Our Amazing Sangha
The Buddhist monastic order is plausibly the world’s oldest human organization in continual existence, still recognizable in terms of attire, life-style, practice and function after 100 generations. It was there as great empires arose and grew mighty, it was there as those empires collapsed. From India it extended its civilizing reach to Ceylon and Southeast Asia and into Indonesia, into Central Asia where it followed the Silk Road eastward into China and East Asia and westward as far as the Mediteranean where it likely played an influential role in the Early Christian church and persists in an altered form in Christian monasteries. Preceded in our modern communication age by the teachings it has kept alive for so many centuries, it has begun to board airplanes and to sprinkle down on North America, Europe, Australia, South America and even Africa.
The Sangha functions by securing for itself the space most conducive to life according to Buddhist principles, a world so barren of any opportunity for personal advantage that a self cannot find root. In its stead flow in wisdom and compassion. Liberated from the tyranny of personal neediness these burst here and there into Awakening. Those touched by the example of the Sangha help in its cultivation and nurturing, while basking in its inspiration and absorbing and implementing its teachings in their own lives, helping to grow oases of sanity in a world otherwise out of kilter, perpetually spinning crazily out of control.
Consider that this amazing institution, such a robust and persistent agent of peace, is the product of one genius, who cobbled it together from existing elements of ascetic practice, build into it no centralized control but rather a gentle governance based on the consensus of local communities of monks and nuns and regulations enforced almost entirely through an honor system, gave it a mission and a charter and released it into the world. And this genius is the very same person who produced the Dharma, among the most sophisticated and skillfully expounded philosophical, psychological and religious products of the human mind, and the very same person who attained complete Awakening without a teacher. The Buddha was a threefold genius, encompassing the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha in a single mind.
Last weekend we conducted some temporary ordinations of both nuns and monks at Sitagu Buddha Vihara. It is been my task for the week to maintain a meditation schedule for the newly bald and to teach one of the two daily classes. I have chose to teach on the subject “Our Amazing Sangha.”