Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful - Dhamma Wheel

Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful

Postby Avery » Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:15 am

This is mostly a philosophical argument, not a textual one, and I have a feeling it may have been covered at some point in Buddhism's 2500-year history, but I hope my little essay inspires some interesting thoughts.


When Siddhartha Gautama became Shakyamuni Buddha he decided against peace. What does this mean?

Perfect peace, inner and outer peace, means accepting whatever happens to you. Please consider this for a moment.

If someone attacks you with intent to kill, you have the choice of resisting or accepting. Resisting your attacker means fighting them; the political concept of “non-violent” resistance means very little in such a physical situation. Accepting your attacker is the only peaceful solution. It also means that you will die. If you can accept your own death you are a truly peaceful person.

If someone invades your community and asks you to surrender to their will, you have the same choice. If you “non-violently” resist the invaders, you may not be taking up arms but you are demonstrating that your beliefs conflict with theirs, which is a disruptive response, not a peaceful one. Complete surrender is the peaceful option. A perfectly peaceful community is therefore one that will be extinguished at the slightest touch.

The principal legacy of Buddha is the sangha, or community of monks. The sangha follows a very strict set of rules. They do not surrender to people who ask them to secularize their community. The establishment of a rule-abiding community in human society is not a peaceful action. It implies a small but recognizable level of resistance to the emotions and entanglements of lay society. Its membership is strictly voluntary, but it actively fights inner disorder, through its dispute system, and self-extinction, through its mission to propagate the dhamma. We must acknowledge that the sangha probably has the effect of promoting peace and absolving suffering in the society it depends on. The sangha is a skillful means to dhamma. But it is not a perfectly peaceful community and was not meant to be.

(Aside: Under the leadership of a Buddha I can accept that the sangha would be perfectly peaceful because any opposition to the sangha could be eliminated without conflict through a peaceful and compassionate reaction instructed by perfect understanding. But ordinary people are not Buddha.)

For people to follow rules they must believe in them. Belief is not a rational concept. No amount of rationality can force someone to drop everything and take up the monk’s robes. To make that decision you must have, as Buddha did, a belief (1) that the dhamma can be taught through sangha (2) that it will change the state of the world and (3) that this is a good thing. Unless if you are already Buddha these things are not obvious. They require a deep mystery to activate themselves in your mind, a recognition of Buddhism as a power and a force beyond a voluntary practice of meditation.

These three beliefs are cultural institutions. In Buddhist countries their power is strong; you believe, your family believes, and your friends believe. It is relatively easy to be a monk. In the West, none of those things are likely to be true. Many people may have a strong grasp of the dhamma in the West. But the dhamma is not acting on the world through a strong sangha. At best it is taking baby steps, during face-to-face personal encounters, in carefully considered acts that everyone must agree to be promoting peace in order to be considered Buddhist. Teaching mindfulness can be done over the Internet, but this is not the same as acting mindful. Only when people believe in the ability of dhamma to change the world for the better can the sangha be grown. They must not only believe tentatively that it sounds like it makes sense; they must devote themselves, they must give money, they must build, they must tell their friends and make their beliefs more acceptable. The sangha thereby is forced to institute itself on the world.

Dhamma is not peaceful, because Buddhism teaches that it requires propagation, and the propagation of dhamma is not peaceful. It is a force that acts on the world, eliminating wrong view and establishing deeper understanding. It does not drift through the air, seeping into the ears of meditators and giving them ethereal power. Sangha does not exist without its human believers, its pious monks and pious laity. It is very much a worldly force that builds order and disturbs the natural chaos. Trees must be chopped down to create its gathering spaces. It represents itself in monks, temples, pagodas and books, in local histories, in familiar illustrations and jataka tales. These things are not excess junk surrounding the dhamma but a reflection of the cultural power of the sangha, the same power that is necessary to maintain the community of monks and the vinaya they keep.

Who is a perfectly peaceful being? The Tripitaka gives us the answer. Some Buddhas are what we call paccekabuddha. “Buddhas are enlightened by themselves and enlighten others: Paccekabuddhas are enlightened by themselves (but) do not enlighten others: they comprehend only the essence of meaning (attha-rasa), not the essence of the idea (dhamma-rasa). Because they are not able to put the supramundane dhamma into concepts and teach it; their realisation of the Dhamma is like a dream seen by a dumb man and like the taste of a curry from the city to one who lives in the forest”. (Suttanipata Commentary)

“Thus having entered upon religious life, he retires to the forest and goes on alone.” (Niddesa) He does not chop down any trees, for he needs no meeting spaces. He forces no bhikkus to wear robes or abstain from alcohol. In fact, he forces no one to hear the dhamma, but lives alone, “like the horn of a rhinoceros”.

If you were to summon superhuman self-control and achieve inner peace today, you would not become a Buddha. You would become paccekabuddha, understanding transience and dependent arising, but not how to control the force of compassion. Perfectly aware compassion makes you more than peaceful; it makes you a net positive force. If compassion were peaceful then an enlightened world, a world where all men become Buddhas, would be a peaceful one. But compassion is not peaceful, so a world where all men become Buddhas is simply an opening into further enlightened work.

In establishing the sangha the Buddha went beyond the concept of peace, because he not only saw the dhamma but knew the dhamma inside and out, and could not live anything other than dhamma, and was led by the dhamma to compassion, and was led by perfectly aware compassion to create an institution. Buddhists must therefore believe that this institution, when it follows the rules laid out by Buddha, is a positive force in the world.

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Re: Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful

Postby Ben » Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:28 am

With respect, I think you need to look at some of your assumptions.
kind regards

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Re: Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful

Postby Jack » Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:40 pm

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Re: Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful

Postby David2 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:50 pm

I can recommend the book "Peace is every step." by the zen-monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
I share his perspective that peace is every step.

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Re: Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:10 pm

Yes, peace isnt everything, acceptance isnt everything, only nibbana is.
With Metta

& Upekkha

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Re: Sangha proves that dhamma is not peaceful

Postby santa100 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:20 pm

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