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A modern retelling of the Buddha's work and life.

Chapter 17 - The Sangha Or Community

HAVING pointed out to the five bhikkhus the truth, the Buddha said:

"A man that stands alone, having decided to obey the truth, may be weak and slip back into his old ways. Therefore, stand ye together, assist one another, and strengthen one another efforts. Be like unto brothers; one in love, one in holiness, and one in your zeal for the truth. Spread the truth and preach the doctrine in all quarters of the world, so that in the end all living creatures will be citizens of the kingdom of righteousness. This is the holy brotherhood; this is the church, the congregation of the saints of the Buddha; this is the Sangha that establishes a communion among all those who have taken their refuge in the Buddha."

Kondanna was the first disciple of the Buddha who had thoroughly grasped the doctrine of the Holy One, and the Tathagata looking into his heart said:

"Truly, Kondanna has understood the truth."

Therefore the venerable Kondanna received the name "Annata Kondanna" that is, "Kondanna who has understood the doctrine."  Then the venerable Kondanna spoke to the Buddha and said:

"Lord, let us receive the ordination from the blessed One."

And the Buddha said:

"Come, O bhikkhus! Well taught is the doctrine. Lead a holy life for the extinction of suffering."

Then Kondanna and the other bhikkhus uttered three times these solemn vows:

"To the Buddha will I look in faith: He, the Perfect One, is holy and supreme. The Buddha conveys to us instruction, wisdom, and salvation; he is the Blessed One, who knows the law of being; he is the Lord of the world, who yoketh men like oxen, the Teacher of gods and men, the Exalted Buddha. Therefore, to the Buddha will I look in faith.

"To the doctrine will I look in faith: well preached is the doctrine by the Exalted One. The doctrine has been revealed so as to become visible; the doctrine is above time and space. The doctrine is not based upon hearsay, it means Come and see; the doctrine to welfare; the doctrine is recognized by the wise in their own hearts. Therefore to the doctrine will I look in faith.

"To the community will I look in faith; the community of the Buddhas disciples instructs us how to lead a life of righteousness; the community of the Buddhas disciples teaches us how to exercise honesty and justice; the community of the Buddhas disciples shows us how to practice the truth. They form a brotherhood in kindness and charity, and their saints are worthy of reverence. The community of the Buddhas disciples is founded as a holy brotherhood in which men bind themselves together to teach the behests of rectitude and to do good. Therefore, to the community will I look in faith."

The gospel of the Blessed One increased from day to day, and many people came to hear him and to accept the ordination to lead thenceforth a holy life for the sake of the extinction of suffering. And the Blessed One seeing that it was impossible to attend to all who wanted to hear the truth and receive the ordination, sent out from the number of his disciples such as were to preach the Dharma, and said unto them:

"The Dharma and the Vinaya proclaimed by the Tathagata shine forth when they are displayed, and not when they are concealed. But let not this doctrine, so full of truth and so excellent, fall into the hands of those unworthy of it, where it would be despised and contemned, treated shamefully, ridiculed and censured. I now grant you, O bhikkhus, this permission. Confer henceforth in the different countries the ordination upon those who are eager to receive it, when you find them worthy.

"Go ye now, O bhikkhus, for the benefit of the many, for the welfare of mankind, out of compassion for the world. Preach the doctrine which is glorious in the beginning, glorious in the middle, and glorious in the end, in the spirit as well as in the letter. There are beings whose eyes are scarcely covered with dust, but if the doctrine is not preached to them they cannot attain salvation. Proclaim to them a life of holiness. They will understand the doctrine and accept it."

And it became an established custom that the bhikkhus went out preaching while the weather was good, but in the rainy season they came together again and joined their master, to listen to the exhortations of the Tathagata.

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