“The sangha is an island of peace.” Thich Nhat Hanh
We cannot walk this path alone.
As the famous story goes, the Buddha and his devoted attendant, Ananda, were sitting alone on a hill together, overlooking the plains of the Ganges. Feeling inspired by the power of spiritual friendship in the moment, Ananda shared, “Dear respected teacher, it seems to me that half of the spiritual life is good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship.” But the Buddha quickly corrected him: “Not so, Ananda! Not so! This is the entire spiritual life, Ananda, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship.”
Sangha is the path. Spiritual friendship is the path. Sangha, or spiritual community, is a refuge and an essential part of walking this path—together. Taking refuge in the sangha means finding safety, peace, growth, belonging, support, and strength in the “good company” of fellow travelers. Although Buddhism is often perceived as a solitary endeavor—an individual meditating alone in an isolated environment—the sangha is actually essential. We learn from and are supported by the sangha, while offering support and kindness.
The practice of sangha-building is deeply embedded in Buddhism—along with the Buddha and the Dharma, one of the three “precious gems.” Sangha depends on the personal relationships between members that are woven together over time like a quilt. By strengthening individual friendships, the entire fabric is strengthened.
Throughout the pandemic, when so many people have felt isolated, and starved for human connection, the need for sangha is great. Also, given the outbreak of war in the world right now, the refuge of community that fosters peace and safety is a deep and universal need. Sangha is needed to help us resist the unwholesome ways of our time. With the support of spiritual friends, peace has a chance.
Join the Mindful Path Program, and over the next nine months experience firsthand the power of mindful community through shared classes, regular monthly cohort contact, and teacher support. What could be a more wholesome endeavor this year?