I don't have access to a Sangha just now, and I do frequent this very well conceived and helpful site. Recently I was writing a comment about no longer being a programmer because it was too isolating for my nature ("square girlfriend" = computer screen, ha ha) and I thought: gee, I am staring at a screen now... and for many hours today...

But it is vastly different to be reading and writing with other people (ahem) than to just do an induhvidual activity like programming. Right? I am actually interacting, but somewhat ansynchronously. So I still use and develop some of my Hetaira Archetype skills (more effortful and challenging with only text to interpret and reply by).

Does asking and answering Questions here count as taking refuge in (and providing) The Sangha?


3 Answers 3


Sangha means different things to different people.

Some people who "take refuge in the sangha" are referring to all the enlightened beings who have ever lived and their refuge is in being inspired by the example of such beings.

Some are referring to the community of ordained monks and nuns and they look to the monastic community for teachings of the dhamma and guidance in their practice.

Some are referring to all followers of the Buddha's teachings not only the enlightened and ordained ones. It's more of a "fellow travelers along the path" concept.

From Wikipedia, "Some scholars have noted that sangha is frequently (and according to them, mistakenly) used in the West to refer to any sort of Buddhist community." The point being there is not one particular thing that is understood to be the sangha that one takes refuge in.

To really answer your question, we'd have to know what you mean by a sangha. But from the context of your question, I'm guessing you mean a community revolving around Buddhism where you can learn and interact with others.

Here is what I'd like to think we're practicing here on Buddhism.SE. It's from the Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha:

  1. "Then, Ananda, I answered Mara, the Evil One, saying: 'I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples — wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by appropriate conduct and, having learned the Master's word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse opinions arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma.

It's a great and wonderful thing that we have a format to try our hand at explaining the dhamma to someone else. It's a great opportunity and a deep responsibility to try our best to get it right. This is a good place. :)

But that said, I don't think it's wise to fully feel that one is taking refuge here as a sangha and depending heavily on it for learning. There are a lot of potential drawbacks. It's very democratic and that can sometimes result in unsound answers getting voted up. We welcome all traditions but that can result in such a mixture of views being expressed it can be confusing to newcomers to Buddhism. This answer to a question about the benefits of sticking to one tradition is a good explanation for what I'm getting at.

As great as the site is, it's not a solid substitute for learning from a teacher or at a center or in some manner of a structured program. It's not the same as walking into a physical location and feeling the quiet, calm, and peace of a space that is dedicated to meditation; even if you have to travel some distance for that experience occasionally. It's a great complimentary practice, but structured learning and meditation (whether local or online) in a particular tradition may offer the depth of the teachings and support for your particular practice that can't be offered in a short answer, democratic, Q & A format community.

  • Lovely Answer. Your paragraph beginning "It's a great and wonderful thing that ..." is a beautiful statement. I appreciate the list of the drawbacks in your last two paragraphs. Perhaps my question was naive. I used to live in a Retreat Centre, but now I am far away doing things completely different.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 2:36
  • @nocomprende, thank you. I'm glad it was useful. :)
    – Robin111
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 2:11

For years my sangha was audio recordings and books. I came and went from a couple of IRL (In real life) sanghas. I always found the experience of meeting and talking with like minded people to be beneficial. Even if only like minded in interests and/or curiosity.

There were both Buddhists and non-buddhists in one sangha, but they shared things in common. Meditation practices, belief in some type of morality, or sometimes even interests in psychology.

Some people take the sangha and their practice extremely seriously, and some are more laid back about it. There exist people sprinkled between both extremes.

I would say this could be a type of sangha, but I'd recommend having an IRL sangha in addition to it.

Also if you do not have a Lama or Guru I would say that is more essential than a sangha. Especially if you have questions you wish to get clarification on, that you might not feel comfortable posting on the internet.

I have encountered one commentary after an introduction in a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead where the following claim was made. That ultimately the guru serves no function. It was one of the strangest statements I have encountered. I do not have that copy on hand, it is much older then the copy I currently have. I've placed an order for the copy that I read it in, so once it arrives I'll present the statement in its original wording.

Pretty much every other conversation on the subject has said the opposite, that the Guru and a Sangha are necessary.

Edit: So it was more of a statement then an argument.

The ISBN is 9780394730646 and the commentary is by Rinpoche Chögyam Trungpa, for those that want to read it. The statement dealt more specifically with the topic at hand, and I don't want to quote it as it can easily be taken out of context. I find it useful read with the context of the commentary as a whole and with the book itself. (Which I got for 15 cents plus shipping, what a steal!)

So instead I will quote The Bardo Prayer which Protects from Fear which is at the back of the book with other prayers and verses related to the Bardo. I'll keep it as close to the original formatting as possible.

༔ (gter tsheg)

A terma break, a treasure break (Unicode 0F14: ༔)
a punctuation mark or textual delimiter used in a fashion somewhat
comparable to a comma. This mark is known as གཏེར་ཚེག and may ligate 
or combine with certain other signs.

When the journey of my life has reached its end,
and since no relatives go with me from this world
I wander in the bardo state alone,
may the peaceful and wrathful buddhas send out the power of
their compassion
and clear away the dense darkness of ignorance. ༔

When parted from beloved friends, wandering alone,
my own projections' empty forms appear,
may the buddhas send out the power of their compassion
so that the bardo's terrors do not come. ༔

When the luminous lights of wisdom shine,
fearlessly may I recognize myself;
when the forms of the peaceful and wrathful ones appear,
fearless and confident may I recognize the bardo. ༔

When I suffer through the power of evil karma,
may the peaceful and wrathful buddhas clear away suffering;
when the sound of dharmatā roars like a thousand thunders,
may it be transformed into the sound of mahāyāna teaching. ༔

When I follow my karma, without a refuge,
may the peaceful and wrathful buddhas be my refuge;
when I suffer the karma of unconscious tendancies,
may the samādhi of bliss and luminosity arise. ༔

At the moment of spontaneous birth in the bardo of becoming,
may the false teachings of the tempters not arise;
when I arrive wherever I wish by supernatural power,
may the illusory terrors of evil karma not arrise. ༔

When savage beasts of prey are roaring,
may it become the sound of dharma, the six syllables;
when I am chased by snow, rain, wind and darkness,
may I receive the clear divine eye of wisdom. ༔

May all sentient beings of the same realm in the bardo,
free from jealousy, be born in a higher state;
when great thirst and hunger are caused by passions,
may the pain of thirst and hunger, heat and cold, not arise. ༔

When I see my future parents in union,
may I see the peaceful and wrathful buddhas with their consorts;
with power to choose my birthplace, for the good of others,
may I receive a perfect body adorned with auspicious signs. ༔

Obtaining for myself a perfect human body,
may all who see and hear me at once be liberated;
may I not follow all my evil karma,
but follow and increase what merit I may have. ༔

Wherever I am born, at that very place,
may I meet the yidam of this life face to face;
knowing how to walk and talk as soon as I am born,
may I attain the power of non-forgetfulness and remembrance of past lives.༔

In all stages of learning, high, middle, and low,
may I understand just by hearing, thinking and seeing;
wherever I am born, may that land be blessed,
so that all sentient beings may be happy. ༔

O peaceful and wrathful buddhas, may I and others
become like you yourselves, just as you are,
with your forms and your auspicious marks,
your retinues, your long life and your realms. ༔

Samantabhadra, the peaceful and wrathful ones, infinite compassion,
the power of truth of the pure dharmatā,
and followers of tantra in one-pointed meditation:
may their blessings fulfill this inspiration-prayer. ༔

  • Thank you. I have a Guru, but I have not been in contact with her for a few years (except inwardly : ) I look forward to reading the explanation of how the guru serves no function - interesting statement. Perhaps it is because ultimately, we are all "One Without a Second" (Vivekacudemani #515)
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 2:28
  • @nocomprende well the book shipped yesterday, so I'll have it soon.
    – hellyale
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 14:25
  • Arigato Zaisho. Your quote is from Volume 6, and I have vol 3, which includes Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and The Myth of Freedom, which I read years ago. They are not published online. I wish you could refer to what was said about not needing a Guru, but if you feel it would be unwise, I understand. I liked in the excerpt above how many times sounds were referred to. I used to sit outside and listen to the freeway noises in the distance, for years finding them irritating, then not, then they became bells and organ notes and people toning. Former wife thought I was mad. Not So.
    – user2341
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 11:53
  • @ChrisW thanks for the edit. I typed it late at night, and I couldn't figure out the linebreak, so I just gave up on it.
    – hellyale
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 15:01
  • @nocomprende the context was specific to the bardo, but while comparing the bardo to the psychological states of life. It said roughly that a guru or spiritual friend can act as a catalyst, but ultimately all progress is up to the individual. Especially true in the bardo, as you are alone, and must recognize emptiness, and the phenomena of the event as projections of the mind.
    – hellyale
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 15:05

Householder, interested

Can the Buddhism.SE site function as “the Sangha” for me?

First Saṅgha here, means the Buddhas straight following disciples, and is used to address the Bhikkhu community.

The proper term for your use, a mixed or monk void gathering around the Buddha is called Buddha-Parisā.

It might be that there is occasionally a gathering of the Buddhas disciples, monks, nuns, lay-people, male or female.

There are many actually very respect-less ways the notion Buddha-Sangha is used in modern and western world, not conductive for proper refuge at all and sometimes even to be regarded as fraud or stealing.

Does asking and answering Questions here count as taking refuge in (and providing) The Sangha?

Asking answering does not mean going for refuge necessary. Seeking answers, refuge, outwardly the Buddhas heritage and disciples, is no refuge. Since it is a commercial place at least, not really dedicated to the Sangha of the Buddhas monks, not easy for one to trace the Gems here, if people and words appear and not underlying the rules and principles, it would not easy function as Sangha, even in perfect meaning.

This counts, out of that reason, also for gifts and contributions here. They can not easy be understood as high merits and at large are dedicated to the web-sites owners for there commercial use, but also for what ever common societies members.

While it could happen that there are gifts, reseiving, or on one side or even two sides purified giving, it would be hardly matching the qualities of the Noble Sangha, if one seeks after doing such merits.

So generally merely dangerous to regard the interact as interact with the Sangha of the Buddha, in both, conventional and perfect sense.

How ever, things might change, people come and go, finding the conditions they are inclinated to and at least there might be always accesspoints, doors, traced, left behind, so that those with less dust in the eyes could follow them, find the Tripple Gems, the Sangha, and seek escape by going for refuge.

Some general points on failures in perceiving, fault object..., in regard of refuge, can be found here: How does one become a lay Buddhist?

See also: Association with People of Integrity and many on good association for prosperity here.

To live near the Sangha, to dwell in a borderland to access the Noble Domain, it is required the dwell in a Vatt(a), a place of practice the Noble Tradition, outwardly and inwardly, and to leave home, at least temporary.

If lay people see the benefit of having access to the Noble Domain, they are wise in looking for the conditions that at least such as a "Kuti" and water in a remote area, where single Sages could dwell is available and look that ways to access the village are pleasant to walk.

...As a king intent on battle would hire a youth in whom there are archery skills, persistence, & strength, and not, on the basis of birth, a coward; so, too, you should honor a person of noble conduct, wise, in whom are established composure & patience, even though his birth may be lowly.

Let donors build pleasant hermitages and there invite the learned to stay. Let them make reservoirs in dry forests and walking paths where it's rough Let them, with a clear, calm awareness, give food, drink, snacks, clothing, & lodgings to those who've become straightforward.... (SN 3.24)

If ordinary people, no landlords or kings, desire to have the Sangha near, they would need the permission of the landlord, the king, so that a Vatt(a) could be given to the Sangha without worldly, legal strings, they could not accept.

It's good and wise to look after providing such places in the internet-realm, kingdoms, and if wishing to do such great merits, good to let a wise monk assist you in doing so.

What is a boarderland, how to recognice?

Fields are spoiled by weeds; people, by passion. So what's given to those free of passion bears great fruit.

Fields are spoiled by weeds; people, by aversion. So what's given to those free of aversion bears great fruit.

Fields are spoiled by weeds; people, by delusion. So what's given to those free of delusion bears great fruit.

Fields are spoiled by weeds; people, by longing. So what's given to those free of longing bears great fruit. (dhp)

(Note that this gift of Dhamma is not dedicated for trade, exchange, stacks or entertainment but as a means to make merits toward release from this wheel)

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