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What is the Sangha?

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To clarify, there can be some confusion in the way the Sanskrit word Sangha is commonly used. In fact, there are three distinct definitions: 1. A currently popular definition is to include all Buddhist practitioners. 2. The most generally applied term includes only the community of ordained monks and nuns. 3. A more strict definition from the scriptures applies to the practitioners who have at least directly realised emptiness.

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During his life, the Buddha gave advice to many people on ways to avoid distraction from following the spiritual path. The Buddha never actually taught "a set" of vows for monks or nuns, but these have been extracted afterwards by Buddhist Masters from the teachings of the Buddha.

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It is important to realise that monasteries and nunneries have proven to be absolutely essential in preserving the Buddhist teachings and practice. One could say that monasteries are the "power plants" of the Buddhist tradition.

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For Buddhists, the Sangha are spiritual friends, and their importance is explained in the Upaddha Sutta.

"Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, 'This is half of the holy life, Lord - admirable friendship.' The Buddha replied, 'Don't say that... Admirable friendship is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk [or anyone else] has admirable people as friends... he can be expected to develop and pursue the Noble Eightfold Path. …
And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life."
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SOME GENERAL NOTES ON ORDINATION

Monks and nuns are revolutionaries. They cherish a great aspiration in their hearts, and that is how they have the strength to cut the net of worldly attachments. They go forth from family life to enter the path of the Buddha, and they aspire to love and help everyone, not just one person. Monks and nuns cherish their freedom so they can be a source of happiness for many people. Seeing how much entanglement and suffering there is in this world, they feel compassion and want to help people who are suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh from 'Stepping Into Freedom'

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A few hints that I found useful to understand being a Buddhist monk or nun:

THE WELFARE OF THE SANGHA

In the 'Mahiparinirvana Sutra', Shakyamuni Buddha gave a number of conditions the Sangha should fulfil to ensure the welfare and growth of the Sangha, which I tried to summarise below.

Seven conditions

  • Assemble frequently and in large numbers
  • Meet and disperse peacefully and attend to the affairs of the Sangha in concord - Appoint no new rules, and do not abolish the existing ones, but proceed in accordance with the code of training (Vinaya) laid down
  • Show respect, honour, esteem, and veneration towards the elder Bhikkhus, those of long standing, long gone forth, the fathers and leaders of the Sangha, and think it worthwhile to listen to them
  • Do not come under the power of the craving that leads to fresh becoming
  • Cherish the forest depths for their dwellings
  • Establish themselves in mindfulness, so that virtuous brethren of the Order who have not come yet might do so, and those already come might live in peace

Seven further conditions

Seven Good Qualities

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Seven factors of enlightenment

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Seven further conditions

Six Conditions to be Remembered



Source

viewonbuddhism.org