That’s a simple and direct question, at least apparently. We could go to the Sanskrit etymology—“people that are intent on a constructive goal”—or we could refer to it as the assembly of the followers of Buddha’s teachings. Both make sense to me, and this is how I would unfold the label “sangha” almost automatically.
But what lies behind the label? How can I describe what sangha represents in my own experience? How does it feel? Those questions allow me to go beyond my labels and the automatic mapping of my habitual mind.
If I close my eyes and open that door, I see faces. When I dwell on each of them, I immediately feel tenderness coming from my heart area and relaxation in my muscles, resulting in a subtle smile. Not just on my mouth, but as a general feeling of my body, smiling all over.
Another feeling I often notice is a little buzzing in my cervical area, like a low-voltage leakage. It’s not painful, it doesn’t bother me, it’s just there, like the early moments of a shiver coming. I don’t know what that means, but I guess I shouldn’t go back to labeling at this point.
Those faces don’t belong to people within my own family or the circle of friends I have known for decades in my (present) life. They are sangha members. With some, I have had amazing, deep experiences, and I understand the strong bond we have. But many I have met only once or twice, and we didn’t have the chance to share our stories. Some sangha members I have only seen online and never exchanged a word in direct conversation.
So, where does this tenderness and the buzzing come from? It’s hard to explain.
What I know is that we share an aspiration to work on ourselves so we can benefit as many sentient beings as possible, and we follow the guidance of the same precious teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, to walk our path. We are allies, we are business partners, so to speak. We all push in the same direction.
The path is sometimes hard and full of obstacles, but we share the same long-term goal. Although we are spread all over the globe, it is comforting to know that there are many others struggling to practice daily and not giving in. This is a great support.
When I need to feel our community, it’s always there. I just bring those faces to mind, and I can feel it. Like this little buzzing in my head.
A Small Experiential Journey
- Sit in a comfortable posture, whatever suits you in this moment.
- Close your eyes and let the faces of your sangha siblings manifest.
- Notice your body while you browse those faces.
- What do you feel? Don’t label it, just feel it.
- Let the visualization go, and dedicate the merit for the benefit of all.