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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2016-01-05
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center


This week we will take a little time away from our series on the Continua of Practice and bring in the all important issue of sangha for the new year.

There are many benefits to sangha. Meditation is the process of seeing our self-centered motivations and releasing those motives so we are no longer held within the grip of I, me, and mine. It is a full and rich practice to use relationships to reveal these inward processes and dynamics, and the sangha provides a context for the honesty and accountability necessary to move our practice into the social domain. Silent retreats show us some of the fundamental processes of mind that move us throughout the day, but interactions reveal a complexity of motives that are not usually seen when we are sitting in silence.

Another benefit is associating with good people. As the Dharma works on our perceptions we start seeing life from an angle very few people access. We may harbor fears of being weird or even going crazy. While most people are living life within the filter of their fears and desires, we may feel we are becoming more remote and aloof in our distaste for materialism or self-aggrandizement. It begins to feel like the cultural currents are moving in one direction and we are swimming in the opposite. We may fear we are being directed away from a “common sense” approach to living. Having others around us that are seeing life the way we do can be very helpful in steadying our own commitment to truth. The sangha strengthens our resolve to uncover a truth that is forever present and obvious to anyone willing to look. We are not gathering to be special, we are gathering to be authentic and natural.

The spirit of sangha is also the spirit of shared sincerity. If we have ever had a passionate teacher in school, we immediately understand the link between our own curiosity and the enthusiasm of the teacher. Sincerity is contagious and when our individual commitment wanes it is a relief to renew ourselves through the passion of others. It is inspiring to see others work with their difficulties and come to terms with their actions. The sheer force of honesty in another touches all of our hearts and rekindles our own commitment in a similar direction. Again and again we realize we cannot undertake this practice on our own. This is a shared commitment and our success is dependent upon life in its entirety.

One of the truths we begin to understand as our Dharma deepens is that we were never isolated and alone. Our earlier feelings of isolation came from viewing life through our desires and fears. As life returns to its original interconnected relationships, sangha seems obvious. Becoming more conscious is what life does, and we are a single thread in a very intricate and complex mosaic. All we can do is work on ourselves, cooperate and help others along the way, and enjoy what is in front of our eyes. We gather to confirm our joy.


Questions for personal inquiry:

Do you experience most interpersonal relationships as growth opportunities or troubling?

Do you make space in your life for others?

Do you frequently feel isolated and lonely? How much of the isolation comes from assumptions about self and other?

Do you make the effort to attend gatherings of like-minded people?

Reflection: What was your life like before you knew the existence of “a Path”. What is different now? How does the sangha support that Path and your growth on it? Would the Path be the same without the sangha? What efforts do you make to build cohesion in the sangha?

Exercise: Become active in your support of like-minded people. Befriend someone from the sangha, volunteer for an SIMS activity, join a KM group or involve yourself in a social engagement action. SIMS will only be as strong as each one of us make it.


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