“Buddham saranam gachhami
Dhammam saranam gachhami
Sangam saranam gachhami”
[“I go to the Buddha for refuge,
I go to the Dharma for refuge,
I go to the Order for refuge.”]
– Buddhist chant
In Buddhist tradition, the Path is formed of the confluence of three interdependent channels: Buddha, Dharma and Sanga. These channels apply to all spiritual Paths, and are as indispensable today, as ever.
Buddha literally means “enlightened one”. Buddha is the Guru or spiritual Master who, having realised God, reveals the way to Eternal Truth, Light, Peace and Bliss in the form of Teachings, whether spoken, written, enacted or through silent meditation. The foundation of each spiritual Path is the Teachings of one, or sometimes a lineage of several Spiritual Masters.
Dharma is the code of life, the practises, precepts and rules to be followed by the adherents of the Path. The Dharma is established either by the founding Guru, or by subsequent disciples, and may vary to adapt for different times and cultures. The Dharma might set out rules of dress, diet, routine, ritual and lifestyle – but most importantly, the Dharma applies to inner discipline, to self-control, purification and transformation in the realms of thought, feeling and conduct. There are typically parallel codes for those committed wholly to the spiritual Life, and for ‘householders’ – those following the Teachings while raising a family.
Sanga is the community of disciples or followers, who might live together in a dedicated, regulated ashram or monastery, or separately in their own dwellings, coming together for prayer, meditation, social and communal activities in furtherance of their Path’s Teachings. Notwithstanding the solitude of meditation, we are social beings, and the camaraderie, inspiration and aspiration we share are integral to our progress on any Path.
(… to be continued)