The Sangha, the State and the Ideal World Community

9 January 2529

The Sangha, the State and the Ideal World Community

In carrying out its mission, the main concern of the monastic Sangha is surely the good and happiness of the people. However, throughout its history, all evidence shows that the Bhikkhu-Sangha has been in relationship with another central institution of the society, that is, the state, as represented by the king or the ruler. In the Buddha’s time, King Bimbisāra and King Pasenadi were in close personal relationship with the Buddha and were patrons of the Bhikkhu-Sangha. In Thai history, the monastic Sangha, by tradition, have been patronized by all the kings.

There are at least two reasons that account for this relationship. First, the people are subjects of the state. Their destinies, their suffering and happiness are to a large extent subject to the conditions of the state and to the acts of the king or ruler. For any organization to deal with the people as a whole or to work for their benefit, it is impossible to avoid some contact with the state or with the ruler. Because of this, if possible, a good relationship should be maintained with the state, so that the Sangha will find no difficulty in working for the welfare of the people.

Secondly, the goal of a good government is similar to that of the Sangha, that is, the achievement of the good and happiness for the people. Then, if the government or the ruler is a good one, the cooperation between the Sangha and the ruler or the government will render the mission more effective. The government or the ruler can even be a medium through which the monastic Sangha carries out its mission for the good of people. At least, a good government or ruler can provide the people with conditions and circumstances that are favourable to the practice of the Dhamma.

Accordingly, the duties of the monastic Sangha in connection with the state or ruler are twofold. First, it should counsel him so that he is a good ruler or that a good government is secured. Secondly, it should act in such a righteous way that there will be good cooperation with the ruler or the government in operating for the benefit of the people, or at least that the way will be open for the Sangha to achieve that goal. On the whole, the point is that the secular part of the work for the good of the people should be played by one who should account for it, that is, the ruler or government. If he does not do so, it is also an obligation of the monastic Sangha to see to it that he does, that is, to try to induce him to be a good ruler. The real monastic part of the work under the charge of the Sangha is the more sublime inner life of man.

Although the monastic Sangha has developed new roles, whether central or peripheral, whether temporary or lasting, through the different circumstances of space and time, its real and fundamental mission remains the same all throughout the ages, that is, to perpetuate the Noble Sangha of disciples. In the future, the monastic Sangha, because of the factors of space and time, may have to change some existing roles and play some more different ones, but as long as it keeps to the real mission, the spirit of the Sangha is well preserved. The reason is that the conventional Sangha of monks has been entrusted by the Buddha the task of leading all people in creating the ideal world community of noble disciples or truly civilized people.

Let us hope that all the members of the Sangha of monks will exert themselves and cooperate with one another in working out the ideal of producing more and more members of the Noble Sangha of disciples, and that Sangha of disciples will grow ever more for the freedom, peace and happiness of all mankind.

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