BUDDHISM > Six Harmonies

The second of the five guidelines, the six harmonies tell us how to get along in groups, especially in a sangha, which is a group of four or more people who practice together. As the six harmonies are the basic rules for group cultivation, a sangha, whether lay or monastic, needs to strive to follow them. The six harmonies are:

  • Harmony in having the same viewpoints

  • Harmony in observing the same precepts

  • Harmony in living together

  • Harmony in speaking without conflict

  • Harmony in experiencing Dharma bliss

  • Harmony in sharing benefits.

First is harmony in having the same viewpoints, which means establishing consensuses in a group. The group members must hold the same opinions of the principles and methods that they are studying and practicing to form the basis for harmonious group cultivation. If we want our society to be stable, the prerequisite is that everyone can get along with one another. Only harmony can gradually draw together and eventually minimize the differences in our opinions, ideas, and ways of life. Then equality can be achieved, and finally, happiness.

Second is harmony in observing the same precepts. When we live and practice together, we need to have rules, or else there will be disorder. The rules should include the fundamental precepts set by the Buddha, which vary depending on whether it is a lay or a monastic sangha. The fundamental precepts are the five precepts for a lay sangha and the monk or nun precepts for a monastic sangha. In addition to the Buddhist precepts, laws and local customs are also to be observed.

Third is harmony in living together as a group. The purpose of establishing a cultivation center is to help participants support one another so they can advance in their practice and learning.

Fourth is harmony in speaking without conflict. All the group members who live together should get along in order to concentrate their efforts on cultivation. When people are together, negative karma from speech is the easiest to incur. One, who talks too much, easily gets into trouble. Sometimes misunderstandings arise because the listener takes to heart a careless remark of the speaker. Thus, a careless speaker unknowingly incurs many enmities, which give rise to future retaliation. This is why ancient sages advised us, “Talk less; chant the Buddha’s name more.” The less we speak, the better it is, for we will have less trouble. It is best that we speak only when necessary.

Fifth is harmony in experiencing the Dharma bliss. This is what we call “experiencing joy in the Dharma.” When we learn and practice a Dharma Door, the basic achievement that we should attain is happiness. If we feel unhappy in our practice, then we have encountered a serious problem, which does not lie in the Buddha’s teachings but in the way we practice. We may either have done something that goes against the principles of the teachings or have applied the principles in the wrong way. Otherwise, the results should be evident—ending delusions and attaining enlightenment, and ending suffering and attaining happiness. With each passing day, we should have fewer afflictions while enjoying greater happiness and freedom. This is the evidence of success in our practice. If we are not achieving this, we need to reflect, find our mistakes, and then eliminate them. We can then, thus genuinely benefit from our practice.

Sixth is harmony in sharing benefits. This harmony means that everyone living in a cultivation center shares the material goods fairly.

The keeping of all these six rules ensures that harmony will prevail.

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