the buddhist centre:

the three jewels in the world

Apr 21

Engage, Explore, Play: Green Earth Awakening 2014!

Buddhafield Green Earth Awakening Camp: Engage Now, Change the Future: 16 — 20 July 2014

Think there’s no Buddhafield Festival this year??

Well yes, the usual event isn’t happening… but there is a wonderful small festival/gathering happening at the usual Festival time (Wednesday 16 — Sunday 20 July). Quieter and more spacious, the first GEA last May had a wonderful heart-opening atmosphere and sense of community:

“The GEA was a shining highlight of my year. The connections between people, the openness and learning that occurred there were, for me, a perfect balance of significant engagement and enjoyment and laughter.”
“Extremely educational, cosy and most intimate event on the field I ever took part at. Food for the soul.”
“Lovely being back in that gorgeous field again, so many memories of festivals held there. I didn’t think I would enjoy making a tuffet so much; loved going on a foraging walk as well as just hanging out and playing in the sunshine.”

Can you Help with Publicising the GEA?If you feel an affinity for Buddhafield, if you have the time, and if you know of a noticeboard near you that is lacking a striking image, please consider decorating it with our 2014 GEA poster! There are two versions: download an A4 poster (8MB) or an A5 poster (an A4 document with two copies: simply cut it in two.14MB).

We’re also looking for Secret Agents to help with flyering. If you’re willing to receive a pack of about 50 A5 flyers and arrange for them to appear in a venue near you, please email Lulu.


Ratnasuri Departs from Taraloka after 28 years

Saddhanandi: Here I am, back at Taraloka after a two-week absence: visiting family, attending a two-day meeting on mindfulness at Adhisthana, and attending a meditation retreat at Rivendell. All these events were enjoyable and productive, but throughout I was very conscious of the fact that whilst I was away Ratnasuri was leaving Taraloka and beginning a new life in Wrexham – living alone for almost the first time in her 91 years.

Ratnasuri first moved to Taraloka in 1985 as one of the founder members – along with Sanghadevi, and two mitras that became Karunasri and Kulanandi. So she has lived at Taraloka for the last 29 years. You might know her as a poet (a book of her poetry was published in celebration of her ninetieth birthday last year); or as an artist of wood-cuts (particularly of Tara and Vajrayogini); or as a photographer that gave slide-shows in silence on retreat (beautiful heart-opening images); or as the first women’s Public Preceptor (travelling to India to conduct the first Ordinations of women by women); or as a dynamic to-the-point friend and Preceptor; or as an adventurous, creative spirit that continued to expand; or as an old woman, struggling with her increasing blindness and the physical complications of old-age.

There are many sides to Ratnasuri and I’ve lived with all those different aspects for nearly 20 years, and now, as I’m typing this, her room next-door is empty. I shall miss her bright enthusiasm, her tremendous perceptive nature and her great cappuccinos. As I think back over our lives together there are many moments of beauty and friendship:

- her boldness in recognising I was ready to be Ordained after I’d been living with her for only a week!

- our many conversations over coffee discussing poetry, our mutual friends, and the direction of Taraloka

- sitting with her whilst she took the phone call from her son, telling her that her other son had been found dead

- her joyous mudita in publically ordaining someone

- her riding a newly bought scooter around the kitchen just for the fun of it - she was 87 years old at the time!

- explaining to her friends that her new scooter was NOT a disability vehicle as they had assumed, but one that teenagers use on the streets!

- her love of the Order and of Sangharakshita

- her loyalty to Amitabha

- her faithfulness to Vajrayogini: borne out of the realisation (in her eighties) that she needed to focus even more on ‘letting go’

- the poignancy of her descending blindness (as reflected in this poem)

Such Delight

Sometimes, just sometimes

When the light is kind

I see a friend’s expression

The light in her eyes.

It doesn’t even have to be

A friend.

Just a human being

What a delight that is.

To respond to a smile.

On her last evening here, Ratnasuri and the Taraloka Community sat in the community shrine-room and did a metta bhavana that focused on Ratnasuri and the step she was about to make. Then, whilst the Amitabha mantra was chanted, Ratnasuri moved around the room silently bowing to each individual and then she left, leaving only her absence and the strong presence of change.

A week later she is settling into her new flat. Ratnasuri’s connection with Taraloka is as strong as ever, but it’s now at a distance. Without the busyness of community life, she’s enjoying greater simplicity and stillness and she’s looking forward to a more reflective life-style which was the original vision behind her decision to leave Taraloka.

We all wish her well in this courageous step - sadhu! sadhu! sadhu!

Verses to Amitabha by Ratnasuri

Worship

Amitabha of infinite light;

I worship you with the golden light of the setting sun.

Glancing and glittering on the silken sea.

I worship you with the soft translucent light that filters through the petals of flowers.

Again I worship you with the light that reflects on the tiny beads of dew that collects on the roses in the early morn.

Amitabha I bow down to you, with the inner light of meditation to you who are the essence of stillness in meditation.

Mantra: Om Amideva Hrih

Going For Refuge

OM. I go for Refuge to you Amitabha, and with you Go for Refuge to the Buddha Shakyamuni.

AH. I go for Refuge to you Amitabha, and with you Go for Refuge to the Dharma.

HUM. I go for Refuge to you Amitabha, and with you Go for Refuge to the Sangha.

Bodhicitta Aspiration

To enable all beings to attain Buddhahood I shall develop the supreme Bodhicitta.

May sentient beings possess happiness with its causes.

Be parted from grief with its causes.

Not be parted from happiness wherein no grief is, and shall dwell in the condition of equanimity.

Confession

OM. Under the power of unawareness. In whatever way I have strayed from Amitabha. I confess. OM AMIDEVA HRIH.

OM. I confess all broken samaya of body. I prostrate and give praise to your body.

AH. I confess all broken samaya of speech. I prostrate and give praise to your speech.

HUM. I confess all broken samaya of mind. I prostrate and give praise to your mind.


And now for something completely similar… From a while ago! Archive footage of the London Buddhist Centre from 2002! 

Great to see how the LBC has changed over the decades, while staying true to its core values and principles.


Come and meet the wonderful team at Lama’s Pyjamas!

Lama’s Pyjamas is a really successful Team-based Right-livelihood in the heart of London’s East End.

Buddhist business: friends working together for a good cause. 

https://thebuddhistcentre.com/londonbuddhistcentre/what-lamas-pyjamas-what-team-based-right-livelihood


Men Needed For A Karuna Appeal - A Chance To Get Radical!

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From Sanghanath: I am currently leading a Karuna men’s appeal in London with 5 great men – Barney, Kevin, Nikoli, Michael and Jeremy.

It’s always a privilege to see Karuna fundraisers connect with Karuna’s work in India and turn fundraising into a spiritual practice.

A Karuna appeal can be challenging but such a beneficial spiritual practice. Taking Metta out onto the doorsteps with whatever and whoever you meet. It has often been a life-changing experience for many fundraisers over the years.

Please consider giving your time to help bring about social change amongst India’s Dalit people in India. You never know it might change your life too!

Please contact me on 07912 357694 or email appeals@karuna.org or call the Karuna office 0207 700 3434 to express your interest. We have three spaces left on our men’s appeal from 24th May to 5th July.

With Metta
Sanghanath


An interview with Vajragupta, author of ‘The Triratna Story’

The Triratna Story is a history of the Triratna Buddhist movement. You are a trained sociologist and an ordained member of the Triratna community. Did these two roles ever come into tension while you were writing the book?

No, I don’t think there was ever any conflict. There might have been if I’d been trying to write a neutral, objective, outsider’s account of Triratna, but I think I made it clear that this wasn’t what I was doing – I was trying to be honest and open, but I was writing the book as a member of the community, telling its story. In a way, I think my background in sociology actually meant I had certain skills that helped me write the book – I’d been trained in gathering information and pulling it all together from different sources.

So were you writing the book as an individual or representing the views of a group of people? 

I wanted to write something which was representative of the broad opinion in Triratna rather than just my own personal views. Of course there is a whole range of opinions in Triratna, so I was aware that I was doing something potentially difficult, but my aim was to be fair-minded and do justice to the different sides of the story.

I think that definitely comes across, the book feels very balanced when you’re reading it. And it’s such a good read! There were parts where I was getting so drawn into the story.

It really pleases me to hear you say that because when I was preparing to write the book, I had the same feeling – I thought, ‘This is such an extraordinary story; I want to write a page turner!’ I didn’t want the book to be full of facts and figures; I wanted it to be readable and engaging.

So why is the Triratna story an important story to be told?

Well the book was mainly motivated by a concern that people coming into Triratna would eventually find controversial things from Triratna’s past on the Internet, and we wanted to put our own side of the story across. But there was also a positive motivation behind the book – as we have already mentioned, the story of the Triratna community is such an amazing story! So much was achieved by the pioneers of the movement and I think that it is really important and inspiring for people getting involved in Triratna to hear that.

Yes, I’d recommend it to people who are thinking about becoming a mitra in the sense that it can help people to deepen their understanding of Triratna and what becoming a member of the community might mean. Of course so much of the life of a community is about telling and re-telling its story, and it is the re-telling of the story which becomes the future of the community in a sense. 

Yes, which is why it is so important to keep telling the story – it won’t always be the same story, but that’s the nature of stories. In that context, I think it would be great if every centre could tell its own story by doing interviews and creating an archive. I was really happy to see that when The Triratna Story was translated into Spanish they wrote another chapter on the history of Triratna in the Spanish-speaking world. I think there’s a real need for us to record Triratna stories more locally because behind every Buddhist centre there will be some incredibly generous, dedicated and hard-working people, and I think it would be inspiring for people in the future to be able to touch that material and see where their centre came from.

Yes, and one reason I think The Triratna Story is so inspiring is that is shows what Buddhism looks like in real life. So many Buddhist books are about theory or ideals, but the Buddhist community that you describe in your book – yes it’s flawed but it’s so alive. Speaking of these flaws, you engage openly with the mistakes that the Triratna community has made in the past. With these mistakes in mind, why do you still choose to commit to the movement?

The main reason is that I’ve just gained so much personally from being involved. It’s totally changed my life for the better, there’s absolutely no question about that. So although I can see that there have been mistakes and problems in the past, they are completely outweighed by the good things that have happened. I also feel and trust that there is a basic integrity to the Order – when everything flared up in the 90s and the early 2000s, I think that people within the community responded with a real integrity – they weren’t just trying to cover something up or get annoyed with people for being disloyal; the issues were discussed openly and we tried so hard to learn from our mistakes. I’ve been ordained for 20 years this year and my experience is that the Order is just maturing all the time.

Buddhism is sometimes presented as passive and inward-looking. Do you think that the Buddhist teachings have the potential to inspire social action? Do you think that the Triratna movement in particular has achieved real social change?

Well I think you’re right about Buddhism sometimes being portrayed as a bit passive and inward-looking, and I think there is a real danger that as Buddhism comes into the West, rather than providing an alternative way of living, it just accommodates itself to the society we’ve got and subtly supports the status quo. But of course I don’t think that’s what Buddhism should be doing – if we look to the example of the Buddha, he left society to go off into the forest and meditate, but then he came back to found an order which upheld certain values and practices at the same time as interacting with the wider society. And I think this is what Triratna is trying to do in its own way – we’re trying to create spiritual communities which are not separate from the wider society but places where people can contact different ways of living and different values. Our aim is not to convert everyone to Buddhism but for Buddhism to be part of the mix of things, a voice in society as it were. My dream is that one day there’ll be a Buddhist centre in every town in the UK and that anyone, wherever they live, can contact the Buddhist teachings. Triratna has been so instrumental in starting off this process and I’m sure that this will carry on being an important part of our vision.

In your book you also talk about the social change that was achieved for Dalits in India as a result of Ambedkar’s vision of Buddhism and the growing influence that Triratna is having there.

Yes, and I think that’s one of the great things about Triratna – we have the movements in the East and the West and we can learn from each other. In the West we do tend to approach Buddhism quite psychologically as an individual phenomenon, but our movement in the East is very community-centred and focuses on Buddhism as a means to social change. So the two of us can really remind each other to keep a balance and be inspired by what the other is doing.

To what extent is Triratna the same movement as it was 40 years ago?

I think the answer to that is that it is and it isn’t – it is the same movement in that it is the same Dharma and I think it has the same vision to try and take the Dharma out in the world in a way that’s appropriate for people living modern lives, but because there has been development and learning within the Order, certain things have changed. The way we teach meditation has changed and evolved over time, for example, and there has also been a broadening of the kind of people who get involved. In the 70s and 80s, the majority of people in the Triratna movement were young people from the counter-culture who lived in a community and worked in a team-based right livelihood business. Gradually that has broadened out and now there are more older people, more people with families and more people with jobs in the non-Buddhist world.

Where do you see the future of Triratna? What do you think it will look like in 40 years from now?

In a way what the movement will look like in 40 years’ time depends on what we do now. I think that as long as we are able to inspire a younger generation of Buddhists to get involved and be part of the project of taking the Dharma out into the world, we’ll be healthy and well in 40 years’ time.

Preview the free eBook
Find out more about Vajragupta’s The Triratna Story


The Five Stages of the Path - Young People’s Meditation Week with Kamalashila, Singhasri, Balajit & Sraddhasiddhi (UK)

This retreat, for anyone aged 18-35, is an opportunity to deepen our meditation practice alongside other younger practitioners, with input and guidance from both young and more senior teachers.

After last year’s very successful weekend we are pleased to offer this retreat as a week-long event. Join us in an in-depth exploration of the five stages of the spiritual path, as articulated by Sangharakshita. Through the five stages we learn to establish a solid foundation of calm abiding and positivity, while increasing our confidence and ability to become more and more receptive to our direct experience. This enables us to respond to our experience from a place of deeper understanding of the true nature of reality. Together, we will explore our own experiences of moving from Shamatha (calming) to Vipashyana (insight) in our meditation practice.

The retreat will include meditation instruction, including formless practices, group discussion and meditation reviews.

Book now at Rivendell Retreat Centre


Apr 18
Easter Three Jewels…

Easter Three Jewels…


Apr 17


Apr 10
Nidana Chain shrine at Dhanakosa as part of the This Being That Comes retreat. Follow for meditations and talks at The Buddhist Centre Online.

Nidana Chain shrine at Dhanakosa as part of the This Being That Comes retreat. Follow for meditations and talks at The Buddhist Centre Online.


The root teaching of the Buddha - that everything arises and passes away in dependence upon complex conditions - chanted in translation! An unusual, original, and quite lovely approach, chanted by retreatants at Dhanakosa Retreat Centre in the Scottish Highlands as they explore this teaching together.

You can see much more from the retreat - talks, led meditations, and reflections - on the Dhanakosa space at The Buddhist Centre Online.


Apr 8

This Being, That Becomes Retreat - Join in Online!

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This week there’s a study retreat going on at Dhanakosa in the Scottish Highlands based on Dhivan’s excellent book on the nature of existence, This Being That Becomes.

https://thebuddhistcentre.com/dhanakosa-retreat-centre?display=latest

To follow online, join the site or log in and click + follow.

The team members are Dhivan, Nayaka and Yashobodhi. Khemaka is organising and there are 14 retreatants. It’s a perfectly sized group for a retreat like this.

Dhivan is presenting his material each morning in a plenary session at 10.30 am. After that we’ll split up into three groups and discuss and mull over. In the afternoons at 4.30 pm there will be led reflections on the material. The evenings will be spacious and aim to connect the heart to the dharma topics that have come up during the day. We’ll have a double meditation session in the mornings.

It’s the third year doing this retreat here, with this team. It’s always a joy. And we’re posting some of the sessions led by Dhivan and also led meditations and other resources.


Apr 6
Suddhayu leading study on Triratna Day

Suddhayu leading study on Triratna Day


Greetings from Portsmouth, NH, where we are celebrating Triratna Day with the Order, studying together and reflecting on 47 years of spiritual community. Along with voices of American members of the Order we’ve a lovely little interview with Nagabodhi, visiting from the UK and an Order member since 1974. #Buddhism #Buddhist #Triratna #America


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