The Sangha is the order of ordained Buddhist monks (bhikkhus) and nuns (bhikkhunis), founded by the Buddha over 2500 years ago.
The existence of Three Jewels is the foundation of all form of Buddhism and holds a great importance in every aspect of Buddhism. The Three Jewels is also called Triple Gem or Three Refuges of Buddhism. The Three Jewels are Buddha (the Yellow Jewel), Dharma (the blue jewel), and Sangha(the red jewel).
“Namo buddham sharanam gacchami. Namo dharmam sharanam gacchami. Namo sangham sharanam gacchami .”
The above chanting is one of the most popular chanting used by Buddhists all around the globe to worship these three jewels. The Three Jewels is one of the major practices of mental “reflection” in Buddhism. These Three Jewels can be interpreted as:
Buddha (Take Refuge in Buddha)
The first jewel of Buddhism is Buddha and it signifies the Lord Buddha himself and the ideal of Buddhahood. It also refers to the highest spiritual potential that lies in every being in the world.
Dharma (Take Refuge in Dharma)
The second jewel of refuge is Dharma and it refers the teachings of Buddha or the truth of life he understood. Dharma also means “to be held”.
Sangha (Take Refuge in Sangha)
The Third Jewel of Refuge is Sangha and the meaning of Sangha is a monastic community or association where Buddhists monks can worship together.
Sangha is Sanskrit as well as Pali word which refers to a monastic community of Buddhist monks or nuns. This community is also referred as Bhikkhu-sangha or bhikkhuni-sangha. It is the community where Buddhist monks or nuns enjoy the jewels of refuge and learn the teaching, seek the understanding and try to embody the Dharma through sharing knowledge and understanding with others.
Sangha can be defined as:
“Sangha. Community. This word has two levels of meaning: (1) on the ideal (arya) level, it denotes all of the Buddha’s followers, lay or ordained, who have at least attained the level of srotapanna; (2) on the conventional (samvtri) level, it denotes the orders of the Bhiksus and Bhiksunis.”
Due to various change, as well as a temptation of life lies in the world, Sangha is one of the safest and most suitable environments for advancing toward enlightenment and Dharma. If a disciple is to practice Dharma, it is best that he learned from the teaching and example of a teacher or someone who has already done it before.
The existence of Sangha has a large importance and cannot be overestimated. Trying to achieve enlightenment by yourself is very difficult and it is better to open yourself to others, support each other and learning from teacher and teaching others is a key concept through which one can achieve Enlightenment or let go of selfishness and ego from yourself. This is what Sangha is all about. To share our spiritual lives with the people in a community can provide the guidance and support other practitioners.
Qualities of Sangha
Sangha is the third jewel of Three Jewel of Buddhism and all three jewels have certain characteristics. These characteristics of three jewels as chanted regularly on a daily basis or on Upasatha days. It is state that there are seven good qualities and they are:
- Always have faith
- Have some moral shame
- Always fear of misconduct
- Be proficient in Learning
- Have resolution
- Always be mindful
- Be Wise