What is ‘Sangha’?
Sangha means spiritual community. The word is sometimes used in a narrow sense to mean only the monks and nuns living monesteries but in our tradition Sangha is used in the broader sense of all those who support each other on the spiritual path. This is because we acknowledge the nacent Buddha within all living beings.
We help each other by attending meetings and going on retreats together. We sit in meditation and practice loving speech and deep listening together. We give practical support by donating some of our time and a little cash to make these things possible. Some of us share our experiences on Facebook. The spirit of our Sangha is encompassed in it’s name.
Our Sangha’s Name
Wild geese always fly in a ‘V’ formation and travel as a community. As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an ‘uplift’ for the birds that follow. People who share a common direction reach their destination more quickly and with less effort than those who travel alone. That’s because they are travelling with the support of one another.When a goose falls out of formation, it feels the drag and resistance of flying alone and promptly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it. When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
In our Sangha, we benefit from staying “in formation” with those who are heading in our direction. Sometimes we accept their help and at other times we offer help in return.As the geese fly, they also offer their support by that characteristic honking that can be heard. In our Sangha, we need to make sure our communication is encouraging in nature.When a goose gets sick or wounded, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it, until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock. In our Sangha, we also aim to stand by one another in both good and bad times.Calligraphy kindly created by Thây
“Building a Sangha is like planting a sunflower. We need to be aware of which conditions will support the flower’s growth and which conditions will obstruct its growth. We need healthy seeds, skilled gardeners, and plenty of sunshine and room to grow. When we engage in Sangha building, the most important thing to remember is that we are doing it together. The more we embrace the Sangha, the more we can let go of the feeling of a separate self. We can relax into the collective wisdom and insights of the Sangha. We can see clearly that the Sangha eyes and hands and heart are greater than that of any individual member of the Sangha.
We have the opportunity to help build our Sangha in every moment, by participating in activities of the Sangha and contributing our energy and insights. To sustain our own practice when we leave the practice centre, we need to know how to build a Sangha. Let us be active in establishing connections with those around us. When we realize our true nature of interbeing, we naturally seek to connect with others by sharing our practice and seeking the support and guidance of our fellow practitioners.
Thây urges us to be energetic in the practice of mindfulness. The past is finished and the future is uncertain, only in the present can we discover the miracle of life. Living in this spirit, we are already valuable members of our Sangha. We will know how to engage in the continuous process of building a refuge for many beings.
Thây encourages us all to be Sangha builders, following the footsteps of the Buddha, who was a great Sangha builder. When we are able to live and practice in harmony in a small community, we can then share this harmony with the larger Sangha, our family and friends, our co-workers, and our co-practitioners. When there is joy in the practice of Sangha building, then we know that we doing it correctly.”
Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh
There are other Community of Interbeing Sangha’s in Scotland and Northern England that you may be interested in. A full list of UK Community of Interbeing Sanghas can be found on the UK CoI site. There are also other Sanghas in Edinburgh from different Buddhist traditions.