There are two things we can safely say about human
beings. The first is that we are social creatures. The second is that we are
highly resilient, able to withstand the most horrific of circumstances and

resume life once the trauma is over. These two basic human truths are intertwined
as portrayed in the story of the tap code. Bob Shumaker was a POW in Vietnam
and suffered a long captivity including three years of solitary confinement. He
attributes his survival to the use of a tap code that allowed him to
communicate with his fellow prisoners. This meager fellowship consisting only
of taps on a wall was sufficient to create the social holding that integral to
our well-being. When the Buddha gave his teachings he emphasized three things:
Buddha-Dharma-Sangha
. Buddha refers to our ability to wake up and realize our
Buddhanature. Dharma can be translated as
natural law, or the Way, or as the teachings of the Buddha. We can think of dharma
as the straightforward, testable, and livable wisdom contained in the Four
Noble Truths. Sangha was the community
of like-minded practitioners practicing the dharma together. From the outset,
the Buddha created community, and the Sangha is one of the oldest continuous
living human institutions. Contemporary research confirms this inclination
towards community initiated by the Buddha 2500 years ago. Psychiatrist Dennis
Charnay who has studied the neurobiology of posttraumatic stress says, “The tap
code kept many of the POWs’ spirits up, even when they were in solitary
confinement. Everyone needs a tap code. Everybody needs people in their lives
to help them get through the tough times.” The tap code is a metaphor for the importance of social connection and, indeed, the social matrix that makes us who we are. 


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