The Value of a Community (Sangha)
I’ve been in Culadasa’s Teacher Training for a year and a half now, and the benefits of the training are invaluable. To name a few, the Teacher Training has provided me with:
- Relevant and practical resources, like selected suttas, books, videos and guided meditations.
- The motivation to commit to a more serious daily practice.
- The confidence and drive to begin teaching formally
- A deep dive into The Mind Illuminated. It’s been 18 months and we’ve just began discussing Stage 4!
Yet, if I was asked what the largest benefit of such a training is, I wouldn’t cite these benefits. This is because hands down, the most valuable aspect of the teacher training is the Sangha it has surrounded me with.
Meditation is a solitary practice, and for most of my life, it was a lonely one too. Not only did I have no teacher (well, except books), I also had no one to share experiences, insights and struggles with. Walking this path alone meant that my practice stood on shaky grounds. The motivation to sit daily came… and went. Despite great results on the cushion and in daily life, doubt always found a way to sneak into my practice. Was I on the right path? Was I deluding myself with all this Dharma stuff? What teachings could I trust and commit to?
Joining a group of like-minded meditation practitioners dissolved these doubts. After getting introduced to practitioners (including Culadasa himself!) who had walked the path to much greater lengths than I, my confidence in the teachings grew more robust. Periodically meeting with dedicated meditators strengthened my commitment to practice, and I thus increased my daily sits to an hour daily, sometimes more.
When, for some reason, motivation runs low, I bring to mind the community of teachers and students. I picture them practicing diligently, with consistency and a light heart. The urge to practice then arises: “I must practice! They are counting on me!”
Yet one does not need to join a teacher training or a paid course to get the benefits of a Sangha. A subreddit like this provides a sense of community and acts as a support group when the need arises. Furthermore, several TMI-focused online meetups offer access to skilled teachers and like-minded practitioners in an open and practical format. I organize such meetings every week, and know other teachers (Upali and abhayakara come to mind) who do too. Better even, many real-life communities around the globe meet regularly to practice or discuss. There might be one meetup near you!
Take advantage of these opportunities! Being part of a supportive community makes practice so much easier and more effective. Often, all it takes for a practitioner who is “stuck” is a quick meetup to unlock a whole new level of practice!
The Buddha said so himself, when asked what the value of good companionship was:
Having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path. (SN 45:2)
By teaching, I’ve seen firsthand that students who all well surrounded progress faster, with increased confidence and stronger diligence. Interested in joining an online Sangha? Here’s a list to get you started:
- Saturday morning at 10am EST with teacher abhayakara. Weekly and free. Subscribe here.
- Wednesday from 2pm to 3pm and 7:30pm to 8:30pm EST with myself, teacher-in-training. Bi-weekly rotating schedule and donation-based. Subscribe here.
- Tuesday evenings (London time and San Francisco time) with psychologist and teacher Tucker Peck. 10-20$ contribution. More info here.
- The Mind Illuminated subreddit.
- Dharma Treasure community.
- Stream Entry subreddit.
- Pragmatic Dharma FB group.
I encourage you to join a group to see what benefits you can reap from them!
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