Issue 24;


Sangha Update

Draft Guidelines on Use and Care of Assets - A proposal from Dancing Mountains

By Chris Brown

As Dancing Mountains becomes a legal entity, it becomes important to consider what Dancing Mountains is, what constitutes its field of activity, and how its objectives can be most effectively met within the context of the practice of Zen that Dancing Mountains hopes to embody. As we partly exist in a material world this field includes the legal ownership and care of goods such as the various equipment that is centrally important to being able to run events: zafus, statues, incense, and many other Zen paraphernalia which make our practice and rituals possible. Aside from legal considerations, and more central to the heart of the intentions of Dancing Mountains, is the fulfilling of our vows that guide us towards upholding the forms and rituals of Zen for the benefit of future generations. Within the fulfilling of these vows is the acknowledgement and the practice of the process of giving and receiving that underpins all of our actions as sentient beings.

It is with this in mind that we are progressing towards forming a policy that might guide the sangha in the appropriate care of goods belonging to Dancing Mountains, whether they were received through donation or using funds from the Dancing Mountains bank account, which itself is generously and regularly funded by members. The Board of Directors bears the responsibility to take good care of the results of the good work of individuals who have generously contributed to Dancing Mountains in terms of their time and finances. We propose that a focus of this policy be on two aspects: clarifying roles and responsibilities, and on the process of giving and receiving.

Regarding the first aspect, care of goods may be most effectively accomplished when a custodian is identified who can temporarily take on responsibility for the care of items they have volunteered to be assigned to them. For example, in the case where a buddha statue belonging to Dancing Mountains is residing in a person's home for storage, either short or long-term, that person would be custodian of the item and would accept due responsibility for the appropriate care of the item until returned as agreed. This may include such activities as keeping the item in a safe place, maintaining the integrity of the item (preventing damage), and taking care of any cleaning or other remedial work that may be necessary as seems appropriate to the custodian. We emphasise that such decisions can come out of the practice of that individual, as for now we don’t intend to prescribe in detail what “taking responsibility and care” means. When the item is offered to another person for the purpose of an event, that second person becomes its custodian for the duration it is in their care.

This brings us to the second aspect, that of the process of giving and receiving. In passing on an item from one custodian to another, and in identifying and acknowledging the changing of hands of responsibility for that item, there is formally a process of giving and receiving that can be acknowledged at least privately for those individuals as part of their spiritual practice. In zen practice we hear about and reflect on the process of giving and receiving, but we also reflect on the conceptions of a giver, a receiver and a gift as roles that we play interchangeably. We therefore propose that there be an overt acknowledgement of the process and the roles within that process in the form of correspondence with the Treasurer of Dancing Mountains (by any means convenient) who can formally make a note of the changing of custodian of that item. Hence the Treasurer of Dancing Mountains will be in the position to both formally acknowledge the process of giving and receiving (and the role played of giver, receiver and gift), and also be able to better fulfil his overall responsibility towards the care of the 'assets' of Dancing Mountains (using the formal language recognised by considering Dancing Mountains Zen as a C.I.C.).

There may also be a wish on the part of individuals using Dancing Mountains assets to express gratitude in the form of dana to Dancing Mountains, in whatever form that may take. It would be up to the custodian of the item to consider raising the issue with their event organizers of making an offering to Dancing Mountains as part of their practice. Formal donations or fees for items are not currently being considered as part of the policy of DM for the care of assets.

As with all cautious and joyful first steps in this wonderful venture called Dancing Mountains, we welcome any feedback about the drafting of the policy as outlined above and hope that this will continue to evolve as part of the practice of the members of Dancing Mountains.

Back to front page