Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Practice of Sangha (5)

Read deeply the following Thay's teaching on "The Practice of Sangha".
The followings are the excerpts.

Our transformation and healing depend on the quality of the sangha. If there are enough people smiling and happy in the sangha, the sangha has more power to heal and transform. So you have to invest in your sangha.

You don’t need a perfect sangha—a family or a community doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be helpful. In fact, the sangha at the time of the Buddha was not perfect. ... I also have some difficulties with my sangha, but I’m very happy because everyone tries to practice in my sangha.

If we lived in a sangha where everyone was perfect, everyone was a bodhisattva or a buddha, that would be very difficult for us. Weakness in the other person is very important, and weakness within yourself is also very important. ... It is thanks to the presence of weakness in you and weakness in a brother or a sister that you learn how to practice. To practice is to have an opportunity to transform. So it is through our shortcomings that we learn to practice.

There are some people who think of leaving the sangha when they encounter difficulties with other sangha members. ... To help your heart grow bigger and bigger, understanding and love are necessary. Your heart can grow as big as the cosmos; the growth of your heart is infinite. If your heart is like a big river, you can receive any amount of dirt. It will not affect you, and you can transform the dirt very easily.

The Buddha used this image. If you put a little dirt in a pitcher of water, then that water has to be thrown away. People cannot drink it. But if you put the same amount of dirt into a huge river, people can continue to drink from the river, because the river is so immense. Overnight that dirt will be transformed within the heart of the river. So if your heart is as big as a river, you can receive any amount of injustice and still live with happiness. You can transform overnight the injustices inflicted on you. If you still suffer, your heart is still not large enough. That is the teaching of forbearance and inclusiveness in Buddhism. You don’t practice to suppress your suffering; you practice in order for your heart to expand as big as a river.

One time the Buddha said to his disciples: “There are people among us who do not have the same capacity as we do. They do not have the capacity to act rightly or to speak rightly. But if we look deeply, we see in their hearts that there are good seeds, and therefore we have to treat those people in such a way that those good seeds will not be lost.

The Buddha saw all his disciples as his children, and I think of mine in the same way. Any disciple of mine is my child that I have given birth to. In my heart I feel at ease, I feel light and happy, even though that child may still have a problem. You can use that method, too. If there is a person in the sangha who troubles you, don’t give up hope. Remember, “My teacher has given birth to that child. How can I practice in order to see that person as my sister? Then my heart will feel more at ease and I will be able to accept her. That person is still my sister, whether I want her to be or not.” That feeling and those words can help dissolve the irritation that you are having with that person.

If we have harmony in the sangha, we can give confidence to many people. We don’t need to be perfect. I myself am not perfect, and you don’t need to be perfect either. But if in your own way you can express your harmony in the sangha, this is your gift.

In the sangha there must be difficult people. These difficult people are a good thing for you—they will test your capacity of sangha-building and practicing. One day when that person says something that is not very nice to you, you’ll be able to smile and it won’t make you suffer at all. Your compassion will have been born and you will be capable of embracing him or her within your compassion and your understanding. Then you will know that your practice has grown. You should be delighted that such an act does not make you angry or sad anymore, that you have enough compassion and understanding to embrace it. That is why you should not be tempted to eliminate the elements that you think are difficult in your sangha.

I am speaking to you out of my experience. I now have a lot more patience and compassion, and because I have more patience and compassion, my happiness has grown much greater. You suffer because your understanding and compassion are not yet large enough to embrace difficult people, but with the practice you will grow, your heart will grow, your understanding and compassion will grow, and you won’t suffer anymore. And thanks to the sangha practicing together, thanks to your model of practice, those people will transform. That is a great success, much greater than in the case of people who are easy to get along with.

(My commentary)
We can generate compassion through understanding (insight). And in order to understand, we need to revive awareness through mindfulness and look deeply into the suffering through concentration. So, when we encounter difficult people, the first thing we need to do is to understand the root cause of their sufferings. And if we understand the root cause, we can generate love and compassion to them. And when we have love and compassion, afflictions such as fear, anger, hatred and despair will never arise. Therefore, we always need to live in mindfulness, concentration and insight.


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