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About us

We have been meeting in Chesterfield since April 2011. We are affiliated to the Community of Interbeing*, which is the name given to the network of people in around the world who practise Buddhism according to the teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thây, as we call him, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese – see short biography below).  * The Community of Interbeing UK is a  registered charity, No. 1096680.

In order to support the growing numbers of practitioners in our tradition, the Community of Interbeing has established a network of local UK Sanghas (currently, over 100), each with their own activities and contacts. The Pomegranate Sangha is one of these (why “Pomegranate?” – see below).

As Thây’s teachings have become better known in the UK, so the community of practitioners – the Sangha – has grown, with more activities taking place locally and at a national level. Many people from the UK have visited the residential and monastic retreat centre, PlumVillage, near Bergerac in South-west France. Many mindfulness retreats have been organised here in the UK, some of which have been led by Thây and other Dharma teachers.

A newsletter, Here & Now, is circulated several times a year and subscribing to this publication grants readers membership of the Community as a whole (follow the links “UK magazine” and “membership” in right-hand column).

The Community of Interbeing has an online shop service for the purchase of  books, CDs, DVDs etc of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Please click <HERE> for more information and onward links to the items.


Sangha Building

The Sangha (community of practitioners) is a refuge. It is important to practice with others because we cannot do it on our own. When our practice is difficult, we have the support of our spiritual friends to help us.

Sangha building is crucial. If you are without a Sangha you lose your practice very soon. In our tradition we say that without the Sangha you are like a tiger that has left his mountain and gone to the lowlands – he will be caught and killed by humans. If you practise without a Sangha you are abandoning your practice.

Therefore, it is very important to build a strong Sangha.

Building a Sangha is like planting a sunflower. We need to be aware of which conditions will support the flower’s growth and which conditions will obstruct its growth. We need healthy seeds, skilled gardeners, and plenty of sunshine and room to grow. When we engage in Sangha building, the most important thing to remember is that we are doing it together. The more we embrace the Sangha, the more we can let go of the feeling of a separate self. We can relax into the collective wisdom and insights of the Sangha. We can see clearly that the Sangha eyes and hands and heart are greater than that of any individual member of the Sangha.

We have the opportunity to help build our Sangha in every moment, by participating in activities of the Sangha and contributing our energy and insights. To sustain our own practice when we leave the practice centre, we need to know how to build a Sangha. Let us be active in establishing connections with those around us. When we realize our true nature of interbeing, we naturally seek to connect with others by sharing our practice and seeking the support and guidance of our fellow practitioners.

Thây urges us to be energetic in the practice of mindfulness. The past is finished and the future is uncertain, only in the present can we discover the miracle of life. Living in this spirit, we are already valuable members of our Sangha. We will know how to engage in the continuous process of building a refuge for many beings.

We are encouraged to be Sangha builders, following the footsteps of the Buddha, who was a great Sangha builder. When we are able to live and practice in harmony in a small community, we can then share this harmony with the larger Sangha, our family andfriends, our co-workers, and our co-practitioners. When there is joy in the practice of Sangha building, then we know that we doing it correctly.

Currently, there are about 100 Community of Interbeing Sanghas in the UK.


September 2012 retreat with, mostly, practitioners from Pomegranate and Sheffield Sanghas with visiting monk, Brother Phap Vu, from Blue Cliff Monastery, New York State.



August 2015 – practitioners from our Sangha at the large Monastic Retreat at Stourbridge.

Why “Pomegranate” Sangha?
We were keen to find a link, however tenuous, between our practice and the town of Chesterfield. We found it in connection with the town’s Coat of Arms which includes a stylised Pomegranate Tree. The link is an analogy to the seeds of the pomegranate fruit. The Buddhist teachings refer to ‘seeds’ deep in our consciousness, seeds of every state of mind that we can imagine: those of happiness, anxiety, joy, anger, love, compassion, fear etc. We are born with all of these seeds, some stronger than others. Their growth, and how often they manifest in the conscious mind, create habit energies which depend on how often they have been watered – some by our family and culture, and some by our own experience. Our practice is to identify, as much as possible, what seeds we are watering and thereby encourage the good seeds to manifest in our everyday lives, and not to water the negative seeds. (“Sangha” refers to those who practice the Buddhist teachings together).

The Pomegranate as a symbol (just out of interest).

The wild pomegranate originated in eastern Iran. As civilisations developed, many embraced the pomegranate into their cultures. In Ancient Greece the myth of Persephone prominently features the pomegranate. In one version of Greek Mythology, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken off to live in the underworld as his wife. Her mother, Demeter (goddess of the Harvest), went into mourning for her lost daughter and thus all green things ceased to grow. Zeus, the highest ranking of the Greek gods, could not allow the Earth to die, so he commanded Hades to return Persephone. It was the rule of the Fates that anyone who consumed food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to spend eternity there. Persephone had no food, but Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was still his prisoner and so, because of this, she was condemned to spend six months in the Underworld every year. During these six months, when Persephone is sitting on the throne of the Underworld next to her husband Hades, her mother Demeter mourns and no longer gives fertility to the earth. This became an ancient Greek explanation for the seasons.

In all of the world’s main faiths, the pomegranate has a place, generally representing fertility or fruitfulness. In China, pictures of pomegranates with seeds bursting forth were often hung in homes to bestow fertility and bless the dwelling with numerous offspring. In Vietnam, the pomegranate flower is the symbol of summer.

Short Biography of Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, born 11 October 1926 in central Vietnam, is an expatriate Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace activist. He joined a Zen monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949.

In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon, a grassroots relief organization that rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centres, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War. He travelled to the U.S. a number of times to study at Princeton University, and later lecture at Cornell University and teach at Columbia University. His main goal of those travels, however, was to urge the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He urged Martin Luther King Jr. to oppose the Vietnam War publicly, and spoke with many people and groups about peace. On January 25 1967, in a letter to the Nobel Institute in Norway, Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thich Nhat Hanh led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks. Exiled from Vietnam for many years, he has been allowed in recent years to visit and lead retreats.

One of the best known Buddhist teachers in the West, Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and practices appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds. He created the Order of Interbeing in 1964, and established monastic and practice centres around the world. He offers a practice of mindfulness adapted to Western sensibilities and has provided us with a version of the Five Precepts (common to all Buddhist traditions) called the Five Mindfulness Trainings, which is a list of ethical guidelines (these are not commandments). Currently, his home is Plum Village Monastery in the South of France and he travels internationally leading retreats and giving talks. He coined a term translated into English as “Engaged Buddhism” – see the Glossary for more information.

Thich Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books. He also publishes a quarterly Dharma talk in the journal of the Order of Interbeing, the Mindfulness Bell. He continues to be active in the peace movement, sponsoring retreats for Israelis and Palestinians, encouraging them to listen and learn about each other. He has given speeches urging warring countries to stop fighting and look for non-violent solutions to problems; conducted a peace walk in Los Angeles in 2005, and again in 2007, attended by thousands of people; and urging support of the demonstrating monks in Myanmar.

The Community of Interbeing UK website has more information about Thich Nhat Hanh and the Order of Interbeing.  Go to

FOR LATEST NEWS about Thich Nhat Hanh, please see the two links at the column on the right. (This page will be amended in due course.)

Plum Village
Plum Village – the home of Thich Nhat Hanh– was founded in 1982. It comprises three main hamlets and other community buildings, all located in south-west France, near Bergerac in the Dordogne valley. It is a residential retreat centre and home to many monks, nuns, and lay practitioners.
During the year, retreats are held at Plum Village and these are attended by practitioners from all over the world, contributing an international atmosphere to the centre. In particular there is a Summer Opening of four weeks held each year from around mid-July to mid-August. The three-month Winter Retreat (The Rains Retreat) is also a regular feature of the programme, taking place from around mid-November to mid-February. In addition it may be possible to visit at other times of the year in order to practise with the residential community and support the work of the Plum Village community.

In recent years centres have also been established in the United States. Like Plum Village, these centres are home to monks or nuns ordained by Thây, as well as offering residential retreats.

Accommodation at Plum Village is simple and basic, with good vegetarian food. Retreatants sleep in dormitories of varying sizes in the original stone buildings or more modern additions. During the Summer many retreatants, in particular families with children, bring tents and camp in the extensive grounds. The daily programme varies during the week. On retreats, Thây will generally offer dharma talks on most days. He teaches in Vietnamese, English, or French, with simultaneous translation into these and several other languages as appropriate for those attending. Some retreats are conducted predominantly in English. Besides the teachings by Thây, each week will include a variety of meditations, discussions and celebrations. Retreatants are expected to contribute fully to the work of the Community which is a vital part of our mindfulness practice. Every week also incorporates a Lazy Day which is a day when everyone can relax and do as they like.

Further information on Plum Village can be found on the Plum Village website

Bell Tower, Thay and sunflowers

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