Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in?

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Karma_Yeshe
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Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in?

Post by Karma_Yeshe » Sun Jun 29, 2014 1:19 pm

I am asking this, because I made a statement in some other thread, that we only take refuge in the sangha consisting of people on the bhumis and not in the ordinary sangha. One of the moderators disagreed, but he gave no further reasoning. I then checked "Gampopas Jewel Ornament of Liberation" and he is not so clear about it. He states that ulimately, the real refuge is the Buddha, since without the Buddha, there would be neither Buddhadharma (=words of a Buddha) nor a Sangha (=followers of a Buddha). This seems to correspond more or less with the approach within Ati-Yoga, but in many saddhanas I am practising there is refuge in the three jewels, too. So what are the opinions, quotations etc. about this subject?

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Malcolm
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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Malcolm » Sun Jun 29, 2014 2:03 pm

Karma_Yeshe wrote:I am asking this, because I made a statement in some other thread, that we only take refuge in the sangha consisting of people on the bhumis and not in the ordinary sangha. One of the moderators disagreed, but he gave no further reasoning. I then checked "Gampopas Jewel Ornament of Liberation" and he is not so clear about it. He states that ulimately, the real refuge is the Buddha, since without the Buddha, there would be neither Buddhadharma (=words of a Buddha) nor a Sangha (=followers of a Buddha). This seems to correspond more or less with the approach within Ati-Yoga, but in many saddhanas I am practising there is refuge in the three jewels, too. So what are the opinions, quotations etc. about this subject?
We take refuge only in the Ārya Sangha, bodhisattvas on the stages, arhats, and other awakened beings.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by seeker242 » Sun Jun 29, 2014 2:20 pm

I don't think it's appropriate to consider the ordinary sangha to be where refuge is taken. How can you take refuge in people who are perhaps even more deluded than you are? Of course the ordinary sangha can and certainly does help support one's practice, the real refuge is in those who are enlightened, to whatever degree.
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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by smcj » Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:33 pm

Basically I agree with Malcolm on this. Setting the bar any lower and you're going to be disappointed.

But you can still consider the ordained monks and vajra brothers and sisters (people that you have taken initiations with) to be symbolic representations of the arya sangha, and have respect for them as such. That way you can disregard the inevitable hanky-panky that goes on and still have respect, as they are never anything other for a symbol of a level of no hanky-panky. For instance I've met monks that were full of hanky-panky. I had no respect for them as people per se, but I still had respect for their robes and vows--even if they didn't.
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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Huseng » Mon Jun 30, 2014 5:46 am

Karma_Yeshe wrote:I am asking this, because I made a statement in some other thread, that we only take refuge in the sangha consisting of people on the bhumis and not in the ordinary sangha.
This is true. A sangha member who is a common being is not a suitable refuge. You might as well take refuge in worldly devas if this were the case. Someone still bound to saṃsāra will not be a suitable refuge.

Awhile back I was asked by someone for refuge vows and the five precepts and I explained it to them like this. Refuge in the sangha doesn't mean you take refuge in monks like me, but rather you take refuge in liberated beings, i.e., ārya bodhisattvas, arhats and buddhas.

Also on a more mundane level, if you place your faith in the ordinary sangha you will be quickly disappointed when you see how things work in the real world. I advise people not to place any faith in the ordinary sangha. To "respect the robes" is also problematic because such a symbolic gesture could bolster the authority and power of questionable characters.

The real representatives of Buddhism will be the people who actually know something about Dharma and implement it in their actual lives. Costumes and titles don't mean anything.

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Karma_Yeshe » Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:39 am

Thank you very much for your answers! They correspond more or less with what I remember from the teachings of my teachers. Leaves me a bit wondering where the moderator got his opinion from, though.

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by JKhedrup » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:27 am

Berzin explains the usage of the term Sangha in the context of refuge (which he calls safe direction) and the different connotation the word Sangha has when referring to the spiritual community. I include the most pertinent excerpts, the information is here. It is a lot of material but well worth reading if you want to understand this issue: http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... nters.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

When we take refuge, it is not in the sangha in general; it is in the Sangha Gem. The Sangha and the Sangha Gem are different. To go in that safe direction of the Sangha Gem, we obviously have to know what it is. That is the danger of calling a community of people in the Dharma center “sangha,” because if we don’t know clearly what the Sangha Gem is, we might think it refers to the people in our Dharma center. Then, if that community disappoints us, or acts improperly, we might lose our refuge thinking, “This is not at all something trustworthy.”

The same can happen if we think that the Sangha Gem refers just to monks and nuns, because there can be monks and nuns who are quite disturbed emotionally and we might think, “How can I take refuge in them?” So that is not what the Sangha Gem refers to either. That is why, in order to really take safe direction, it is very important to identify correctly what we actually mean by the “Sangha Gem.”

There are people in the West who think, “If the Sangha Gem is just referring to the monastics, we can do away with that. We don’t need monks and nuns. We can have a modern Buddhism without them.” However, monastics are not what the Sangha Gem is referring to at all. People may think that the monastic tradition is something ancient or medieval, and that it is unnecessary in our modern society. “We don’t need the refuge in the Sangha.” This is a big mistake, because in this context, the Sangha Gem is not identified correctly.

In Theravada, the Sangha Gem is specified from the perspective of the teachings. Thus, it refers to anyone who has achieved any of the four stages of spiritual attainment starting with the arya level. An “arya” is somebody who has had nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths. In Theravada, the four stages that start with that cognition are called: “stream-enterer,” “once-returner,” “non-returner” and “arhat.” When we hear those terms in Theravada, we should not think, “Oh, stream-enterer, that is just a beginner. Anybody can reach that.” This is actually an arya level. From the Theravada point of view, the Sangha Gem refers to the Arya Sangha. They are called a “Gem” from the point of view of their attainment, the realization and nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths and, in particular, of no such thing as an impossible type of self (anatta). That person can be either a monastic or a lay person.

You can also speak of Sangha as specified in the Vinaya, the rules of discipline. From that perspective, it refers to a community of fully ordained monks or nuns and, more specifically, to a group of four of more fully ordained monks or nuns that are required to be present at certain rituals where a quorum of monastic members is needed to hold the rituals.
Sangha in Mahayana

What does the Indian Mahayana tradition that the Tibetans follow say about this? What was the traditional view in India that the Tibetans first encountered?

(According to Ornament of Clear Realizations)
The apparent Sangha Gem is the individual person of any arya, whether lay or monastic. Therefore, it is not the group or community of these arya individuals taken as a whole, but each member of the community. That is what we see. What lies underneath that? The deepest Sangha Gem, which is again the Third and Fourth Noble Truths on the mental continuum of an arya. Note that Buddhas are included here as the highest level of an arya.

The other tradition of Maitreya derives from another of his texts called the Mahayanasutralamkara, “A Filigree of Mahayana Sutras” or “Ornament of Mahayana Sutras.” This tradition speaks about the Sangha Gem only in terms of the individual person of an arya. It does not speak about the Third and Fourth Noble Truths. When the Tibetans speak in terms of sutra, they follow this second tradition. There, Buddha Aryas are not included as the Sangha Gem, only aryas of lesser attainment than that of Buddhas. The tantra point of view, in which gurus are considered embodiments of the Three Gems, is in accord with the first tradition of Maitreya in which Buddha Aryas are included as the Sangha Gem.

...what represents the Sangha Gem is a group of either four fully ordained monks or fully ordained nuns. We don’t actually take refuge in the monastic community, which is just the nominal Sangha Gem, what the Theravada call the “conventional Sangha.”

With respect to the common Sangha Gem, Gampopa says that there are two: ordinary beings and aryas.
•The Sangha that is ordinary beings refers to a group of four or more fully ordained monks or nuns who have not yet attained the stage of an arya. Gampopa only mentions fully ordained monks, since the full nun’s ordination lineage did not get transmitted to Tibet. However, the term “fully ordained monk” (dge-slong, Skt. bhikshu) can also be used as a general term that covers both monks and nuns.
•The Arya Sangha refers to any of the eight individuals from four pairs. This is the same as what Theravada asserts as the Sangha Gem. The four pairs, or the four groups, are stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner and arhat. Each of them is divided into two: the “enterer”, that is the one who is starting to get the realization of that level, and the “resultant”, the one who has attained that level. Gampopa does not state whether or not these aryas need to have full monk or nun ordination.

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Karinos » Mon Jun 30, 2014 1:25 pm

in my humble opinion it very much depends on your personal Dharma practice ...
For example if you already do intensive yidam practice - you'd practice pure vision, in which all beings are Buddhas (Yidam) already, there is no impure or unworthy object of Refuge, everybody is perfect Buddha. That pure vision of others also helps them to awake enlightened mind qualities - so it important to keep it.

another thing is ... among so called "ordinary" beings, monks, nuns. lay - there are many hidden bodhisattvas, emanations, dakinis, dakas, vidyadharas etc. with our ordinary mind, can we really distinguish? pure vision makes more sense - at least for me.

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Malcolm » Mon Jun 30, 2014 2:26 pm

Karinos wrote:in my humble opinion it very much depends on your personal Dharma practice ...
For example if you already do intensive yidam practice - you'd practice pure vision, in which all beings are Buddhas (Yidam) already, there is no impure or unworthy object of Refuge, everybody is perfect Buddha.
Not when you are taking refuge...during refuge everyone becomes Buddha in the form of whatever deity you are practicing, but in the beginning oneself and all sentient beings are in their ordinary form.

Of course, there are some refuge supplications where one begins through recognizing one's vidyā as the object of refuge, but that is only in Atiyoga.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Karinos » Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:44 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Karinos wrote:in my humble opinion it very much depends on your personal Dharma practice ...
For example if you already do intensive yidam practice - you'd practice pure vision, in which all beings are Buddhas (Yidam) already, there is no impure or unworthy object of Refuge, everybody is perfect Buddha.
Not when you are taking refuge...during refuge everyone becomes Buddha in the form of whatever deity you are practicing, but in the beginning oneself and all sentient beings are in their ordinary form.

Of course, there are some refuge supplications where one begins through recognizing one's vidyā as the object of refuge, but that is only in Atiyoga.
so, are you saying that for the purpose of taking Refuge while doing any sadhana I should abandon purevision and for few minutes pretend to see my vajra brothers and sisters as well as other sentient beings as ordinary ? :shrug:

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Konchog1 » Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:49 pm

Hmm. So then would the Buddha gem only be Shakyamuni and all the other Buddhas be grouped under the Sangha gem?
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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Karinos » Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:59 pm

I think Buddas have no problem with paying respect one another including taking refuge :))
Like Manjusri (who is in fact Buddha) paid respect to Buddha Shakyamuni

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Malcolm » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:05 pm

Karinos wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Karinos wrote:in my humble opinion it very much depends on your personal Dharma practice ...
For example if you already do intensive yidam practice - you'd practice pure vision, in which all beings are Buddhas (Yidam) already, there is no impure or unworthy object of Refuge, everybody is perfect Buddha.
Not when you are taking refuge...during refuge everyone becomes Buddha in the form of whatever deity you are practicing, but in the beginning oneself and all sentient beings are in their ordinary form.

Of course, there are some refuge supplications where one begins through recognizing one's vidyā as the object of refuge, but that is only in Atiyoga.
so, are you saying that for the purpose of taking Refuge while doing any sadhana I should abandon purevision and for few minutes pretend to see my vajra brothers and sisters as well as other sentient beings as ordinary ? :shrug:
Yes.

As far as pretend, it is your pure vision that is pretend, and not the other way around. Remember a sadhana is a way of practicing the whole path of Buddhahood in a single session. So normally we start as ordinary being, raise bodhicitta, gather merit and wisdom and so on.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Malcolm
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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Malcolm » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:07 pm

Konchog1 wrote:Hmm. So then would the Buddha gem only be Shakyamuni and all the other Buddhas be grouped under the Sangha gem?
Different refuge trees group things differently, it depends on tradition. Generally however Buddhas would be grouped around the Guru.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:50 pm

If one's practice is to see all sentient beings as mother beings,
or everything as the play of the guru's mind,
or every being as enlightened except for oneself,
or everything as Amida's compassionate working,
or all beings and phenomena as expounding the dharma...
I would imagine there are many ways to interpret sangha in terms of living out refuge in daily life.

In my opinion, anyway :rolleye:
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The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have unobstructed vision in all directions.
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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by Karinos » Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:46 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Karinos wrote:so, are you saying that for the purpose of taking Refuge while doing any sadhana I should abandon purevision and for few minutes pretend to see my vajra brothers and sisters as well as other sentient beings as ordinary ? :shrug:
Yes.

As far as pretend, it is your pure vision that is pretend, and not the other way around. Remember a sadhana is a way of practicing the whole path of Buddhahood in a single session. So normally we start as ordinary being, raise bodhicitta, gather merit and wisdom and so on.
Fair enough :anjali:

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by haha » Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:14 pm

While practicing Vajarayana Sadhana, we generally take refuge in Guru, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. First comes Guru, and then Buddha. You might have noticed that, too.

May be for the case of Bodhisattva there is Arya-Sangha and for the monks Bhiksu-Sangha.

(Please correct me if i m misinforming or misinformed.)

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Re: Who is included in the Sangha in which we take refuge in

Post by smcj » Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:22 pm

As far as pretend, it is your pure vision that is pretend, and not the other way around.
Well, that depends one which side of the water you are standing on. Suffice it to say that once you've "crossed to the other shore" you'll see that pure vision is, and always has been, the accurate way of seeing things. Until then however, yeah, it's just "pretend".
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