What is Sangha?
Sangha, the Heart of the Buddhist Centre
Sangha is a Sanskrit word for community. Traditionally it refers to all the enlightened men and women who have come before us, and in the East it usually means the community of monks and nuns. In our Triratna Buddhist Community, Sangha is our community of practitioners – the people we share our spiritual lives with.
The guidance of more experienced friends, and the support and friendship of others on the path are very important because Buddhism is an approach to life, not an abstract philosophy. The Buddha once said that spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life, and we see friendship as the whole of the Triratna Buddhist Community.
Ananda: Lord, I think that half of the Holy Life is spiritual friendship…
The Buddha: That’s not so; say not so, Ananda. It is not half of the Holy Life, it is the whole of the Holy Life
A Network of Friends
Our Centre isn’t just a place for teaching meditation, or learning about Buddhism. Everything we do together here supports a network of spiritual friendships, whether it’s meditation, study, ritual, going on retreat or looking after the building. When we share our efforts to become more than we currently are, trust can build up as we all at least try to be ethical, to be aware of ourselves and others, to express metta, or loving-kindness.
Of course, our Sangha isn’t perfect, but we believe we are trying our best to put the Buddha’s teachings into practice in a complex and diverse city and world.
Starting to Feel Part of Things
The Manchester Buddhist Centre Sangha includes anyone who practises with us and comes to the Centre regularly. It is made up of Friends, Mitras and Order Members.
Many other people just come to the Centre for yoga classes or a massage, to browse in the bookshop or attend occasional events, because they like it!
Mitra is a Sanskrit word for friend. Here, it means deepening your friendship with the Triratna Buddhist Community, and making a formal commitment to practising Buddhism within the context of the Manchester Buddhist Centre in a simple, public ceremony.
Some Mitras go on to ask for ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order. They prepare for this through many dedicated years of training, including retreats, peer support groups, study, and deepening friendships with local Order members. They are often known as GFR Mitras as they are trying to deepen their Going For Refuge to Buddhism’s Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. They are also sometimes just called Mitras training for ordination.
Two Mitra convenors, Suryaka and Vishangka, co-ordinate and support Mitra activities at the Centre. Speak to them or another Order member if you are wondering about taking this step.
About Order Members
They undertake to practise a traditional set of ten ethical precepts and have all been in a long period of training before joining the Order. At ordination they are given a new name in Pali or Sanskrit, often relating to qualities they have or aspire to.
The Order is neither lay nor monastic – some Order members have families, some are celibate practitioners, or anagarikas. Some live and work in Triratna’s residential communities and team-based working situations, others work in non-Buddhist settings. Order members’ spiritual commitment is the crucial thing, not their lifestyle. Above all they try to share their spiritual lives, and co-operate in practising and spreading the Dharma. The Order is open to any man or woman, regardless of age, race, class, gender, sexuality, caste or any other criterion, who is sincerely and effectively committed to practising the Dharma.
Sharing in the work of running the Centre is a great way of feeling part of things – read more about joining in and giving your time.
Festivals and Ritual
Engaging Heart and Mind
Our festival days are important times for Sangha members to come together:
- Parinirvana Day in February
- Buddha Day in May, sometimes known as Wesak
- Dharma Day in July
- Sangha Day in November
At festivals we celebrate an aspect of Buddhist practice with devotional practice and rituals such as Puja. We also celebrate significant figures in the Triratna Community, including Padmasambhava in September and both Dr Ambedkar and Sangharakshita in October.
What is Puja?
A Puja is a set of verses invoking gratitude to the Buddha and aspects of his teaching. We usually chant them in call and response here, with the words and translations available, and with no pressure to join in. The Buddhist path isn’t just about intellectual understanding – Puja can help us engage with our emotions and imagination too.
In the Buddha’s time, the full moon gave the Sangha a regular opportunity to gather for teachings, Puja and meditation, and this tradition continues in the Buddhist world today. We usually celebrate on the weekend, or sometimes the Monday evening, nearest to the full moon day.
Festivals and Rituals coming up
Going on Retreat
On retreat, you can deepen your meditation, cultivate mindfulness, and learn more about Buddhism.
When Manchester Buddhist Centre has organised the retreat, there’s also a chance to develop friendships with other people who come to the Centre. Our retreats are usually held at outdoor centres in beautiful Derbyshire countryside.
We also sometimes hold urban retreats, providing many retreat-like conditions while being non-residential and taking place alongside ordinary life.
Retreat FundSangha members who cannot afford a retreat may be able to get help from our retreat bursary fund. Or if you can, please give to the fund so everyone gets the chance to go on retreat.
Retreats coming up
Who’s Who at the Centre?
(Dhar-ma-ka-roon-ya) “She whose compassion comes from the Dharma”
Teacher, Chair of Trustees
Trustee, teacher, Mitra convenor
Trustee, teacher, Mitra Convenor
(Su-ree-a-ka) “Like the Sun”
Centre team (buildings maintenance), teacher (Par-a-nye-aka) "He who leads others to the Further Shore"
Centre Team (Finance)
Centre Team (communications), teacher
(Chandra-deepa) “Light of the Moon”
(Ari-ya-rak-sheeta) “Protected by the noble ones”
Centre Team (IT, admin), teacher