I believe spiritual community is paramount to spiritual health. Alone we can achieve a great deal, we can contemplate spiritual matters and overcome personal trials. However, it is with the support of community that we thrive. Community helps us bring new ideas and perspectives into our understanding, helps us address problems in creative ways and provides us support when our personal suffering has become overwhelming. Community gives us ties to one another in a way that is invaluable for our understanding and compassion towards our fellow travelers.
I have found myself alienated from my community; the transient nature of my work schedule in Spokane has not afforded me a great deal of free time to make the ties necessary to find a Buddhist community (sangha). Without a sangha I know my suffering has increased. I have no community to help me shoulder my burdens; I have no group of practitioners to go to for advice. I do not have support spiritually when I question my own path. Frankly, I have been spending quite a bit of time questioning the path I am on. I am uncertain about whether I’m living as a Buddhist should, if my interpersonal relationships are helping my spiritual growth. I want to live in a way that improves this world, lessens the suffering of others and advances my own understanding. In my attempts to reach those goals I think I lose sight of the true implications and impacts of my actions. I need help interpreting my selfish desires and overcoming my current suffering.
Another positive effect of a sangha is the feeling of belonging, the feeling of place that community attaches to a location. I am unattached and distant without community. I had no idea how important a sangha was in the formation of roots, but now that I do not have one I know too well its significance. It is impossible to grow without roots, and now I find myself drifting helpless through a sea of confusion. The world seems polluted with a miasma of ill will and all I seek is a community to provide me with respite from the toxic fumes.
I am not writing about my discontent for pity or even in an attempt to seek help, I am writing about the negative effects my lack of community has had on my life so that those of you fortunate enough to have a community can see the strength that it has afforded you. I hope that those people with a community see that they are given a valuable tool for achieving their own happiness and spiritual growth. If there are those amongst the many readers out there that find themselves overwhelmed, I hope that you find your community and that you cast aside the notion that you are alone in your suffering and allow your spiritual brothers and sisters to lift you up.
Join us at 10 a.m., April 6 at Revel 77 Coffee for our next Coffee Talk where we'll discuss the concept of spiritual community. Dr. Fujiura will be one of the panelists.