Thursday, 8 December 2016

What makes a real community?

1. What makes a real community, a real Sangha? 
Christ by John Everett Millais

In the Pasadika Sutta in the Pali Cannon the Buddha expresses his pleasure that his disciples are proficient in the true Dharma, and that among the sangha there are experienced, trained and skilled teachers who are liberated and able to proclaim the Dharma and refute wrong ways, that there are middle ranking disciples who are experienced and trained, that there are novices and lay followers, that there are males and females, celibate and non-celibate. In this way the perfect life flourishes. It is clear from this passage that Buddha drew huge satisfaction from the existence of this community that he had brought together. This was his boast. He had created a wholesome community; one in which there would not be major quarrelling or trouble and which had a capacity to be of benefit to people far and wide. We would be mistaken to think that the Buddhist path is something just for individuals or that the Buddha would have been satisfied with a situation where each individual had their practice that they got on with in their own way in their own space. He certainly did tailor his injunctions to the needs and temperament of individuals, but the life that he led them toward was one in which there was a whole and wholesome community with all its constituent parts playing their respective roles, each complementing the others.

The word "community" is on everyone's lips, but the reality is that we are living in a vast marketplace, where everyone is a consumer, but no one is a neighbor. Every day we are bombarded with goods gone ballistic and services turned sadistic. Even in the best of neighborhoods, we are afraid to go out at night. Is it any wonder that, when we go home at night, we try to draw the night about us like a cocoon? How to form a community, then, is not a rhetorical question. It is the most urgent issue before us... There is a new wind blowing in the world, and it whispers to us that the time for community has come. We are frightened by this wind, for sometimes its whisper becomes a scream. The wind can be as loud as a hurricane and as penetrating as a tornado. We run for shelter to what used to be our communities, only to find that the rooms that once kept us safe are now only walls that keep us apart from each other. We keep looking for the larger world. We want the larger world to take us in, and keep us warm, and make us safe. We want the world to be our community. We want it to be real. Well, why not? It is not too much to ask, really. We are learning how to overcome our own fears and how to find our own faiths. We are learning how to listen to each other. This is the only way to build community, and this is where we start.
[Nationalism] is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members... yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion... This fraternity... makes it possible... for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings."

2. What's lacking in an "imagined community"?

Published originally on Buddhist Travellers in 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment