The Sangha (the Community of Noble Ones ) has the nine special qualities as follows: (1) practicing the good (right) way, (2) practicing the straight way, (3) practicing the true way to Nibbana, (4) practicing the proper way, (5) being worthy of gifts, (6) being worthy of hospitality, (7) being worthy of offerings, (8) being worthy of reverential salutation, and (9) being an unsurpassed (incomparable) field of merit for the world.
(1) Practicing the Good (Right) Way
The Sangha (The community of the disciples) of the Blessed One has practiced the good (right) way because it has practiced in accordance with the instructions of the well-proclaimed Doctrine and Discipline, and because it has practiced the immaculate way.
(2) Practicing the Straight Way
The Sangha has practiced the straight way because it has practiced the middle path avoiding the two extremes (the constant attachment to sensual pleasures and the constant addiction to self-mortification) and because it has practiced the way of the abandonment of faults of bodily, verbal, and mental crookedness, and tortuousness.
(3) Practicing the True Way to Nibbana
The Sangha has practiced the true way because Nibbana is what is called truth, and because it has practiced the way to Nibbana.
(4) Practicing the Proper Way
The Sangha has practiced the proper way because it has practiced the way of those who are worthy of proper acts.
The Four Pairs of the Noble Persons
The Four Pairs of the Noble Persons are as follows:
- The first pair of the one who stands on the First Path and the one who stands in the First Fruition,
- the second pair of the one who stands on the Second Path and the one who stands in the Second Fruition,
- the third pair of the one who stands on the Third Path and the one who stands in the Third Fruition, and
- the fourth pair of the one who stands on the Fourth Path and the one who stands in the Fourth Fruition.
(5) Being Worthy of Gifts
The Sangha is worthy of gifts (four requisites) which are brought even from far away because it makes this any gift bear great benefit. Four requisites are food, clothing, medicine, and lodgings.
(6) Being Worthy of Hospitality
The Sangha is worthy of hospitality (things given to visitors like dear and beloved relatives and friends who come from all quarters) because there is no object of hospitality so suitable to receive hospitality as the Sangha since it is encountered after an interval between Buddhas and endows with the constantly endearing and lovable qualities.
(7) Being Worthy of Offerings
A gift that is given out of faith in the next world (life) is called offering. Because of purifying that offering by making it great fruit
ful, the Sangha is worthy of offerings.
(8) Being Worthy of Reverential Salutation
The Sangha is honored with both hands above the head by the whole world, thus it is worthy of reverential salutation.
(9) Being the Unsurpassed Field of Merit for the World
The Sangha is the place for growing the whole world’s merit. Depending on it, the world’s various kinds of merit leading to welfare and happiness grow, thus the Sangha is an unsurpassed field of merit for the world.
The Benefits of Recollecting the Special Qualities of the Sangha
As long as someone recollects the special qualities of the Sangha, his mind is invaded neither by greed, nor by anger, nor by delusion. He has a right state of mind being inspired by the Sangha. And when he has suppressed the hindrances, the Jhana-factors arise in a single mind-moment. But because of the profundity of the special qualities of the Sangha, or because of his being engrossed in recollecting special qualities of various kinds, the Jhana (he attains) is only access (the condition
of concentration just before entering any of the absortion) without reaching absorption (the condition of concentration existing during absorption). Furthermore, when a person recollects the special qualitaies of the Sangha, he/she is respectful and deferential towards the Sangha. He/she attains faithfulness and has much happiness and gladness. He/she also overcomes fear and dread. He/she is able to bear pain and comes to feel as if he/she were living in the Sangha’s presence. The body of who
dwells in the recollection of the Sangha’s special qualities becomes as worthy of veneration as Uposatha house (a chapter house) where the Sangha assembles. When he/she encounters an opportunity for wrong-doing, he/she has a strong awareness of conscience and shame as if he/she were in the presence of the Sangha. If he/she comprehends no higher, he/she will be at least born in a happy state.
(This article is based on Visuddhimagga, Vol. 1, THE PATH OF PURIFICATION, and THE PATH OF PURITY.)