Buddhist ethics provides a foundation for the practice and community life of White Heron Sangha. As a lay community, we are guided by the five training precepts of avoiding killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxication. An important part of ethics is a commitment to finding wise ways to work with conflict.
Conflicts will inevitably arise within the White Heron Sangha community. The health of our community is not measured by the presence or absence of conflict as much as by our willingness to find effective, responsible, and compassionate means of resolving interpersonal tensions. The intention to attend to and learn from conflict is a clear application of Buddhist practice into our daily lives; without this intention, practice can too easily be a comfort rather than a deep transformative vehicle for our lives.
Buddhist conflict resolution is not based on good or bad, blame or guilt, winning or losing, offenders or victims. Rather it is based on fully addressing the suffering of all concerned. Hurt, fear, and anger are taken seriously through forums in which everyone may speak honestly, safely, and completely about their own direct experiences and feelings. In looking for resolution, Buddhist practice values dialogue over silence, reconciliation over estrangement, forgiveness over resentment, confession over accusation, and atonement over punishment. Because the process of reaching such resolution can be difficult, the White Hereon Sangha’s Ethics and Reconciliation Council (EAR Council) offers support.
The EAR Council is a group of White Heron Sangha practitioners, widely respected for their integrity, who are available to any community member who wants help in dealing with conflicts and grievances within the White Heron Sangha community. The members of the Council are appointed by the White Heron Sangha Board.
The primary role of the EAR Council is to provide initial confidential consultation to anyone with ethical concerns and help the parties involved move towards resolution.
We recognize that the foundation of spiritual life rests upon our mindful and caring relationship to the life around us. In keeping with this understanding and for the long-term benefit of our Sangha and the community at large, all those who play a role in leading Sangha sponsored activities, hold official Sangha positions, or act on behalf of the Sangha should strive to embody these precepts.
1) We undertake the precept of refraining from killing.
We acknowledge the interconnection of all beings and our respect for all life, and strive wherever possible to avoid taking life or harming other beings.
2) We undertake the precept of refraining from stealing.
We will not take that which does not belong to us and will respect the property of others. We will strive to use the earth’s resources in a respectful and ecological way, and to refrain from heedless and wasteful consumption.
3) We undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct.
We will strive to avoid any form of sexual behavior that causes harm to ourselves or others, and will refrain from all forms of sexual exploitation.
4) We undertake the precept of refraining from false speech.
We will endeavor to speak what is true and useful and refrain from harmful gossip. We will hold in confidence what is explicitly told to us in confidence. We will attempt to cultivate clear communication and the quality of loving-kindness and honesty as the basis of our speech.
5) We undertake the precept of refraining from the use of intoxicants in a way that may cause harm to ourselves or others.
Email or call any of the five council members to discuss an appropriate process for dealing with your concern.
If you are not comfortable meeting on your own, you can bring another person along with you, maybe someone who understands the issue, someone you trust, who may have a similar concern, or is a neutral party.
* This document was modified from those found at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Center. We are grateful to them.