The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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I Take Refuge in the Sangha
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Sangha is another word with multiple meanings. It most often refers to the monastic orders and the institutional bodies of Buddhism. However, it is also often used in a way similar to how some western Christians use "church." A sangha can be a particular group of Buddhists, lay or monastic, who practice together. Or, it can mean all Buddhists everywhere.
The importance of sangha cannot be overestimated. Trying to achieve enlightenment by yourself and only for yourself is like trying to walk uphill during a mudslide. Opening yourself to others, supporting and being supported, is critical to loosening the fetters of ego and selfishness.
Especially in the West, people who come to Buddhism very often do so because they are hurt and confused. So they go to a dharma center and find other people who are hurt and confused. Oddly, this seems to anger some people. They want to be the only ones who hurt; everyone else is supposed to be cool and pain-free and supportive.
"The sangha is the community of people who have the perfect right to cut through your trips and feed you with their wisdom, as well as the perfect right to demonstrate their own neurosis and be seen through by you. The companionship within the sangha is a kind of clean friendship-—without expectation, without demand, but at the same time, fulfilling."