Small groups are valuable for many reasons, and one of these is how they benefit members. A small group is only six to eight people, quite different from the twenty five to thirty peple attending the district meeting.
A Chance to Chant With Others
Small groups give the members an opportunity to experience the benefit of chanting with other people. This can be a time when you can request that the group members chant about a challenge you might be facing or you might chant for someone else. If needed the group has the flexibility to chant for more extended periods.
Group members often develop warm friendships and chant with one another at their homes. Some people find that chanting with another person helps to focus their chanting time and they gain more. At home they tend to be side tracked more easily.
More Personalized Opportunities
In a small group the members have more opportunity to request topics of interest or discuss practice issues of interest to them. A small group can be much more flexible than a large district meeting and can quickly respond to the needs of the members.
More Air Time
Since the group is small, the members can come to know one another quite well so friendships and trust readily develop. If a personal challenge needs to be discussed, such as a relationship problem, or issues about the practice, that foundation is there.
Small groups can spend more time discussing one member’s situation as there is simply more air time with fewer people. It gives all the other members the chance to share how they have handled a similar issue with the practice, or to share how they had to change to be able to modify their situation. It gives less experienced members the chance to observe and learn how members handle issues with the practice.
Deepen Your practice Through Helping Others
Small groups are a place where members have the opportunity to deepen their practice by helping newcomers, a practice for others. You can learn to teach a new person gongyo pronunciation, or how to lead gongyo in front of the group. Remember the other members are rooting for you. It you make a mistake it is no big deal. The leader will just explain to you how to do it differently next time.
Take Responsibility and Contribute to the Meeting
Members in a small group can have the opportunity to take responsibility for some aspect of the meeting. A small group is a particularly supportive place to do this as everyone in the group wants the person stepping out to succeed. Even though you might be asked by the group leader to do something, the decision to accept the opportunity is always up to you.
Try Speaking In Front of the Group
In a small group you can develop the confidence to speak in front of a group step by step. First you might have the experience of explaining a Buddhist concept in the informal group discussion. You might just do this for a while until you feel more confidence in your ability to explain an idea clearly. The next step after that might be to make a formal presentation in the group and then later in the district meeting. By then your confidence will have grown and you will enjoy having the opportunity to share what you’ve learned.
You always grow at your own pace and you know your level of comfort. Nervousness is to be expected when trying something new, and it’s good to challenge that. You all know you accomplish your human revolution by growing out of your fears.
Remember, you always have support if needed. The group leader and other leaders in the district like to be available to support people who are developing new skills. They will be happy to help you select a topic, or go over a presentation with you prior to giving it in the group.
Deepen Your Practice Through Presenting Something
Stepping forward to contribute in this way has great benefit for your own practice. To give a concept or presentation on a topic will require more study than you ordinarily do. You will find that you gain an enormous amount in your understanding of Buddhism. Through contributing you will find that you gain more than anyone else in the room.
You all know that study is one of the three ways of practice. The writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the commentaries of the three Presidents, teach Buddhist principles, which you will come to understand at deeper and deeper levels as your experience grows. As you progress along the path you will find that the writings will describe and validate your experience and expand your awareness of the next steps on the path.
Studying means that you have become a ‘seeker of the way’ and are trying to apply the teaching to your life. As you make presentations and contribute to meetings, you are building the capacity to become a teacher who can actively help others to become happy.
Benefits of Small Groups for Members
- A small group gives members a chance to chant with and for others
- Small groups can be responsive to topic requests by members
- They are flexible and can respond to the needs of someone attending who might have a challenge.
- There is more air time to discuss a problem and how to handle it.
- It is a place where you can deepen your practice through helping others You can lead gongyo, teach gongyo pronunciation, answer questions, and share experiences.
- You can practice speaking in front of the group You can deepen your study by explaining a concept or giving a presentation You can challenge yourself and practice stepping out of your comfort zone.
As you have seen there are many benefits for members who attend a small group.
“The Value of Small Groups for Members”, © Margaret Blaine, The Practical Buddhist