are considering whether or not they either want to become an official aspirant (which we often refer to as pre-aspirants) or want to proceed to fully ordaining and becoming an OI member. An official OI aspirant is someone who has formally received the Five Mindfulness Trainings in our tradition, and has practiced with them for at least one year thereafter, and acquired the necessary components for OI aspirancy to begin, namely: specific paperwork, writing a letter to Thay, getting approval from a Dharma teacher, and finding a mentor (usually another OI member).
In preparation for this meeting, which will be a once-a-month gathering, I put together a handout, in an attempt to bring some important info together, in what hopefully amounted to an easy-to-digest format. It can be a little confusing and overwhelming to navigate the new protocols set up for the OI aspirancy process.
My local Dharma teacher also encouraged me to come up with my own set of mentorship guidelines, which was difficult at first for me to conceive of doing. But I stretched myself into this exercise and tried my best to compile an outline for those wishing to enter into a mentorship relationship with me, which I based on the aspirancy checklist from the required packet that aspirants have to fill out, along with the OI Charter requirements. I also came up with some writing prompts, some of which were taken directly from the mentorship models of other Dharma teachers in our tradition (as listed on the OI website).
All of this is to say: the journey of our mentorship meetings has begun! And, I look forward to seeing how our meetings will unfold, grow, and evolve over time. I shared with our group yesterday how much I appreciate our being able to have a small group of interested folks to attend these monthly gatherings so that we can all be supporting and nourishing one another. It’s not just ME leading the group, it’s all of us together – learning, sharing, listening, and practicing as sangha friends. How wonderful!
Here’s the first page of the handout I put together (should it be of any benefit to other sanghas or OI members, please feel free to use it!):
Here’s the back page, which is mostly my own personal stuff I came up with regarding mentorship. (Flower photo credit: sangha friend & great photographer Bill McDavid)