These groups have proven to be a valuable way to help experienced students deepen their practice and express their bodhisattva vow, to share peer support in training together, and to learn and grow through our work with them. We do not have monastic or resident training at Appamada; our practice is designed for people who are very much engaged with the world of work, family, and everyday responsibilities. But we do want to offer opportunities for those who have an aspiration to train more deeply,  to serve the sangha, and to learn together. We do not want to recreate a formal hierarchical institution following the traditional Zen models. But we do need some structure to support both the sangha and this deep aspiration as sangha members develop on their path.

This small group training and service model seems ideal for our purposes.

We are calling these groups Councils, a term that was used for the Buddha’s disciples, who gathered after his death to preserve and transmit his teachings. In the same way, Councils at Appamada extend the care and teaching that we can offer the sangha. Members of a Council can support each other in the challenges of the practice path at this deeper level.

We have invited those who had an established, consistent, regular zazen practice, who have learned the various roles here, who have an aspiration to serve the sangha, who have agreed to abide by the Buddhist Precepts, and who had expressed, in one form or another, a strong desire for training in this way. They are bound by Appamada's Ethics Policy. 

(Read more about how Councils are formed...)

Furthermore, this model of Councils is open and expandable; it is not a small privileged elite, but a network of support and care for the whole sangha. We will continue to develop Councils as people are ready for and aspire to this deep training and responsibility. This means that sanghas forming up in other places, too, can organize councils to train and learn together and serve their own sanghas. We number the Councils in the order they are formed, so that Council members will both be able to draw on more experienced Council members and help support and guide newer members.