Friday, October 21, 2011

Importance of Supporting the Sangha ...Too!

Two days ago, I informed a former colleague of mine of a coming Kathina event at a local temple. I knew he is a Buddhist still struggling to find his footing in Buddhism. He is not active in Buddhism but wants to learn about Buddhism but yet I think he does not have enough motivation to keep it going in that direction. So, I thought it might be good if he stops by at the Kathina at the temple not very far from his home. (note: Kathina is mostly celebrated in the Theravada tradition when the robes and other requisites are offered to the Sangha. Kathina is celebrated after the vassa period that marked the end of the rainy period)

Upon hearing that, he said "No... I rather contribute to those who really needs them", implying it is more worthy to support the orphanage, home for the aged and sick, associations for the mentally handicapped, and other such organisations. I did not dispute that these organisations are worthy of support but I told him that the Sangha is still the third Jewel and is one of the key important pillars of Buddhism. And by Sangha I did not only meant the monks and nuns, but also the entire community of Buddhist monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. I told him I always have a philosophy of supporting both these organisations and Buddhism. I said that it is important to support and contribute to Buddhism as well, even if it is just a little bit, to stay connected to Buddhism. We want to ensure in our future lives, we continue to have that relationship and connection with the Buddha dharma. Otherwise, I reasoned to him that we might find ourselves reborn as non-Buddhists, and as non-Buddhists, our enlightenment or Buddhahood will be uncertain. Anyway, in order to truely help these "special communities", we need to be liberated from samsara ourselves. I told him to think about it.

He thought for awhile and in the end, nodded in agreement. I wanted to confirm again and asked him "What I just said, does that make sense to you?" Again he said "Yes". I was happy that I manage to "convert" a non-supporting Buddhist to a one who agreed to be one. Then he disclosed to me that in his family, he is the only Buddhist and that everyone else has gone to Christianity. He said with some pride that he is still "holding the fort". Then I suggested to him that perhaps it is not very wise to fight to convert them to Buddhism. Instead he should instill some Buddhist elements into their Christian lives, because Christianity as a religion and Buddhist principles are not contradictory. In other words, a person can be a Christian but yet believe in some principles like non-killing, non-lying, loving-kindness, compassion for all beings, equanimity, letting go and others. That's because these are not necessarily Buddhist principles... and even if they are, they will blend well with the Christian religion. He did not get my point and said, "No, it does not work...". We talked a little bit more before we parted ways. At the back of my mind, I was just glad I did my part to convince him that he need to show some support to Buddhist activities. I believe he is not alone in having this kind of thinking. I have heard others talked in the same way before. Therefore, I was glad I did my part in correcting that wrong perception. That wrong perception explained why in the past he did not support me when I approached him for some contributions to a Buddhist event. 

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