The overarching intention of BIN is to connect and serve Insight Meditation teachers, leaders, and sanghas to support the deepening and broadening of Buddhist teachings in the West.
In a practical sense, this means creating avenues of communication like an interactive website and in-person meetings; providing the means to share financial resources, such as using donations or membership dues to assist groups in need; and facilitating the spread of the teachings into new regions and populations.
BIN is not a new idea; something like it was first envisioned about 10 years ago. The current version grew out of the 2010 InterSangha meeting among 28 sanghas. The work is being done by volunteers from several groups, guided by advisors who are established Insight Meditation teachers such as Jack Kornfield. The top-level vision for BIN calls for a “meta-sangha, a community for the Insight Meditation movement.” Still, it is worth asking what the real value here is: Why use this visionary language, when we could simply create something resembling an industry organization? Actually, something deeper is occurring.
Western Buddhism, as expressed through the Insight Meditation movement, is beginning to mature. As in any maturing process, some guidance can be very helpful. Here are a few facets of our current situation:
As a result of 40 years’ availability of intensive retreats, and several decades’ development of local sanghas, mature practitioners have emerged who embody the teachings in diverse ways. Not all of them feel included in the loosely defined insight movement, which is a loss to the whole. In addition, many have great gifts to offer in spreading the Dharma more broadly – to underserved populations and regions, to young people, or in languages other than English.
There are more and more newly formed sanghas. These would benefit from the guidance of more experienced groups. Even seasoned groups may need help in growing wisely.
The founders and first-generation teachers are aging, some are beginning to retire, and they will eventually die. This raises questions about how to effectively continue their legacy of deep wisdom.
Later-generation teachers are adopting varied strategies for livelihood. Many could use the material support of a larger community.
It is incumbent upon the Insight Meditation movement itself to discover how our Buddhist practice can thrive in Western culture, including addressing such complex issues as dana.
BIN can help the Insight Meditation movement mature gracefully into a more integrated whole. It serves a developmental function of enhancing the breadth and depth of the 2600-year-old teachings that have been passed down through Asian cultures and now to the West.
It is important also to understand what BIN is not.
It is not about homogenizing the Insight movement into a single image or tradition. Although essentially based in the early teachings from the Pali Canon, the Insight Meditation movement in the West draws its strength from including a variety of teachings and practices. Emerging from and enhancing this strength, BIN is a pluralistic community aimed at cooperation, shared learning, and mutual appreciation.
However, this means that BIN is also not a “mosaic,” in which each piece floats separate and unchanged in a neutral matrix. BIN participants will be changed by their very participation, for what relationship of value has ever not changed us?
Through BIN, the Insight Meditation movement can guide its own maturation. Together, we will discover and co-create what BIN can be, shaped by our best intentions. We appreciate the strong support shown for BIN already, and look forward to bringing more people into our activities.
For the benefit of all beings, may the Dharma develop and deepen in the West.