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Buddhism

Step 12: We seek refuge in the Sangha.

Principle: Service

During his life the Buddha taught and ordained discicples who became known as the Sangha. The primary purpose of the Sangha was (and is) to continue to teach the precepts. The Sangha is considered to be one of the Three Refuges or jewels of Buddhism. It is respected as a community of Noble Beings who have realized at least one of the four stages on the Buddhist path to spirituality. When someone takes refuge in the Sangha, they are actually relying on one of these Noble Beings for guidance, much like a new member in AA relies on a Sponsor to guide them through the Steps and support them as they practice their new way of living. Each of the following stages defines an individual's karmic obligation.

The first stage is the Stream-Winner, one who is free from the first three of the Ten Fetters which are the afflictions common to all humans. The first three include believing that your self (ego) is separate and individual; skepticism or doubt of the teachings (Dharma); and that following the rites and rituals will ensure the attainment of spirituality.

The second stage is the Once-Returner, who is also free of the next two Fetters which are sensual cravings and ill-will.

The third stage is the Non-Returner, who is fully free of the all the first five Fetters and will not be required to return for another lifetime.

The Arahant is the final stage, and is free of all Ten Fetters. An Arahant is a fully-awakened being who experiences the bliss of Nirvana.

Text or Verse

So long as space remains,
So long as sentient beings remain,
I will remain in order to help,
In order to serve, in order to make my own contribution.
The Bodhisattva’s Vow interpreted by the Dalai Lama

Practice

Buddhism teaches there are Three Refuges one of which is the sangha. I take refuge in the sangha when I commit myself to compassion, loving kindness, generosity and living a moral life. I commit myself to supporting and being supported by the community. I fulfill this commitment by regularly attending gatherings and working to support the growth of the community.

Resources

Mapping the Dharma: A Concise Guide to the Middle Way of the Buddha (go to Links menu to connect to the web site)

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