Cape Ann residents open to Buddhist teachings

By Pamela Cambpell, Wicked Local Manchester, Aug 8, 2008

Gloucester, UK -- Several people on Cape Ann have become involved in Buddhism as a result of the Windhover retreats.

“At the end of the first retreat, people asked how they could stay in touch,” Lindsay Crouse says. “We passed out a sheet of paper and asked for email addresses.”

From that, a group on Cape Ann has grown into an active Buddhist sangha, a sister group to the one Crouse belongs to in California. Known as ACI-Cape Ann (Asian Classics Institute of Cape Ann), the group has recently opened its own site (known as a Dharma) for Buddhist study and practice, including yoga, in Pigeon Cove.

Open to the public and free of charge, welcoming anyone interested at whatever level to its Tuesday evening discussions (7:30 to 9:30 p.m.), the Dharma is located at 154 Granite St., just across from the dilapidated Cape Ann Tool Co. at the site of a former convenience store.

Phil Salzman, a Gloucester resident and former therapist at Health and Education Services (he now works in part as a consultant for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, helping communities access and provide health care initiatives for populations at risk of exclusion from care), was one of those deeply affected by what he heard at Crouse’s first Buddhist retreat.

He is among several Cape Ann residents who have flown out to the ACI-LA center and to Tucson, Arizona, to study under Lama Marut, progressing to the role of teacher and the organizing of a Dharma here on Cape Ann.

“It all grew by word of mouth,” Salzman says. “All volunteer and word of mouth. Soon [Lama Marut] was coming three times a year instead of just once. He’s a lot of fun to hear.”

Both Crouse and Salzman talk about the importance of “nativizing” Buddhism into a more Western context: bringing an essentially Eastern philosophy into our own culture, embracing it with our own iconic contexts and symbols.

“We’re trying on the one hand to practice the authentic teachings, to remain true to the core and the authentic way [of Buddhism],” Salzman says. “At the same time, we’re living in our own Western culture; we’re not rejecting that as a whole. We don’t live in a monastery.”

Lama Marut is the perfect speaker for this purpose, since he has grown up from within our own American place and time and has achieved holy status in Buddhism after decades of study. He works, in part, to bridge the cultural as well as the philosophical gaps between East and West as they pertain to Buddhist thought and American life.

The Cape Ann group is active this year not only in attending the retreat, but in helping Lindsay Crouse to host it, forming committees to assist with the many details of putting something of this size and complexity together in one space.