the three jewels in the world
Letter From India by Viradhamma (No.1)
The first in an occasional series of letters from India by Viradhamma from San Francisco in the U.S., on his travels through India working for DharmaJiva as part of their Buddhist Renaissance project. DharmaJiva is a non-sectarian Buddhist network that works against caste oppression and includes both Western and Asian Buddhist traditions.
I am here in India on three-week trip, and I spent the first ten days in central India with a DharmaJiva tour group that includes a Shin priest from Japan, a PhD student in Buddhist Studies at Harvard, an English Mitra, several people who practice with Thich Nhat Hahn, and a Vipassana practitioner from Canada.
We traveled to Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur and visited a number of social projects and Buddhist neighborhoods. Everywhere we went we were warmly welcomed and were able to talk to people and listen to their stories. Even in the poorest slums people were delighted to meet foreign Buddhists and show us their shrines of the Buddha and Dr. Ambedkar.
Manidhamma, who manages the DharmaJiva tours in India, arranged a series of seminars at our different stops. Several speakers told about the hardships they endured as young people living in poverty in Dalit (ex-Untouchable) neighborhoods. One person spent years making incense sticks, and another had to sort through garbage dumps looking for plastic bags to recycle. My friend Anurag Meshram gave us an inside look at the challenges facing Dalit doctors and professionals, and the staff at Manuski Institute in Pune provided an overview of Indian politics, economics and culture. All of the speakers talked about the pervasive oppression of the caste system and how they were inspired by Dr. Ambedkar to work for equality through the practice of Dhamma.
It is always fun to visit hostels and this trip was no exception. In Pune we went to the Vishrantwadi Hostel and were treated to an excellent dance performance by girls aged about 12 to 16. Their ability to memorize seven minutes of non-stop coordinated movements was quite impressive, and they loved having a chance to perform for guests.
Another memorable event was our visit to the Bhaja caves between Mumbai and Pune. The meditation hall and the rooms for monks were chiseled out of the solid rock of a cliff face around 200 BCE, and later additions feature some of the first relief carvings in the Buddhist tradition. One shows an elephant carrying a Bodhi Tree to the south of India, and another panel has the first known image of the “Wheel of the Dharma”. Being in places like Bhaja brings home an awareness of the ancient beginnings of the Buddhist tradition, and I always feel a sense of gratitude for the unbroken lineage of practice and teachings that we benefit from.
For me one of the high points of this trip was speaking at the Buddha Festival organized by the North Nagpur Triratna Centre at the Dhiksha Bhumi grounds. The team puts on a great program that is attended by thousands of people, and this year I was impressed by the self-confidence of the young Buddhists who were enjoying the talks and entertainment. I was preceded on stage by several groups playing very loud music complete with smoke machines, pulsing colored lights and a laser light display. This was not a typical “Buddhist” event for me, so I had to scramble a bit to make my Dharma talk appropriate to the situation and the youthful audience.
On February 14th the delegation left for Sarnath with Manidhamma and I remained here at Nagaloka for a week of meetings. Nagaloka has two new dormitories planned (one is under construction now) and the staff is struggling to keep up with the demands of teaching and caring for over a hundred students. Nagaloka will eventually have capacity for over two hundred students, and there are plans to host more seminars, retreats and programs, so we are involved in a lot of strategic planning.
Nagaloka already hosts several high-visibility events each year. This past January the Dalai Lama came for a public talk and two days of meetings with Lokamitra and the staff, and a few days before that there was a large public program for the Chinese sculptor who created the iconic Walking Buddha at the center of the campus. I’m always impressed by the fact that the people who work here can manage these large public events while keeping up with the day-to-day work.
While in Nagpur I have had opportunities to meet up with old friends. Last night I spent a couple of hours with my good friend Tejadhamma. He runs a charity in Nagpur that supports women’s empowerment, addiction counseling and micro credit programs, and he is also a key person at the Mahendrenagar Buddhist Centre in Nagpur.
Tejadhamma and I talked about a lot of things, but I was especially interested to hear about his on-going work with a group of tribal people. His centre building is in a poor part of the city and for several years there was an extended family of Adivasi (tribal) people living in some unused sewer pipes in a field nearby. The Adivasi are desperately poor, speak a tribal dialect and make their living through begging and stealing. Alcoholism, violence, child marriage and poor health are endemic. Four years ago Tejadhamma started building a relationship with the family, gradually working to gain their trust and convince the adults to allow the children to skip some of their begging rounds and get an education. At one point the family disappeared and he had to find them again on the outskirts of Nagpur, but eventually he got three children to sit under a large tree and begin basic literacy classes. Gradually more kids came, and Tejadhamma had to provide food to the family to make up for the lost income since the kids weren’t begging. Unfortunately the caste Hindus in the neighborhood became upset about the presence of so many Adivasi kids and cut the beautiful tree down to stop the class, but Tejadhamma got some funding to build a shack and re-started the schooling. I am very happy to report that several of the children are now living in a Triratna hostel and are getting a regular education at a government school – perhaps the first-ever people in their community to become literate.
When I come to India I am fortunate to hear success stories like Tejadhamma’s. There are many sad and disturbing stories too, but my overall experience is one of inspiration and optimism.
Read Ambedkar and Buddhism by Sangharakshita
Listen to an interview with Jnanasuri, who was present at the Dhiksha Bhumi grounds for the original mass conversion with Dr. Ambedkar.
Online Meditation - Loving Kindness In The Family
Tuesday 2.20pm EST / 7.20pm UK. Google Hangout or Skype.
This week, time to return to the cultivation of loving kindness meditation - and take a look close to home! Family’s can be simultaneously the most wonderful and the most challenging context - so it’s essential our efforts at relating to the world in a positive, kindly, compassionate way extend to those with whom we have the deepest history. For our sake as much as theirs!
Join us for the good work of the heart in meditation - and a chance to reset some old relationships, celebrate others, in the light of an open-handed love.
Please join us promptly so we have time to connect before the meditation. Details of how to connect : www.thebuddhistcentre.com/meditate-online
Supporting activists in Eastern Europe
Over on our other Tumblog dedicated to news of our particular community there’s a great story about an awesome initiative at ecodharma to support the next generation of activists in ex-Soviet Bloc countires. Inspiring!
Head over and read up about the cool work being done there! And follow us there to get more news stories like this…
Original story from Triratna News on The Buddhist Centre Online.
Birmingham Buddhist Centre (UK) seeks Maintenance and Improvement Supervisor
Job Vacancy at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre
Maintenance and Improvement Supervisor
To start Spring 2014.
Modest financial support package available (based on a two-and-a-half day working week).
Deadline for completed applications 28 February 2014.
Following the departure of Siddhimala to Dhanakosa after three and a half years, we are looking for another Triratna Buddhist to join the mixed team of eight Order members and Mitras running our Centre here in Birmingham.
As members of the Centre Team we all have to respond flexibly to the particular needs of the situation at the time, but the primary focus of this job is to work with Centre management, volunteers and contractors to plan, organise, oversee and, sometimes, undertake necessary building maintenance and desirable improvements around the Centre and its four residential properties.
If you are interested in applying for this job, or know someone else who might be interested, please contact our charity director, Dharmashura, on 0121 449 5279 or at email@example.com for more information and details of the application process.
Meditation Hangout - Sitting, Breathing, Being…
Tuesday 2.30pm EST / 7.30pm UK
This week we’ll be looking at the relationship between ‘just sitting’ in meditation and working with specific effort to cultivate qualities that help us see things more clearly. We’ll start with the Mindfulness of Breathing and turn to the Cultivation of Loving Kindness on Thursday…
For support and resources: https://thebuddhistcentre.com/meditate-online/meditation-february
New year and new plans at Akashavana women’s ordination retreat centre in Spain…
Hello from Manigarbha and Acalavajri, back in community after a winter break.
We started the holiday with a trip to the Netherlands for a week of friendship and culture … it was the annual ‘International Documentary Festival’ and having been starved of culture for a while, it was just the treat we needed. That together with seeing good friends was very nourishing.
From there we went to UK, firstly to Tiratanaloka to meet with the ‘envisioners’ and do some planning together; and then to Adhisthana for the Regional Order Weekend. How good it was to have yet more nourishings … in the heart of the Order, and see so many people who had spent time with us at Akashavana. Some had shared community with us as volunteers and others had been retreatants. It was good to catch up again.
After that Manigarbha went to the Netherlands to see her family and I stayed on in UK to see mine.
So, well nourished and rested, we are back on the mountain excited about the year ahead.
The first task is to confirm the BIG project of the year … there will be fifteen women coming on the three month Ordination Retreat in April, so we are looking forward to meeting them and watching their progress and hopefully celebrating fifteen new Dharmacarini’s entrance into the Order.
The other BIG project is the building of a large water storage tank at the community which will more than double the amount of storage to what we have now .. we will also have ‘proper’ outdoor showers … no more will we stand on a slippy slope with nowhere to hang a towel let alone clothes !! It will also mean that the prospect of running out of water in the Summer may be a thing of the past. Much to our relief …..
The third BIG project we have is another full calendar of retreats for Dharmacarini’s …
“Listening, Hearing, Understanding” A two week meditation retreat with Srisambhava & Vijayamala from 18th Sept to 2nd October
“The more and more you listen, the more and more you hear. The more and more you hear, the deeper your understanding becomes.” - Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
In the deep silence of Akashavana, come and listen and allow Reality to reveal itself. This meditation retreat will be conducted mainly in silence to allow participants to follow their own practice threads. There will be some input at the beginning to get us started, presenting key principles that will help us to explore our direct experience in and out of meditation, with the option of further input where appropriate as the retreat progresses.There will also be shared rituals and the opportunity for one-to-one reviews with Srisambhava and Vijayamala. The cost is € 580 | €530
“Mindfulness to Wisdom – a direct path to freedom”
A three week meditation retreat with Vajradevi & Prasadavati
from 11th to 31st October
Spend 3 weeks in the beauty and wildness of Akashavana investigating your mind and allowing it to flourish. Using teachings from the Satipatthana Sutta to understand pratitya samudpada, within your experience and in the world around you, we will illuminate a joyful path of awareness, right view and insight.Teaching will mainly be offered in the first two weeks of the retreat with meditation reviews and silence throughout the whole three weeks. The cost for this retreat is € 850 | €750
We also will be having a 5 Year Reunion Retreat for those Ordained here in June 2009; and a Spanish speaking retreat for women living in Spain who have asked for Ordination.
Manigarbha and I are also excited at the prospect of an additional Winter Retreat not yet publicised … WATCH THISS PACE for news.
Survey: Shaping the Future of Triratna
Are you between 14-35 years old and have you had some contact with the Triratna Buddhist Community either at a centre, group or online?
Would you help us by giving 15 minutes of your time?
A new and exciting fundraising campaign to raise one million pounds is about to be launched to offer life-changing, life-enhancing opportunities to YOU and other young people interested in Buddhism. To help us to prioritise what projects to fund for young people, we would like your help to find out about you and what you think.
In this survey we’ll ask questions about who you are; what is important to you; what your involvement in Buddhism has been; what works and doesn’t work for you; and what sort of projects you would like to get involved in. Please add your voice today and be part of shaping the future of Triratna for young people
Thank you for contributing.
Young Persons’ Co-ordinator
Triratna Development Team youngtriratna [at] gmail [dot] com
Meditation: The Engine of Mindful Breathing - How Mindfulness Practice Can Help Sustain Our Efforts
Earlier his week we looked at how the energy involved in developing a strong attitude of kindness in the world can help us keep going with our intention to grow and develop as people. On Thursday we’ll be looking at the complementary practice of mindful attention to the breath and seeing how the work we do in it can help us generally steer a clearer path through the world.
10.50am EST / 3.50pm UK.
Please try and arrive on time at 10.50am/3.50pm so there’s space to say hi first!
Are you looking for a reliable tenant for your property in London?
The Karuna Trust is looking for a 4-5 bedroom house for rent in London to house Karuna door-to-door appeals from March to July 2014.
Ideally the house would be based in west or south-west London but we are willing to rent anywhere in London too.
Karuna has been making a huge difference to the lives of India’s Dalit communities for over 30 years. This has been made possible because we run door-to-door fundraising appeals throughout the year which enable us to find generous, new supporters.
We will cover rent and bills.
Please contact Sanghanath as soon as possible.
call +44 (0)791 235 7964