The Monastic Sangha and the Creation of the Noble Sangha

9 January 2529

The Monastic Sangha and the Creation of the Noble Sangha

Obviously, it is the purpose of the Buddha, in his conduct for the well-being of the world, to teach all people to progress along these lines of development to become Sotāpanna, Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi and Arahants. In other words, he wants them to be members of the Noble Sangha. The ideal is surely to turn the world into a community of noble or truly civilized people. To achieve this, however, a sound concrete organization is needed, and it is for this reason that the Conventional Sangha of monks was founded. Truly, the Sangha of monks or Bhikkhu-Sangha has been vested with the main function of teaching all people, regardless of caste, class, sex and nationality, the Dhamma that will help them in their self-development to become Ariya or Ārya (noble or truly civilized). The monks thus lead the people in creating the universal community of noble, enlightened and truly civilized people.

Even when the Bhikkhu-Sangha had been newly established, and it was then a very small community consisting of only sixty monks, the Buddha sent all of its members in all directions to propagate the Dhamma. The community was then only three months old. Here, the spirit of acting for the good of the people is strongly evident. The words of the Buddha in sending out his disciples at that time reflect very well the ideal of erecting the world Noble Sangha. In the Buddha’s own words (Vin.I.21):

“Go forth, O Bhikkhus, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, for the good, for the happiness of gods and men.”

In short, the Sangha of monks or Bhikkhu-Sangha has been set up, both as the instrument and as the starting point and the stronghold, for working out the idea of establishing the universal Sangha of Dhammically civilized people. The main function of this conventional Sangha is, as mentioned earlier, to expound the Dhamma and spread it far and wide, in such a way that the common people may understand and practise it, developing themselves in their progress along the path of being Ariya (noble or Dhammically civilized) and thus joining the Noble Sangha or civilized world community. In the meantime, however, the Sangha of monks also plays a number of significant roles, some central and some interim and peripheral, such as:

  • As, especially at the beginning, the conditions in the surrounding world are not favourable to the ideal life, the Bhikkhu-Sangha serves as the suitable setting in which zealous members can energetically live their chosen way of life and leading members can actively lead others.
  • The Bhikkhu-Sangha serves as the core and leading part of the prospective Noble Sangha. By leading exemplary noble lives, the monks exercise their influence on the common people in treading the noble path towards the goal of joining the Noble Sangha.
  • The Bhikkhu-Sangha also serves as the centre for training both those who join it and the common people, to turn them into members, or make them more prepared to be members, of the Noble Sangha.

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