A Sangha is a community of friends practicing the dharma together in order to bring about and maintain awareness. Thay writes that the essence of sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony and love:
“I don’t think the Buddha wanted us to abandon our society, our culture or our roots in order to practice. The practice of Buddhism should help people go back to their families. It should help people re-enter society in order to rediscover and accept the good things that are there in their culture and to rebuild those that are not.
“Suffering (dukkha in Pali) is one of the biggest problems of our times. First, we have to recognize this suffering and acknowledge it. Then we need to look deeply into its nature imm order to find a way out. If we look into the present situation in ourselves and in our society, we can see much suffering. We need to call it by its true names - loneliness, the feeling of being cut off, alienation, division, the disintegration of the family, the disintegrated society.
“Our civilization, our culture, has been characterized by individualism. The individual wants to be free from the society, from the family. The individual does not think he or she needs to take refuge in the family or in the society, and thinks he or she can be happy without a sangha. That is why we do not have solidity, we do not have harmony, we do not have the communication that we so need.
“The practice is, therefore, to grow some roots. The sangha is not a place to hide in order to avoid your responsibilities. The sangha is a place to practice for the transformation and the healing of self and society. When you are strong, you can be there in order to help society. If your society is in trouble, if your family is broken, if your church is no longer capable of providing you with spiritual life, then you work to take refuge in the sangha so that you can restore your strength, your understanding, your compassion, your confidence. And then in turn you can use that strength, understanding and compassion to rebuild your family and society, to renew your church, to restore communication and harmony. This can only be done as a community - not as an individual, but as a sangha.” (from Friends on the Path: Living Spiritual Communities (2002), Parallax Press)
Several times each year, we invite dharma teachers in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh to join us on Sunday evenings and give a dharma talk. At other times, we listen to part of an audio recording of Thay, or watch a longer video of one of his dharma talks.