Feb 26, 2020

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 28 Comments


Often when talking about “Buddhist Sangha”, most people relate to “Buddhist monks and nuns”, who live a secluded life in pagodas and monasteries to practice Buddha Dharma. This relation is not wrong as those who leave mundane life to live and practice cultivation in pagodas and monasteries are also called Sangha, thus the word “Sangha” is inevitably equated with monks and nuns.

Any Buddhist can name the “Three Jewels” as Buddha-Dharma-Sangha which are specifically included in their daily refuge practice: “I take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha”. The word “refuge” in Vietnamese is “Quy y” (Chinese: 皈依: guīyī), in which “Quy” or “皈” means to return and “Y” or “依” means to rely upon three jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. So when we say: “I take refuge in Sangha”, to whom we return and rely upon? Do we rely upon “monks and nuns”?

Now come back to the meaning of the “Three Jewels” or “Triple Gem” This terminology has long been explained thoroughly by honorable masters, which, in fact, is divided into two kinds (1):

Firstly, Self-nature of the Triple Gem (Sk: Svabhdva, Ch: Tzuhsing):

– Buddha implies Enlightened or Awakened;

– Dharma implies Right Knowledge and Right View;

– Sangha implies Purity;

Secondly, the Maintained Triple Gem (住持三寶, zhù chí sān bǎo):

– Buddha means Buddha statues or pictures;

– Dharma means printed Buddhist canons.

– Sangha means those who live a monastic life (Aranyaka).

From the above two kinds of Three Jewels, we can affirm that “taking Three Refuges” is not taking refuge in the Maintained Triple Gem because it would be wrong to return and rely upon Buddha statues and pictures since Buddhism is not a religion. It is also wrong to take refuge in printed Buddhist canons (Dharma) for it is just a groundless confidence, a blind belief without examination. In the meantime, taking refuge in those who live a monastic life (Sangha) pertains to personality cult. Then, returning and relying upon the Maintained Triple Gem will run against the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha in Kalama Sutra (2). Repeat

In order to avoid misunderstanding, I want to emphasize that taking Three Refuges means to seek shelter from the Self-nature of the Triple Gem (Enlightened-Right view-Purity) via means of the Maintained Tripe Gem (3). Specifically :

-Worshiping Buddha statues and pictures aims to remind us of being mindful in our daily behaviors or actions. Without it, we would easily be clinged to worldly desires.

-Chanting sutras aims to remind us and others of doing mind cultivation and ways to behave ; bringing the sutra’s teachings into our thinking, speech and action everyday.

-The image of monks and nuns, who may observe precepts or not, aims to remind us of the purity of six senses.

Sangha  is purity

Hence, the word « Sangha » in Buddhism does not merely refer to « Buddhist monks and nuns » but « Purity » (4), in which those who live monastic life represent Purity, thus being called Sangha. This means that in reality, anyone who is Pure is called « Sangha » and on the contrary, a monk or nun cannot be called « Sangha » if he or she is seen impure (4). The media nowadays gives us a fair look on this with many examples : many bhikkhus or bhikkhunis have broken precepts and done bad deeds (5) while many lay Buddhists adopt pure lifestyle and attain spiritual achievements (6)

Many lay Buddhists adopt pure lifestyle and attain spiritual achievements

Dear Guru

Above are some of my thought about the word “Sangha”. I bow at your lotus feet.

May Guru live long for the sake of all sentient beings

May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature

Om Ah Hum

Mat Thien Thanh



(1) Teachings of Patriarch Yinguang at a large-scale ritual praying for the protection of country and ending of disasters taken place in Shanghai.

(2) Kalama sutta (Anguttara Nikaya I): Come Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration. Kalamas, when you yourselves know: “These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,” abandon them. Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.

(3) Teaching of Venerable Master Chin Kung in “To Understand Buddhism” (translated into Vietnamese by Thich Nhuan Chau, Religious Publishing House, p 76-77)

(4) Purity means the pureness of six sense organs (six sense organs include: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind) being maintained upon contacting their six corresponding objects (form, sound, smell, taste, touch and thoughts) without arising defiled mind (wealth, beauty, fame, food, sleep, pleasure, anger, sadness, joy, love, hatred, desire)

(5) Monks kissed the bidder at “Charity Wine Auction”, joined hands with child traffickers, sculpted statue which put them in the form of Bodhisattva, killed and burn girlfriend to destroy the traces of crime (in Vietnam). Monks use heroin, buy special aircraft, expensive cars, have sexual affairs with women and girls (in Thailand).

(6) Lay Bodhisattva Li Bing-nan, Lay Master Dilgo Khyentse, lay teacher Tinh Lien Nghiem Xuan Hong, Tue Trung Thuong Sĩ,…

Vietnamese version:


  1. Mật Diệu Hằng
    Mật Diệu Hằng says:

    Dear holy Guru,

    I am delighted to read this wonderful article. I have learnt the invaluable lesson that Sangha means purity, not means monks or lay Buddhists. When taking refugee in Sangha, the Buddhist practitioners seek the shelter for purity to get the pure mind for the true happiness in the Pure Land. In addition, while practicing Buddha Dharma, the practitioners lead to the purity of actions of body, speech and mind. As the teaching of Buddha in Dhammapada, as follows:

    Watchful of speech, well restrained in mind,

    let him do nought unskilful through his body.

    Let him purify these three ways of action

    and win the path realized by the sages. — 281

    As far as I know, in order to purify the actions of body, speech and mind, the Buddhist practitioners need to practice the three actions in the orbit of Guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha based on the two main factors of wisdom and bodhichitta.

    We are so fortunate to meet Guru who has eight noble qualities and invented the six spiritual innovations based on wisdom and bodhichitta. We have a good chance to practice his innovations in this life to progress on the path of enlightenment.

    Thank you so much for your patience with us and guide us on the path of liberation.

    May Guru and your consort have good health and live long for the sake of all sentient beings.

    May all sentient beings attain the happiness of Buddha’s nature.

    May the epidemic caused by corona viruses soon end.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.


  2. Tantra Lanidha (Ralph Keating) says:

    Dear Guru,

    I bow my head down to your lotus feet.

    Guru’s merit is immeasurable.

    Thank you for sharing this article with us.  This is my first time reading about the Three Jewels with the distinction between self-nature and maintained.  It makes the mind jump with joy to come to true and correct understanding of these gifts.

    May all sentient being achieve the happiness of the Buddha Nature and be free from suffering and its causes.

    Om Mani Padme Hum


    Tantra Lanidha  (Ralph Keating)

  3. tantra mahavita says:

    Dear Saint Guru: I bow my head at the feet of the Holy Guru. The merit of the Guru is immeasurable, What a wonderful article concerning the Three Jewels. We are so fortunate to meet Guru that he has noble qualities and I make spiritual inventions based on Wisdom and Bodhichita and a lot of patience …. And so Buddhist practitioners can purify the actions of the body, speech and mind and adopt a pure lifestyle. …., and thus lead us on the path to liberation … May the Guru have a long life for the benefit of all sentient beings. May all beings attain the happiness of the Buddha Nature. OM MANI PADME HUM

  4. paul yawney says:

    Dear holy Guru, Thank you for another wonderful article. thia as well as the other articles have helped to strengthen me on my Path. your words make it so clear. Thank you. OM MANI PADME HUNG.   Tantra Himataru

  5. Jason Cook says:

    Wise Guru, perchance it is my understanding, but I take that we must be mindful of these things, yet not to rely on them for own self development. I hope I have understood wisely.

  6. Curt Owens says:

    Dearest Holy Guru tank you so extremely much for sharing your amazing wisdom with us. Your words come alive and increase my strength and determination to follow the path. Bless you Bless you

  7. Tantraupatissa says:

    Dear Guru thanks for sharing this article. This article gives us a true understanding about Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Lay people living in society who are very pure in all aspects may achieve liberation soon. Different people choose different styles of meditation practice depending upon their situations like monks, nuns and warrior shailon monks. We practice our Guru’s teaching for well being of others and for our liberation.

    May Guru and his consort live long for sake of other beings.

    May all beings be free from suffering and get enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum…

  8. Ohm tamang says:

    Dharma guru thanks for the article…in life we should follow Buddha dharma and Sangha equally…self love and spread love…

  9. Tantra Amitara says:

    Dear guru

    I bow my head on your feet. I am thankful for this article.

    On a gross level or may say seeing with spectacle of common layman(busy in their habitual samsaric life) like us, the concept of triple gems means 1) Budha means the statue 2) dharma means the scripture 3) sangha means nons, monks. It is representation. But when we see internally or realise it from own experience the triple gems  is 1) Budha means awakened mind 2) dharma means knowledge and right view 3) sangha means purity. So in my view, triple gems not should be representative form but can be realised thought inner perspective. I think it is long term process. One is not a budhist by simply reading but practice with realisation. We all fully dip inside this samsaric pleasure. Please guru give us blessing to get out of it. Bless us to be free from ignorant mind.

    May guru and his concert live long for well being of all. May guru teachings spread all over the world for free of suffering.

    May all sensient being attain enlightenment.

    Om mani padme hum

  10. Mật Diệu Hằng says:

    Kính bạch Thầy!

    Con xin phép được dịch comment của đạo hữu Tantra Lanidha (Ralph Keating) sang tiếng Việt như sau:

    Kính bạch Thầy!

    Con cúi đầu đảnh lễ dưới chân sen của Thầy.

    Công đức của Đạo sư không thể nghĩ bàn.

    Con cảm tạ ơn Thầy đã cho con đọc bài viết này. Đây là lần đầu tiên con đọc về Tam Bảo với sự phân biệt giữa tự tánh Tam Bảo và trụ trì Tam bảo. Con vô cùng hoan hỷ khi hiểu thực nghĩa về Tam bảo.

    Cầu nguyện tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc của Phật tánh và đoạn trừ mọi khổ đau.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Con – Tantra Lanidha (Ralph Keating)


  11. Mật Diệu Hằng says:

    Kính bạch Thầy!

    Con xin phép được dịch comment của đạo hữu Tantra Himataru (Paul Yawney) sang tiếng Việt như sau:

    Kính bạch Thầy tôn quý!

    Con cảm tạ ơn Thầy đã cho con đọc bài viết ý nghĩa này. Đây là một trong nhiều bài viết tiếp thêm sức mạnh cho con trên hành trình giác ngộ. Bài viết này luận giải rõ rằng.

    Con cảm tạ ơn Thầy.

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    Con – Tantra Himataru.


  12. Tantra Mashinaga says:

    Dear Guru,

    Thank you for sharing this article. I see the Sangha as a family of like minded individuals that practice the dharma. I am lucky to have a wonderful sangha in Vietnam. Along with an amazing guru. It is sad to see monks defiling themselves and not following their precepts. It is very hard for anyone to follow the precepts though.

    May guru live a long and happy life

    May all beings be free of suffering and attain happiness

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    Tantra Mashinaga Mark Hamilton

  13. Alex Winfield says:

    Thank you, Guru.
    I enjoyed reading this article, and I’ll be looking forward to more.

  14. Pankaj kumar giri says:

    Dear Honorable Guru

    Thanks a lot for the valuable and beautiful post. I need more articles from you.

    May all beings be happy


  15. Dr C H Lakshminarayana says:

    I bow my head at the lotus feet of Guruji.

    Dear kalyan mithra, Mat Thien Thanah,

    I am delighted to read your article giving

    In-depth meaning of Buddha Dhamma and sangha! .  Although Sangha in Buddhism generally means a collective group of monks or nuns who wear the saffron coloured dress with shaven heads and live a monastery life and follow Buddha’s teaching s  and precepts and paramitas.dressing code and shaven head is prescribed by Buddha  himself and He himself removed his royal dress and cut office his hairs of his head at the outset of his beginning of his acetic life. So monks and nuns also should be respected without discrimination and sarcastic remarks should not be made against them although back sheeps Will be there in all walks of life.!

    The sacred meaning of ” sangha” as “purity of six senses ” which you have mentioned is really noteworthy .!

    In the end , one who follows Buddha’s way of life should take pledge on the ‘ Triple gem ‘ and strictly follow the precepts of Buddhism without violating any one of them at any circumstances .!

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Dr C H Lakshmi narayana

    ( Tantra Nirvadeva )


  16. Dr C H Lakshminarayana says:

    Thank you Guruji. Seek blessings from you.

    —- Tantra Nirvadeva.

  17. Rahul bhagat says:

    Knowledgeable article i know more about sangha now

    • Nguyên Thành
      Nguyên Thành says:

      It think that it is very imfortant to not taking mistakes for choose Klyanamitra( Guru)!

  18. John says:

    Dear Guru,

    Thank you for your teachings and for sharing this article.


  19. Bhaaskara says:

    Thank you, Guru.

  20. Tantra Pramitdhita (Josh Hacker) says:

    Mat Thien Thanh,

    Thank you for sharing “THINK ABOUT “SANGHA” IN BUDDHISM” I was very delighted to read your thoughts on the meaning of sangha. After reading this article I have learned that when taking refuge, the meaning of sangha implies purity of the 6 senses and should not be confused with the monastic life of monks and nuns.
    thank you and may you have a blessed and peaceful day.

    May Guru have a long and healthy life for the sake of all sentient beings

    May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature

    May the global pandemic caused by the corona virus soon end

    Om Mani Padme Hum

  21. Mật Thúy says:

    Kính Bạch Thầy .
    Con đã đọc xong bài này rồi ạ.
    Mật Thúy hoan hỉ với bài viết chia sẻ của huynh Mật Thiện Thanh qua bài này Mật Thúy hiểu được thêm chúc nữa về quy y là chở về mương tựa vào tâm bảo .con cầu nguyện sức khỏe và sự trường thọ của vị Thầy vì lợi lạc của chúng sanh con cầu nguyện cho vi khuẩn corona xóm ngày được tiêu trừ Om Ah Hùm.

  22. Mật Hồng Liên says:

    Kính Bạch Thầy
    Bài này con đã đọc rồi ạ
    Con xin hoan hỷ với những chia sẻ của huynh Mật Thiện Thanh
    Con xin cầu nguyện cho sức khỏe và sự trường thọ của Thầy vì lợi lạc của chúng sanh
    Cầu nguyện cho tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc của Phật tánh
    Cầu nguyện cho dịch bệnh covid 19 sớm được tiêu trừ
    Om mani padme hum

  23. Dean says:

    Thank you, Guru.
    I feel that I have “right view”. And in my prayers and meditation I wish for more I am enjoying our classes and learning.

  24. Hafiz says:

    I bow my head to lotus feet
    Am very glad to read this article
    I have knowledge and benefits
    Great lesson sangh and drama 🎭

    Thank u my teacher violet

  25. Cao Diệu Khải Nguyên says:

    Dear holy Guru,
    I have read this article.
    This lesson about the true meaning of “Sangha” is perhaps one of the greatest lessons that you taught me. “Sangha” means purity, not those who live a monastic life. We rely on Sangha, one of the Three Sacred Jewels. Therefore, a sacred jewel cannot be something or someone that is still in this Samsara world, it actually means purity, a state of liberation.
    Thank you, Guru for always showing me the true meaning of the Dharma,
    I pray for the health and longevity of Guru for the sake of all sentient beings,
    May all sentient beings achieve happiness of Buddha’s nature,
    Om Mani Padme Hum

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