Taking Refuge in the Sangha

There is support from the sangha (community), but it is very easy to start relying on that support and not contributing yourself.

There was a famine in India and the poor were badly off. So the local Brahmin placed a small tank in the middle of the village square and covered it with wet cloths to keep it cool. Then he asked all the well- off to bring a pot of milk during the day and pour it into the tank. In the evening he would then call the poor together and dispense it to them to ensure that they at least had a little milk.

That was agreed. But in the evening, when the Brahmin called the poor together and uncovered the tank, he found that there was nothing in it but water. Each householder had thought, ‘The others will put in milk, so my pot of water won’t make any difference.’ There was no milk given at all.

It is very easy in a group to rely on the others.

There is a terrible Cornish proverb: When twelve men turn a boat over—which is a big effort—one of them is foxing. He is grimacing, but not doing the work; the others are doing it.

In the sangha, it is easy to think the others are working well. Despite the fact that I may do something, the full responsibility is on every member of the sangha to put in ‘the full quota of milk’.

Taking Refuge in the Sangha from the Old Zen Master

© Trevor Leggett