The Real Mission of the Sangha

9 January 2529

The Real Mission of the Sangha

There is no doubt that peace and freedom are the supreme goals of Buddhism. Both of them are synonyms of Nibbāna or Nirvāna. Peace can be realized, and freedom can be achieved, if the Sangha of monks exerts itself unfalteringly to maintain and universalize the Noble Sangha of disciples.

Freedom is threefold or can be distinguished at three levels. First, people should enjoy the basic freedom of life in absence of the fundamental insecurities and dangers that threaten their existence, such as poverty, diseases and calamities like drought and famine. Without the minimum of this basic freedom, no one can proceed to enjoy any other more sublime freedom. At the second level is social freedom, in absence of human oppression and exploitation. Included here are tolerance, friendliness and benevolence. With the lack of this freedom, not to speak of the final freedom, even the basic freedom will never be realized or, if the latter has been prevailing, it will surely be lost. The third and last is the final freedom of man’s inner life, that is, freedom from mental suffering and from the greed, hatred and delusion that corrupt the mind and cause people to commit all kinds of evils. With the achievement of this level of freedom, real happiness can be attained to and social freedom can be assured. It is also the firm foundation on which to work out any plan or program to overcome the basic insecurities and dangers of life, as otherwise people with corrupted mind will ever increase those dangers and insecurities.

In another classification, freedom is said to be fourfold. There, the final inner or individual freedom is divided into the two levels of emotional freedom, or freedom of the heart, and intellectual freedom, or freedom of wisdom through true knowledge. The four levels of freedom are thus distinguished as basic physical freedom, social freedom, emotional freedom and intellectual freedom.

By teaching and encouraging people to realize the three graded goals and the three phases of good as enunciated by the Buddha, the Sangha of monks works both directly and indirectly to achieve the threefold freedom.

The three graded goals are:

  1. Benefits for the present or temporal welfare, called in Pali Diṭṭhadhammikattha, represented by wealth, sufficiency of food and other necessities of life, health and other aspects of physical well-being, which can be ascertained by hard work, diligence, good management, cooperation, economical living and non-negligence in any way.
  2. Benefits for the future, or spiritual welfare, called in Pali Samparāyikattha, as ensured by confidence in and devotion to the ways of the good, morality, benevolence, wisdom and other virtues.
  3. The supreme benefit or the highest good, called in Pali Paramattha, consisting in having a mind that is clean and clear, happy and secure, undefiled by greed, hatred and delusion, and unshaken by worldly vicissitudes, that is to say, the final freedom of Nibbāna.

The three phases of good are:

  1. The good of one’s own or one’s own welfare, Attattha, which points to the above three graded goals as realized by oneself.
  2. The good of others or others’ welfare, Parattha, referring to the same set of three graded goals which one should guide or help others to attain.
  3. The common good or welfare both of oneself and others, Ubhayattha, identified with the same set of three graded goals as far as they should be shared by all concerned, ranging from public utilities and favourable environment to peace and happiness of the mind.

The first two graded goals secure for all people freedom from the basic miseries and insecurities of life and freedom from social abuses such as aggression, crime, oppression and exploitation. People who are endowed with these two grades of freedom are in a good position or are better prepared to aspire to the highest good and to enjoy the final freedom. By conducting oneself towards the realization of the final freedom, one comes to join the Noble Sangha of disciples. Those who enjoy the final freedom will ever fortify and strengthen the first two grades of freedom, as the final freedom is a guarantee of the maintenance of the latter. Moreover, the practices along the line of realizing the three phases of good even furthermore reinforce the establishment of the three grades of freedom.

All in all, it is the mission of the Sangha of monks to work for the prevailing of the three graded goals and the three phases of good, for the realization of the three levels of freedom and thus, ideally, for the establishment and perpetuation of the Noble Sangha of disciples.

Not unlike freedom, peace should be classified. Peace is of two kinds, one is external and the other, internal. External peace is usually social. It is freedom from strife, dissension, quarrelling, commotion, violence, disorder and, on the largest scale, war. Internal peace is the inner peace of mind or spiritual peace. It is a state of freedom from fear, anxiety, annoyance, distraction, obsession and, on the minutest scale, from all traces of mental suffering and defilement. It is obvious that without freedom, there can be no peace. Once freedom is secured, peace is attained to.

As with freedom, the Sangha has much to do with both external and internal peace. The Sangha of monks paves the way through external peace to the inner peace of the final freedom and, once the Noble Sangha is established with this inner peace, a firm foundation has been laid on which the external social peace will rest securely and lastingly.

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