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Monday, May 01, 2006

The Sangha

I know that many people in the Blangha and beyond have tackled this question but I would still like to pose it here.

What does "sangha" mean to you?

Traditionally it has meant the body of monks and not so much the laity. Even today in many eastern countries the laity isn't considered apart of the sangha. Here in the west the laity is apart of the sangha as much as the monk sanghas.

Then there are the online sanghas or "blanghas" (or whatever catchy, snappy term you wish to call them).

For me it depends. I frequent a "physical" sangha from time to time. However, since I have schizoaffective disorder and thus a bit of agrophobia and anxiety when around others I tend to prefer the online communities for a regular connection to other Buddhists.

And then there are all the books and retreats that make the teachings of the great teachers more accessable to everyone. However especially to those living in areas without a physical sangha or to those who have other obstacles that keep them from being able to physically hear the mesage of the teachers and/or monks. Also email provides a great avenue for people to be in touch with teachers and ask them questions about ones personal practice.

How can any of us judge which of the above options (or others not mentioned) is more "Buddhist" or "acceptable" then the other? Isn't the most important thing that people stay connected with other Buddhists and teachers one way or another??

Would love your thoughts here.

By the way this also applies to those who are Christian or of other faiths. Is one more "holier then thou" in regular church, mosque, synogue, temple attendance or does it not matter "where" or with "whom" you "worship" or "commune?"

PHOTO CREDIT: It's a painting done by (I think) Ralph A. Schultz

-Peace to all beings-

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Visual-Voice said...

Having been a christian for many years and now embracing buddhism, I'd have to say that the physical community ~ the church, the meeting place ~ gives me a sense of community. I work from home and am basically introverted, so it can sometimes require the sheer force of will to get me out of the house and into situations where I'll meet new people. Email does this to a certain extent, but you miss the inflection of a voice, the warmth of seeing smile, the touch of a hand... the tangible sense of community.

I don't think one shines over the other. The buddha said not to believe anything just because he or someone else said it. Test it out for yourself to find if it's true. Learn from many teachers, and then in your heart decide what works for yourself.

tatiana said...

ok, i tried again to cut & paste your web addy you gave me. & it again led me to the religious babble. try it - i thought it was odd that someone who believes in buddhism would subscribe to bible thumping, but you never know. strange stuff.... maybe you typed the addy wrong? in any case. glad I found the correct site!

james said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
"James" said...

Vis voice:

I had an opposite experience in growing up in a regular church experience. I was forced to go every sunday and so now I am less inclined to go to a physical meeting every week or every other week. Just a different experience.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


I figured out the problem. I messed up the addy I gave ya. I gave you: (as you typed).

And it should be: mixed the p and the s in "spot."

That should fix it...I hope. ;)

Love and light.

quicksilver said...

Here's my "Christian" response:

To Christianity, community is very important. It's through our interpersonal relationships and love for each other that we see God's love for us. Also, we are to seek out the company (in this regard) of those who are holy in their hearts. That's the super short answer to community within Christianity.

With regard to going on retreats and such things, they can be good places to increase your spiritual knowledge. For me, an aspect of feeling restrained from going to these things (say if I had agorophobia) would be to trust in God that nothing bad would happen to me. It's one of the liberations of my salvation, I think. It's difficult to explain, but I've already resigned myself to dying and know it will happen at some point. However, I also know that I will not spend one second more on this earth than God wants me to.

It all comes down to loving God and having faith that he'll be there for me no matter what.

I imagine I'll post again for this discussion... it's a bit much.

"James" said...


I understand and respect your opinion. I too have accepted my own demise and do not worry about it. ;)

tatiana said...

Phew! I was a bit worried & confused, as I was enlightened by your buddhist blog, only to be led to a christian super site! all clear. . .

"James" said...


(Love that name by the way).

I'm glad that is all cleared up. ;)

Dharmasattva said...

James, for different reasons (my and my husband's work schedules), I seldom attend my local "physical" sangha, a Kwan Um Zen circle.

I think the key function of a sangha is to bring together students and teachers of dharma so that together they all can better understand the dharma and their own Buddha-natures and thereby come a little closer to nirvana.

That said, if a person can get that from interacting with other practitioners online (via blogosphere, e-Sangha, whatever), then one has receives the benefits of the three refuges.

For myself, I can say that I learn much from other Buddhist bloggers and from sites like e-Sangha.


isaiah said...

I just discovered a three person Sanha one mile from me that I will soon visit, becoming the fourth.

It begins with one person and ends with everyone in attendance.

There will be a point we all Sangha- that moment is now!

"James" said...


When you get a chance email at, k? ;)


I think I would attend my physical sangha more if it was held at a different time then near dinner time. Say if it was around 1 in the afternoon. I don't feel though like they should change their meeting time just for me, however.

"James" said...


I agree whole heartedly with you that we are all a sangha. And that we don't need to physically be together in order to feel together and united.

dragonflyfilly said...

i don't really know what a "sangha" is...i'm not very good with language, and when i read books like The Tibetian Book of the Living and Dying i always have to check back to the glossary of terms to is quite a struggle for me...

i will say that i believe the "god" is WITHIN us, not strictly out there somewhere in the ether, although i do believe it is ALSO "out there", if you know what i mean.

after many years of meditating alone, i joined the Vapassana community for a short while...met Goenka Ji very briefly in Merritt when he attended the opening of the Buddhist Retreat there...but have not been to any group sittings or 10 day retreats in a long time...

the last one i went to i had a very perculiar experience. it was a very hot day...and towards the end of the one hour "sit"...i started to have an unfamiliar physical and (metaphysical i think) sensation. i felt like i was melting into the air, i could literally feel my whole body, kind of disintegrating, almost like all the atoms and cells were dispersing into my surroundings, and i could see this sort of jelly-fish like matter (i wish i could draw it her), like translucent white bubbles, each bubble containing a little white dot yet all connected together (something like what a cancer cell that is mastizing looks like)...this matter was not floating around me rather i was becoming this matter.

whooooo, it was really wierd, and as everyone unfolded their legs and stretched and slowly wandered out of the room, i sat for awhile, trying to "gather" myself up.

One of the older meditators, (he had been with the group about 14 years) looked at me with a question in his eyes, i started to explain what had happened. He looked at me strangely and hurried away...and from then on he avoided did not go back to that group to sit, and i have not felt like sitting with a group since then.

"James" said...


I totally agree with you on what you said. I'm sorry that you had such a negative experience with that senior meditator. I wouldn't have gone back either.

That sounds like a cool experience that you had when meditating. I experience a similar experience when I meditate for a long period of time...I think it is a sign of our attachments slipping away in that moment.

Johnny Newt said...

James, you've brought up some excellent points.
it has been expressed to me through traditional teachings that indeed the Sangha constitutes the more immediate realm of priests, reverends, monks and nuns living now or before, whom have dedicating there lives to the teachings of Lord Buddha, of course the obvious contradiction here is that the very teachings of Buddha express the deepest truth that none are apart from another, all life being of one mind without begining or end. I guess the logical conclusion is that all sentient beings are the Sangha. I like to think of the word Sangha as another way to say "the source"

kevin beck said...

Very interesting thoughts. Thank you for sharing. I wonder (whatever tradition or practice we may be in) if a structured hierarchy might be a sign that something can be revised. Perhaps for a time, strict structure might be good for all of us. But then there might be a time when we must "leave the nest" if we are to flourish. This might, then, allow, us to "return to the nest in a renewed sense.

How's that for muddled thinking?


"James" said...


I agree with you. I really like your idea of "the source." We are all apart of the Universal Sangha and helping others (no matter WHAT their religion) is part of our purpose.


Yes, I agree. There does come a time when we all must be able to soar without an organized hierarchy. Many Buddhist monks retreat to a cave or a cabin for long periods of time to meditate and achieve liberation and enlightenment.

dragonflyfilly said...

hmmmmm, i did not know for one short instant i actually experienced non-attachment, eh? ---kool...that gives me hope

"James" said...


Yep, keep hope alive!! :)

Zen Unbound said...

Manual Trackback. This post is cited in Blogmandu, Roundup for Apr 30 - May 6, 2006.

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