3 Buddhist Teachings For Creating Harmony
Sangha (community) is one of the three jewels of Buddhism. Buddha cultivated the practice of building community when he created the monastic order, and laid out rules which allowed his monks to live in harmony. These rules have changed slightly as Buddhism has spread between different countries and sects. However, they are still a key part of practice.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for practitioners to recite the rules of their sangha together prior to a meditation retreat as a reminder of what is expected. This ensures that whether one is visiting the center for a couple of hours or a couple of years, they will have a quiet, contemplative space to train. That being said, it’s not just monastics who need to live and work peacefully together. Householder Buddhists who have bills, jobs, families, etc. also have a responsibility to build cohesive communities.
Thankfully, there are several Buddhist practices that help lay Buddhists live harmoniously with their neighbors. Incorporating the following gems into daily life will allow you to live happily with everyone you meet.
The practice of wisdom encourages us to see past the conceptual world which separates people into groups. Of course, that isn’t to say that everyone is identical. Rather, it means that our differences are only surface deep. At our core, each person possesses Buddha-nature which is the pure, undefiled mind of Buddha. In other words, all people are basically good, and we are united by our shared potential to realize enlightenment.
In times of conflict, however, we may resort to an ‘us vs. them’ mindset. This divisive thinking can result in hurt feelings and physical violence. That’s why the practice of wisdom is so important to creating harmony. It reminds us that while surface-level distinctions are real, they are only a very small part of who we are as people. Thus, even if we are at odds with the person standing before us, we can still strive to be kind and respectful to the Buddha that resides within them.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to build strong, healthy relationships is through generosity. However, this practice is multi-faceted, and easily misunderstood. People without large financial resources may believe that they aren’t able to help others. But this isn’t true.
While money is an effective tool when working with charities, the practice of generosity can take many forms. We can give our time by volunteering with organizations that we admire. We can give our labor by performing a service (cooking meals, giving rides, babysitting, etc.) for friends and family. Or we can simply brighten someone’s day by paying them a compliment. The opportunities are endless! Acts such as these help to break down the illusion of separateness between ourselves and others that often leads to conflict. Even better, this isn’t a one-way street. Buddhism teaches that the practice of generosity often results in Mudita (sympathetic-joy). In other words, we experience happiness ourselves each time we bring happiness to others. In this way, being generous allows us to create harmony both in our communities and in our own minds.
Of all the Buddhist teachings which lead to a harmonious society, effort is probably the most important. In much the same way that a car doesn’t run without gasoline, spiritual practice is impossible without effort and dedication. That being said, it’s easy to become discouraged by a 24-hour news cycle, which only shows us the worst in humanity. The key thing to remember is that the practice of effort is not about perfection. It’s about progress.
It’s about being willing to try, and keep trying over and over again to make our corner of the world a little bit better. Because if we’re willing to try 10,000 times, then that’s 10,000 seeds of love, compassion, and decency that have been planted into the soil of human consciousness. It’s inevitable that good things will grow from that soil as long as we make the effort, do our best, and keep planting seeds.
Sangha is one of the three jewels of Buddhist practice for good reason. When people are able to exist peacefully with one another, it creates a harmonious environment where we can live more authentic lives. The practices of wisdom, generosity, and effort help to build communities where this is possible. We just need to put in the work.
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