Author Topic: What is the Sangha?  (Read 6713 times)

Jessie Fong

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What is the Sangha?
« on: July 02, 2012, 09:59:56 AM »
WHAT IS THE SANGHA?

To clarify, there can be some confusion in the way the Sanskrit word Sangha is commonly used. In fact, there are three distinct definitions:
1. A currently popular definition is to include all Buddhist practitioners.
2. The most generally applied term includes only the community of ordained monks and nuns.
3. A more strict definition from the scriptures applies to the practitioners who have at least directly realised emptiness.

essDuring his life, the Buddha gave advice to many people on ways to avoid distraction from following the spiritual path.  The Buddha never actually taught "a set" of vows for monks or nuns, but these have been extracted afterwards by Buddhist Masters from the teachings of the Buddha.

It is important to realise that monasteries and nunneries have proven to be absolutely essential in preserving the Buddhist teachings and practice. One could say that monasteries are the "power plants" of the Buddhist tradition.

For Buddhists, the Sangha are spiritual friends, and their importance is explained in the Upaddha Sutta.

"Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, 'This is half of the holy life, Lord - admirable friendship.' The Buddha replied, 'Don't say that... Admirable friendship is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk [or anyone else] has admirable people as friends... he can be expected to develop and pursue the Noble Eightfold Path.  …

And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life."

extracted from : http://viewonbuddhism.org/sangha_monks_nuns.html



Point 3 above states : 3. A more strict definition from the scriptures applies to the practitioners who have at least directly realised emptiness.

Based on this current age where it is so uncommon to hear people to seek ordination, would it not be almost impossible if point 3 were the only condition for an ordination?

bambi

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2012, 05:53:42 AM »
Hahaha... Yes Jessie. I think it is almost impossible if Sanghas are ordained because they have realized emptiness. If they in fact understand, they'd be Enlightened soon. I believe that the Sanghas are the preservers and increaser of Buddhist teachings. The vows that they hold have unbelievable blessings and benefits wherever they are. It is already difficult for a lay person to be ordained because of the negative karma, so by setting point 3 will be quite hard. I came across this teaching.

It is difficult for most lay people. Not everybody has the karma to become Sangha. Not everybody can become Sangha, only some people can, because you need a lot of merit and no obstacles to be Sangha. If there is no obstacle coming from your mind, manifesting, then also there is no obstacle from outside.

buddhalovely

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2012, 03:55:19 PM »
In the suttas the word sangha (lit. "group, assembly") is usually used in one of two ways: it refers either to the community of ordained monks and nuns (bhikkhu-sangha and bhikkhuni-sangha) or to the community of "noble ones" (ariya-sangha) — persons who have attained at least stream-entry, the first stage of Awakening.

The definition (ariya-sangha)
"The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well... who have practiced straight-forwardly... who have practiced methodically... who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types [of noble disciples] when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world."

RedLantern

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2012, 02:12:29 PM »
For Buddhists,the sangha are spiritual friends who study the Buddha's teachings and help each other with their practice as they travel on the path to Enlightenment.
The importance of spiritual community is emphasized throughout the Buddha's teachings.Taking refuge in the three jewels ,which are the Buddha,Dharma and Sangha, is an important practice in Buddhism.It is said that looking into any of the three jewels,you see the other two.Sangha is therefore essential to the practice.

Ensapa

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2012, 02:24:26 PM »
here's a more detailed explanation found in access to insight. It explains what the sangha is and their qualities and what constitutes the sangha.

Quote
Sangha

In the suttas the word sangha (lit. "group, assembly") is usually used in one of two ways: it refers either to the community of ordained monks and nuns (bhikkhu-sangha and bhikkhuni-sangha) or to the community of "noble ones" (ariya-sangha) — persons who have attained at least stream-entry, the first stage of Awakening.

The definition (ariya-sangha)
"The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well... who have practiced straight-forwardly... who have practiced methodically... who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types [of noble disciples] when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world."

— AN 11.12

"Four types of noble disciples..."
"In this community of monks there are monks who are arahants, whose mental effluents are ended, who have reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who are released through right gnosis: such are the monks in this community of monks.

"In this community of monks there are monks who, with the total ending of the first set of five fetters, are due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world: such are the monks in this community of monks.

"In this community of monks there are monks who, with the total ending of [the first] three fetters, and with the attenuation of passion, aversion, & delusion, are once-returners, who — on returning only one more time to this world — will make an ending to stress: such are the monks in this community of monks.

"In this community of monks there are monks who, with the total ending of [the first] three fetters, are stream-winners, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening: such are the monks in this community of monks."

— MN 118

"...the eight when taken as individual types"
"Just as the ocean is the abode of such mighty beings as whales, whale-eaters, and whale-eater-eaters; asuras, nagas, and gandhabbas, and there are in the ocean beings one hundred leagues long, two hundred... three hundred... four hundred... five hundred leagues long; in the same way, this Doctrine and Discipline is the abode of such mighty beings as stream-winners and those practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry; once-returners and those practicing to realize the fruit of once-returning; non-returners and those practicing to realize the fruit of non-returning; arahants and those practicing for arahantship... This is the eighth amazing and astounding fact about this Doctrine and Discipline."

— Ud 5.5

Worthy
"A monk endowed with eight qualities is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, an incomparable field of merit for the world. Which eight?

[1] "There is the case where a monk is virtuous. He dwells restrained in accordance with the Patimokkha, consummate in his behavior & sphere of activity. He trains himself, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest faults.

[2] "When given food, whether coarse or refined, he eats it carefully, without complaining.

[3] "He feels disgust at bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct, at the development of evil, unskillful [mental] qualities.

[4] "He is composed & easy to live with, and doesn't harass the other monks.

[5] "Whatever tricks or deceits or wiles or subterfuges he has, he shows them as they actually are to the Teacher or to his knowledgeable companions in the holy life, so that the Teacher or his knowledgeable companions in the holy life can try to straighten them out.

[6] "When in training he gives rise to the thought, 'Whether the other monks want to train or not, I'll train here.'

[7] "When going, he goes the straight path; here the straight path is this: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

[8] "He dwells with his persistence aroused, [thinking,] 'Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human steadfastness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.'"

"Endowed with these eight qualities, a monk is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, an incomparable field of merit for the world."

— AN 8.13

"Monks, this assembly is free from idle chatter, devoid of idle chatter, and is established on pure heartwood: such is this community of monks, such is this assembly. The sort of assembly that is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, an incomparable field of merit for the world: such is this community of monks, such is this assembly. The sort of assembly to which a small gift, when given, becomes great, and a great gift greater: such is this community of monks, such is this assembly. The sort of assembly that it is rare to see in the world: such is this community of monks, such is this assembly — the sort of assembly that it would be worth traveling for leagues, taking along provisions, in order to see."

— MN 118

A community supreme
"Among whatever communities or groups there may be, the Sangha of the Tathagata's disciples is considered supreme — i.e., the four types [of noble disciples] when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as persons. Those who have confidence in the Sangha have confidence in what is supreme; and for those with confidence in the supreme, supreme will be the result."

— Iti 90

Recollecting the Sangha
"At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Sangha, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Sangha. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated."

— AN 11.12

"When you recollect the Sangha, monks, any fear, terror, or horripilation you may have will be abandoned."

biggyboy

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2012, 08:37:40 AM »
WHAT IS THE SANGHA?

To clarify, there can be some confusion in the way the Sanskrit word Sangha is commonly used. In fact, there are three distinct definitions:
1. A currently popular definition is to include all Buddhist practitioners.
2. The most generally applied term includes only the community of ordained monks and nuns.
3. A more strict definition from the scriptures applies to the practitioners who have at least directly realised emptiness.

Point 3 above states : 3. A more strict definition from the scriptures applies to the practitioners who have at least directly realised emptiness.

Based on this current age where it is so uncommon to hear people to seek ordination, would it not be almost impossible if point 3 were the only condition for an ordination?


In my opinion, to adhere to Point 3 as the condition for oneself to become ordained is practically impossible for the current age of time.  Why? Due to the many distractions, delusions, attachments and many lifetimes habituations.  It takes much discipline, sincere practice and meditations to even realised that in a right situation and conditions.

http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=252&chid=505

The main point here is that until one has developed a stable realization of the three principal aspects of the path in one's mind, to practice Dharma properly one needs to spend a lot of time away from the objects that induce our countless delusions to arise.  This is especially true for beginners, but in fact applies to anybody not yet liberated from samsara. Hence, the need for monasteries and nunneries, caves and hermitages, and the discipline that goes along with living in such ascetic environments. And by living in places like those, you can easily see the importance of morality.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ also revealed living in ordination as a method of practice. As a result, many Christian monasteries and nunneries were established, and over the past two millennia this still viable tradition has produced many saints.

People who say that ordination is no longer relevant in the modern world misunderstand its purpose. This method was taught by both Buddha and Jesus to protect us from delusions, to prevent us from harming ourselves or others. As a result of the karma of not harming others, we receive the immediate benefit of not being harmed by them, and experience great happiness and peace. Of course, there are long-term benefits as well: rebirth in the upper realms, liberation, and enlightenment.

To actualize the fundamental paths, you need a great deal of study and meditation. For that you need much time and conducive circumstances. The most important thing is for your mind not to be distracted. The more negative karma you create, the more barriers you erect to your own realizations. That makes it much longer and more difficult for you to experience even samsaric happiness, let alone the bliss of liberation from samsara.

Therefore, the more you live in pure ordination, the less negative karma you create. By renouncing life as a householder and living as Sangha, not only do you create less negative karma, but you also cut down a lot on external work and other activities. This leaves you much more time for meditation and study; you have fewer distractions. Thus, there are many advantages to being ordained: more time to study and meditate, more time to develop your mind.


Tenzin K

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2012, 08:38:18 AM »
The Sangha is the group of people who, having heard the teachings of the Buddha and touched by their power, have decided to dedicate their lives to attaining liberation. Within the Tibetan tradition, this includes dedicating one's life to the liberation of all the beings suffering in cyclic existence (samsara). This is known as the path of the Bodhisattva.

Sangha is a sanskrit word which literally means "group." Early Tibetan translators translated the term as dge'dun. Dge means "virtue" and dun means "motivation" or "attitute." So Sangha can mean "A gathering with virtuous motivation." The ultimate Sangha is "the persons, lay or ordained, who have realized emptiness." The relative Sangha can either be a group of fully-ordained monks and/or nuns, male or female novices, lay practitioners, and those with temporary vows. Practitioners frequently call the group they are studying with their Sangha as these are the friends that are accompanying them on the path to liberation.

According to the Vajrayana teachings, even those living lives of great wealth and luxury can overcome these powerful distractions and attain enlightenment. This is possible with the benefit of the teachings and the guidance of a teacher. Therefore it is not a requirement to take the vows of a monk or nun to achieve transcendence.

Each category of Sangha are considered to be worthy as a focus of devotion and refuge. This is because the Sangha, dedicated as they are to the liberation of all sentient beings and with their commitment to follow the path, help to form a bridge between the confusion of daily life and enlightenment. The Sangha, much like the texts, the teacher, and so on, provide a support to the study and practice of the teachings of the Buddha. When they hold purely the teachings and lineage of their teacher, the Sangha itself holds the power to remove the suffering of beings. Wherever a Sangha can be found, the teachings are alive and the Buddha's presence can be felt.

 

Midakpa

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2012, 01:10:37 PM »
Here are various definitions of "sangha" or gendun in Tibetan:

1. It is a spiritual community.
2. It is the third of the Three Jewels.
3. It is a community of four or more fully ordained monks.
4. It is a community of monks and nuns or lay practitioners of the Dharma.

The Sangha Jewel is the assembly of superior beings (Bodhisattvas and holy beings) who have realized the ultimate truth directly.

ratanasutra

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2012, 04:37:34 PM »
Before we do our prayer we take refuge to the three jewels and the last jewel is sangha.

"I Take Refuge in the Sangha"

Sangha is another word with multiple meanings. It most often refers to the monastic orders and the institutional bodies of Buddhism. A sangha can be a particular group of Buddhists, lay or monastic, who practice together. Or, it can mean all Buddhists everywhere.

The importance of sangha cannot be overestimated. Trying to achieve enlightenment by yourself and only for yourself is like trying to walk uphill during a mudslide. Opening yourself to others, supporting and being supported, is critical to loosening the fetters of ego and selfishness.


The late Chogyam Trungpa said of taking refuge in the Sangha,

"The sangha is the community of people who have the perfect right to cut through your trips and feed you with their wisdom, as well as the perfect right to demonstrate their own neurosis and be seen through by you. The companionship within the sangha is a kind of clean friendship-—without expectation, without demand, but at the same time, fulfilling."

By taking refuge in the Sangha, we become the refuge. This is the path of the Buddhas.

pgdharma

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2012, 03:27:13 PM »
To be a Buddhist, one is expected primarily to take refuge in the Triple Gem: the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Buddha means the Enlightened One. Dhamma means Truth realized and taught by the Buddha. Sangha means the Buddha’s disciples who behave and practice righteously. The ideal Sangha means those who attain the four states of Noblehood. The meaning of the Triple Gem or the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha may be understood in three different levels as follows:

1. The First Level - The Buddha: the Enlightened One represented by his replica or Buddha image. Dhamma: Truth realized and taught by the Buddha, represented by Tripitaka or the Buddhist scripture. Sangha : the Buddha’s noble disciples represented by Buddhist bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns) in general, who have not yet attained the Four States of Noblehood. The Sangha in this level is called Conventional Sangha or Sammati Sangha

2. The Second Level - The Buddha:  the Enlightened One, who was formerly Prince Siddhattha of the Sakya clan. He renounced the worldly life in search of Truth and after His Enlightenment established Buddhism. Dhamma : Truth realized and taught by the Buddha, learned and put into practice by the Buddhists, both ordained and lay people. Sangha: the Buddha’s noble disciples who have attained the Four States of Noblehood.

 3. The Third Level - The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha become one. The Buddha in this level is identical with Dhamma as it was stated by Him that “One who sees Dhamma sees me; one who sees me sees Dhamma.” This shows that Buddhahood is Dhamma and Dhamma is Buddhahood. The ideal Sangha is the embodiment of the realized.

When we take refuge in the Sangha it means we take refuge in the virtues that is good, virtuous, kind, compassionate and generous. We don't take refuge in things that are mean, nasty, cruel, selfish, jealous, hateful, angry, even though admittedly that is what we often tend to do out of heedlessness, out of not reflecting, not being awake, but just reacting to conditions so that is why it is not common to hear of people wanting to take ordination as it takes a lot of determination, discipline and right motivation to achieve this.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2015, 04:44:36 PM »
Here are various definitions of "sangha" or gendun in Tibetan:

1. It is a spiritual community.
2. It is the third of the Three Jewels.
3. It is a community of four or more fully ordained monks.
4. It is a community of monks and nuns or lay practitioners of the Dharma.

The Sangha Jewel is the assembly of superior beings (Bodhisattvas and holy beings) who have realized the ultimate truth directly.

The above is what I believe the Sangha is.  Personally Sangha preserve and teach the Dharma and is the best friend to a Buddhist.



psylotripitaka

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2015, 07:29:37 AM »
All very wonderful replies. Thank you.

I would like to add a couple more points.

1) Since the Guru is Sangha, and the Guru is all-pervasive, the 'Sangha' is our Guru appearing as any phenomena that assists us in the development of realizations both animate and inanimate.

2) For a Buddhist practitioner, since all living beings are helping us in the development of realizations, all living beings are our Sangha Jewel.


There is definitely great benefit in relying on fellow Buddhists, but it can also be very limiting to think that only fellow Buddhists can be Sangha. While knowing the traditional descriptions and relying on other practitioners, we need to expand and deepen our understanding of refuge. If we keep too strict, we will miss out on many important transmissions. The Guru is transmitting to us non-stop, so the more expansive our view becomes, the more we receive. The more rigid and over-conceptual we are, the less we receive of the transmission.

eyesoftara

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2015, 09:53:34 AM »
The outer refuge is the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha and the inner refuge is the Guru, the Yidam and the Protector. So correspondingly the Sangha is outer as the Protector is the inner Sangha.
On the outer level the Sangha are true friends who support and help in our Dharma practice in a mundane way and on an inner level the Protector helps protect our Dharma practice via mundane and super mundane ways by providing the conditions on the outer and inner for level. Outer may be physical, environment, support from friends, money etc, inner is the transformations and reliance of an inner friend.

fruven

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2015, 06:44:39 AM »
Thanks for sharing the meaning of Sangha.

From my views anyone who is considered actively involved in activities of Dharma center or Dharma community is considered a lay sangha member. Why so? Because this is due to one's involvement. One also becomes a voice for the Dharma center by association. Therefore it is important to conduct ourselves well for the benefit of others. Not only the conduct represents the religion we belief in but also spirituality in general. When people hear news of bad conduct in religious organisation it can create negative perception on their mind.

Midakpa

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Re: What is the Sangha?
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2015, 01:53:31 PM »
In general, the sangha must consist of at least four monks who follow the monastic rules (vinaya) laid down by the Buddha.

There are 2 types of sangha:(1) arya sangha: enlightened (bodhisattvas, arhats) and(2)  bhikshu sangha: non-enlightened monks/nuns.

The arya sangha consists of Shravakas (stream enterers, once-returners, non- returners, arhats), Pratyekabuddhas (self-enlightened beings), and Bodhisattvas.

The Bhikshu sangha consists of 4 “assemblies”:Bhikshu (monk), Bhikshuni (nun), Upasaka (male layperson), and Upasika (female layperson).