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The Meaning of Sangha by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche--Part 2

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  • Tolchock .
    The Meaning of Sangha by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche MIRROR OF FREEDOM (series): Number 14 Chagdud Gonpa Foundation (reprinted with permission of Chagdud Gonpa
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 14, 2003
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      The Meaning of Sangha
      by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

      MIRROR OF FREEDOM (series): Number 14
      Chagdud Gonpa Foundation
      (reprinted with permission of Chagdud Gonpa Foundation)

      The Sangha as Training Ground

      The sangha embodies two qualities that are truly reliable. The first, direct
      recognition of the absolute nature of mind, gives rise to the second, the
      liberation of delusion, confusion and the poisons of mind--the root causes
      of suffering. Those who possess these qualities, and fully understand and
      uphold the vow of refuge, perceive and participate in life in a way that is
      not at all ordinary. As true sangha members, they are dedicated to
      refraining from harm and to helping others in any way they can. We can
      depend on them as examples, as well as for leadership and guidance.

      We in the sangha need to be aware that others will look to us also as
      helpers and models, observing how we exemplify the dharma in our lives. We
      should never behave in a way that would lead someone astray. We must develop
      faith, devotion, respect, friendship and support among ourselves in the
      immediate, or inner, sangha as well as all others in the larger
      sangha--which includes practitioners of the Buddhist tradition throughout
      the world, and specifically those of the four schools of Vajrayana Buddhism
      who have taken the vows of refuge and bodhicitta. For regardless of which
      Buddhist tradition we follow, we receive the blessings of the Three
      Jewels--the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha--through any spiritual teacher who
      carries purely the unbroken lineage of the Buddha's teachings, from H.H. the
      Dalai Lama, the manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of
      compassion in human form, to many other emanations of enlightened beings.

      Before he attained parinirvana, the Buddha prophesied that in degenerating
      times, he would manifest as spiritual friends and teachers. Even to
      prostrate in the direction of the buried bones of one from whom one has
      received four lines of dharma teaching produces immeasurable merit. On the
      other hand, to see or dwell on faults in sangha members is to diminish not
      only our refuge vow but our bodhisattva vow. To lose our pure view of the
      inner sangha is to breach an even deeper level of commitment--that of the

      What can we do to sustain a strong sangha? First, we have to understand that
      practicing dharma means correcting our own faults, changing our own minds.
      As humans, we all have flaws. Just as sisters and brothers in a large family
      have to learn how to deal with one another, we have to learn how to help and
      support one another in the sangha. If we were holding hands to help each
      other cross a river and one person fell in, we wouldn't leave him there;
      we'd lift him out and keep going.

      Simply hearing the teachings of the dharma isn't enough to completely
      transform ourselves. The teachings have to be implemented, and we begin by
      increasing our compassion. If someone the sangha is rude to us, instead of
      responding in our habitual way, by being angry, sarcastic, hurtful or
      holding a grudge, we practice compassion. As dharma practitioners we bring
      our understanding of karma to bear on difficult situations, recognizing that
      someone who upsets others is creating nonvirtue. Rather than being critical,
      we try to help, and in this way we create virtue. And when we make mistakes,
      we purify the karma we've created.

      There are times when we are upset or irritated. Sometimes our body is out of
      sorts. Sometimes our subtle energies are out of balance and our mind is
      agitated. Sometimes we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. We need to
      recognize that this emotional turmoil is not permanent, that it will pass,
      like clouds in the sky--and then patiently let it go by. We shouldn't add
      fuel to the fire. If an irritable person says something annoying, we should
      remain patient and maintain respect. We shouldn't prolong or even try to
      correct the situation, but rather wait until the person calms down and then
      try to talk things over. We always need to focus on how we can help others,
      not on how we can benefit ourselves.

      When anger arises, the best thing to do is to drop it. But if we can't, we
      remain patient and it will eventually dissolve. Because sangha members don't
      cling to anger for months or years, they don't inflict the kind of damage in
      relationships that resentment can cause. If we try again and again to
      develop love, concern and patience, slowly we will make progress in our
      practice. Like grains of barley in a bag whose husks fall away as the grains
      rub together, sangha members working together can swiftly cleanse their
      minds' poisons and obscurations and contribute to each other's learning and

      The world isn't going to change for us. From the very beginning of our
      journey on the dharma path, we realize that what must be changed is our own
      mind--that the mind is the arena for training. We recognize that nothing in
      samsara or nirvana is outside mind; all is rooted in it. Our interactions
      within the sangha serve as a mirror that reflects our mind back to us so
      that we can use the methods of the dharma to correct ourselves. If we find
      ourselves responding to irritating situations in an ordinary way, we ask,
      "Why do I react this way? Why do I hold onto these things?" By transforming
      mental poisons as they arise, we learn to deal more effectively with our
      immediate circumstances and live up to our spiritual goals.

      At first, the sangha is like a collection of holy objects, such as statues,
      in a bag; they inevitably clank against one another. But if people trying to
      create something of benefit are at odds with one another, the negativity and
      disharmony undercut their spiritual aspirations. On the other hand, if they
      treat each other with patience, respect, love and compassion, those
      qualities radiate out and benefit all those around them. When they go about
      their activities in the world, where there is less support for spiritual
      practice, they will have well-established habits of patience and kindness.
      They won't lose them in stressful situations. In this way, the sangha
      provides a training ground for applying the dharma in the world at large,
      which is the true arena for our practice.

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