The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

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Question: Sangha?

Q&A #12

The Three Jewels include the Sangha

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A Reader recently wrote:

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Hi,‚Ä®I first wanted to thank you for your podcast, blog etc. I’ve just started listening etc. so you may have already covered this, but I thought I’d ask.‚Ä®How important is it to join with some kind of group/congregation/whatever within Buddhism? There are a few Buddhist centers in my area but I’m not so sure that I quite agree with what they teach. Should I join one anyway?

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My Response

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The technical term for what you are looking for is “sangha,” or “Buddhist community.”

Yet another of those many Buddhists “lists” is “The Three Jewels.” The three jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. You look to the Buddha as a great teacher and role model. You look to the Dharma (written and oral teachings) for rules, inspiration, stories, and experiences. You look to the Sangha for support, learning, and fellowship. So the classical Buddhist answer is yes, you should join a group.

On the other hand, here in the West, it’s often hard to find a group that fits you well. I think I’ve said before that I don’t care for the only group around here, so I don’t have a group either. With all the material available to you in books, videos, podcasts, Internet and other forms of media, there are plenty of opportunities to learn on your own. Is that enough for you? I cannot answer that.

That being said, you mention that there are a few centers near you. I’d recommend going to one of them and see if they are a good fit for you. If one doesn’t suit you, try another. If they all seem incompatible, then you’re on your own. But I would definitely give them a chance, since the ‚Äúclassical‚Äù Buddhists strongly recommend all of the ‚ÄúThree Jewels.‚Äù

1 comment to Question: Sangha?

  • [admin posting for David, who sent this in by mail]

    Hi Brian

    I too have had trouble trying to find a group that I feel comfortable.

    with and for several years now have studied alone, making use of the internet and books and when ever possible talking with others. I agree with what you say about all the resources avaiable out there and almost see this as a virtual teacher. If this is the case does this group become a virtual sanga. We can all come together in cyber space

    as it were and learn from each other. Just a thought. i would be interested in your thoughts.