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The First Sangha

A sangha is an affinity group in today’s terminology, which means to have a common focus and directional intent.

Okay, so how and when did this start and is what we have today mostly the same as it was 2500 years ago? Buddha did it, when he was 35, started with five people and now has 700,000,000 and yes, change is a happening!

While the start of the sangha happened in the Deer Park at Benares in northeast India/Nepal, and has unfolded many permutations.

During Shakyamuni Buddha’s life many thousands joined the group, and heard the teachings by Buddha and shared the Dharma as both the teaching of the Buddha & awakening truth: Go to teachings and scroll down to the video-Dharmakaya.

Within three hundred years of Buddha’s awakening there were two major shifts in the organization and pedagogy of sangha. Remember the first sangha was a nomadic group of people moving from place to place having an impact on people, food, land, animals, plants and water. The logistics, as the sangha grew, became massive and the environmental impact significant. So much so that the routes of movement must have shifted as to not overly impact the variables noted above. Later the ango period of housing during the rainy season arose, and then to early monastic facilities Today we are still adjusting organizational best practices to align with the teachings and our actions in monastery or lay communities. And then there is the internet.

But I now turn to the first impact of the first Buddhist lineage holder and the two major shifts in sangha after Buddha’s parinirvana, This is explored in a paper by Hellmuth Hecker

As you read the paper keep in mind the logistics, caste system, gender issues, ecological, political and education variables and conditions. Hecker goes into detail as to the roles different ancestors played, the debating of priorities and the shifting ways to share the Dharma. This what we must take into account today. In other words, as Hojo Elliston-roshi has been heard to pronounce...there is more than one-way to skin a zen cat.

Maha Kassapa and his wife Bhaddā Kāpilanī play an important role in expanding the sangha of Shakyamuni Buddha, which was again altered later by King Ashoka.

Please join us Tuesday night, December 14, 2021, 7:00 PM/ET, at the First Congregational Church of Falmouth or on Zoom: Password: FSZS as we explore Sangha.

May all beings be well,


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