Recently, a dear friend and Blue Lotus Temple sangha member stopped by for a brief visit. He happened to mention a talk that he recently gave at the temple, and how he sees the word “sangha” to incorporate all living things. I had never heard anyone express the sangha in this way – it’s always been about the people, both monastic and laypeople. But I immediately realized that my friend was right on target with this thinking. We are all so deeply connected to one another, and this absolutely includes the animals, trees, water, air etc..
This conversation was really helpful to me on so many levels. Not the least of which was gaining a clearer understanding of sangha as it relates to those who attend my temple. I think that for a long time now, I have thought of sangha more like one might think of fellowship at church. Having been raised Roman Catholic, church was always thought of as a church family. This was a place of support and nurturing, and one where there were others who were not only on the same path as you, but were also dear friends who would support you in lives daily struggles.
While this is not a bad thing in any way, it truly is not what sangha is about. Sangha is really about an unseen and unspoken consciousness that occurs when we gather in our practice and determination. And Noble Friends are not people who are there to help you work through your troubles, although some may offer that at times. Noble Friends are simply other human beings who are on a similar path as you. They are all still human, and by nature imperfect and fallible. And putting any expectation on any of them is really a foible for us to work on personally.
Part of the discussion with my Noble Friend was more deeply about the nature that he connects with each day. Often just sitting in a field to practice his meditation. He went on to explain that when a tree changes colors, or drops its leaves, it is just being a tree. It has no anger toward us or ulterior motive, it is just being what it is – a tree.
And clearly this same truth applies to all those around us. By dropping any expectations, we really eliminate so much needless dissatisfaction, pain and aggravation.
Don’t hate the tree.
Heaven and earth and I are of the same root,
The ten-thousand things and I are of one substance.
~ Zen Master Sêng-chao