The Sangha Program

The Sangha Program
For Boy Scouts And Explorers Who Are Buddhist

I’m trying to find a spot in my apartment for this vintage (1950s?) Boy Scouts poster. They were apparently recruiting buddhist boys and I suppose I am too, though it’s strictly a bring-your-own-kerchief arrangement, and you needn’t be buddhist, or a biological boy. I spent a semester in college studying in a buddhist monastery in India but the closest I have ever come to any Boy Scout stuff is I once sat next to a guy who sued them in a restaurant while he gave an interview about the case, which concerned their homophobic membership policy. He didn’t win that case, but “avowed homosexuals” are of course welcome in my troop, as are beardos, weirdos, sluts, hair hoppers, and people who are anti-troop on principle but like hiking. Merit badges will be awarded for arcane campsite selection; non-imperious hike leadership; fire-side blog-admiring; impressive erection of tents (that is what scouts get up to in the woods, is it not?); preparation of campfire breakfasts; preparation of campfire coffee (a separate and important pursuit, it nearly goes without saying); and tasteful and well-mannered book-borrowing. NYC-area recruits who like to take day hikes but do not have a car are eligible to receive Metro North train snacks.

The symbol on the poster is the wheel of dharma, also called the Dharmachakra. It’s a very, very old symbol with roots in Indian buddhism. Lots of types of buddhists use the wheel as a symbol but when one starts talking about turnings of the wheel things get really complicated. The concept of a sangha is more straightforward; it is, simply, the buddhist community.

Tibetan dharma wheel cabinet

a Tibetan altar cabinet with dharma wheels on the doors

The official Boy Scouts sangha program apparently still exists, but it’s confusing.

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