Rediscovering the importance of sangha

Okay, so some of you may be scratching your head at the definition of sangha. It’s a term used in Buddhism to denote community. At the surface, it’s most often used to denote the community that makes up a temple or center. In Western Buddhism, it’s sometimes expanded to mean the broader community.

I’m using the broader definition of community. The group of people who make up your support system, your social network, friends, and so on.

Sangha

I’m a very social person and have always valued my circle of friends. There are so many levels of friendship, but they’re all important to me. And while my social network is really precious to me, I’ve also learned through the years to be happy with my own company.

Long-term travel has taught me, however, that while I can be happy by myself, and with my kiddo, spending time with friends is even more precious than I had realized.

Tigger misses there being more than just him and I all the time, too. Even if he doesn’t immediately recognize it. Last year for his birthday we had the choice of going to a new country or returning to Kuala Lumpur where we could celebrate with friends (all adults). He chose the latter.

Sangha

Happy 12th birthday!

As one of our favorite holidays—Thanksgiving—approaches, we discussed different travel options. His main focus was he wanted us to have Thanksgiving dinner like we used to, surrounded by friends. Thankfully, a house sit became available near my sister and her family, and it would mean that for the first time Tigger would get to experience a Thanksgiving celebration with family! Well, other than “family by choice.” How absolutely wonderful!

We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in Honduras, Morocco, and Romania. While they have been enjoyable (and creative) events, it’s just been the two of us, and we’ve both felt the absence of friends profoundly.

Sangha

Great food, but we really miss celebrating with friends!

Sangha is one of the reasons we are seriously considering settling down in Washington state in the US. We have friends and family there, and my temple is there. While I’m not a very religious person, the chance to be closer to my home temple, which means being closer to some of my favorite people in the world, is really exciting.

This whole idea of community is really more important to me than I realized. No wonder the sangha is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism. I guess it just took me being away for a few years to really understand the full depth of that message. I guess that Buddha fella was kind of smart.

What’s been your experience with that feeling of community?

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10 Comments

  1. This sense of community is something we come across a lot in our nomadic lifestyles, and many times this unity amongst friends has almost been enough to make us settle. We’ve been privileged enough to be welcomed into amazing networks of people who are established in some of the most pristine places in the world. Offers of permanent places to stay with our new friends are always cast our way and it is hard to step away from it. After being on the road as long as you have, Talon, and especially with your son I do not blame you for wanting to put a hold to your travelling lifestyle for an extended period of time. No doubt we’ll hit that point in our lives where we will do the same. Whatever choice you make, I know it will have a positive outcome!

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    • The nice thing is we aren’t stopping traveling. We’re just adjusting the way we do it. 😉

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  2. The idea of community is strange for me now after the past two years on the road. On one hand I do miss certain people from my life, but on the other hand my life and theirs have split and travelled along too far a diverted route that I don’t feel that feeling so much any more to reunite. For example, the chance just came up to be home for Christmas via housesitting for a friend, and I think I’m going to pass it up. I just don’t really miss anything or feel truly missed.

    However, I do miss having a group of friends to chuckle with, and whilst I can do that with Franca and with a very select few online, I wouldn’t mind a group to just chill with for the immediate time being whilst we’re in Berlin. Must make more like-minded friends.

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    • It doesn’t sound like community is so strange to you, but it does seem like you’ve outgrown the one you were most familiar with.

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  3. Community keeps me going my friend. As you are aware, I am in the middle of several personal issues. If I didn’t have the support of the fine people in the travel blogging community, I would probably go insane or do something stupid.

    I need to look more closer at Buddhism and study it’s teachings. My brother lives by it and I need a spiritual connection of some kind. It appears to be one that I could align with easily.

    Thank you for sharing this post. Thank you for your support and know that you are very important in my life, even though we have yet to meet face to face.
    Mike

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    • One thing I love about Zen Buddhism is its lack of dogma. I don’t want to be told how or what to believe, how to live, etc. In Zen, I’m responsible for my own spiritual progression. There are things I know will help me evolve, and there are things I know will hold me back. It’s my Journey, so it’s up to me to decide how I wish to progress. It’s a great philosophy/practice for someone who is an inherent rebel. lol

      I’m so glad you have a sense of community as well, and glad I can be part of it and be one of the many who help lift you up when you feel you need more than your own two feet.

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  4. It’s wonderful that you will have family over for thanks giving especially if this is what you miss and wish to include in your current needs,
    Looking forward to hearing your adventures about life in Washington state – to come 🙂

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    • I’m mostly excited about it for Tigger, even though I am looking forward to seeing my sister and her family again, esp since things were quite rough after our dad killed himself. But very happy to not be alone (well, aside from the boy) this Thanksgiving.

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