The story of the preservation of the Buddha’s teachings throughout the years of its oral tradition is the story of the ordained sangha – the community of monks and nuns. Each was responsible for memorizing passages and passing them on, thereby keeping the thread of the teachings alive. Each was responsible for personal realization, thereby keeping the essential spirit of awakening alive. Each was responsible for the purity of their conduct and renunciation, thereby keeping the way of life, the community alive
The Buddha said to his first disciples, “Go forth for the good of the many, for the welfare of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, welfare and happiness of beings.” The sangha lives by this injunction.
Monks and nuns are a visual challenge, a visual confrontation for us. If our lives are uncommitted, shallow or distracted in some way, they remind us of other values by their presence. We are moved not necessarily by them as individual people, but as symbols of that which may have been forgotten or unawakened in our own lives – the power of commitment, of renunciation, of truthfulness, of unconditional lovingkindness
I have always found it interesting that, according to the rules of the order, the ordained sangha was not allowed to store food, thereby compelling them to go out each day on alms round, to be a part of the larger community. The monks and nuns depend on lay people everyday for physical sustenance, and the lay people depend on the monks and nuns for spiritual sustenance.
That spiritual sustenance has taken the form recently in Burma of monks and nuns leading peaceful demonstrations of tens of thousands of lay people seeking democracy and freedom. They carried signs like the one in the photo on the right. In response, it is reported that many have been beaten, shot, forcibly disrobed, imprisoned, and killed.
It is heartbreaking, and for a practitioner like me, who has received so much from the lineages and teachers of Burma, it feel very, very close. So many people have asked me what they can do that I have put a website to refer to on the Take action page of this website. Please take a look at that page. Not mentioned there, but underlying everything, is the commitment we can undertake to eradicate greed, hatred and delusion from our own minds and hearts.