How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby seanandrews » Sat Jul 04, 2009 5:50 pm

I live in Charlotte NC. We have a bunch of sanghas here -- some are less Buddhist and more general meditation -- but there are certainly quite a few bona-fide Buddhist sanghas in the area. But they are all one variation or another of Mahayana Buddhism and honor the Bodhissatvas. There is a soto zen group, a Lam Te Dhyana group (Thich Nhat Hanh), a Unitarian Universalist-lead Buddhist meditation sangha, a Nichiren-shu group and I think there may even be a branch of SGI here. There are several temples as well -- one Laotian, one Cambodian, one Thai (all of which I would assume are Theravada, but they don't have web sites, and when I call them, they either do not answer or else someone answers who does not speak English well and does not understand what I am saying. I would like to join a Theravada sangha, but not necessarily a temple where most of the practitioners are monks.

I would like to know if anyone out there has started a Theravada sangha for lay practitioners -- what it takes to do this, what you need to know, if you need to be ordained in any way, what kind of trials and tribulations people have had with this. Thanks.
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby kc2dpt » Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:25 pm

What you need to do is fine a bunch of enlightened lay people and get them together. Then you'll have a lay sangha.

Sangha does not mean "group of Buddhists". It either means "group of monks" or "group of enlightened people, lay or monastic".

I suppose what you mean is you want to start a Theravada meditation group? or study group? or meditation and study group?
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby clw_uk » Sat Jul 04, 2009 7:37 pm

Peter wrote:What you need to do is fine a bunch of enlightened lay people and get them together. Then you'll have a lay sangha.

Sangha does not mean "group of Buddhists". It either means "group of monks" or "group of enlightened people, lay or monastic".

I suppose what you mean is you want to start a Theravada meditation group? or study group? or meditation and study group?



It doesnt just mean that, Sangha also means the whole buddhist community. No need to just have it as a narrow elite few :?
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sat Jul 04, 2009 9:50 pm

Peter wrote:Sangha does not mean "group of Buddhists". It either means "group of monks" or "group of enlightened people, lay or monastic".

That's what I thought, although I thought it extended to anyone who preserves the dhamma. I suppose one would need to be enlightened or supported by the whole monastic order to be able to effectively preserve the dhamma, so, yeah. I agree.
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby Ben » Sat Jul 04, 2009 10:26 pm

Hi Sean

I suggest you relax and concentrate on your own daily practice and let that be your anchora salutis (anchor of salvation). In time, as you get to know people, people who have a similar interest, you can get together on a casual basis and support each other's practice. As time grows and you discover more people interested in the Theravada, you can do something more formal. In the meantime, use Dhamma Wheel as a defacto 'sangha'.
Metta

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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:51 am

Greetings,

As I understand it there are two Sanghas... the Bhikkhu Sangha (i.e. the ordained) and the Ariya Sangha (i.e. the stream-entrants and above).

Such a "sangha" as you consider creating would probably be neither, but that is no reason to not do it. Perhaps you could call it a "Theravada society", "Vipassana centre", or somesuch.

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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby seanandrews » Sun Jul 05, 2009 1:55 am

Peter,

Yes, I am referring to a combination study/meditation group. While I enjoy practicing at home immensely, I have also found pleasure in meditating and studying with a local Lam Te Dhyana sangha. I think it helps improve my understanding and practice to spend time in study/meditation group. However, I feel more of a pull toward some of the things I am reading in Theravada literature and am trying to find like-minded people living in the Charlotte area who would like to get together as well.

Sean
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jul 05, 2009 3:24 am

The danger, in my opinion, is teaching incorrect stuff. I think one way to maybe avoid this is to bring an article written by someone knowledgeable and then everyone can read it and discuss it. Or listen to a recorded lecture and then discuss it. Even so, I have seen such groups come to strange conclusions and then they are all reinforcing each other in their strangeness. Maybe it can't be helped?

Also, maybe find some short instructions on breath meditation for everyone to read and then meditate together. All you need is a timer or alarm clock to mark the end of the session.
- Peter

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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby BlackBird » Sun Jul 05, 2009 6:33 am

In any language a word can have different meanings.
Let's look at the PTS's dictionary definition:

Pali Text Society wrote:Sangha [fr. saŋ+hṛ; lit. "comprising." The quâsi pop. etym. at VvA 233 is "diṭṭhi -- sīla -- sāmaññena sanghāṭabhāvena sangha"] 1. multitude, assemblage Miln 403 (kāka˚); J i.52 (sakuṇa˚); Sn 589 (ñāti˚); 680 (deva˚); D iii.23 (miga˚); Vv 55 (accharā˚=samūha VvA 37). bhikkhu˚ an assembly of Buddhist priests A i.56, etc.; D i.1, etc.; S i.236; Sum i.230, 280; Vin i.16; ii.147; bhikkhunī˚ an assembly of nuns S v.360; Vin i.140; sāvaka˚ an assembly of disciples A i.208; D ii.93; S i.220; PvA 195, etc.; samaṇa˚ an assembly of ascetics Sn 550. -- 2. the Order, the priesthood, the clergy, the Buddhist church A i.68, 123, etc.; D i.2, etc.; iii.102, 126, 193, 246; S iv.270 sq.; Sn 227, etc.; J ii.147, etc.; Dhs 1004; It 11, 12, 88; Vin i.102, 326; ii.164, etc. <-> 3. a larger assemblage, a community A ii.55=Sv.400; M i.231 (cp. gaṇa). -- On the formula Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha see dhamma C 2.


- http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2839.pali

So a Sangha could be a group of ordained Monks, Nuns, or it could be a large lay community.
If you got a bunch of lay people together and called yourself a Sangha you might recieve some politely worded letters though ;)
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:48 am

It seems quite common for "insight meditation" lay groups to refer to themselves as a Sangha. Language changes...

As I tried to wittily (at least I thought it was witty) note elsewhere "we cannot prevent the degeneration of language in the modern era." :tongue:

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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby Jechbi » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:58 am

mikenz66 wrote:"we cannot prevent the degeneration of language in the modern era."

Oh, snap!
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby Jechbi » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:01 am

Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jul 05, 2009 1:46 pm

From that link:

"It sounds innocent enough, but this particular usage can — and often does — lead to profound confusion concerning one of the most fundamental underpinnings of the Buddha's teachings, the going for refuge in the Triple Gem."

This is precisely why I feel it is worthwhile to correct people on this.
- Peter

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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 3:11 pm

Peter wrote:This is precisely why I feel it is worthwhile to correct people on this.

I think it's a very VERY important point. I've actually been to a Buddhist group where they expected people to take refuge with that particular group (becoming 'members') at the exclusion of other groups... not an ideal way to operate in my opinion.
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Re: How to Start a Theravada Sangha for Lay Practitioners

Postby BlackBird » Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:40 pm

That's a very good point.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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