"The Buddha's teaching and Sangha community"

Venerable U Nandapala
Tisarana Vihara, London
January 2000

        The bhikkhu order which is bound by monastic fundamental and practical disciplines in unity and in perfect physical and mental harmony is known as Sangha. In other word, the word Sangha is a combination of Pali vocabulary, which can be divided into two parts. They are san and hana of its original forms. The prefix san means sankilese, moral defilements while hana can be explained as the sense of killing. Therefore, the meaning of the word sangha should be understood as the bhikkhu order that is apparently striving to get rid of moral defilements that are latent in the heart.

        The word came into being with Pali origin millennia ago, but it has been utilised all over the world after being adopted as its own language. Two types of sangha order have existed under the instruction of the Master since He was alive. They are the sangha community that had already attained the supramundane state of the Four Noble Truths, and the common order that has not realised that state yet, but still practises moral disciplines and develops meditation insight. This is known as Sammuti sangha to be instructed into higher ordination by bhikkhu order.

        As the Lord Buddha had always entrusted both of his order and therefore once he proclaimed to Paharada thus: "Paharada, just as the ocean is fixed and does not overpass its land even so when the code of discipline is made known by me, my disciples will not transgress it even for the sake of their life".

        The elder who were tied up by the robbers in the forest are good examples to understand in this sense.

        An elder was bound with black creepers by the robbers in the Mahavatti forest and made him lie down. During the time he lay there for a week without any food and drink, he augmented his insight already well developed, instead of cutting the creepers and searching for almsfood. At last, he attained the Supramundane state of fruition of Never-returner to this sensual sphere, and was reborn in the Supreme world.

        An elder in Lankadipa island was also bound with string creepers by the robbers and made him lie down. When the forest fire broke out and the flames engulfed him, he established meditation insight and became an Arahant simultaneously with his death. Then the elder Abhaya et al five hundred monks came there and cremated the remains and erected a stupa after enshrining ash and relics.

        Really speaking, the bhikkhu order that still exists nowadays takes responsibilities for propagating teaching, and therefore it stands on behalf of Lord Buddha. In this case the Buddha Sasana should be classified into three categories the teaching that has been numerated of all sacred texts and commentaries, the technique should be practised accordingly, and the realisation of transcendental state.

        The bhikkhu order itself is not Buddha Sasana but it has eventually kept on trying in unity and out of harmony for Buddha Sasana lasting long. It has studied and handed down to generations and imparted knowledge to lay people as well. Because of the enduring patience of bhikkhu order, the teaching comes to exist today though more than two thousands of year that already passed from its first emergence. The unique orthodoxy has been handed down from one generation to another, by two ways, both theoretical and practical without the influence of any other erroneous dogmas. To keep Buddha's Sasana long-lasting the proper understanding of authentic doctrine is very important, otherwise one might derail from the super high way that leads to the realisation of Four Noble Truths. Having fulfilled fundamental discipline, the sangha community really has practised meditation to gain tranquillity of mind and to realise the true nature of ultimate truth. This sort of practice is common for monks who renounce the worldly life and so it is to be carried out daily and goes on as their routine. Therefore if one traces the source of meditaion in early Buddhist scripture it is obvious that meditation or the penetration of Noble Truth signifies as 'Samanadhamma' which means the monks' principle. It is so called 'Samanadhamma not because the meditation could be practised only by the monks but because it is to be practised by and large.

        In this case the Buddha should be comparable to the moon which shines in the dark night, while his teaching is quite similar to the ray that gives the light of insight for welfare of devas, humans and animals. In the same way his disciples are represented as stars which move round the moon of Buddha. The sangha community including the great Elder Mahakassapa has taken responsibility on behalf of Lord Buddha after his parinibbana, and handed down up to now. The Buddha himself has known clearly that he could be able to propagate the Sasana for forty five years and the rest would be taken in charge by his entrusted loyal later generations. Because of full confidence in his followers, once a lay woman named Gotami came to him to offer a pair of robes and he encouraged her to donate to sangha rather than to him. Then the Master added, " Upasika, Donating to sangha,is quite the same as giving to the Lord Buddha. myself."

        As a humble Buddhist I would like to remind you all. A special eulogy or harmony should be balanced between the two controlling faculties of confidence and wisdom because great confidence with feeble knowledge may lead one to the blind faith. The great wisdom with narrow faith also may lead one to a dangerous position because one might think boastfully to oneself and reject any meritorious action like donation, morality, and he will definitely go to hell after his death. This son of person is like disease derived from the wrong medicine that can not be cured.

        The powerful diligence with weak concentration also pushes one to the anxiety and the firm concentration with faint diligence also may lead one to slop and topper. Therefore it is very important to be balanced between these two pairs of controlling faculty. But the controlling faculty of mindfulness is necessary for ever.

        In conclusion, I would like to encourage you. You all just try to know the real Buddha and realise his doctrine because (he more you know him the more you love him, the more you love him the more you know him).