The lotus, with its cool beauty arising from the muck of a stagnant pool, is a traditional symbol of Buddhism. Lotuses, unfortunately, are pretty scarce on the Central Coast, so we chose the image of the white heron instead. Even though our world is filled with the suffering caused by greed, hatred, and delusion, the white heron symbolizes the ever-present possibility to wake up to the perfect stillness that is always with us.
Originally, Sangha was the Pali and Sanskrit word for the community of monks who gathered around the Buddha. Today, the term is used more broadly for any group of people who are supporting each other in their efforts to walk the Buddhist path. The White Heron Sangha is a nonsectarian Buddhist group made up of people in and around San Luis Obispo County who have come together to pursue their common spiritual quest. The main purpose of White Heron Sangha is to promote the instruction, study, and practice of Buddhism and Buddhist-related meditation and provide a regular meeting place for our practitioners.
We have no formal affiliation with any outside groups, lineages, or styles of Buddhism, or with any particular teacher. We accept the value and usefulness of all traditions and attempt to learn whatever we can from the unique approach of each.
We are, nonetheless, a Buddhist group. That does not mean that we think other spiritual traditions are wrong while we are right, that we reject anyone else's spiritual insights and understanding because they are not Buddhist, or that we think we should only open our hearts and minds to Buddhist teachings. But it does imply a special kind of respect, even reverence, for the thousands upon thousands of our ancestors who have walked this spiritual path before us. It means that we are actively involved in the community of Buddhist practitioners. And, it means we are participating in an ongoing dialogue with the Buddhist tradition and are committed to developing our understanding of the vast wisdom it contains.
Our Sangha started when several friends began to meet once a month for meditation in the fall of 1991. We now have over 300 people on our mailing list, and attendance at our Sunday meetings ranges from 40 to 70, depending on the time of the year and the program schedule.
As a community of practitioners, White Heron Sangha encourages understanding of and respect for the basic goodness inherent in all individuals, groups and cultures. Our sangha is dedicated to fostering a welcoming and open-hearted refuge for all people to explore the life-transforming practice of meditation and the teachings of the Buddha. The teachings challenge us to recognize and dissolve the barriers that separate us from others. We are committed to cultivating an awareness and appreciation of diversity. We open our doors and hearts to all social identities including all races, classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, spiritual traditions, abilities, cultures and ethnicities. It is our mutual responsibility as a sangha to consciously engage in this collective wisdom.
White Heron Sangha is incorporated as a non-profit 501c(3) religious organization, with a board of directors, officers, and various committees supported by volunteers from the larger group. We make every attempt to make decisions through discussion and group consensus; of course, the board of directors has final say. Although we have no formal membership or membership dues, we use the term "member" for anyone who signs up for our mailing list. Members receive occasional email notices from White Heron Sangha and have access to an online member directory. Anyone can attend our meetings, weekend retreats, and special events, regardless of membership status.