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Shining the Light

posted Jun 24, 2011, 12:52 PM by Five Stones   [ updated Jun 24, 2011, 12:55 PM ]

Dear Five Stones Sangha Friends,

I am happy to announce a Shining the Light Ceremony, this coming Monday, June 27th. Brother Ken has been training as an aspirant to the Order of Interbeing for over one year, and will soon be formally receiving the 14 Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing.  This Shining the Light ceremony will occur during our regular practice time at 5:30 PM, Monday the 27th, in our usual practice location, the meditation room in the rear of Mystic Mountain, 435 NW Fourth Street Corvallis.  Ken will be attending Thich Nhat Hanh’s (Thay’s) Vancouver retreat in early August when Thich Nhat Hanh will be conducting the ceremony and transmitting the trainings to a group of aspirants there.  (Unfortunately the Vancouver Retreat has sold out, and closed the waiting list.)

We now have a precious opportunity to offer our encouragements, loving support, and guidance in Ken’s path as an aspirant and soon to be OI member. The support of a practitioner’s local Sangha can be immensely helpful and supportive in providing loving energy and valuable insights to help him or her realize his highest potential as a practitioner. In our tradition, local Sanghas offer a letter of support to an OI aspirant before he or she receives the trainings - it is actually a requirement for the ordination process. Sometimes, a local Sangha will perform a Shining the Light ceremony for the aspirant, in which members of a Sangha are invited to share their insights about the practice of the aspirant in a loving way. It is a wonderful practice for the whole Sangha to share and meditate in this way.

The Shining the Light ceremony is a beautiful practice that reaps many benefits for ourselves and for the recipient. Please see Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Happiness, pp 92-95, published by Parallax Press, Berkeley Press, 2009. (Much of the information for this announcement has been taken from that book, and Order of Interbeing sources.)   Shining Light or ‘offering guidance’ is an important sangha-building practice in the Plum Village tradition.   It is based on the traditional practice at the close of the rains retreat, in which the monastic sangha looks deeply into the practice of each member and offers suggestions.

While there are many ways to share, Thay has provided us guidance in the kind of sharing we will do for Shining Light.  There are two main ways of sharing:  The first is by sharing about the virtuous qualities and strengths of the person receiving the shining light.  How has this person lived harmoniously with those around him?  How has this person improved his practice in the past year?  How does this person help others outside of Sangha activities, or in the Sangha?  There are many ways to share about this.  The important thing is for people to recognize the positive qualities, and to offer encouragement for this person to continue these beneficial ways.

Then, we can share about how this person can improve upon his practice, or improve the way he/she is able to live in harmony with others.  How can this person transcend some of his habits which may be limiting or causing some suffering to those around him?  What are some of the habit energies which prevent this person from being joyful, compassionate, or experiencing happiness with others?

It is important for people sharing to understand that this part of the practice is intended to help the person grow and further transform, giving him/her more direction and insight on what to focus on his path of practice.  It is very valuable, when it is given in a spirit of encouragement, hope, and belief that he or she will transcend, and transform for the better, and that better understanding his/her limitations or unwholesome habits will help him to overcome them.  So we share in this way, because we see that his suffering is our suffering, and his fruits of practice are our fruits of practice too.

Each member of the Sangha who knows Ken is invited to write a paragraph or two      (or however much you feel called to write), and then send it to peacefulstep@gmail.com, so the sharings can be put together in a letter form.  The letter will be from the Sangha to Thay and the Plum Village Sangha, with guidance and support and how to best help him in the practice.  The letter is a valuable offering for one’s practice, because the wisdom of the Sangha’s eyes really shines through in the letter, and the fruits of the process are revealed.

Shining the Light is a wonderful element for the Order of Interbeing (OI) aspiration process. With Ken being ordained into the OI, this is kind of like ourwhole Five Stones Sangha is also being ordained into the OI - the Sangha exists in each member. Shining the Light can be a fun and rewarding process for the whole Sangha, as we learn new and different ways about how to offer our love, understanding, and support to others, and to help others grow in the practice. While we will be currently focusing our attention to support Ken, you may find that the process of shining light is very beautiful and the practice can be applied to other relationships in our lives, (especially sharing about the positive qualities first.) It is a beautiful practice to learn and participate in. Please write something from your heart of love to share with brother Ken. Sometimes, people can be shy about sharing constructive comments for someone’s practice. This is normal in our society, as there are usually not very wholesome and loving ways to share constructively about other people and their areas of potential growth. But in this practice, we are invited to see someone’s limitations as opportunities for deep spiritual growth. And as friends of Ken, we may be able to see ways for him to grow, which he would not be able to see as easily by himself. This can be a very supportive and loving action if done with loving kindness, understanding, and compassion. However, if you would like to write only about the positive aspects of Ken’s practice you have observed, that is fine as well. If you don’t know Ken very well, you are welcome to share as much as feels authentic and real for you, or to not share at all. You are welcome to share any other encouragements and kind words for Ken’s ordination process, and path of practice.  And then don’t forget to send to peacefulstep@gmail.com your light shined electronically, so they can put them together in a letter.

Please bring the signed letter with you to Monday’s ceremony conducted by Dharmacharya Dharma Teacher, Jerry Braza, and attended by our Sister Nana, OI, who has been integral to our practice and development as a sangha.  Some members of River Sangha, Salem, where Ken practices as well as Ken’s immediate family will attend.  Address your letter to “Dear Thay, Dear Sangha, “Send your letters to our sangha email address (peacefulstep@gmail.com by next Wednesday the 29th at the latest (you can send them to peacefulstep@gmail.com anytime you like before then).  You may wish to read your letter, sections from it, or use it as an outline during the Shining the Light Ceremony,  Monday, the 27th.


“To shine light on a person means to use one’s observation and insight in order to advise someone about his strengths and weaknesses in the practice and to propose ways to practice that he can profit from.  This is an important practice that works best when there are deep relationships, regular practice, and strong connections between the people involved.”    Thich Nhat Hanh ,Happiness p.92.