A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay Dunsby
I recently had an interesting conversation with a fellow community member about the value of community – Sangha, in Buddhist terms. As is often the case in these community discussions, tantalising questions and ideas came up that made me think about how important the Sangha is, as a spiritual model for the world at large, and, as a practical method of survival in a time of planetary emergency.
Every now and then I am inclined to stop and evaluate my place in the world. I’ve lived in community for a long time now and sometimes wonder whether it’s time for a change; whether there might be a home somewhere out there, waiting to accommodate and fulfill me in ways that my current situation can’t. Whether I might be taking up space that would better serve somebody else or just simply out staying my welcome.
And, as usual, the more I think about leaving, the implications of ‘independent’ living and the potential benefits in most aspects of the idea, the more absurd it seems. It is not even necessary to turn on the news anymore, in order to see or even feel the deterioration that is unfolding on a daily basis ‘out there’.
The world is getting darker. The Buddha’s prediction of Mappo – The Dark Age or Age of the Dharma decline, has never been more relevant than it is today. Which makes the model of the harmonious Sangha ever more important. We are charged with the responsibility of demonstrating an alternative to apathy, ignorance and the superficial values of a broken culture.
The phrase that came up for me in our conversation was “Sangha is a lifeboat”. It was inspired by imagery that was used in teachings to describe to me and others the vital importance of exemplifying a way of life that reflects sanity and stability amid an ocean of chaos and turbulence.
Those of us lucky enough to be aboard the lifeboat have to take turns to row and navigate towards a brighter horizon. We have to bail out the water as the leaks spring up and plug the holes that appear as our human dramas rock the vessel.
Of course, this ideal doesn’t come naturally or sit intuitively with most of us. We have been indoctrinated into a social climate that sells us individualism, and presents arrogance as some kind of a virtue. To transcend this corrosive trend is to risk alienation and isolation.
Our spiritual practice, both individual and collective is cohesive and unifying, as is our friendship and companionship. They help us to join in a vision of a better world, which is always possible if we can prioritize the needs of the collective, rather than contributing towards the fragmentation that threatens to capsize us.
Namo Amida Bu
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