Monday, March 28, 2016

The Practice of Sangha (6)

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

The reason we take refuge in anything is because we need protection. But very often we take refuge in people or things that are not at all solid. ... We need to be very careful, because if we take refuge in a person who has no stability at all, then the little bit of solidity we have ourselves will be entirely lost

When a situation is dangerous, you need to escape, you need to take refuge in a place that is safe, that is solid. Earth is something we can take refuge in because it is solid. We can build houses on earth, but we cannot build on sand. The sangha is the same. Mindfulness, concentration and insight have built up sanghas and individuals that are solid, so when you take refuge in the sangha, you take refuge in the most solid elements.

When you are angry, if you know how to go back to your mindful breathing and take refuge in your mindfulness, you become strong. You can dwell peacefully in that moment and you are capable of dealing with the situation in a much more lucid way. You know that within you there are the elements of mindfulness, concentration and insight. Those seeds are always there. If you have a friend, a teacher, a sangha that can help you to touch those seeds and help them to grow, then you have the best kind of protection.

This is the role sangha plays in supporting, protecting and nourishing us. In the sangha there is stability and joy. The sangha is devoted to the practice of mindfulness, concentration and insight, and while everyone in the sangha profits from his or her own mindfulness, they can also take refuge in the collective energy of mindfulness, concentration and insight of the sangha. That is why there is a sense of solidity and security in the sangha. We are not afraid because the sangha is there to protect us.

It is like the flocks of wild geese that travel together from the north to the south in huge numbers. If one bird goes off on its own, it will be easily caught, but if they stay together, they are much safer.

It’s the same with the sangha. If we think we can live alone, apart from the sangha, we don’t know our own strength or our own weakness. Thanks to the sangha we do not enter paths of darkness and suffering. Even when the sangha doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all, in fact it is doing a lot, because in the sangha there is protection.

Without the sangha we easily fall into the traps of the five cravings. Once in those traps, we will be burnt by the flames of the afflictions and suffering. Keeping the mindfulness trainings and taking refuge in the sangha’s protection is a very good way to avoid being caught in the traps of the five cravings. We keep the mindfulness trainings so that they protect us. The rest of the sangha will also be keeping the same mindfulness trainings and helping us.

Some people have told me that they have never felt secure before coming to a retreat. Then after sitting, eating and walking mindfully with the sangha, for the first time they get a feeling of security. Even small creatures living nearby feel safer, because we are mindful and do our best not to harm them. That feeling of security can lead to joy. We can practice like this:

   Breathing in, I see that I am part of a sangha, and I am being
                        protected by my sangha.
   Breathing out, I feel joy.

The dharma can protect you—dharma not in the sense of a dharma talk or a book—but dharma as the practice embodied by people like yourself. When you practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful listening to the bell, you bring into yourself the elements of peace and stability, and you are protected during that time. You begin to radiate the energy of stability and peace all around you. This will help to protect your children and your loved ones. Although you may not give a dharma talk with your words, you are giving a dharma talk with your body, with your in-breath, with your out-breath, with your life. That is the living dharma. We need that very much, just as we need the living sangha.

(My commentary)
The living sangha must be the best way to be protected and feel secure. But sangha building is not always easy because most people are ego, or separate self. When sangha members are mindful, it is quite easy to keep harmony in the sangha because they are temporary awareness, or part-time Buddha. But they are not fully awakened as full-time Buddha yet, so when they stop practicing mindfulness, they return to ego. Then it becomes difficult to keep harmony in the sangha and all members can't be protected and feel secure. Therefore, I feel that sangha members can be extended to the whole cosmos such as all animals, flowers, trees, blue sky, mother earth, sunshine and so on. They are always mindful without thinking, so they are always solid, compassionate and peaceful. That's why they can be great sangha members. They may be actually more reliable than humans.


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