Published on A View on Buddhism /what is the Sangha (community).
To clarify, there can be some confusion in the way the Sanskrit word Sangha is commonly used. In fact, there are three distinct definitions:
- 1. A currently popular definition is to include all Buddhist practitioners.
- 2. The most generally applied term includes only the community of ordained monks and nuns.
- 3. A more strict definition from the scriptures applies to the practitioners who have at least directly realised emptiness.
During his life, the Buddha gave advice to many people on ways to avoid distraction from following the spiritual path. The Buddha never actually taught “a set” of vows for monks or nuns, but these have been extracted afterwards by Buddhist Masters from the teachings of the Buddha.
It is important to realise that monasteries and nunneries have proven to be absolutely essential in preserving the Buddhist teachings and practice. One could say that monasteries are the “power plants” of the Buddhist tradition.
For Buddhists, the Sangha are spiritual friends, and their importance is explained in the Upaddha Sutta: “Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, ‘This is half of the holy life, Lord – admirable friendship.’ The Buddha replied, ‘Don’t say that… Admirable friendship is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk [or anyone else] has admirable people as friends … he can be expected to develop and pursue the Noble Eightfold Path … (full long text).