The Sangha and The Church | The Quest for Self-Leadership

Sangha is a Sanskrit word. It means ‘collection’ or ‘assemblage’ and refers to a group of people who have come to live together to actualise what they believe to be a shared destiny. In the Buddhist context, it refers to those who have left home and ‘gone into homelessness’. It specifically refers to monks and nuns, but also generally includes the followers of Buddha.

Our world today, despite the advancements in communications technology, has grown more isolated. We believe in the actualisation of an individual destiny. We don’t see ourselves as coming together with a group of like-minded souls to achieve a shared destiny where everyone has a role and a part to play.

Who is in your Sangha? Is it a one-man band, a solo act?

Which community do we select to be a part of? Is it fate or destiny that guides us to make a certain choice; at the expense of countless others?

Some communities are small, others are large bodies that number into the hundreds of millions. Some of us are born into communities that we are destined to be a part of for the rest of our lives, while the destiny of others is to relinquish all that they were to follow a new path that is true to the inner yearnings of their heart.

The Acts of the Apostles tells the founding story of the Church and the scattering of its message to the Roman Empire. The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles frames the theological problem of how the Messenger’s message was not received by its intended audience; but rather, by those whom it was not even ‘intended’ for.

We don’t always ‘find’ our community where we are meant to find it. We embark on a long journey to seek our truth and in the process we find fractures in institutional practises–even the ones that we have stood tall despite the trials and tribulations of time, distance and even numerous scandals.

Their resilience is the face of adversity is admirable. But their unwillingness to change and accept new truths as it becomes revealed is un-understandable. What does it mean to ‘see the light’? As we read the teachings that have been left behind in the Holy Books, we realise that they still speak the truth. The teachings are still valid.

Due to bad leadership, people choose to leave communities that they were once a part of. With that decision, they have to lead their lives with a vacuum in their heart that is too difficult to bear.

Due to our technological advancements, hidden ‘truths’ have come to light. We no longer have to rely solely on our leaders to guide us. It is the light of knowledge that leads us. Archeological finds, once suppressed by the leaders who feared this knowledge, is shared with the world so that its many inhabitants may see the truth for themselves.

The internet may be full of lies and fast-food entertainment, but it is also where people intentionally or indadvertedly reveal their truth for all the world to see.

Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.

Acts 7: 52-53

Why did this happen? It occurred because the Message was rejected by those who were meant to be the recipient of the Message. Instead of receiving the message, the Messenger was persecuted. In a quest to change–without having to make any changes–a significant conundrum came into being and came to the fore.

A revelation encourages us to change. It urges us to look at the world through a new lens and through new eyes. But if we shut our eyes and close our ears, we make the mistake of desiring change without actually wanting to change.

How can we change as a society–as a Sangha or as a Church–when we are recalcitrant? Leaders must not only lead through authority. Why? Because as populations grow more educated, they can find knowledge and decide for themselves. They now possess the discernment for self-leadership. Self-leadership, however, can also lead you astray.

The same way we blamed our leaders for once leading us astray; in an increasingly isolated world that grows more interconnected, we will one day look back and have no choice but to blame ourselves for leading us astray.

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

Acts 1:9

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