(I wrote this as an article for the upcoming issue of Buddha’s Light Magazine (available at Hsi Lai temple), but since we’re still working on that website, I thought I would post it here for anyone interested in reading.)
Historically, the term Sangha was once reserved for only referring to the monastic community. Over time it has gone on to be expanded into also including a group of Buddhist practitioners.
As Buddhists, we are each responsible for our own practice. No one can practice for us and we must make worthwhile decisions allowing us to practice. From a lay practitioner point of view this means different things for each of us, depending on our situation in life. For some, it means attending services at temple, meditation retreats, group study, and many other things. All are great ways to practice together and offer the practitioner time to work through their practice with others.
In an increasingly busy world, time with your Sangha can be difficult to come by. Our family, jobs, and multiple responsibilities in life always take our attention, and for most of us, become our practice. This is where the connected world can help. We now have tools to keep us within a Sangha of some sorts with the use of email, blogs, and even social networks.
My own sitting practice had been lacking for some time. I would always feel too busy, or have some other reason not to sit. In retrospect, these were all just excuses, and a great group of people on Twitter (a popular ‘social network’ site) has helped one another to sit more often. We call the group the ‘Online Meditation Crew’ and speak to one another throughout the day. People will ‘check in’ when they are about to sit, inviting others to sit with them. This is exactly what I needed. I don’t need to be a specific place when I sit, just find a somewhat quiet place and get to work. The sits are usually about 15 minutes, but really, the point is to develop consistency. Most of the time I find a quiet conference room at work and sit.
Many different Buddhist traditions are represented, and there are people all over the world participating. Fo Guang Shan — Hsi Lai will always be my Dharma home, and I recommend everyone who is able to meet with their Sangha in person as much as they can. But, in my busy world I feel very fortunate to be able to sit with my friends in this global Sangha we are all a part of.