I’d like to share with you today some information on the importance of coming together. In Sanskrit, this community is called a Sangha. Sangha is a gathering of like-minded folks. Folks who are intent on relieving suffering (on any level), of strenghtening the body – and importantly the mind, and who seek to live their lives at a higher vibrational level.
Why do we come together to do this? Why not stay home in our own comfortable surroundings, and work on ourselves? Very good questions. Some interesting insights below.
You know, human existence is very rare. Humans are far less numerous than other beings on the planet. There are waaaay more insects on the ground, birds in the sky, fish in the sea....than there are human beings. So being a human is very rare indeed. We are far less numerous that other beings. And, further, although many countries on Earth are populated by millions of human beings, how many of those people are actively pursuing a path of virtue through their thoughts, words and actions? How many are trying to avoid harming others, and practice acting in a virtuous way? It is said that the number of such people can be likened to the number of stars one can see in the daytime – very few indeed.
More fundamentally, human beings are social beings. Good company serves as a source of encouragement, of ethical and material support and as a check against one's own ignorance and delusions. Good company is also helpful for practice - it's easier to practice metta, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity with people who are on the same path.
Sangha is an institution that preserves the teachings and lineages. It provides a literal refuge - a place to practice, to study, to meditate, to retreat.
The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has written that ‘When a sentient being (a human) has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.’
What is the Eightfold Path? It is one of the Buddha’s teachings that is said to lead to the lessening of suffering during our lifetime. Suffering – or Dukkha as it is called in Sanskrit is a multi-faceted word…meaning stress, pain, anguish, affliction, unsatisfactoriness – each of these English words is either too strong or too weak to pin it down precisely…. The Eightfold path directs us to choose the Right Way or the Middle Path as it is sometimes called: Eightfold Path includes:
- right view,
- right aspiration,
- right speech
- right action
- right livelihood
- right effort
- right mindfulness and
- right concentration
We can speak more about the Eightfold Path another day. But for now, simply by being in the company of others who share the motivation to follow The Path, we are lifted up in our efforts. We are being woken up during our lifetime to our true nature. To who we really are.