The Community — the order of fully ordained monks and nuns — is the visible representation of the Awakened One in the world; for twenty-five centuries, it has sustained the continuity of the Dharma among humankind; by its procedures of ordination and transmission it ensures that the Awakened One’s legacy remains alive. The presence of the Triple Gem thus depends upon the  community , which symbolizes the Third Gem, the  community of noble sages who have realized the ultimate, world-transcending truth. The  community  has survived for some 2500 years: that’s longer than the Roman Empire, longer than all the dynasties of the Chinese emperors, longer than the British Empire. And it has survived without weapons, without financial resources, without armies, merely through the power of wisdom and virtue. However, there is no guarantee that it will continue to survive or that it will continue to make vital and important contributions to human life. This is a task that depends on the members of the Sangha themselves, on each new generation of True Followers of the Path shown by The Awakened One, and this is an extremely important task, because the future of Buddhism depends on the future of the  community .

As we know, the Community has always existed in close interaction with the lay community. The relationship between the two is one of interdependence and collaboration. In traditional , the laity provides the members of the Community with their material requisites — robes, food, dwellings, medicines, and other material supports — while the Community provides the lay community with teachings and with examples of those who lead lives fully dedicated to the True Teachimgs of The Awakened One. For the Community to continue, this relationship must be maintained in some form, but the changes taking place in society may well place this relationship on a new footing. The most weighty factor affecting the Community-laity relationship has been the transition, first, from a traditional social order to a modern social order, and then to a technological social order. Now the distinctive mark of this change is the shift from an emphasis on industrial production to the acquisition and distribution of information. This shift has already taken place throughout the West and in the most advanced social strata in all countries around the world. It is sometimes characterized by saying that we are moving from the Industrial Era to the Information Era, from a production-based civilization to a knowledge-based civilization. The transition to an “information-intensive” society will alter the nature of the Community-laity relationship in radical ways, and these will challenge the Community to come forth with novel solutions to preserve the relevance of the Dharma. I make no claim to be a prophet, and I can’t foretell the future in detail, but judging from present trends, I will try to sketch some of the more important challenges facing the Community as I see them.

May all beings be happy!