The Third Jewel.

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
Simon E.
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The Third Jewel.

Post by Simon E. » Sat Apr 27, 2019 12:44 pm

How do you see the Sangha jewel? How do you see Sangha in terms of your own practice?

I remember a discussion on E Sangha in which some Theravadins identified Sangha exclusively with the ordained Sangha. Others saw Sangha as the community of all practitioners.

Where do you sit on that spectrum? Or do you have another view entirely?

And how do you benefit from Sangha, if you do?
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

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Queequeg
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Queequeg » Sat Apr 27, 2019 1:37 pm

I generally see the sangha as the four-fold assembly: monks, nuns, lay men, lay women. In a sense, I see the sangha as exclusively the ordained community of monks and nuns. They are in many respects the guardians of the teaching, carefully handing it down, generation to generation, and are particularly critical in times of persecution; they are the ones who escape with the Dharma in their hearts, along with all the texts they can carry on their backs, to re-establish the community once the persecution passes. In yet another sense, I see the sangha as all beings who have taken refuge in dharma in the past, present and future, in all 10 directions.

How do you see it?
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Simon E.
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Simon E. » Sat Apr 27, 2019 2:06 pm

Initially, I saw it almost exclusively in terms of the ordained Sangha. And in reality back then it would have been flattering to see we laity as any kind of entity!

Now, and particularly in the light of Dzogchen teachings, I see it terms of the whole body of those who practice.
The reason I asked the question is that I have formed the impression that the Sangha jewel has become somewhat downplayed in western Buddhist circles. My impression could be wrong of course.
Or there might be more possibilities in online Sangha than are apparent to me.
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

Akasamuni
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Akasamuni » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:04 pm

£$&^@ wrote:
Sat Apr 27, 2019 2:06 pm
The reason I asked the question is that I have formed the impression that the Sangha jewel has become somewhat downplayed in western Buddhist circles. My impression could be wrong of course.
Or there might be more possibilities in online Sangha than are apparent to me.
You'll find that different traditions and cultures within which Buddhism resides have different takes on the Sangha Jewel, and to varying degrees the Sangha's position and sanctity can be somewhat institutionalised. That's not to say that it isn't authentic, but we are always fighting a battle of reverting back to more mundane group habits and methods of control.

As you probably know, many focus on the sanctity of the ordained monks and nuns as the Sangha. Tibetan Buddhism can have a strong emphasis on the guru-disciple relationship. Traditionally there is also the Arya Sangha, the enlightened community which is, of course, the only beings that one can completely lay one's trust in as there is no danger of ego tainted action.

My own Buddhist group which is very much a western Buddhist tradition has a strong focus on spiritual friendship and the Sangha jewel as being, as you say the whole body of Dharma practitioners. The Buddha put great emphasis on the importance of spiritual friendship and it can't be understated.

Simon E.
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Simon E. » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:38 pm

I agree. The teacher is, of course, essential to an understanding of the Vajrayana.
But the value of spiritual friendship cannot be overestimated.

I suspect that this is a more vital issue for modern westerners than for traditional Buddhist societies due to the fragmentation and alienation prevalent in our cultures.
Issues which assume dramatic importance in the context of lives spent in introspection alone look very different in the light of shared experience.
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

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Grigoris
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Grigoris » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:48 pm

Seeing that my teacher is a ngakpa, I am somewhat biased and include lay practitioners in the definition of Sangha. :tongue:
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

Simon E.
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Simon E. » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:54 pm

Me too.
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HH Tai Situ.

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Miroku
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Miroku » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:55 pm

I definetly see all practitioners as sangha be they lay, ordained or long-haired. And I dare say they are most important when one's own will is not strong enough, or when dharma does not yet quite does it for one. Sangha is like a family especially the one with which one interacts with the most (in the close center, or around a certain teacher, etc.). Plus its the best training ground for patience and other virtues as one cannot cherry pick who belongs there or not. :)
A boat delivers you to the other riverbank.
A needle stitches up your clothes.
A horse takes you where you want to go.
Bodhicitta will bring you to Buddhahood.
~ Khunu Lama Rinpoche

Even non-buddhists have many virtuous accomplishments
~ Jigten Sumgon

Simon E.
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Simon E. » Sat Apr 27, 2019 4:03 pm

Aye. As Chime Rimpoche says, "We are all diamonds in the rough. Sangha is the polishing machine in which we all tumble together until we shine".
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

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Jerafreyr
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Jerafreyr » Sat Apr 27, 2019 4:17 pm

The sangha is the assembly of beings who have understood the essence of the dharma. If they had not realized the dharma for themselves they would not be suitable for being a refuge.

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Rick
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Rick » Sat Apr 27, 2019 4:48 pm

... how do you benefit from Sangha, if you do?
The local sangha I belonged to became too touchy-feely for my temperament, so I left and created (am still creating) an online sangha of kindred-spirit dharma practitioners I've met over the years. The support and friendship I feel from it is hugely important for my dharmic well being. And honestly I don't miss the fleshly contact, interaction is interaction.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by pemachophel » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:03 pm

Of course, sangha as a generic terms means all Buddhist practitioners, ordained and lay, male and female, Realized and unrealized. However, in terms of taking refuge, we take refuge only in the Arya Sangha, which means those on the bhumis.
Pema Chophel པདྨ་ཆོས་འཕེལ

haha
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by haha » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:13 pm

Long ago, one Rinpoche said that Sangha is the body of Guru. (may be for vajrayana setting)

When heard the teachings from HHDL, I can regard all sentient beings as my Sangha members without exception. No matter what they believe and what they don’t believe.

Sādhaka
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Sādhaka » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:17 pm

It has to do with the Refuge Field visualized.

You visualize the Arya Sangha as part of the Refuge Tree in front of you, and your fellow Sangha members are taking Refuge in the Teachers, Buddhas, Dharma, and Arya Sangha with you (i.e. you see the Sangha members as next you, not in front of you) together with all sentient beings (the latter of whom are behind you). Your fellow Sangha members aren’t in the Refuge Field in front of you, the Arya Sangha however is.
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Simon E.
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Simon E. » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:26 pm

I would suggest that relating to Sangha is not restricted to formal Refuge. Which is why I made no reference to Refuge in the OP.

Although Refuge in the Three Jewels is of the utmost importance.
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

Sādhaka
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Sādhaka » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:28 pm

£$&^@ wrote:
Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:26 pm
I would suggest that relating to Sangha is not restricted to formal Refuge.

The main thing is not causing problems with them; e.g. not fighting like cats & dogs.

Vigorous debate is sometimes okay; but I’ve seen an lot of blatant disrespect between Sangha members on these forums.
The Bodhicittasopashika & The bsgrags pa skor gsum

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明安 Myoan
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by 明安 Myoan » Sat Apr 27, 2019 7:46 pm

In Pure Land schools, there's also the Sea-Vast Lotus Pool Assembly, the Sangha of Sukhavati.
Shorter Sutra wrote:Moreover, Shariputra, [Amitabha] has an immeasurable and unlimited number of shravaka disciples, all of them arhats, whose number cannot be reckoned by any means. His assembly of bodhisattvas is similarly vast. Shariputra, that Buddha-land is filled with such splendid adornments.

Again, Shariputra, all sentient beings born in the Land of Utmost Bliss dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression. Many of them are in the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life. Their number is so great that it is beyond reckoning; it can only be described as innumerable, unlimited and incalculable.

Shariputra, those sentient beings who hear of that land should aspire to be born there. Why? Because they will be able to meet such sages of supreme virtue.
Included are wonderful teachers who have sought birth in Sukhavati, like Kalu Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche, Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Masters Honen, Shandao, and Ippen, Ou-i, Yin Kuang...

I'm pretty isolated, so the above helps me feel some reliance and support.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

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Queequeg
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Queequeg » Sat Apr 27, 2019 8:26 pm

£$&^@ wrote:
Sat Apr 27, 2019 2:06 pm
Now, and particularly in the light of Dzogchen teachings, I see it terms of the whole body of those who practice.
The reason I asked the question is that I have formed the impression that the Sangha jewel has become somewhat downplayed in western Buddhist circles. My impression could be wrong of course.
In the Buddha's time, there really wasn't a Buddhist movement. The followers of the Buddha were one among numerous sramana communities. There were lay people who went for refuge - IIRC the first two people to take refuge were laymen, and they only took refuge in two jewels - the Buddha and Dharma - because there was no sangha yet.

But going back to the original sangha, it was only the renunciates, first monks, and then later, nuns also. Lay people were actually not even taught Dharma, but rather were counseled on exclusively on living ethically. IIRC, the actual teaching that lead to awakening were not taught to lay people until Sariputra felt sorry for Anathapindika who was dying.

Sangha, as I have come to understand, provides something only a community can - basically, culture. You need a group of people to establish a culture, and what I see the jewel of the Sangha doing is being the basis of a Buddhist culture. In the Buddha's time, when teachings were not widely shared with lay people, only the ordained Sangha was initiated into the teachings and therefore only the ordained community could express Buddhist culture.

Over time, as the Buddhist teachings came to be shared with lay people and they came to be part of that community perpetuating Buddhist culture. Even more, as their children came to be the source of the ordained community, things evolved. (there's a few theories that speculate how the lay community came to be an integral part of the sangha - one I recall is that the lay communities came to be organized around stupa veneration, and also contributed to the emergence of Mahayana).

Maybe Westerners don't yet generally appreciate the Sangha, because we have no extensive experience with a Buddhist culture, and so discernment of the Buddhist culture and its value in supporting one's practice goes unrecognized.

Its something to share in public practice with others. In the tradition I grew up in, we used to get together in groups to chant - sometimes in the thousands. The sheer experience of hearing thousands of voices chanting in unison is powerful. And extending beyond that, there are shared values - things that don't need to be explained in the community, but which require explanation to the uninitiated. And further, when others all share values and views, the support one feels in their practice can't be replicated when one is practicing alone.

In the West, we are very isolated. Even when we practice in groups, the groups tend to be small and isolated. We are minorities doing something weird. Among our fellow practitioners, though, its normal. In that sense, we are able to better express our Buddhist selves.
Or there might be more possibilities in online Sangha than are apparent to me.
DW and other online "sangha" I find offer opportunities to express Buddhist identities around others who share basic views and values. We don't have to explain, "Suffering is caused by clinging", except when we're explaining it for newbies and the like. But the real value here is that we can have pretty sophisticated discussions about dharma with others on comparable levels of learning and experience and therefore explore at that level. IRL we're pretty isolated still. Here, we can participate in Buddhist culture, to an extent.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Simon E.
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by Simon E. » Sat Apr 27, 2019 9:28 pm

Lots of food for thought..
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

muni
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Re: The Third Jewel.

Post by muni » Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:21 am

Besides the clear answers, regarding a supporting Sangha, I would say all supporting in whatever way to remain on the path. I say in whatever way, while failing to do so is not others fault. A Sangha, group with likeminded ones is of course a start, to benefit from. Whether these would be awaken or genuinely on the path.
May I be a guard for those without one,
A guide for all who journey on the road,
May I become a boat, a raft or bridge,
For all who wish to cross the water.

Which human beings are “fortunate and connected?” They are the ones who generate love, compassion, and devotion, as well as the commitment to remain steadfast on the path until all beings are liberated. Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches.

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