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We Are in this Together

November 19, 2012

by Stephen Damon

Only a Buddha and a Buddha can thoroughly master it.—Lotus Sutra.

In a recent conversation I had with my teacher, I realized that I feel that those of you have been following this blog are part of our sangha. Many of you live in far-off places, and we will really probably never get a chance to meet.  Most of you have not written comments (I would love to read more of them), and yet I feel very close to you, as if you were sitting with us in our little church on Monday evenings.  Knowing that you are out there, reading my posts, I feel very supported and thankful.  I think that together we are taking the next step in the evolution of what it means to be a sangha.

Originally, sangha, from a Sanskrit root meaning “an aggregate,” referred to the disciples of the historical Buddha.  Later, as the religion of Buddhism got started,  it came to mean monks and nuns.  In some streams of modern Buddhism, the word still refers only to monks and nuns as a group, but in Zen the sangha has always been more than clergy, more than a group of believers, more than just Buddhists.  The sangha is, in fact, the kinship of all things, every entity of this and every universe, past, present, and future, in endless dimensions.  It is to the enlightenment of this whole sangha that we are dedicated in our vows.

There are many sanghas within the universal Sangha.  The Buddha Sangha is one, and the Zen Buddhist Sangha is another.  The immediate sangha of a group of people meeting regularly to sit Zazen is another.  It is from the family that we move into the world.  It is from the training center family that we cultivate a larger garden.

The sangha is the realization of the harmony of the Buddha and Dharma; the oneness and undifferentiated vigor of the unknown and unknowable. It is the sangha that actually manifests the other two treasures to the world. Without the sangha, the Buddha would now be a distant figure of ancient history and his teaching would’ve been available only in dusty scholarly tomes and internet sites. The sangha has enabled the historical Shkayamuni to be intimately present in the world and in our lives.  Through the ongoing practice of Buddhist practitioners, his teaching has evolved into a uniquely relevant way of understanding our lives in the twenty-first century. This evolution entails finding new ways, such as internet sites and blogs, to express old forms in ways that keep the truth of Buddha’s teaching fresh and unknown and relevant.

To realize the very heart of our original nature is to take refuge in the Buddha.  To cultivate the garden of realization is to take refuge in the Dharma.  To share the fruits of the garden is to take refuge in the Sangha.  This is exactly what I’ve tried to do in writing this blog.  When someone responds to something I’ve written with a short note or a question, or a “thumbs up” icon, I feel that we are in this thing together, trying to live our lives as buddhas and bodhisattvas and I am thankful.  As Bob Dylan wrote, I’ve got nothing but affection for all those who sail with me.



From → Zen Buddhism

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