Gathering 22: Community Values

Contemporary Sri Lankan illustration of the Buddha tending a sick monk.

I’m excited by the direction which our discussion has been taking toward an examination of the values that inform our actions (kamma) as individuals and as a community. Particular concern has been expressed about how we can create a community whose members are involved with one another at a personal level, and not just as fellow students of the Buddha’s teachings. I think this is what is essential to the task of cultivating the Superior Eightfold Path in our lives; it’s way more important than just developing an intellectual understanding how the various Path factors relate to one another, dynamically or logically. And way more difficult.

So, will we accept, as one of our goals, the emergence of our community as a gathering of individuals who are sensitive to one another’s needs, capable of an empathetic response to the difficulties that other members of the community are facing or troubled circumstances in which those members might find themselves, and ready to help, with an attitude of open friendliness (metta), compassion (karuna), empathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha)?

What does acceptance of that goal imply for each of us, in how we conduct our lives; what does it imply for our community, in how we conduct our gatherings and function as a community?

As an anchor for our discussion on Sunday, I suggest two brief suttas:

  • In the Kucchivikara-vatthu sutta, the Buddha discovers a monk with dysentery whom the Sangha has ignored; he and Ananda care for the monk, and then he speaks to the Sangha about their responsibility to those who are in distress.
  • The Sarakani Sutta is similar, in some ways (different in many other ways) to the Christian story of the Good Samaritan. It concerns Sarakani the Sakyan, who’d recently died and whom the community had dismissed as the town drunk, but who was, in his own way, a Stream Enterer, on his way to Awakening.

I hope you find those entertaining and relevant to our purpose, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.