Sangha in Berlin

O.K., one more, though I should be asleep. (I’m lying in bed in the dark, my laptop on my stomach. It’s not even five in the afternoon back home, but I am dead tired.)

Sangha is the Buddhist word for the community of practitioners, but, really, sangha is family. No, not family: family implies blood, and sangha—specifically the vajra sangha—is the group of people who, if you’re lucky, you share endless lifetimes with. You have already shared endless lifetimes with them. So it’s not the same DNA coursing through your veins and theirs, like family—it’s the sky and stars, the sun and the moon. It’s the tides and the wind. It is the mustard seed. Sangha is meant to support each other along the path; sangha has made a vow not to give up on each other, ever.

Today we had lunch. Noa is American but is working in Bhutan. Alex is English but lives in Vancouver. Anya is from Hamburg, and so is Hanno, her three-month-old son. Claire lives in London and Valentin in Madrid. We made a pact: No devices on the table. Valentin, whose English is excellent, requested that we speak slowly—in groups, he said, people tend to talk fast and in partial sentences. They cut in. He did not say this, but I felt he meant that people get glib in groups. They speed up; sometimes they lose their hearts.

We did not lose our hearts. This is how it goes: We meet each other once or twice a year in some part of the world where mostly no one of us lives. It is like “Brigadoon”—each time, only a day has gone by, though sometimes we have never yet met in this lifetime.

Some of us took a cab together from West Berlin to East Berlin afterward, and ended up in another cafe, now close to dinnertime, drinking espresso and tall glasses of cold water cut with hot. Though I had never met Claire before today, I’ll be sharing a house with her and Alex and some other people in France in eight weeks time. Claire asked me if I wanted to leave my little pad in Prenzlauer Berg and move in with her and Debbie (the mother of Valentin’s daughter) in their palatial rental in Mitte, after Valentin goes home on Tuesday. We can practice together. We can do yoga (Claire teaches yoga). Yes, I do. I want to wake up in the morning with all the ladies and have tea. This is how it goes. No introductions are needed. The truth is, even if we’ve only known each for a minute, we’ve known each other for all of time.