Tuesday, February 10, 2015

two feet planted - the value of sangha

In Buddhism, the sangha is a spiritual community. It is one of the three pillars of Buddhism, along with the Buddha and the dharma (the teachings). For me, it has been the most challenging part of my path.

I came to Buddhism as an adult. I already had a life built apart from my practice. I feel stretched thin, between work and family and friends. It's a good problem to have, to have so many people I cherish and want to spend time with that I can hardly squeeze it all in, but it's a problem nonetheless. To add another community, is to somehow carve a small pie into even smaller pieces.

I think though, it is what I need to do. Because I am coming to see the wisdom in that third pillar. It is hard to practice in a community of one. To respect your own journey, you almost have to see someone else's. There is a huge relief in the feeling that you are not the only one experiencing something. Other people have felt the same leg cramps or the same irritation or the same peace or joy. Sometimes you need a reminder, or encouragement or even a correction from someone who has been in your shoes. You need an example, for good or ill. The sangha provides all that and more. Sometimes you need to be an example for someone else, or the only way forward is to help someone else get something they need. There are lessons in the reciprocity of community, in the give and take among like minded folk.

II am not solely a spiritual being. I need my non-spiritual community, my loved ones, as much as I need a sangha.  I have two feet planted firmly, one in each world.  The two provide balance and strength and keep me on the middle way.

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