Što je Sangha?

What is Sangha?

Buddhist community or Sangha is, together with Buddha and Dharma, one of the Three Jewels. It is a community of practitioners who carry over Buddha’s teaching on awakening, Dharma, from one generation to another. Sangha creates a special spirit and conditions for the embodiment of the teaching to be possible.

Sangha is one of the oldest institutions of humanity. It was founded by the historical Buddha more than two and half millennia ago. The first community was called arya or noble Sangha of the awakened followers of the Buddha. This is also the most essential meaning of the Sangha, the community of the awakened or liberated ones. Their members were Arhats, the awakened disciples of the Buddha.

In a wider sense, Sangha means monastic community that consists of monks and nuns, bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs, and novices, Samanera or Samanerika. In the widest sense, Shanga encompasses lay practitioners that are called upasaka i upasika.

In mahayana Buddhism there is also bodhisattva Sangha.  Following the Bodhisattva ideal, regardless of the position and statues in the Sangha, each member of the above-mentioned monastic groups can receive Bodhisattva vows and precepts.

Snagha has an outer social function. It exemplifies a way of life  founded on moral principles, harmonization and cessation of suffering. It is helpful to see people living the values of morality and wisdom. It is helpful to see that there are people who live differently and who cultivate noble ideals. Every time when we see an individual dedicated to spiritual life, it makes us ponder. It motivates us to encounter ourselves, to think about our own life and values that govern it.

Five moral precepts

Relevant and characteristic to Sangha is the upholding of the moral precepts, which makes it recognizable and respected, and a part of the Three Jewels.

Buddhist morality is founded on five precepts, or five moral principles as the basis of an ethical living. They are not exclusive to Buddhism, but rather a general morality: refraining from killing, stealing, harmful sexual behavior, lying and consuming drugs and alcohol.

According to the law of karma or karma-vipaka that talks about the retribution for our deeds, breaking the precepts leads to harder life conditions. Upholding the precepts fulfills minimum requirements for calling ourselves true human beings and provides quality of life that is worthy of it.

Lay practitioners uphold Five precepts. Our Dharmaloka community is a lay community. Our members take the precepts that govern their lives in a simple ceremony.

Precepts are important in the Buddhist community to ensure its continuity, moral authority, trust, respect and all the epithets that adorn it. However, these are not just codes of  conduct that need to be followed because someone else said so.  Its essence is Dharma, the teaching on awakening. To uphold the precepts means to follow and live the Dharma. Clearly, precepts alone cannot lead us to liberation. However, they strengthen our path and help us on the way. They should not be understood as imposed discipline and limitations, but positively. What are they freeing us from and where do they lead us? Once that is clear, we cannot perceive them as imposed. They should originate from our own conviction –  not because someone else said that we should uphold them, but because we know clearly that by upholding the precepts we direct our lives in a beneficial direction.

Interrelating in Sangha

Every organized community, including Sangha, requires organized inter-relations. They can be horizontal and vertical in Sangha. Horizontal relations apply to the Sangha members who follow the path of morality, meditation and wisdom. There is no difference in status, they are friends and peers on that path, mutually supporting, encouraging and inspiring each other to act beneficially. This is a relationship of equality between brothers and sisters in Dharma.

Vertical relation does not imply hierarchy and a fixt distinction in status between Sangha members, but mirrors the natural difference in experience. Those more  experienced are older brothers and sisters. More experience can mean many more years in comparison with someone else, sometimes a distinctly different number of years, as in decades.

Being older means being more experienced and being further along the path and it carries the responsibility of helping those that are just starting or those with less experience.