Traditionally, the word 'Sangha' referred to the community of Buddhist monks and nuns. Today, especially in the West, the term denotes the entire community of Buddhist practitioners, lay and ordained. In Western Protestant terms, Sangha is the church community of a Buddhist temple. We have our regulars, people who attend when they can, and we're often blessed with new faces as well.
In less than two years, the Sangha had outgrown the little storefront temple space in which we had started. The search for bigger accommodations was arduous, and we feared that we would have to leave the downtown Grand Rapids area. In the end, however, we found a wonderful location in the 400 block of South Division, just up the hill from the new downtown farmers market. The bigger space needed new paint, new flooring and lots of clean up.
Our expanded version of the Three Refuges Chant refers to the Sangha as the “shining light that supports me.” In fixing up our new temple space, we got to experience that support in more tangible ways. Working together strengthened the fiber of our community. There was plenty of work to go around, and we all chipped in on the various projects. Thoughtful Sangha members brought food in to replenish the energy spent on all the good work.
One of the last projects was installing a laminate floor, sometimes called a floating floor, in the Dharma Hall. Four of us began the work early on a Saturday morning. Alisha had already started working with the planks and had developed a system. She taught us to lock a short end into the last plank, bend the long edge just so, hook it into the previous row, and then tap the plank into place with a block and hammer. Some of us were instructed it was a finesse job, others needed to whack at it – based on our potential for damage. It took a couple tries to get the hang of it, but soon we were all tapping away. A floating floor grows diagonally across a room as you lay it down similar to putting up a brick wall, but horizontally.
During the day, the crew had time to chat and share stories, and along the way we chuckled at the small gems of wisdom we were stumbling upon. Sage-like, Alisha instructed us to “Be patient, it doesn't look like anything is happening, but it is.” As the shiny new laminate overtook the rough subflooring, someone said “look, there is more floor than not floor.” Another reminded that it was “all floor anyway.” Good people and a common cause can make hard work go more easily. It was a long day, but in the end the hall looked wonderful – even without the base moulding installed.
As I drove home and pondered a job well done by a bunch of volunteers, I felt the warm support of my community. We had come together, grown together and did some good work too. That night the temple was still not quite finished but every day it was a more special place than the day before. It occurred to me that the more tightly knit Sangha was even more supportive, more conducive to the deepening of each other's experience. This intangible community support was given a physical expression in the tapping of laminate floor planks. As each of us crawled around on the floor, working on our own row of planks, we could actually feel the help of the others as their tapping reverberated through the floor. It seemed to me like the heartbeat of the Sangha.