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The Sanga

By Scott Shaw

In the Buddhist tradition it is taught that the Sanga or Spiritual Community is one of the primary elements that one should take into consideration as they walk upon the Spiritual Path. To put this understanding into a more usable definition, the Sanga refers to the fact that, “You can know a person by the company that they keep.” Worldly people associate with worldly people and spiritual people associate with spiritual people.

Throughout all spiritual traditions a person is told that they should let go of worldly friends and only associate with spiritually, like-minded people. On the surface, this sounds like a pretty good idea.

Think about it… For the most part a spiritually inclined person is probably not going to get you into too much trouble as they probably don’t drink, do drugs, womanize (or manize), don’t party, and don’t do worldly activities that may have the tendency to lead you down the road to demise. Thus, you will probably remain fairly safe.

But, at this juncture, the questions have to be raised, “What exactly is spiritual?” And, “Who is truly a spiritual person?”

This is the point where the novice on the Spiritual Path oftentimes becomes confused. For what appears to be spiritual is not always the truest representation of spirituality. And, those who appear to be holy are not necessarily that.

Here in the west, the obvious examples of this are the priests who mess with young children. On all levels that is just wrong. There is no excuse and no justification for that type of action.

Though these inappropriate actions have been at the forefront of the news over the past couple of decades, these actions have gone on literally forever. And, they have spanned all cultures and religious traditions.

In fact, it is so common that a person in a position of religious authority takes advantage of a person, that is it almost universally unfathomable. But, it happens everyday.

Add to this that these people are supposed representatives of god (or what ever figure a particular religions places as its most holy). From this, these people are provided with a license to do pretty much whatever they want and claim it as an act of god. Here lies one of the primary problems with the concept of Sanga.

At its heart, the Sanga ideology if fine. But, then add to it, the desirous mind of the human personality, and the concept and all of the good it may provide is completely lost.

Watch the news when a priest or other religious figure is accused of inappropriate behavior and you will always see people stepping up to their defense. Then, when the accusations are proven to be true, the statements arrive, “I can’t believe it. He seemed like such a good man.” And so on…

On the other side of the issue, as this type of behavior has become so prevalent, there are people who falsely claim that a person did something inappropriate to them, when, in fact, they did not. An individual does this simply to either take control over a person’s life or to make that person seem less to the masses. This may be based in anger, jealously, or an untold number of other emotions. But, at the end of the day it creates the same Life-Problem attributed to that of the wayward priest; namely, the actions of another destroy and forever alter the life of a person.

Is this true spirituality?

At the heart of the Sanga is people. People by their very nature, their very design, are flawed.

The human race is based upon desire. People desire THINGS. These things may be physical; they may be spiritual. But, desire is the root cause of all things both good and bad in this place we call life.

Some people desire objects. Some people desire love. Some people desire lust. Some people desire fulfillment. Some people desire enlightenment. But, no matter what the title, desire is desire.

Though it is commonly understood that a Sanga is made up of specified group of people who desire the same thing. But, do they?

Each person comes to the Sanga with their own unique set of life experiences. Each person comes to the Sanga with his or her own personality. Each person comes to the Sanga with his or her own set of desires. And though they may each be seeking a similar end-goal—though they each may desire a similar communal experience, each person is a unique and different entity. As such, they each add a particular set of variables to the overall equation.

A Sanga is measured by the overall output of its amassed energy. Add one faulty person to a Sanga and that energy is damaged and altered forever.

Each and every action we take not only affects ourselves and the overall evolution of our life but it also affects any of those we have interaction with.

What you do today equals the choices you will be presented with tomorrow.

Who you encounter today, leads you to the people you will interact with tomorrow.

As each person is their own unique entity, you can never judge and never assume what actions they will make from moment to moment. As such, though they may present themselves as a spiritual or as a worldly person, that image they present can never truly define who they are because that is simply a projection of how they want to be viewed by the world. It is not necessarily who they truly are.

The Sanga, in its concept, is an idealize image of a perfect community and support group. Though it sounds nice and no doubt can provide a positive learning experience, you must always keep your guard up, as you can never know what actions another person may take.

Ultimately, true spiritually is never defined by how a person appears to the world. True spiritually is only known internally. It is only defined by the True Inner Self.

Find it in you. Not outside of you.

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