Kookaburra Sangha – Australia’s newest secular Buddhist community

A new insight meditation sangha has formed in Sydney’s inner-western suburbs, naming itself the Kookaburra Sangha to evoke a spot of dharma joy. On Monday 1 May, the sangha started to meet weekly at the Genki Centre, 1 Arundel St, Glebe (just across the road from Sydney Uni), and will meet there each Monday from 7–9pm.

The foundation members all have experience from other sanghas in the Sydney Insight Meditators (SIM) network, as well as other dharmic traditions. Kookaburra will be the fourth SIM sangha in the metropolitan area; the others cover the northern suburbs, the northern beaches, and the eastern suburbs. (Yet others operate outside the metropolitan area.) This, however, is the first sangha to explicitly define its meditative orientation as secular Buddhism, and therewith declare its commitment to work with teachings drawn from the Pali canon, as well as their modern interpreters. While the other SIM sanghas have strong secular leanings, they honour the broad-church concept.

A sangha of kookaburras?

Kookaburra wants to establish itself and its profile in two stages. In the first phase it will devise a study programme to follow after the regular sit each week. This will give the current members a chance to get to know one another, find common ground, and consolidate their orientation. In the second phase, it will invite others to join in.

Newcomers will then have a chance to test drive this developed and coherent orientation, and decide if they want to make it their own shtick or not. No other SIM sangha has begun in this way, but at this stage in the development of the dharma scene in Sydney, it seems to offer the stayers the support they need to deepen their practice over time at the weekly gatherings, instead of having them tread water with endless returns to preliminary matters (rebirth, etc.) for the sake of poppers-in. Of course Kookaburra will apply this two-stage strategy flexibly, and won’t be turning anyone away.

If you are interested in joining in, please email Peter Jones.

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  1. Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Wellington’s secular dharma practice community One Mindful Breath, in particular our care committee, welcomes the new secular Buddhist community across the other side of the Tasman. We look forward to learning more about what you’ll be doing and to collaborating with you.

  2. Winton Higgins
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Kookaburra Sangha in Sydney, Australia, has now had six weekly meetings and at the moment attracts 10-12 people, in spite of still being in the self-invention stage rather than throwing open the doors.

    The conversations have been energetic, and have homed in on what it means to be secular, and how much of the conventional template for a practice group do we actually want to retain.  

    Last Monday, we had a particularly interesting discussion about teachers – how the concept of ‘the teacher’ derives from pre-telecommunication days and hasn’t been fearlessly examined.

    In previous sessions, a lot of Sydney dharma teachers were mentioned as possible resources, but last Monday we decided not to invite in any of them before we’ve decided precisely what we want each of them to contribute, if anything.

    The group already contains considerable resources in the form of practice experience – four of us were actually members of Sydney Insight Meditators’ foundational committee back in 2005 – and dharma literacy, and a fairly clear sense of how it wants to develop.

    I found this a very refreshing discussion. This sangha is starting from a unique place – no other sangha I know of started like this, so watch this space!

  3. Bernd Kaponig
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Hope all is will with you, Winton! You mentioned that the new Kookaburra Sangha is unique. Did you mean unique in Sydney, or also unique in comparison to others like Ramsey’s One Mindful Breath, and if so, in what way?

  4. Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your question, Bernd. In the last paragraph of my post about Kookaburra Sangha, I was referring to my own experience, hence the phrase ‘no other sangha I know of’. My direct experience of sangha building is limited to Sydney, where secular Buddhism is alive and well in several insight sanghas, but none other has nailed secularity to its mast from the outset as KS has done. And all the others tend to invite in teachers because they’re teachers of repute and have useful things to say, rather than to make contributions which address specific issues that the sanghas themselves have selected. Nor have the others here questioned the need for, and status of, teachers in general.

    Maybe KS is unique in these ways only in Sydney. It would be interesting to hear comparative experiences from other centres.

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