FOLLOWING THE PATH
When asked to explain why his disciples always looked cheerful, the Buddha commented:
“They have no regret over the past, nor do they brood over the future. They live in the present; therefore they are radiant.”
Someone who has fully cultivated this way finds serenity and patience in themselves in times of difficulty and the wish to share good fortune when things go well. They live a life free from guilt, and, rather than having violent mood swings, the mind and heart stay steady and buoyant through the circumstances of life.
These are the fruits; but like most fruit, they have to be cultivated slowly and persistently with good-heartedness. For this reason, the guidance, or simply the companionship, of like-minded people is almost indispensable. The Refuge of Sangha is a reflection on this. Most generally, ‘Sangha’ refers to all spiritual companions, but this spiritual companionship is highlighted by the religious order of alms-mendicants who live under a detailed code of conduct that unambiguously presents the values of the Buddhist path.
Buddhist monks and nuns are not preachers -being specifically prohibited from teaching unless asked to do so – they are spiritual companions, and their relationship with the general Buddhist public is one of mutual support. They are prohibited from growing food or having money; they have to keep in touch with society and be worthy of support. Buddhist monasteries are not escape-hatches, but places where others can stay, receive teachings and most important – feel that their act of service and support is appreciated. In this way, the monks and nuns provide more than companionship and guidance – they also present the opportunity for others to gain confidence and self-respect.
“Do not think lightly of goodness, saying, ‘Nothing will help me improve.’ A pitcher is filled with water by a steady stream of drops; likewise, the wise person improves and achieves well-being
a little at a time.”