Sangha (Skt. saṅgha; P. saṅgha; T. dge ’dun; C. sengqie; J. sōgya; K. sŭngga 僧伽) can be litterarly translated as "community", "association", "assembly", etc. In modern Western Buddhist communities, the term is typically used to refer to all the members of a particular community, whether lay or monasitc. Sometimes the monastics within a community are referred to as the "monastic sangha".
In early Buddhist traditions, and in more traditional Buddhist communities (such as those in Southeast Asia), the term sangha is used to refer primarily to the monastic community of monks and nuns (bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, respectively) and the community of arhats (those who have reached a high level of realization).
The monastic communities are traditionally referred to as the bhikkhu-sangha or bhikkhuni-sangha. The community of arhats, which includes both monastics and non-monastics, are referred to as the arya sangha ("noble Sangha").
In a glossary of Buddhist terms, Richard Robinson et al. present a traditional definition of sangha:
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 srotāpanna;
(2) on the conventional (saṃvṛti) level, it denotes the orders of the Bhikṣus and Bhikṣunis.
Mahayana practitioners may use the word "Sangha" as a collective term for all Buddhists, but the Theravada Pāli Canon uses the word pariṣā (Sanskrit pariṣad) for the larger Buddhist community — the monks, nuns, lay men, and lay women who have taken the Three Refuges — with a few exceptions reserving "Sangha" for a its original use in the Pāli Canon — the ideal (arya) and the conventional.
The two meanings overlap but are not necessarily identical. Some members of the ideal Sangha are not ordained; some monastics have yet to acquire the Dharma-eye.
Unlike the present Sangha, the original Sangha viewed itself as following the mission laid down by the Master, viz, to go forth "…on tour for the blessing of the manyfolk, for the happiness of the manyfolk out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the blessing, the happiness of deva and men".
The original sangha
The original sangha refers to the first followers of the Buddha. The very first members of this sangha were the five ascetics, the five former companions of the Buddha who received his first teaching and immediately became his follers.
Qualities of the Sangha
In the Theravada Pali tradition, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha each are described as having certain characteristics. These characteristics are chanted either on a daily basis and/or on Uposatha days, depending on the school of Buddhism. In Theravada tradition they are a part of daily chanting:
The Sangha: The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples (sāvakas) is:
- practicing the good way
- practicing the upright way
- practicing the knowledgeable or logical way
- practicing the proper way
That is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals - This Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples is:
- worthy of gifts
- worthy of hospitalities
- worthy of offerings
- worthy of reverential salutation
- the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.
- 1) the profound nature of phenomena
- 2) the vast – phenomena in all their multiplicity
- 3) discriminating awareness wisdom
- 4) attachment, the emotional obscurations
- 5) hindrance, the cognitive obscurations
- 6) the inferior – the obscurations of the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas
- 7) knowledge; and
- 8) liberation.
- Robinson et al.(2005). "Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction". Fifth Edition. Belmont,CA: Wadsworth/Thomson, p.327
- Todd Lewis, Buddhists: Understanding Buddhism Through the Lives of Practitioners, Chicester, 2014, p30 mentions this too. An example of such a sutra is AN II.1.vii Catukka nipata, Bhandagamavaggo https://archive.is/20130222111223/http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara2/4-catukkanipata/001-bhandagamavaggo-e.html
- Sangha © 2005–2012.http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/sangha.html
- Robinson et al.(2005). "Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction". Fifth Edition. Belmont,CA: Wadsworth/Thomson, p. 32.
- "parisā". http://www.accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html
- Spiro, Melford: Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes. (1982). Berkeley: University of California. p 279.
- Going for Refuge and Taking the Precepts, Kandy 1981, Wheel leaflet 282/284, Bhikku Bodhi, P 49 (Of the Collected Wheel publications XIX)
- Bhikkhu Bodhi (2000). "The Collected Discourses of the Buddha: A new translation of the Samyutta Nikaya". Somerville: Wisdom Publications, Sakkasamyutta, Dhajjaggasutta (3), p.319-321.
- Buswell, Robert E., ed. (2004). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 740–744. ISBN 0-02-865718-7.
- "The Bhikkhus' Rules, A Guide for Laypeople" by Bhikkhu Ariyesako.
- "Duties of the Sangha" by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
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