The Buddha said that one of the main functions of sangha or community is to challenge our ego-clinging, to learn to stop ourselves from being so self-centered. Now when we first hear this, the initial thought could easily be something like: Yeah, my ego gets plenty challenged by my boss and co-workers. But here, challenging our self-centered attitude isn’t about being put down. It’s an opportunity to grow and to be happier.
Our self-centeredness is like living in a sleeping bag. At first it might seem like a cozy, snuggly, warm situation. But if we stay there, we quickly realize that it is beginning to smell, and it is limiting our freedom of movement. Before long, we are just a sad sight to behold. Letting go of this self-centered attitude is like emerging from the snuggly sleeping bag of our ego and breathing fresh air.
Being part of a community gives us opportunities to be kind, to share whatever wisdom we have, and to look at the world from a wider perspective than just our own little bubble. And of course, sangha also gives us opportunities to develop patience, no doubt about that.
When we let go of our ego, when we stop centering ourselves even a little bit, we become softer, kinder, gentler. We begin to experience a sense of love, compassion, and happiness.
Letting go of self-centeredness also means we let go of our tendencies to be lazy, to be angry, to be prideful or greedy. When a sangha member challenges our ego, it is an invitation to go beyond these types of habits and become a truly inspired, humble, and happy person. It is an opportunity to engage in something that brings about contentment, wisdom, and compassion in our own mind and brings about the same for other people’s minds too.
When our cocoon of self-cherishing is opened, when we step out from our stifling sleeping bag, our suffering becomes less severe. My favorite thing about community is that a sense of humor and relaxation develops, and my mind becomes less serious and less stale.
When you engage with your community, try to see it as an opportunity to benefit yourself and others, to bring about happiness. What can you do to be helpful, to be generous, to be kind to others?
Remind yourself: I am here to be happy and peaceful. I am not going to let any petty difficulty shake my mind. Make a firm determination that you will not lose your patience, calmness, and joy over some little thing.
Every sangha interaction and event is a precious chance to overcome ego-clinging. Each gathering is an opportunity to learn to be lighthearted and peaceful. Be relaxed and at ease. Be open and have fun. Enjoy the humor.
With this determination in place, engage in generosity. Give others your time, your ears, your helping hands. Share your thoughts, your tips and tricks, and your jokes. #GoKind.